The Toronto Maple Leafs announced the hiring of now-former New Jersey Devils general manager and president Lou Lamoriello as their new GM.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A bombshell announcement by the Maple Leafs. This move officially signals the end of Lamoriello’s longstanding ties with the Devils, and opens an interesting new chapter for the rebuilding Leafs.
On the one hand, Lamoriello brings decades of NHL management experience to the Leafs’ front office. He built the Devils into a powerhouse in the 1990s, winning three Stanley Cup titles between 1995 and 2003. On the other hand, during Lamoriello’s final years with the Devils, the club steadily declined into an also-ran. Their surprising march to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final could be considered a fluke, as it was the only season since 2010-11 the Devils reached the playoffs.
Lamoriello’s supporters believe he was hampered during that period by years of uncertain ownership and limited budgets. His critics, however, feel he’s past his management prime and unable to work within the salary-cap system he helped to establish during the season-killing 2004-05 lockout.
With the Leafs, Lamoriello will enjoy the benefits of deep-pocketed ownership, a fresh management team and a top NHL coach in Mike Babcock. On the downside, he’ll face the pressure of rebuilding a club which made the playoffs once in the last decade, and won its last championship 48 years ago. He’ll have to endure the pressure of working in the biggest and most intense hockey market in the world.
Lamoriello is well-respected, possesses Hall of Fame experience and a championship pedigree, but he faces the monumental task of succeeding where other notable hockey executives (Jim Gregory, Cliff Fletcher, Pat Quinn, John Ferguson Jr, Brian Burke, Dave Nonis) failed.
Are the Leafs getting the GM who built the Devils into a three-time champion, or the one who presided over their slow, painful demise? Will a change of scenery revive Lamoriello’s creativity, or will he follow the same path in a few years as his predecessors over the past four-plus decades? Long-suffering Leafs fans can only cross their fingers and hope for the best.