The Toronto Maple Leafs introduced Lou Lamoriello as the 16th General Manager in team history.
Brendan Shanahan: I’d first like to thank the New Jersey Devils for giving me the opportunity to even speak with Lou, specifically Josh Harris and David Blitzer. They have been a class organization throughout. I’ve had some conversations with them before, during and after. The New Jersey Devils, starting with Lou Lamoriello carrying on by the group that is there now, are a complete class organization with a great fanbase. Obviously they’re a team that’s close to my heart because they drafted me several years ago. I want to thank them for the class they’ve shown throughout this entire process.
I’d also like to acknowledge Larry Tanenbaum, Dale Lastman, George Cope, Guy Laurence and our entire board of directors, who are also so responsible for allowing me to do the things that I have done this summer to bring to Toronto and the Toronto Maple Leafs what I consider to be the best available talent in order for us to get back to where we want to be as a hockey team.
Lou Lamoriello: Thank you Brendan, and I’m glad you said, “several years.” I’d also like to repeat what Brendan said: I’d like to thank Josh Harris and David Blitzer for giving me the opportunity to speak to Brendan. Unless they allow that, this day would not come about. I’d like to thank Larry also for participating with me and encouraging me that this was the place to come. I’m excited. I don’t know any other way to put it. I’ve been very fortunate to be in an organization for a good number of years with a tremendous fan base. We had considerable amount of success during those years. I have nothing to look back on. This was a different challenge. This was something that Brendan put in front of me. I didn’t really think about it much. I said, “Brendan, this is something that’s really not on my mind at this time.” I don’t know how many of you know Brendan as well as I do as a player and how aggressive he was. When he was 17 years old to make the NHL — and I can tell you, if I want anybody recruited to go anywhere, I’m sending Brendan. Really and truly, for me, it’s an honour to be here today. The tradition this organization has had over the years, to be part of it trying to get it to where each and every one of you would like to see it, is going to be something special. I know all the people in the organization and have crossed paths with them at one time or the other. You’ve done a tremendous job of putting together a stable of people that are the best at what they do. I’m just excited because I think each and every one of them are going to push each other to be something special. I understand it’s going to take some patience. I understand it’s not something that’s going to happen over night. I’m committed to that, along with Brendan, along with Mark, along with Mike, along with Kyle, along with Brendan; each of those people in the front office. I’m happy to be here.
On what made this the right opportunity
Lamoriello: After I decided to maybe perform a transition and bring in Ray Shero, and maybe take life a little easier and become President, it’s something that Josh Harris and David Blitzer and I talked about a couple years ago — become a lifetime Devil, really. Brendan, when he had the conversation with me, said, “I know you too well, this is not going to last long. I want you to think about something. Just think about it. Every time you feel you are not in the fire, think about this conversation.” It wasn’t once he said that, and eventually he got to me.
On the level of comfortability with existing structure with coaches, assistants already in place
Lamoriello: Extremely comfortable, that’s what’s very nice. I’m coming in; I’ve been in this situation maybe three times in my life. Once when I went from hockey coach at Providence College to athletic director, then when I went to the Devils, and then I went and had the responsibility of the Nets. I’ll be coming in here just like each and everyone of those people I hired. They’re my people and it’s going to work.
On serving as a mentor to Dubas/grooming him for the GM’s position
Shanahan: I think having Lou in the organization is an opportunity for him to mentor us all. There are a lot of GMs who would point to Lou as someone who has helped them along in their careers, and I would. And I have since I’ve been here in Toronto when people have asked who has influenced me in my hockey career – my playing career and my career in management, with the NHL or with the Toronto Maple Leafs – and Lou is certainly somebody who had an influence on me. Even after I had left NJ, Lou and I had kept up a very good relationship throughout my playing career, and even after my playing career.
Lamoriello: I can ensure you it was not an easy decision, for a lot of different reasons when you’re with an organization as long as I was. Very similar to when I left Providence College to go to New Jersey. It wasn’t easy. I’ve always said anything easy isn’t worth it. Anybody can do it. This is a challenge and I’m extremely excited about it. I’d like to ask that question – someone asked Brendan about Kyle. I think he’s a young fellow who has tremendous abilities. I know him, his background. If he doesn’t become a GM here — I’m not going to be here for a lifetime — it’s going to be his fault.
