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Analysis: Lamoriello must fit Maple Leafs' structure

by Dan Rosen

Two of the people who know Lou Lamoriello the best feel his move from the New Jersey Devils to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday makes sense and is the perfect fit.

Former Devils coach Larry Robinson said the Maple Leafs should feel excellent about bringing Lamoriello on board because a person with his experience is exactly what they needed.

"I think that Toronto hit the jackpot," Robinson said.

Former Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko mentioned how the Maple Leafs need structure, discipline and accountability, three things Lamoriello prided himself on for 28 years as New Jersey's general manager and president.

"It's probably the only team right now that I believe is the right fit for Lou if he wants to keep doing it, to still have a lot of input in hockey decisions," Daneyko said. "It's the right fit for the Leafs for what they're trying to accomplish in changing the whole culture there. Just thinking about it when I heard the news, it was like, 'That's the team that needs that kind of presence.'"

Daneyko and Robinson are right. Toronto did need a senior leader on its management team, with the limited experience of president Brendan Shanahan, assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, director of player personnel Mark Hunter, and assistant to the general manager Brandon Pridham.

The question is if Lamoriello is the right guy for the Maple Leafs because the job he accepted Thursday is vastly different from the one he left in New Jersey? He has responsibilities now that he never really had before.

Not only is Lamoriello going to Toronto to be Maple Leafs general manager, he has to be a team player and mentor to a young management staff.

Lamoriello never had to do that, work within a team environment at the management level, because in New Jersey, the Devils' management structure was basically him. There was nobody to mentor. There were people below him, but he was the boss, the president, GM, and for a long time the chief executive officer. He never worked with an assistant GM that way. Nobody who worked under him ever went on to become GM of another team.

He established relationships with coaches, including Robinson and Jacques Lemaire in the mid-1990s, but gave them the players and they had to coach them. It wasn't as if they weighed in on management decisions beyond offering an opinion.

It was Lamoriello's way, his rule, his ideas. It worked for nearly three decades, until it didn't anymore, which led him to Toronto, where he'll have to work well with Shanahan, Dubas, Hunter, Pridham and everyone under them to make his tenure in Toronto a success.

Part of Lamoriello's role now is to work in tandem with Shanahan and prepare Dubas, Hunter and Pridham so they're ready to take the next step in their careers because they, probably more than him, are the future of the Maple Leafs.

Lamoriello will be 73 years old in October. He reportedly signed a three-year contract. It's realistic to expect the Maple Leafs' rebuild to take at least that long before it takes hold.

All of this means Lamoriello will have to trust people whose experience in their current roles pales in comparison to his.

To that end, Lamoriello said Thursday that Dubas, who is 28 years old and celebrated his one-year anniversary in Toronto on Wednesday, should be the future GM of the Maple Leafs. Lamoriello added that if Dubas doesn't eventually become the Maple Leafs GM that it will be Dubas' fault.

On the contrary, if Dubas doesn't eventually replace Lamoriello as GM in Toronto, it'll also be Lamoriello's fault. That's part of the job he accepted Thursday. That's his new reality.

This isn't just about building a team that can win on the ice. Lamoriello's challenge is to help develop a management team that can carry the Maple Leafs beyond this rebuild, when he'll likely be gone.

"They need more of what Lou can bring to the table right now, that presence, that accountability," Daneyko said. "Brendan Shanahan is an astute guy, and with the history of Lou, he's understanding that they need a culture shock there. Lou can bring that to the Toronto Maple Leafs."


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