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Lamoriello helped build Maple Leafs up

Toronto made playoffs in two of three seasons as general manager

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- In ripping out the guts of the Toronto Maple Leafs roster the past three seasons, Lou Lamoriello restored some much-needed heart and soul into the storied franchise.

So says Maple Leafs Hall of Fame forward Darryl Sittler, who has watched the transition firsthand.

 

[RELATED: Lamoriello out as general manager of Maple Leafs]

 

Lamoriello's run as general manager of the Maple Leafs ended Monday after three years, but he will remain with Toronto in the role of senior adviser. The contract he signed on July 23, 2015 called for him to be GM for three years and then senior adviser for four. 

In the Toronto's three seasons with Lamoriello as GM, it made the Stanley Cup Playoffs twice, but Sittler said his impact went far beyond the one-ice product. 

"He's so professional," Sittler, an ambassador for the Maple Leafs, said Monday. "He's garnered so much respect.

"And one of the biggest differences I've seen from before he got here is that you don't see the drama around here that you saw before."

Consider the 2014-15 season, one year prior to Lamoriello's arrival.

The Maple Leafs went 30-44-8 to finish 15th in the Eastern Conference, and their at-times lackluster play resulted in fans getting so angry that they actually threw jerseys -- and even waffles -- onto the ice. 

There were off-ice issues as well. On March 11, 2015 Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan suspended forward Nazem Kadri three games for showing up late to a team meeting.

When Lamoriello, 75, resigned as president of the New Jersey Devils and was hired as the 16th general manager of the Maple Leafs, the sideshows, controversies and white noise all stopped. It wasn't a coincidence.

"[Lou's] leadership in helping establish a cultural foundation, as well as his invaluable mentorship to everyone in this organization, has been instrumental in our development," said Shanahan, who Lamoriello drafted in the first round (No. 2) in the 1987 NHL Draft. 

Lamoriello said it wasn't easy.

"Probably the proudest moment is seeing how the franchise has grown as far as winning," Lamoriello said. "The first year, we went through a transition where we went through some 50 players to find out exactly who wanted to be a part of the group that Brendan put together and seeing the people who did remain, the success they'd had since then."

The Maple Leafs actually used 46 players in 2015-16. Among them were Matt Hunwick, Dion Phaneuf, PA Parenteau, Nick Spaling, Joffrey Lupul, Shawn Matthias, Peter Holland, Daniel Winnik, Brad Boyes, Mark Arcobello, Scott Harrington, Martin Marincin, James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier, none of whom are on the roster today.

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Because they finished last in the NHL standings with 69 points (29-42-11) in 2015-16, the Maple Leafs had the best odds (20 percent) to win the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery. They did and selected center Auston Matthews with the No. 1 pick at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo on June 24, 2016.

Four days prior to selecting Matthews, Lamoriello acquired goalie Frederik Andersen in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks for the No. 30 pick in the 2016 draft and a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Lamoriello signed Andersen to a five-year contract.

Led by Matthews, who went on to win the 2017 Calder Trophy as League's top rookie, Andersen, and a promising young core featuring rookie forwards William Nylander, Mitchell Marner, Connor Brown and Zach Hyman, Toronto went 40-27-15 and reached the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time since 2003-04. 

The Maple Leafs would lose in the Eastern Conference First Round to the Washington Capitals, who won the Presidents' Trophy, in six games with five of the them being decided in overtime.

Seeking a veteran mentor on and off the ice, Lamoriello signed 38-year-old unrestricted free agent forward Patrick Marleau to a three-year, $18.75 million contract on July 2, 2017. Marleau, who had 47 points (27 goals, 20 assists) this past season, became a father figure to Marner and Matthews, and helped Toronto to a 49-26-7 record, setting a single-season franchise record for wins and points (105) while making consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.

After Toronto's disappointing loss in Game 7 to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference First Round, Lamoriello's three-year contract as GM expired. He leaves the position having influenced employees throughout the organization, from first-line center to part-time secretary.

"You see it just walking through the office, how much courtesy he elicits from all the staff," Sittler said. "He's earned it.

"He and Brendan don't say anything until it needs to be said, until it means something. They keep their cards close to the vest."

To that end, Shanahan is staying true to form by saying he has no timetable for his GM search.

Asked if he would look outside the organization for a replacement, Shanahan said, "Certainly, as I go through the process. … I'll consider everything that I think is best for the Toronto Maple Leafs."

Under Lamoriello and his assistants, Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter, Toronto has improved in each of the past three seasons. As such, Dubas and Hunter would be likely candidates should Shanahan look internally.

Dubas has been in charge of the farm system and the organization's analytics department for most of the past four years. The Colorado Avalanche were interested in hiring him for a personnel position last summer, but the Maple Leafs did not give the Avalanche permission to talk with him.

Hunter has been the leader of Toronto's draft and player development and was the force behind the decision to select Marner in the first round (No. 4) in the 2015 NHL draft.

"Whoever they pick, Lou certainly has put this organization in a more competitive position than when they took over," Sittler said. "And he's earned a lot of respect while doing it."

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