His appointment as general manager of the Maple Leafs in July 2015 remains one of the greatest off-season stories of the last decade. His exit three years later certainly made headlines as well, with team boss Brendan Shanahan choosing to promote Kyle Dubas to the GM role leading to his breakup with his longtime Devils friend and mentor Lamoriello.
Looking back, Lamoriello had no preconceived notions about how long his stay here was supposed to be.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, other than that it was going to be a challenge and I was looking forward to it,” said Lamoriello. the athlete. “At that time, it was something unexpected.”
After 28 years of managing demons, it really was like that. But Lamoriello quickly moved into his new surroundings and was instrumental in building a competitor.
“It’s about the people around you,” Lamoriello said of his work in Toronto those three seasons. “They had a great staff here when I came in. Everything fell into place. Of course, when you’re able to draft Auston Matthews, things move a little more quickly.
“My stay here was something I will always think of fondly. I have no regrets.”
The exit can’t be easy, but Lamoriello says there was no problem with Shanahan or Dubas.
It’s business, and things happen. Relationships remain.
“That never changes. Relationships you never let go,” Lamoriello said. “There were no issues. I knew when I came here exactly what the thought process was. And I respect that. I always thought that way, and I will continue to think that way.
“My relationship with Kyle is impeccable. From day 1.”
And the feeling is mutual.
“It’s very difficult to properly sum up and do justice to how I feel about Lou,” Dubas wrote via text message Monday. “He is a private manager but even more special as a person in the way he treats you and your family.
“Working for Lou is one of many very fortunate opportunities I have had throughout my journey and the most important – by far – in my development early and important in my career.
“And I certainly can’t sum up how much I learned (and continue to learn) from him.”
And as it turns out, Lamoriello’s exit from Toronto opened another door. Appointed in May 2018 to manage the island’s population.
It’s crazy to think that this is already the fifth season of Lamoriello with the Islanders. Where does time go?
There he was, at 80, with more energy and enthusiasm than ever before.
I took my life into my own hands on Monday and asked Lamoriello what exactly motivates him to keep doing it at his age. I mean, being an NHL GM is tough. Most people at the age of 80 enjoy life in a different way. But it’s pretty clear that Lamoriello still loves her.
“Well, if you don’t like it and it’s something you shouldn’t do, you’re fooling the people around you,” Lamoriello said.
And as he points out, an opportunity with the islanders wasn’t something he sought. It kind of happened. Similar to what happened with Toronto. He wasn’t chasing after that Leafs party either, but it was an opportunity that came to him.
Whether they’re Leafs or Islanders, once he’s committed, there’s a competitiveness in him that takes over. Once he’s in, he’s all in.
He said, “I think that’s basically what’s in me.” “You don’t compete with other people; you compete with yourself. You see all the new challenges and the way things change. If you feel comfortable in that environment—not afraid to take the good with the bad and indifferent—why not?”
Why not? Five decades of NHL GMing and counting.
It blew me away last week at the GMs meeting here in Toronto, when the doors opened and GMs started filing. There are a lot of new faces in that room right now. Kyle Davidson, Kent Hughes, Patrick Alvin, Pat Verbeek, Mike Greer and Chris McFarland are all junior general managers. Chris Drury, Bill Armstrong, Bill Zito, Kevin Adams, and Tom Fitzgerald are all still two or three years into their first GM wagons.
Lots of new faces at the helm.
I asked Lamoriello what’s the most important advice he’d give a first-time GM.
“Well, I’ll say what my mom said when we were all growing up: There’s a reason you have two eyes, two ears, one nose, and only one mouth—five to one—so I’d say you spend more time listening and observing,” Lamoriello said with a smile, rather than thinking it might be You have all the answers.
This sounds like advice we could all use.
And perhaps that’s part of why, in an ever-evolving game, Lamoriello has the ability to evolve with it, even while sticking to core values in team building and team culture.
“There are so many different things that you have to constantly adapt to,” he said. “But you have to stay with him, and you have to look at him. If you’re in, you understand. Change is good.”
“But there are some basics that will never change.”
What are some things Lamoriello will always believe in?
He said, “Well, I believe in defense.” “Regardless.”
The Islanders’ teams who have played the last four consecutive games in 2019-20 and 2020-21 have demonstrated this belief. It was very difficult to play against them.
They were also coached by Barry Trotz, and needless to say, his dismissal after missing the playoffs last season surprised many. Len Lambert has been promoted to the position of Technical Director.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Lamoriello, who clearly held Trotz in high regard. It is a relationship that remains.
“Barry and I talk a lot,” Lamoriello said. “He’s a wonderful human being. You know, sometimes it’s very hard to turn the whole team around, you know what I’m saying? It’s not disrespectful at all. I think Barry understands that. … You never look back, but I felt it was the right thing given The right circumstances: Absolutely nothing personal in any way.
“Lane did a great job…Lane sure took a lot out of Barry, but Lane is also his own person, no doubt.”
And while Lamoriello never said this, it’s pretty clear that other organizations have been spinning around and want to talk to Lambert about coaching vacancies. Lamoriello had to decide whether he was willing to lose Lambert or should he be promoted to head coach.
It was a difficult decision. But Lamoriello has never backed down from those tough decisions five decades later.
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)