Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Lou Lamoriello joined Overdrive on TSN1050 on Wednesday night to discuss his team’s 16-9-1 start to the season. Transcript below.
We were just talking about sports science and how it feels like it’s really infiltrated the game in the past few years with the focus on rest and recovery and sleep. You’re an old-school guy. Sports science wasn’t kicking around in the ‘80s. How have you adapted to it and how much faith do you put into it?
Lamoriello: Well, first of all, I think it’s always been there. I think the old proverb of, “eat right, sleep right and drink right,” was still the basis of a lot of success for a lot of elite people. I think where we are today with the technology that has been created and the focus on it… I think that’s why we see the athletes that we have because of the education that is out there. Other people did it naturally or it came from their upbringing as far as the way they were raised. I think it’s fantastic. All you have to do is look at the extension of the careers of different people. Just look at the success people have had because of the way they’ve trained, because of what they put into their bodies. I think it’s healthy and here to stay.
You guys had a big win last night; an impressive win on the road. You’re 16-9-1. How happy are you with your team’s play so far this season?
Lamoriello: There’s no question that we feel good about the team we have. Certainly, the record — with the league that we’re in now with the parity — is a good record. But I believe we have a ways to go. That’s the good news. The good news is that there is room for improvement. The good news is that we are learning to cope with different situations at different times. The inexperience sometimes shows, but we have the right veterans here to help our younger players along with experience. I think the process is going well, but we have a lot more to get to and a lot more to do.
How do you deal with some of the younger players, or do you leave it all to Mike? The Marners, Nylanders? The team is having success, but they’re struggling to put the puck in the net. Do you ever have chats with them? How do you handle that or do you leave it up to the coaching staff?
Lamoriello: I think all of us communicate at one time or another – whatever is appropriate and whatever the situation might be. This is good for them. Things are not easy in this world and you have to fight through different things. The mental toughness end of it – no matter how things are going; good, bad, or indifferent – you have to stay the course and continue to do things right day in and day out. I think that’s what we’re learning. But these players that you are talking about are talented and they want to be good. That’s probably the common denominator that I have the most respect for with our young players: They want to do the things that are necessary to be good. But sometimes we all have to realize that there are other people who want to be good, too. We have to better, and if things are not going right, we’ll just stay the course.
How has the slashing crackdown affected the league from your standpoint and your team’s?
Lamoriello: I think we saw in the exhibition games how many slashing penalties there were. Players quickly get used to what the rules are. Maybe they’ve been slightly relaxed, but not to the point where slashing is back. I think that the game is in a better state. The intent was always to have the skilled players allowed to do the things that they can to have success. It’s there. I think the rules that have been put in are positive with where the game is today, with the speed. I was asked today what you think the biggest changes in the game are over the years. I put two words: Speed and youth. Youth and speed. I am really supportive of what has transpired.
You said earlier that you feel good about your team but there is still a ways to go and room for improvement. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of movement throughout the league in terms of trades. Is that you indicating that you are hoping for internal improvement, and if so, whereabouts?
Lamoriello: Without question. I don’t think there is anybody who can’t improve. Just keeping that focus and knowing that if you’re all on the same page and working towards the same direction, you’ll pick each other up. That’s why, to me, last night’s game was so pleasing. It was one of the games that we played pretty well in and we had contributions in every area, and not necessarily on the scoreboard. The score is indicative of who wins and loses, but the pieces that get to winning and losing, sometimes, don’t always get the credit or recognition. I think that’s what we all have to understand: This is a team game. Points are one thing, but success has to come from each and every individual collectively.
Is that rocket targeted to the top corner from Roman Polak what you’re looking for from him, Lou?
Lamoriello: Well, hey, I hope he can find that top corner like he did last night every night.
It couldn’t have happened to a better guy in that situation. I’m sure you saw the bench and the excitement they had for Roman. He is one of the hardest workers you’ll ever want to be around and one of the most liked players, also.
There has been a lot of conversation about the line changing from Mike Babcock this year compared to previous years – specifically last year. Why do you think that is? Why do you believe that Mike Babcock is deciding to change up his lines as much as he is?
Lamoriello: If Mike is changing the lines, he is doing it for a reason. Let’s start there. I really enjoy listening, sometimes, and hearing about how new that is. If you go back to history, you never even knew the same line in warmups to who was going to play in a game. Now, if there is one player changed, it is almost monumental like something’s wrong. It all depends upon who you are playing, when you are playing, how a player is playing. Remember, when Mike was putting in the system and the foundation to get people to understand that and stay pretty consistent… I think with where we’re at, we have to be interchangeable parts depending on how we play, who we play, when we play to have success.