It's been a weird summer for our New Jersey Devils to say the least; first we had Lou Lamoriello step down as general manager, then we had him hire Ray Shero for the same position and now we have me using both a cheesy NHL.com style headline because I don't know what else to do with today's news that Lou Lamoriello has not only left the Devils completely, but has also joined the Toronto Maple Leafs as GM. As I woke up this morning and saw the news, it's safe to say I shared Mike's initial reaction.
CJ messaged me shortly after that and while he wasn't as surprised as Mike or I, he thought Lou would retire as a Devil as I'm sure we all did. He asked me what I was going to do about today's article; I figured the only thing I could do was drop any other thoughts I had because my mind had only one idea now: to talk about Lou.
The History of Lou Lamoriello
Being born in August of 1986, Lou Lamoriello is all I've known for New Jersey management; then team owner John McMullen hired Lamoriello as team president in April of 1987 and Lou would announce himself as the team's general manager before the upcoming 1987-88 season. The team had been a mess before Lou arrived; from a 27 game losing streak when they were in Kansas City to never winning more than 22 games during their time in Colorado to the stigma that we were a "Mickey Mouse organization" after words from the "Great One" Wayne Gretzky, the Devils were synonymous with "losing" until Lou showed up.
While he alone can not be given the full credit, the Devils had their first winning season and their first postseason appearance in franchise history in that 87-88 season. When the team missed the playoffs in the 1988-89 season, Lou went out and made changes, bringing over Viacheslav Fetisov, Sergei Starikov and Fetisov's defense partner Alexei Kasatonov from the (then) Soviet Union.
While his methods weren't always popular with fans, he did shape the Devils into winners, even when it meant trading fan favorite players. Popular names sent packing by Lamoriello for various reasons include "Captain Kirk" Muller, Bill Guerin, Jason Arnott (which appalled me as I watched it unfold), Randy McKay and Petr Sykora. There are others on the list that I'm sure I'm forgetting right now, but the one underlying factor was that each time Lou made one of these trades, he was trying to improve the team. While we as fans couldn't believe these decisions sometimes, Lou knew when to pull the trigger to ensure the club stayed competitive.
That's not to say that Lou didn't make popular moves to keep the team going in the right direction as well; when the St. Louis Blues signed Brendan Shanahan to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent and couldn't provide the necessary compensation, Lou requested Scott Stevens in arbitration. We all know how that one went! He brought the A-Line together by bringing Arnott over from Edmonton, which resulted in him being placed between Sykora and Patrik Elias. More recently as well he traded a high first round draft pick to ensure that the team had a reliable goaltender (Cory Schneider) to succeed the legendary Martin Brodeur.
Need any more proof that Lou was important? Let's look at his award credentials:
1980 - Inducted into Providence College's Athletic Hall of Fame.
1988 - Hockey East creates the Lamoriello Trophy to be presented to the winner of their annual men's ice hockey tournament.
1995 - Devils win first Stanley Cup.
2000 - Devils win second Stanley Cup.
2003 - Devils win third Stanley Cup.
2009 - Lamoriello inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder's category.
2012 - Inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame
Three cups, three different hall of fame inductions and a trophy named after him; Lou leaves New Jersey not only with an impact on the Devils, but on hockey itself.
See You Later Lou
The real kicker to this whole thing is that Lou is not only gone, but has joined up with the first Devils draftee under his watch (the above mentioned "Shana-ban") in Toronto. I think every Devils fan, regardless of whether they thought Lou was out of touch or not wanted to see the man retire in red and black. Perhaps there was more disagreements between Lou and the ownership, or maybe Lou didn't like what Shero was doing with the team; we just don't have those details yet and until we do I don't think Toronto's third round pick as compensation feels like nearly enough. Today we may have not only lost a man who has served the team loyally as president and GM, but we may have lost something more important as well. Today we may have lost our identity.
I would like to thank Lou Lamoriello should he ever stumble upon this for everything he did in getting the Devils to where they are. I'd also like to hear from you, our fans, about any Lou memories that you may have about his career here in New Jersey. Thank you as always for reading and (thanks to CJ for the tag) #ILWT4ever!