Lou Lamoriello spent 28 years as general manager of the New Jersey Devils. He'll celebrate his 73rd birthday next month.
But when he does, he'll be general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. After nearly three decades in New Jersey, he admitted he didn't envision working anywhere else.
"Never a gleam in my mind," Lamoriello said in an interview with TSN's Bob McKenzie on Monday.
Lamoriello first stepped down as Devils GM on May 4, hiring former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero as his replacement. Lamoriello, though, was to stay with New Jersey as team president.
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But when Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan - who Lamoriello selected with the second pick in the 1987 NHL Draft - reached out about possibly becoming Toronto's GM, that was when he realized he still had the itch.
"I was extremely happy with the situation in New Jersey," Lamoriello said. "The new ownership had been tremendous from the day they took over. I had a lifetime situation in New Jersey. But when a challenge comes along, it's hard to turn your back, especially when you feel good, you love the game and you know the people that are involved in particular here with Brendan."
Lamoriello signed a three-year contract with the Maple Leafs in July and will be approaching his 76th birthday at its conclusion. He told McKenzie he's unsure if he will work beyond his current deal.
"Right now, I'm dealing in the present," Lamoriello said. "I feel good. I feel good about the challenge. Certainly when you think of Toronto, you can't [help] but think of the yesterdays of Toronto and what they brought. The days that I watched them while I was in college and the success that they had. Toronto is Toronto."
The Maple Leafs have built what appears to be a strong infrastructure with Shanahan as president, Lamoriello as GM and Mike Babcock set to enter his first season as Toronto's coach. Lamoriello said he will have constant dialogue with everyone in the organization, but he is in charge of personnel.
That includes the trade the Maple Leafs made last Friday when they acquired forward Michael Grabner from the New York Islanders for Taylor Beck, Matthew Finn, Christopher Gibson, Tom Nilsson and Carter Verhaeghe.
"My responsibility on hockey decisions is my responsibility," Lamoriello said. "But I think what is not different here than any other place, except for what the media has created, is that you consult with people what you're doing. Brendan has given me that responsibility, no different than Mike Babcock has the responsibility of how he coaches on the ice. But to say that people don't interact and don't use each other, I think that it's been over-publicized because of the way it's been put together. But what I've seen to this point, and the trade we recently had, it's no different."
Toronto finished 15th in the Eastern Conference last season, 30 points out of a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lamoriello said he's not even thinking about the potential of seeing the Maple Leafs in the postseason; he's more concerned with helping build a consistent winner.
"I don't even think of that in my vocabulary," Lamoriello said. "I never have in my years with New Jersey. I think the focus has to be only on what you have control over at that given time. And I've always said you'll never know what type of a team you have until you really get in there after say 20 games, 40 games and so forth.
"You'll always put something idealistic out there, but you stop and you approach everything realistically. I believe that's the approach we're all taking here. I think it's more the foundation so that you have an organization that has not only a culture, but has success for a long period of time and is just not a flash in the pan."