“I’ll Do It My Way.”
(Song By Frank Sinatra, 1969; Lou Lamoriello Theme, Always)
“What’s the rush?” I asked the general manager who — I figured — should have been celebrating with his troops. “Where are you going?”
Momentarily breaking his stride, Lamoriello turned to me and uttered the words, as he did on the conference call Tuesday afternoon, hailing his appointment as the Islanders President of Hockey Operations.
“I’m heading for the office,” Lou shot back, “I have to start preparing for next season.”
Imagine a man so dedicated that he celebrated a Cup win for about two minutes and then dashed back to work as if this was an ordinary day.
At age, 75, Lamoriello could have taken a lifetime “advisor” job with the Maple Leafs at $800,000 a year. But that’s not Lou because he always wanted a real hockey job where he does what he did in New Jersey.
Doing it his way he said no to the consultant job in Toronto, where nobody would listen to him anymore anyway.
When Islanders co-owner Scott Malkin offered Lou a gig to be boss-of-all bosses with so storied a franchise, it was a no-brainer for the New Englander, who will bring his Providence accent to Brooklyn.
In the conference call, The Maven opened with this: Why did he take the job in the first place?
“I was impressed with the conversation I had with (Islanders co-owner) Scott Malkin and his vision and support of the Islanders,” he said. “I look on it as a challenge to bring the Islanders back to where they were.”
Typically Lou, he couldn’t wait to join the conference call. He was ready to take questions 10 minutes before it actually began. Once again, he proved there’s no fooling around with Lamoriello; he’s all business.
“I didn’t come in with any preconceived notions,” he revealed. “I want to take a step back and see exactly what the people who they have in place have to offer. I want to know what their vision is and will make decisions as we go along.”
It was apparent that — true to his style — the new boss would not reveal anything remotely related to the Islanders specific plans.
That included his feelings about John Tavares who — according to reports — met with Lou privately last week.
“Everyone in the NHL knows about John Tavares. He’s an elite player and a gentleman on and off the ice; a quality individual and a quality player.”
Then, a pause and cautionary advice for the reporters: “When it comes to talking to players; whether it be contracts; whether it be personally; whether it be coaches — anything that has to do with their own individual situation, I will never comment about it. I haven’t in the past and I won’t.”
The calendar tells Lou that there’s not a lot of time to prepare for the annual NHL Draft, which takes place June 22 and 23 in Dallas. How will he proceed with only a month remaining?
“I always lean on the people who are incumbent,” he explained. “I have to use whatever time is there to do whatever I feel is the right decision.
“There’s no time frame for anything. When I have to make a decision, I make it. If I have the time, I’ll use it.”
If Lou had any hard feelings about the Maple Leafs not renewing his GM job, he concealed them well.
Lamoriello: “I have nothing but the highest feeling for the Maple Leafs organization. I worked with professionals from Mike Babcock, Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter.
“We had tremendous communication and I’ll always have a soft spot for the Leafs organization.”
When some of the reporters mentioned that it was good having him back on the Metropolitan New York hockey scene, Lou acknowledged that he will be pleased returning to the Big Apple.
“Being with the Devils as long as I was and enjoying so many nice moments, I learned that there’s nothing like winning. But it’s not like I’m going directly from the Devils to the Islanders.”
It’s been more than three decades since he made his New Jersey debut so I wondered whether his competitive juices still are flowing fast.
“If I didn’t have it,” he squelched, “I wouldn’t be here today. I feel good about what I’m doing; making sure I physically feel good and do the right things.”
Those who know Lou best refer to him as an “Anti-Braggart,” never one to blow his own horn.
If braggadocio was his modus operandi, he could cite deals that enabled New Jersey to win Stanley Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003; not to mention just missing a fourth Stanley Cup in 2001.
Highlighting his prowess, the following is a list of his most successful acquisitions:
1. NEAL BROTEN, FEBRUARY 27, 1995: Acquired from the Dallas Stars in exchange for center Corey Millen. In 30 games with the Devils, Broten registered 28 points, en route to helping New Jersey hoist its’ first Cup. Meanwhile, Millen accumulated just 18 points in 28 games for the Stars and was then shipped to Calgary midway through the following season.
2. CLAUDE LEMIEUX, NOVEMBER 3, 1999: Lamoriello pulled off his last heist of the 20th Century when he acquired the right winger from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for underperforming center, Brian Rolston. The Avs ended up flipping Rolston to the Bruins later that same season. Meanwhile, Lemieux pulled together 17 goals for the Devs en route to their second Cup.
3. BOBBY HOLIK, AUGUST 28, 1992: The Devils acquisition Holik was critical in two of the Devils’ Cups, in which he had big performances. The 6’3” Czech center finished sixth in Devils history with 472 points and third in goals with 202.
4. ILYA KOVALCHUK, FEBRUARY 4, 2010: With the Russian sniper set to hit the free agent market, and Kovalchuk’s Thrashers likely out of playoff contention, Lamoriello seized the opportunity. He acquired the then-Thrashers captain in an eight-player deal, in which the Devils also got Jon Merrill, for what ended up being a small return for the Thrashers, now Jets, organization. Kovalchuk went on to be one of the Devils best players for several years and played a large part in their 2011-12 Eastern Conference Championship run.
5. MARTIN BRODEUR, JUNE 16, 1990: The Devils traded down from the 11th spot to the 20th spot in the 1990 NHL draft. With the 20th pick, the Devils selected franchise goaltender Martin Brodeur, who was their star during three cup runs. Brodeur should expect to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year — his first year of eligibility.
6. PETER STASTNY, MARCH 6, 1990: Although the Hall of Fame center was 33 when the Devils got him, he marked a change in culture for New Jersey. Before Stastny, the Devils had only one postseason appearance in seven years but with Stastny, the Devils made the playoffs in all four of his seasons.
Speaking of trades, I like the line my younger son, Simon, had when he heard that Lou is officially running the Islanders: “That,” Simon asserted, “is like it was when the L.A. Kings got Wayne Gretzky.”
One of my favorite Lamoriello expressions, delivered a long time ago but never forgotten, was — and is — “Do what’s right and do it now.”
When I asked Lou about his philosophy of work and life, I asked him if it still is, ‘do what’s right and do it now,’ he acknowledged and added, “What you said, Stan, is it.”
Then, a pause and a pungent point: “Stan, I’ve been telling you that for 30 years!”