How has it been amongst your staff, Lou, in terms of getting built up? 11 picks to go, phones ringing. Much debate about who you might take on Friday and beyond?
Lou Lamoriello: First of all, our staff has been working at this draft quite a while. I think right now all we are doing is putting on the finishing touches with any minute last minute discussions. Mark has done a great job. We’re ready.
Have you guys decided amongst yourselves who you are going to pick?
Lamoriello: I think we know who we are going to pick.
And you’re completely comfortable with that? No dissension?
Lamoriello: No dissension.
Has there been a lot of talk from teams trying to get that pick away from you?
Lamoriello: I wouldn’t get into any discussions about any type of talk with other teams. Right now, we’ll be picking.
You wouldn’t say you’ve been fielding offers?
Lamoriello: I wouldn’t say anything other than, “we’ll be picking our picks.” Unless something changes.
What does this pick mean to this team and this rebuild at this time?
Lamoriello: There’s no question, anytime you have the ability to pick the best player in the draft in your opinion, it means quite a bit. In other words, you’re not waiting for someone else to take a player. There’s no question we expect a lot out of the player we are getting, but certainly not right away. I think that we have to respect this game and the NHL and the ability of the players. You take an 18-year-old, and to expect him to do wonders is not fair.
Speaking of 18 year olds, I know you’re a guy who doesn’t want your rookies to be front and center a lot. You have a chance to have three guys guys — three fairly important rookies — on your team this year. How do you manage their time, manage their publicity, manage the pressure on those guys?
Lamoriello: I think we’ve had some experience with that with some players in the past. Certainly Mike has. Certainly Brendan was one of them here. I think we’ll do the best job we possibly can with that, and we’ll ask the cooperation out of you people with that also.
What kind of pressure will it be for, potentially, an American-born or Finnish-born player to be the face of a Canadian franchise?
Lamoriello: I don’t think there’s any player that is going to be the face of this franchise. The logo will be the face of this franchise.
You were here in 1991. Third overall with another team’s pick. Can you talk about how important it is when you’re in this position to use that pick and develop it properly?
Lamoriello: It was our pick at that time because we made the transaction for a player. We were fortunate to be able to select a player who went on to win several Cups (Scott Neidermayer). You always want success with that player. Once again, no one player is going to [do it all]; he was fortunate to have some good players in that organization in New Jersey. We hope that with the young players we have and the players we are acquiring that we are able to put a solid franchise together.
When you have a top pick like this, in past years, have you ever told them that you are going to take them?
Lamoriello: We’ve never told any player, since I’ve been in the business, who we were going to take.
You’ve got a lot of players to pick on Saturday. When this draft is done and you look back at it three or four years from now, how many of these dozen players [making it] would be a success for you?
Lamoriello: I wouldn’t even want to guess. You certainly want as many as you possibly can. We know, realistically, that’s not going to happen. Right now we are just focusing on doing the best job we can to develop them into what their abilities are and just put the best possible team together.
I gather you talked quite a bit about the expansion rules, the draft rules? Are you guys comfortable with where the Leafs are going to be settled in a year’s time?
Lamoriello: As far as I’m concerned, we’re in excellent shape as far as the expansion.
How does it change the dynamic here as far as looking to draft and trade?
Lamoriello: I have not heard any conversation right to that point, but it is certainly behind each and every mind of every team. They are going to be looking forward and making whatever moves they possibly can for that. Certainly it’s early at this point in time.
With Frederik Andersen and the picks you’re going to make in the next few days, is this becoming a franchise that is going to become more desirable to free agents as time goes on?
Lamoriello: I don’t think there is anything that the franchise should not look at. But the process, and the plan, is never going to be interrupted. We were able to acquire a goaltender at the age of 26 that we feel is a number one goaltender. But we have to do that.
The five day courting period before free agency — how would you say it’s changed things for free agency now going into the second year?
Lamoriello: I don’t know if I’m in favour of the five-day courting, so to speak. It’s going to take time for me to see how it affects it. I really haven’t focused in on it until maybe this year. I’m not saying we are involved in anything, so I really don’t know.
How important was the Marlie run in terms of expediting the progress of the franchise long term?
Lamoriello: There’s one thing you can’t buy in life and that’s experience and playoff experience especially. That’s what we were able to get. Certainly players understand how difficult it is and how there is nothing you can take for granted. Sometimes it’s not all about ability; it’s about all the other tangible and intangible experiences that you have to go through. I think that’s what we did. It’s a learning experience and I think it’s going to be extremely positive for these young players.
You’ve been in this a long time. How important does this particular draft, and this particular pick tomorrow night, rank in your list of drafts?
Lamoriello: I think it’s pretty well up there.