On who has final say
First of all, no one makes any decision without consulting with people around them, and their supporting staff. But if you know anything about me, you know we will make the decisions.
On what drives him at age 73 after a long career
Lamoriello: Nothing different than what’s driven me all my life – it’s winning. The commitment that the Toronto Maple Leafs have made, with the board and the decisions they made when they brought Brendan in, and then they brought Mike in, and knowing tradition, to me the only thing that can happen is having success. I think what I hope to bring is just do as many little things as we possibly can, from experience, and then allow the end result to take care of itself. Winning doesn’t happen because you say it, it happens because of everything you do that leads to it. The challenge is in where I’m at right now. I feel good physically, I feel good mentally up to this point, unless you wear me out. It’s exciting and challenging. The challenge is to get it on an upward scale.
On Lou’s influence on his career
Shanahan: As a player, I went into New Jersey as an 18 year old and I think Lou had a unique experience at that time coming from college, where he had dealt for many years with players that were my age. It wasn’t just being a rookie at 18, but the things that go through your mind when you’re a 18, 19, 20 year old, they were often times Lou would pull me aside and have a chat with me and really help me out. You don’t even realize sometimes when you’re a kid, when you’re a young person, the impressions that someone is leaving on you. Whoever that person is, if they’re an important person in your life, sometimes you recognize it 10, 20 years later that you are valuing certain things and you recognize you’re valuing things you learned from that person. I think that’s some of the things that I’ve brought here to Toronto. In my management style, I wouldn’t say it’s completely mirrored Lou’s; there’s other people who have had influence on me as well. But there’s certain things, like making announcements without people having a heads up that they’re coming, that I could say I sort of stole from Lou a little bit from my time with Lou in New Jersey.
On applying his same philosophies from New Jersey
Lamoriello: I think what I have to do is take a step back, and just watch and listen and learn on the job, so to speak. You never make changes for the sake of changing. You see what’s working. The one thing that fundamentally change with the people that really have a voice, from the conversations I’ve had with them and Brendan, is the word accountability. I think that’s where it’s all going to start. Everything else is an extension of that. Whatever the little nuance is, whether it’s how you practice, how you travel, how you do everything within the game. And then all of that will evolve. But I think the biggest and most important word that will come is accountability.
On culture change
Shanahan: I’ll start off with that. I go back to something that Mike Babcock said at the draft that I really liked. We want good people. Being a good person doesn’t mean you’re mistake free, but I think when it boils down it it, this team means so much to the fans in this city. I made mention of it a little bit as well. There is a responsibility here. The rewards can be very great. I think it’s also important when you’re playing in the NHL, especially when you’re playing in such a passionate market like we have here, there should be an appreciation, and a showing of enthusiasm that you are enjoying being a Toronto Maple Leaf. We want to have enthusiasm, we want to have good people, and if there’es somebody that I feel can help the entire group of us, because culture doesn’t change over night, but that is something that we want to change over time. I think that Lou is a great fit for that. We want to have good people, we ant to have accountable people. We want to have people that eunderstand, appreciate, and show a joy for being a Toronto Mpale Leaf.
Lamoriello: I’ve been very fortunate with the players that we’ve had in New Jersey, and echoing everything that Brendan has said, is trying to create where the player is willing to give up their own identity for that logo in front, and never mixing what’s on the back of the jersey with what’s on the front of the jersey. That is something that has to be transmitted throughout each and every player, whether what their abilities are. I’ve always put a team like an orchestra. IT’s all about music. If the music isn’t good, no matter how god the one instrument is, everybody leaves. Success doesn’t come unless each and every one of these individuals is committed to each other, and more important, will do what’s necessary to have success, and that’s give up their own identity.
On what happened in New Jersey
Lamoriello: I don’t know if there was any one thing that caused it. Maybe it was a thought process of the way things have gone in the last five years in New Jersey. There are a lot of things that have transpired there that, really, some are public, some are not, with references to change of ownership. I would say things were just not the same as they were in the past. You weren’t allowed to do some of the things for financial reasons to be perfectly honest, and it really started to change it a little. I think when Josh Harris and David Blitzer came in, they changed that, and I just felt that maybe there was a change in thought process in terms of a transition. I decided to look that way. And then when this situation came about, it just raised my level back to where it had been about five years ago.
On whether this was the plan all along
Shanahan: I think it was my responsibility to have other options, but Lou I thought was the best fit for us here in Toronto.