Why Lou Lamoriello makes sense for the Toronto Maple Leafs
At first blush, hearing the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Hall of Fame general manager Lou Lamoriello seems at odds with their drastically new direction. Prior to this, Brendan Shanahan had tossed aside everything and anything containing even a whiff of "old school" in favor of all things young and invigorating. They're already a front office packed with strong opinions and strong voices, and you know what they say about too many cooks. And frankly, they've seemed pretty content without a figurehead GM, allowing their bright, young "assistant" GM Kyle Dubas to fill that role through the draft and free agency.
So ... 72-year-old New Jersey Devils lifer who's worn every hat in hockey, who tended to operate his teams under authoritarian rule, who seemed to be stepping back from the game?
Sure. It's actually a pretty perfect fit.
First off, the Leafs management structure is unique. You've got Shanahan at the top, then the cabal of savvy hockey minds in Dubas, Mark Hunter, Mike Babcock, Brandon Pridham, and the opening now filled by Lamoriello.
Outside his elevated title, this GM role will not be one that exists much, if any, above those other men when it comes to decision-making - they're to work and make decisions as a unit. (As in, yes, Babcock will be weighing in on personnel.) That means this new GM role is one best-suited for a person content with doing less than usual and having less power than a GM usually has ... which is basically where Lamoriello is at in his career. He's done the one-man show thing, assumed all the pressure, been "The Guy." Being older now, he's OK with dialing that down a bit, where many GMs would not be.
It's also pretty clear Shanahan is intent on making Dubas GM of the Leafs someday, so this buys him time to gather experience and form relationships around the league before being handed the keys to the NHL's most-scrutinized franchise. Similar to what the Leafs are doing with their on-ice prospects, it gives them the best shot at developing their own internal talent, much the way they hope Babcock can help take Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe to the next level.
Around the league, nobody was going to take it easy on Dubas, so what better opportunity for him to learn how to avoid "rookie" mistakes than from a guy nicknamed "Loophole Lou" who can explain to him how to go about dealing with the league, who to talk to internally, and outside that, how to deal with the different GMs around the league? As well-reasoned and thoughtful as the 28-year-old is, being an NHL GM is an unbelievably unique job, so who better than a man who thrived in the role for decades to help him learn to navigate it?
With everybody in the Leafs cabal having a fairly specific role - Hunter focusing on scouting, Pridham the salary cap, Babcock the on-ice, and, for now, Dubas the analytics (though that's expanded a great deal already) - they just needed a guy to handle the management of it all ... generally. Lamoriello will act in that role as the conduit through which trades are made, the point man for dealing with the league, and the other big ticket items.
For Toronto, it really is all about the future - stockpiling picks and prospects, not panicking and making moves to rush along the rebuild, doing things the right way - and they feel this is just another way in which they make themselves better down the road. Lamoriello likely won't even be in the role as GM by the time the Leafs hope to be contending. He may be around as an adviser - a position similar to what Scott Bowman holds for the Chicago Blackhawks - but they see the opportunity to make Dubas better by having one of hockey's most successful and experienced men spend time around someone they consider one of their brightest prospects.
This takes the pressure off Dubas, and helps them bridge what they see as their transition from bad to good. Lamoriello works for Toronto because, as they've been saying, it's not about the now for them. When embarking down the long road of a rebuild, it's important to get things started in the right direction, and this simply gives them a great chance to accomplish that.