LeBrun: Lou Lamoriello done with Maple Leafs, Islanders coaching change and more
TORONTO — Lou Lamoriello looked very much at home Monday morning as he navigated the aisles of Scotiabank Arena, and well, that’s of course because it was home for him for three years.
His appointment as general manager of the Maple leaves in July 2015 remains one of the big surprise offseason stories of the past decade. His departure three years later also made headlines, with team president Brendan Shanahan opting to promote Kyle Dubas to the GM role, leading to a split with his former. devils friend and mentor, Lamoriello.
Looking back, Lamoriello never had any preconceived notions about how long his stay here should be.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, other than it was going to be a challenge and I was looking forward to it,” Lamoriello said. The Athletic. “At the time, it was something unexpected.”
After 28 years managing the Devils, he really was. But Lamoriello took to his new surroundings quickly and was instrumental in building a contender.
“It’s about the people you have around you,” Lamoriello said of his work in Toronto these three seasons. “They had a great staff here when I came in. Everything fell into place. Of course, when you can draft an Auston Matthews, things move a little bit faster.
“My time here was something I will always think of fondly. I have no regrets.”
The exit couldn’t have been easy, but Lamoriello says there were never any issues with Shanahan or Dubas.
It’s a business and things happen. Relationships are maintained.
“That never changes. Relationships you never let go,” Lamoriello said. “There were no problems. When I got here I knew exactly what the thought process was. And I respect that. I’ve always thought that way and I’ll continue to think that way.
“My relationship with Kyle is flawless. From day 1.”
And the feeling is mutual.
“It’s so hard to properly sum up how I feel about Lou and do him justice,” Dubas wrote via text message Monday. “He is a special manager, but even more special as a person in the way he treats you and your family.
“Getting to work for Lou is one of the many very fortunate opportunities I’ve had along my journey and by far the most important to develop in an early and important part of my career.
“And I certainly could never summarize how much I learned (and continue to learn) from him.”
And as a result, Lamoriello’s departure from Toronto opened another door. He was hired in May 2018 to lead the Islanders.
It’s crazy to think that this is already Lamoriello’s fifth season with the Islanders. where does the time go
Here he is, at 80, with as much energy and enthusiasm as ever.
On Monday, I took my life into my own hands and asked Lamoriello what exactly motivates him to still be doing this at his age. I mean, be one NHL GM is a gem. Most people in their 80s enjoy life in a different way. But it’s abundantly clear that Lamoriello still loves it.
“Well, if you don’t like it and it’s something you don’t have to do, you’re cheating the people around you,” Lamoriello said.
And as he points out, the opportunity with the Islanders was not something he pursued. It just happened. Similar to what happened with Toronto. He wasn’t chasing that Leafs gig either, but it was an opportunity that came his way.
And whether it’s the Leafs or the Islanders, once he commits, there’s a competitiveness in him that takes hold. Once it’s in, it’s all in.
“I think that’s basically what I have in me,” he said. “You don’t compete against other people; you compete against yourself. You see all the new challenges and how things change. If you’re comfortable in that environment, not afraid to take the good with the bad and the indifferent, why not?”
Why not, indeed. Five decades of NHL GMing and counting.
I was surprised last week at the GM meeting here in Toronto when the doors opened and the GMs started coming out. There are so many new faces in this room now. Kyle Davidson, Kent Hughes, Patrik Allvin, Pat Verbeek, Mike Grier and Chris MacFarland are all rookie general managers. Chris Drury, Bill Armstrong, Bill Zito, Kevyn Adams and Tom Fitzgerald have only been in their first GM gigs for two or three years.
Many new faces at the head of the teams.
I asked Lamoriello what his most important piece of advice would be for any first-time GM.
“Well, I’ll say what my mother said when we were all growing up: There’s a reason you’ve got two eyes, two ears, one nose, and only one mouth, five to one, so I’d say you spend more time listening and watching. instead of thinking you can have all the answers,” Lamoriello said with a smile.
This sounds like advice we can all use.
And maybe it’s part of why, in an ever-evolving game, Lamoriello has always had the ability to evolve with it, even while adhering to the core values of team building and team culture.
“There are so many different things that you have to constantly adjust to,” he said. “But you have to stay with it, and you have to look at it. If you’re involved, you understand. Change is good.
“But there are certain fundamentals that will never change.”
What are some things Lamoriello will always believe in?
“Well, I believe in defense,” he said. “No matter what.”
The Islanders teams that played in four straight Finals in 2019-20 and 2020-21 showed that belief. It was very difficult to play against them.
They were also coached by Barry Trotz, and needless to say, his firing after missing the playoffs last season surprised many. Lane Lambert was promoted to head coach.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Lamoriello, who clearly has a lot of respect for Trotz. And it is a relationship that is maintained.
“Barry and I talk often,” Lamoriello said. “He’s a tremendous human being. You know, sometimes it’s really hard to change the whole team, you know what I’m saying? It’s no disrespect. I think Barry understands that. … You never look back, but I felt it was the right thing to do under the right circumstances. Certainly nothing personal in any way.
“Lane has done a great job…Lane definitely took a lot from Barry, but Lane is also his own person, for sure.”
And while Lamoriello would never say so, it’s pretty clear that other organizations were circling and wanting to talk to Lambert about their head coaching vacancies. Lamoriello had to decide if he was willing to lose Lambert or promote him to head coach.
It was a tough decision. But Lamoriello has never shied away from those tough decisions five decades later.
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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