Louis A. Lamoriello, 1,093 victories, three Stanley Cup titles, five conference championships, nine division titles and 21 playoff appearances. Those achievements or some variation will be raised to the rafters of Prudential Center. For the first time in more than 28 years, the New Jersey Devils will have a new general manager. Ray Shero will take the mantle from Lamoriello and while Lou will still be involved in the organization, for those of us who’ve never known a Devils GM other than Lamoriello, it sure is different.
Lou Lamoriello is a class act and a tough one to follow. When I was a kid, I’d write Lou on occasion about a player in Albany or New Jersey and would sometimes make a suggestion. Virtually every time, he’d write back, even personally thanking me for supporting both teams, sending a personally signed letter in the mail on a couple of different occasions. Nothing too major but the fact that here’s the guy who runs the Devils is taking even a minute to write me back, a kid who couldn’t have been more than around high school age, was really something.
Yes, Lamoriello truly built the Devils and crafted together a model franchise. He was a pioneer of sorts. Remember, back in 1987, he was an American GM, coming to the NHL from the college game, after guiding the Providence College Friars. Stepping into a situation where the New York Rangers were the big cheese in the market, the New York Islanders were not too far removed from winning four straight Stanley Cup championships and the best player in the sport, Wayne Gretzky, was openly mocking the Devils franchise.
Then came the turnaround. John MacLean’s heroics in 1988. Opening up the Russian market with Slava Fetisov. Swinging deals for draft picks and turning them into Scott Niedermayer and Martin Brodeur. Loophole Lou, gaining Scott Stevens as compensation for losing Brendan Shanahan to the St. Louis Blues. Adding coaches, Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson and players, Claude Lemieux and Neal Broten, from a tradition of winning, to help change the culture and bring the club to the next level. There’s was an even bigger slew of shrewd drafting, Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, Sergei Brylin, Brian Rolston, Bill Guerin, Scott Gomez, Zach Parise and even more star players used as trade chips, who flourished elsewhere.
Aside from the Detroit Red Wings and maybe the Pittsburgh Penguins, there really hasn’t been a franchise with the championship level success attained by the Devils in the Lamoriello era.
With a new ownership group overseeing three consecutive seasons without a postseason berth, a shakeup was bound to happen in some segment or faction of the organization. That said, it’s an expectation level created by Lamoriello himself, a standard which will remain ingrained in the franchise, whether he is leading it or not.