Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan spoke to the media following the unveiling of Lou Lamoriello as General Manager of the team. Here's what he had to say...
Is there any term on this contract?
He is signed for three years to be the General Manager.
Is it going to be like New Jersey in the front office with Lou's rules?
We haven't gotten to that yet. I think it was very clear when I spoke with Lou about his interest in coming here, the kind of environment and organization I was building and he was coming here to join that. I made a joke with Lou and said, "I don't wear ties every day," and he laughed and said, "that's fine with me." So, as far as Mark Hunter, I think Mark Hunter can keep his facial hair.
Do you see this as a short term move or could it go beyond the three years?
I think we'll see where things are at in three years and reassess. I think that was Lou's preference and my preference as well.
How long have these conversations been going on?
When the Devils made the announcement that Ray Shero was coming on as General Manager and Lou was going upstairs to be President, it was then that I reached out to Josh Harris and asked for permission to speak with Lou. That's when it started. It has gone on, it has stopped. There have been times where I've interviewed other general managers during that time. It has been hot and cold. We both got busy with our own teams and our own issues so obviously there was a period there before the draft and free agency where we weren't speaking. In the last week or so — actually in the last few days — talks picked up and things just seemed to happen rather quickly.
Were you close to hiring other GMs?
I had some really good discussions with George McPhee. I was really impressed with George McPhee. His record in the draft — the draft is so important to us and George had an excellent presentation with me so that was one of the other guys. I probably met with six or seven people. Some of them are with other organizations right now and even though I got permission to speak with them I'd rather not name names. George was certainly a finalist as well.
How does Lou compliment the staff in place who are low on experience?
That's why I thought Lou was a great fit. If I could draw out or map out when I was discussing what I was looking for at the end of the season press conference, I saw a lot of strengths with our group and the group we've assembled. I've got a lot of faith in guys like Brandon Pridham and Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas and I think there are certain advantages — I've always thought there was certain advantages to hiring guys who were on their way up and looking to prove themselves and have that hunger and energy to make a name for themselves. I do think we were lacking in some experience so if I could map out or draw out a description of the type of person we wanted it would be Lou. I was happy when the Devils gave me the opportunity to talk to him and I was happy when he was interested.
What about your dogged recruitment of both Lou and Mike Babcock?
When you're the youngest of four Irish boys at a dinner table you learn how to fight for the last potato.
How does Mike Babcock feel about the hire?
He's really excited. I just told him yesterday, he has a lot of respect for Lou and I've read some of his comments today, he referred to it as a home run. One of the comments I read from Mike was, "this makes us better."
How do you know that Lou's time hasn't passed him?
I think what Lou brings to us is very valuable, the assets. Like Lou said, it's all about an orchestra and I think that this orchestra works well with Lou. I think Lou has assets we need and we're looking for but I also think the rest of the guys I've assembled here are going to be good for Lou.
What message do you hope this sends to the fans about the organization?
I think it's another opportunity, as we've done things over the season and over the summer, the commitment we have to our fans and to this city, to build this team the right way and to use every opportunity we have to bring them who we consider to be the best people to produce the best team so we can have success.
Does this free you up from your summer duties or do you intend to still be hands on?
I think you're always hands on but, as I said at the draft, I still had some work to do and I was still searching for a General Manager. This was a rather large box we were able to check off today.
How do you reconcile a GM with a history of coaches on short leashes and a coach with a long term deal?
I spoke to Lou about Mike and Lou is a big fan of Mike Babcock and Mike Babcock is a fan of Lou. I don't think that's an issue I'm worried about right now. I'm still team President. I think this is a good team we've assembled. I think there will be bumps along the road and, as Mike said, there will be painful days. I don't think that's part of the NHL, escaping painful moments. I think that that's not an issue I'm worried about right now. As Lou has said to me, he considers Mike to be the best coach in hockey so we're getting off on the right foot with coaching.
Have there been times this summer where you felt you were missing a GM in the front office?
No, I don't think there were ever times where I felt it was hurting us but it was still my preference as I've been consistent in saying. I thought that Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas did a remarkable job at the draft and then Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas and Brandon Pridham on July 1 in free agency. They were instrumental in helping us put together the Phil Kessel trade and some of the signings we had. They've done a great job. I've always maintained though that it would still be my preference to have someone with NHL general manager experience and we found him.