When Lou Lamoriello left the Devils to become the GM of the Maple Leafs a couple weeks ago, it was the end of an era in New Jersey. A 28-year run at the helm of one of the most successful organizations in the NHL over that time period came to a close, and the natural reaction was to look back on all of the achievements over the years and where the organization was headed with their long-time leader now out of the picture. The performance of this team going forward remains an open question, but another question that has been lingering is about some of the traditional aspects of the organization under Lou's watch. The question was whether the Devils would carry on some of the more eccentric traditions/policies that had long been in place under Lamoriello.
Yesterday, it seemed that part of that answer started to take shape. Todd Cordell, who covers the Devils for HockeyBuzz, reported that Mike Cammalleri would wear uniform number 13 this season, becoming the first Devil to ever don the number. Cammalleri had played most of his career in the number 13, but took number 23 after arriving in New Jersey due to the organization's policy to never give out that number. With Lou no longer with the Devils, though, it appears the times are a-changing. The Devils confirmed today that Cammalleri would indeed be wearing number 13 this season and it appears Eric Gelinas will become just the 5th skater to don a number over 40, taking number 44. So it appears that the Devils will be moving on from the Lamoriello Era with a new set of policies and the lifting of some of the organization's restrictions. So which of the Devils traditions and idiosyncrasies seem likely to go by the wayside? And will they be missed at all?
The Cone of Silence
Besides building a franchise from a bottom-feeder to a perennial contender after he came on board, the absence of any leaks within the Devils organization was probably the most impressive accomplishment of Lou Lamoriello's tenure in New Jersey. It has been especially remarkable in the last 10-15 years, when rumors and leaks have become ubiquitous through the internet and the spread of information is near-instant. Even under these conditions, Lamoriello's organization was a tight ship and leaks remained extremely rare.
Rumors fly with abandon in the NHL landscape, and while the sources vary greatly in reliability, often times if there is smoke -- particularly from the more reliable reporters -- there is fire. That rule hasn't really applied to the Devils, though, as they've been nearly smoke-free for about 28 years now. The Cory Schneider trade at the 2013 Draft was a great example, as no one seemed to have any idea what was about to happen until Gary Bettman stepped to the podium and proclaimed that fans at the Prudential Center were "gonna want to hear this." For New Jersey fans, the rule might as well have been "if there is absolutely no smoke at all, maybe the Devils are involved."
It's hard to say how Lou continued to make this happen, but if details were leaked, it seems you risked the Devils scuttling whatever talks you were having. So when dealing with the Devils, even the teams and agents across the negotiating table from Lou rarely let things slip and announcements were tightly controlled until deals were 100% done. The Lamoriello Cone of Silence was, for better or for worse, quite a feat to behold over his tenure here, right up to the stunning announcement of his departure from the organization and subsequent hiring by Toronto. Even if the organization remains tight-lipped (Shero did pull the ol' bait-and-switch on the Zubrus buyout last week), it's unlikely to be as sealed up as it was for the past 28 years.
Will it be missed?: Definitely not by the media. It certainly had it's charm though, and the surprises were always fun.
Unlucky Number 13
There is something inherently silly about a team named the Devils being afraid of a superstition like the number 13 being unlucky, but that has been the case in New Jersey throughout Lou's tenure and even before he arrived. The policy may have something to do with the wishes of the Devils' original owner, John McMullen, but after some digging it's tough to find a reliable source beyond message boards and forums to corroborate that fact. Regardless, Mike Cammalleri would be the first player in New Jersey Devils history to wear the number 13. This rule has been quirky and admittedly kind of stupid, but I think it's also kind of endearing in a way. It's also fun to think that the Devils orchestrated the Cory Schneider trade specifically so a they wouldn't have to have a prospect put on a number 13.
Will it be missed?: This is silly, but harmless, so I'm sort of sad to see it go. Bonus points if the John McMullen explanation is more than just a bit of fan mythmaking.
Unlucky Numbers 36 Through 99
Number restrictions have gone far beyond the number 13, though. For years in New Jersey, the team has tried to keep the numbers of all skaters between 2 and 30. Exceptions have been goalies, who are allowed to wear numbers 1, 30, 31, 35, and 40, and late season callups, who have often received temporary numbers in the 30s out of necessity. Beyond that, special exceptions have been made for a select few established players who joined the Devils mid-career: Stephane Richer (jersey number 44), Doug Gilmour (93), Alexander Mogilny (89), and Jaromir Jagr (68).
