Pain And Progress — Title of Devils Book When Lou Lamoriello Became New Jersey GM In 1987
Nobody in the hockey world knows better than Lou Lamoriello that pain and progress are inseparable.
The new Islanders boss applied that lesson orchestrating three Stanley Cup champions in the Garden State.
More recently, he experienced that losing pain again in Toronto while converting the Maple Leafs into an outfit ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup.
Now — alternately based in Brooklyn and Uniondale — Lou eagerly has taken on the task of turning the Islanders into the once-formidable outfit that had achieved the hitherto unachievable: winning four straight Cups.
Remarkably, Rhode Island’s most famed gift to the National Hockey League is neither daunted nor dubious about the mountain he’s already begun climbing.
Matter of fact, in a one-on-one interview with The Maven, The Man oozed an arresting blend of enthusiasm and optimism.
“I’m back,” Lamoriello asserted, “because of my love for the game.”
Then, a pause, and a second thought: “Plus the challenge of building.”
There are no frowns to betray anxiety nor ifs, ands or buts about Lou even when I ask him why The Game still is enjoyable to him.
“Why shouldn’t I be enjoying where I am when you consider that I still have the passion on the one hand, and this opportunity to build the Islanders on the other.”
When he took command of the Leafs three years ago, his club went through almost 50 players; a figure that is not likely to be duplicated with the Islanders. Perusing his new roster, Lamoriello likes the “core” players and will be x-raying youngsters such as Calder Trophy-winner Mathew Barzal and Matty’s pal, Anthony Beauvillier.
In a relatively short time, he’s added six players, all with one common trait so dear to The Boss, character. They include — with Lamoriello’s capsule comments — the following:
VALTTERI FILPPULA: “I like his experience. He’s a leader and a quality human being.”
LEO KOMAROV: “Having had him in Toronto, I know that Leo brings the kind of character and ability that we’re trying to build here. And he brings it every night; never leaving it out on the ice. You’ll like his leadership.”
JAN KOVAR: “Here’s a young center who’s completed five years in the KHL and who’s played in the World’s (Championship.) He’ll give us depth up front.”
TOM KUHNHACKL: “He’s played plenty and shows me a real good work ethic.”
MATT MARTIN: “You saw Matt before so you know very well what he brings to the hockey club. He’s an Islander.”
ROBIN LEHNER: “I like his size (6-foot-4) and natural (goaltending) talent. He wants to get back to his (good) form. This is one guy who’s really committed.”
Some critics assert that Lou’s major addition so far remains veteran coach Barry Trotz, who bolted Washington after guiding the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup.
“What I like about Barry is that he’s a winner,” Lamoriello explained, “and success breeds success. He did what nobody ever had done before in Washington. Plus, his knowledge and experience will command instant respect from the players.”
One of Lou’s least-favorite words is “potential” but he’s hard-pressed not to say it considering the bounty obtained in the recent draft and the surplus of talent already displayed by the dipsy-doodling Barzal. He told Canada’s National Post reporter Michael Traikos, that the Islanders Kiddie Corps has “talent you can’t teach.”
When I mentioned that this Islanders team could exude the same brand of motivation that the Vegas Golden Knights displayed — after the so-called savants had consigned them to the NHL’s subterranean depths last Fall — Lou replied, “Without question, motivation is part of the equation. This team has a new lease on life with the possibilities to take a step or two higher. They now have a whole new staff that they have to please. I’m excited.”
But he’s in absolutely no rush to name a captain. “It’s not something that’s even in the near future. When it comes to leadership, we have many outstanding character people on the team.”
With former captain John Tavares now a Maple Leaf, Lamoriello knows that he did everything he could to convince John to stay and delivered a part of his philosophy to Trakos: “you don’t look back.”
Having worked with and alongside Lamoriello since the day he became Devils leader in 1987, I can attest to this man’s unimpeachable character. And, I can vouch for the fact that one of his most important accomplishments was being at the forefront of delivering Russian talent to the NHL, especially Slava Fetisov.
“It’s certainly right up there with the things I’m proud of and I’ll always remember the players who paved the way; especially who, to this day, is a good friend.”
Another thing I learned about Lou — over four decades — is that he’s never one to complain.
When I asked him how to explain that commendable trait, he relinquished the perfecto Lamoriello response: