In Lou We Trust.
That could well be engraved across the facing of the Air Canada Centre, home of the Maple Leafs, who are in the hands of the one general manager who seems not to get caught up in the hoopla and the craze of the NHL’s trade deadline day.
“He is very calculated, and he remains patient, but he’s successful,” said Ken Daneyko, who played for Lamoriello’s New Jersey Devils and now is a colour commentator. “There is no getting around the fact . . . he is one of the best in the business at evaluating at the deadline and seeing the pieces you need.”
With the NHL trade deadline set for Wednesday at 3 p.m., history suggests Lamoriello will do little. In the 27 seasons Lamoriello was general manager of the Devils, there were 885 trades made on the final day of the deadline. Lamoriello made a mere 20. In 12 of his seasons with the Devils and one with the Leafs last year, Lamoriello made no deals on the day of the deadline.
And not making a trade — with fan bases and owners clamouring for moves — is often more difficult than making a trade.
“He’s very regimented,” said Neil Smith, who spent 11 years as GM of the New York Rangers during Lamoriello’s time with the Devils. “He is really good to his players on a personal level, but when it comes to doing his job, he doesn’t let that get in the way. Lou is emotionally detached from what people may say or think. He just steers the ship. It’s a tough task.
“For the fans who want the Leafs to go after the big name at the trade deadline, fuggedaboutit, he couldn’t care less how much you scream and yell how much (fans) want him to get a player. He’s got a blueprint in place, and he’s going to follow it.”
Among his bigger deadline-day deals:
- Acquiring Alexander Mogilny from Vancouver for Brendan Morrison and Denis Pederson in 2000. The Devils won the Stanley Cup later that spring.
- Acquiring Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner from Dallas in 2002. The Devils didn’t win the Cup that year, but both were key parts of the 2003 Cup win.
“He’s going to do what’s right,” said Smith, who admires that Lamoriello never succumbs to outside pressure. “If you do that, and you keep changing your plans, you never get anwhere.
“That’s what happens in New York and Montreal.”
It used to happen in Toronto. But not under Lamoriello and a structure built by team president Brendan Shanahan and aided by coach Mike Babcock. Fans seem patient. Owners seem to be kept at bay.
The Brian Boyle acquisition isn’t so much a variance from the plan as it is a reward for the way the team has played this year even, making it seem like the team’s planned rise is a year or two ahead of schedule.
“They’re fast-tracking a little bit, but I’m sure Lou feels these guys deserve an opportunity to make the playoffs and that’s why they added Brian Boyle,” Daneyko said. “He’s a big-game player and a character guy. Not a superstar, but a guy that does all the little things, knows what it takes to win, score a big goal. Those are the types of things Lou has done over the years.
“Every GM will say it, but Lou means it: It’s about getting the right guys. He values character. It’s about fit. He has a feel for the right piece that’s missing, or a guy who is going to be instrumental even if he’s not a big name.”
Daneyko recalls other Lamoriello deals made in the days before the deadline that reaped huge benefits for the Devils, including getting Neil Broten with 30 games to go in the 1994-95 season — when the Devils won their first Cup — and adding Grant Marshall with 10 games to go in 2002-03, before the Devils’ second Cup.
“Sometimes they are subtle moves and they turn out to be large,” Daneyko said. “He’s built a young team before, back with the Devils, and he’s on his way again in Toronto. He’s been revitalized there.”
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