Lou Lamoriello joined Sirius XM NHL with Gord Stellick to discuss the team’s acquisition of Tomas Plekanec, sticking to the plan, building through the draft, and more.
You’ve talked before about guys – Jay Pandolfo, for one example; Bobby Holik was another great example – whose value and play is even more important during the playoffs as far as the style they play. The Leafs’ acquisition of Tomas Plekanec – would he be that kind of player?
Lamoriello: There is no question that Tomas brings to our roster, certainly, experience and also knows what it is to play in the playoffs and play in series in our division. He’s a quality individual. There isn’t a player who has played with him who hasn’t said what a consummate professional he is. He will be a player, certainly, in our mind, that can support the group that we have and be used in any way the coaching staff see fit, whether it be defensive faceoffs, the penalty kill, or whether it be moved up on a line because of an injury, or play a fourth-line role. He will be that versatile player that can play in all situations and certainly accepts his role. That is important at this time when you bring a player in – that they accept their role.
Did you have any memorable deadline deals in New Jersey that were maybe not so big, or big, that happened for you?
Lamoriello: We had a lot of transactions, and sometimes they didn’t look like deadline [deals] because they were done a week before or 10 days before. But if I had to point out one: A quiet move was when we acquired Grant Marshall from Columbus for a fourth-round pick. He played a major role in one of our Stanley Cups. You never know what role a certain individual player will fill and do at a certain time.
Another one was, in our first run, we acquired a couple of players: Neal Broten and Shawn Chambers. They played a major role. You never know how it works out. I can give you some that didn’t work out. I’m giving you ones that did. Without question, it has to be the right individual. It has to be a player who comes in and accepts whatever is given to him – it might be different than where they came from. Most of the time, it’s a support player.
Peter Forsberg is a great example of a big move and how hard it is when you come with great expectations. You need few games – you can see it with Plekanec and a few others – just to get assimilated. Guys like Forsberg, when he went to Nashville… that’s maybe partly why you don’t see those kinds of deals as much anymore?
Lamoriello: It all depends on the individual situation and what the needs are for that team. I believe in the team that you have, at this given time, you ought to know if they are good enough to go a certain distance and what the need is. We tried very hard here over the last couple of years to stay focused on a plan, to have a team and have an organization that can sustain competing for a number of years – not just one shot at it. We had a couple of additions, too, in the last several weeks that are like trades in Kapanen and Dermott. There are little things that happen that persuade you to go one way or another in how you make decisions.
Can you put together a team now in 2018 the same way the New Jersey Devils were put together? Is it still the same formula if you want to get a team that can win the Stanley Cup and contend and win it for many years?
Lamoriello: I think it goes back to the drafting. There is credit that should be given to the scouts in our organization for the players that were drafted, in particular players that were drafted in the high-end. Of course, Auston was drafted first overall, but when you look at the decisions they made – and this was prior to me – on Mitch Marner – there were other players available – and the decision on Willy Nylander – there were others that were available – and where they turned out… Look at Connor Brown and Dermott, and the acquisition they made for Hyman. I’m only looking at the young players right now that will serve the core for future because they stay within that window of free agency with the age factor.
I believe you can, to answer the question… trying to give it a little background. They have to be supported with the players to have success. You certainly have to start with the goaltender. I always believe that you start with the goaltender and go through the defense and then, if you can get the quality forwards, you have a chance.
You have an outdoor game coming up this weekend. Are you a fan of them, one way or the other? Do you mind the outdoors games?
Lamoriello: When they first came in, I didn’t know what to expect. Being a little traditional, I didn’t know if it was good or bad. The experience of being in a couple of them right now – one at Yankee Stadium, and one here in Toronto – I think it’s just great for the fans. The atmosphere that’s been created, the enthusiasm… I think there are fans who attend these games who wouldn’t normally attend a game. The stadiums are larger than the arenas. It’s a happening. They can plan for it a year or a year and a half in advance. The families, and seeing everyone bundled up – I think it’s tremendous. Most importantly, the players do enjoy it. You get alumni back. The experience that has presented for them and the interaction and the fan reaction – you have to be a fan of it.
Might we see #34 in that game, or will fans have to wait a little longer to see Auston back in the lineup?
Lamoriello: No, I think he’ll be waiting just a little longer.
Last year, the Leafs might’ve been the only team that got that kind of ovation when they got eliminated from the playoffs because it was new to the recent Toronto Maple Leaf fans. Obviously, you want to go further this year. What do you expect when a team gets some playoff experience last year, and then the expectations [go up]? The team should have some experience from last year that should help them moving forward.
Lamoriello: Experience, you can never have enough of. The worst thing you can do is start dreaming and start thinking ahead of yourselves. The most important thing for us at this point is to constantly stay on top of doing the right things night in and night out and not worrying about the end result. We have a long way to go in what we’re trying to do. We’ll just allow the process to go along and none of us to get off track.