New Jersey Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello is a firm believer that putting team ahead of self is the building block to future success.
And Lamoriello should know.
Lamoriello, who is now in his 22nd season as president/CEO/general manager of the Devils, has helped establish a franchise that not only has qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs 11-straight seasons, but in 18 of the last 20 seasons. The Devils have also won the Stanley Cup three times since entering the League in 1982.
"It's all about the people you have with you and around you," Lamoriello recently told Commissioner Gary Bettman on NHL Hour. "The philosophy of telling players that the team is more important than anything and that sometimes you have to accept the criticism because there are sacrifices that have to be made to have success within a team."
That also means playing a role that benefits the organization more than the individual.
"Sometimes you have to give up your own identity for the success of the team," Lamoriello said. "We've been very fortunate here to have coaches and players who believe in that. We've also been fortunate to allow our drafted players to develop in the minors and then seamlessly come into the system. That's what we feel is the right way, but it might not be for someone else."
In addition to monitoring his future players in the minors, Lamoriello has historically added some minor parts to the engine with deals consummated at the trade deadline.
"I've heard Lou say several times through a course of a year or before the deadline that if there's a trade that crosses his desk that will make his team better and it's the best thing for the organization, he'll do it," Devils forward John Madden told NHL.com. "I'm confident that if there's anything out there that intrigues him or if he feels will help this team have a better chance at winning the Stanley Cup, I'm sure he'll do it."
While Lamoriello was quiet on March 4 -- the final day of trading in the NHL -- he did acquire veteran defenseman Niclas Havelid from the Atlanta Thrashers two days earlier in exchange for prospect Anssi Salmela.
"You assess your team and evaluate every day and, unfortunately, you come to a period of time where you have to make decisions to get better," Lamoriello said. "Will you stand pat or tweak the team? You have to consider everything that has happened over the first 60 games and, usually, we try to constantly assess what our needs are two weeks before deadline. We try to do it a little earlier instead of waiting the last minute, but it takes two people to do that."
Lamoriello admitted Havelid was in his crosshairs from the get-go.
"We felt that the one player who would be able to fit into our lineup and our locker room was the player we were able to get," Lamoriello said. "We had targeted Nic Havelid. After that, we really didn't feel we needed anything major so we just sat and watched if something came about that would make sense at the deadline."
Such an approach was taken with backup goalie Scott Clemmensen, who posted career-bests this season while starter Martin Brodeur was on the mend after bicep surgery. Upon being recalled from Lowell of the American Hockey League under emergency conditions on Nov. 3, Clemmensen posted a 25-13-1 record with a 2.39 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 40 appearances with the big club.
"There's no question it was difficult to send Scotty back to the minors (on Feb. 25)," Lamoriello said. "Every individual here is two people -- they are a player and a person. When you make certain decisions, you make them as a player, but you have to treat them as a person. In saying that, I sat down with Scott and explained the alternatives and while I know he understood, he was also disappointed.
“At the trade deadline, we did consider offers, but if it wasn't something that made sense for our organization we weren't about to make any deal since Scotty's value meant more to us. Our decision was based on making sure we had depth at that position and there's a chance he'll be brought up if we stay in the playoff race."
Additionally, Lamoriello has had tremendous success reeling in players that once performed in New Jersey. That group includes current Devils Bobby Holik, Brian Rolston and Brendan Shanahan. Additionally, you could add Clemmensen to that mix as the 31-year-old goalie spent the 2007-08 season in Toronto. He was drafted by the Devils in the seventh round in 1997.
"Whenever you bring back former players, there has to be a reason behind it," Lamoriello said. "The player must understand at what point in their career they are at and what is expected of them. You have to believe they will buy into that and you have to know what that player can do.
"Chemistry is a part of success and we've been fortunate that the players we've brought back haven't proven us wrong," he said. "We've brought back players who we might have traded in the past for different reasons and players who signed for a lot of money elsewhere. Whatever the reason, we knew that with their type of personality and what they could bring to our team, it was worth bringing them back."