The thinking behind keeping everyone's numbers low is ostensibly to keep people focused on the name on the front of the jersey rather than the back, which is definitely a reflection of Lou's philosophy. One drawback is the constant changing of jersey numbers as the Devils try to keep all of the jerseys below 30 each season. Also, the reasoning is flimsy, since players have names on the back of their jersey either way. Most importantly, though, the Devils have only half-followed their tradition, which kind of makes the whole thing pointless. "The name on the front matters more than the back, unless you are the right combination of talented and established in the league," doesn't quite have the same ring to it. If you're going to have archaic traditions, at least stick to your guns.
Will it be missed?: Can't imagine why it would be.
Third Jersey Holdouts
Continuing with the jersey theme, over the years, the Devils have avoided the call of the third jersey while most other teams have jumped on board. Results of those forays into the third jersey territory have been mixed, with some outright disasters in there. On one hand, it would be cool to see a new variation on a look that has effectively remained the same for over two decades, and the organization probably stands to rake in a decent wad of change if they introduced a third jersey. On the other hand, the Devils look is damn near perfect and I get a little nervous at the thought of it being screwed with at all, even in a third jersey. Ultimately, I think a third jersey happens at some point. I just hope they don't do anything reckless.
Will it be missed?: I expect a divide on this one. Many fans have clamored for a third jersey for a while, but it would be tough to improve on the Devils' current look, and the retro jersey already acts as a de facto third.
Grizzly Adams Need Not Apply
The Devils, similar to the New York Yankees organization's famous policy, were never big fans of facial hair under Lou Lamoriello (at least before the playoffs started). I would not be surprised to see this policy changed, just because I think it's unlikely that the people now in charge care enough about players' facial hair to enforce it. It's a very traditional policy, designed to instill professionalism in the players and enforce the "team" look beyond the uniforms. I think it would be good to see players have a little more freedom with their style, though. I don't think having a beard or long hair is going to make someone a bad teammate, so for the most part, I say "have at it." One thing that was actually great about the regular season facial hair restriction, though, was that it made the playoff beards look that much more majestic in comparison. But if we get one profile photo that looks like this in the next 20 years, I'll take that tradeoff.
Will it be missed?: Maybe a little bit, if only for the added specialness of playoff beards like this one.
While I'm sure it drove those on the Devils beat crazy, Lou's cryptic comments were always kind of fun, at least for me. This kind of goes along with the cone of silence, but seeing Lou offer useless non-answers to reasonable questions was equal parts hilarious and maddening in his time here. If Lou had no news to report, the response was often just a simple "status quo." Heck, even if he had something interesting to report, the answer was probably "status quo" anyway. I think the ubiquity of that phrase within the organization is summed up in this bit from a Fire and Ice article from two seasons ago. Tom Gulitti of the Record apparently had this exchange with Ryan Carter on an injury he was dealing with:
When I asked Carter what his "status" was, he replied, "quo."
That's good stuff. There are tons of them scattered throughout his tenure, but here's a sampling of some recent favorites:
"If you have time, use it."
On his cap:
"Don't worry about my cap."
On what days yesterday, today, and tomorrow are:
"Yesterday is yesterday and today is today. Tomorrow is tomorrow..."
The Lou-isms were always a good time and it was always fun to see exactly how he would configure his non-answer. Sure, it was a little annoying when you actually wanted answers about things, but it's hard not to enjoy those comments in retrospect.
Will it be missed?: Yes, but I also don't think I'd want Ray Shero or any future GMs trying to do their best Lou impersonations.
No Fans Allowed
One thing you could generally count on from the Devils under Lou was limited access to the team. Training camp, practices, and prospect activities were always closed to the public, and seeing the players in a non-game setting was tough to come by. This has long been a pet peeve of fans and even before Lou stepped down as president, we were starting to see changes when the Devils opened up access to a three-on-three tourney and a full scrimmage at prospect camp. News also came yesterday that the Devils would be expanding coverage for television broadcasts, including mics on the ice for warm-ups and access to locker rooms, among other things. This policy was the big drawback to an organization that wanted to control every morsel of information at all times. In the grand scheme of things, not being able to attend camps isn't that big a deal, but I don't suspect many people are upset about this particular change.
Will it be missed?: No.
With the end of the Lamoriello Era, change was going to be inevitable in New Jersey. Lou very much did things his way, and the likelihood of someone carrying on all of the Devils' traditions under his reign were probably not high, especially with the team struggling for much of his last few seasons. It will be sad to see some of those traditions go, but sometimes that is the price you pay when you need fresh perspectives.
So what do you think of the imminent end of a lot of former traditions? Are there any that have you more upset than others? Are there some that I may not have touched on that you've thought about? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below and thanks for reading.