Lou Lamoriello prepared to be patient as Maple Leafs' turnaround continues

Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press via AP

Nearly four hours after the initial news broke, the shock still hadn’t worn off. Much like in May when Mike Babcock was introduced in front of a big Toronto Maple Leafs backdrop, seeing Lou Lamoriello surrounded by blue and white rather than the red and black we’ve been accustomed to was every bit as jarring.

Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan has known Lamoriello since he was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1987. That relationship lasted throughout Shanahan’s playing career and continued into his post-hockey life as an executive, which played a big role in the hiring.

As Toronto began its off-season, Shanahan sought permission to speak with Lamoriello in May after Lamoriello stepped back from his general manager position with the Devils into the role of team president. Lamoriello told Shanahan that it wasn’t in his mind to run a team again, to which Shanahan responded that he knew him too well and that moving upstairs in the executive office wouldn’t last too long with the hockey lifer.

“I can tell you that if I want anyone recruited anywhere to go anywhere, I’m sending Brendan,” Lamoriello said during a Thursday afteroon press conference.

Lamoriello enters a situation where there are no Stanley Cup expectations. Since Shanahan’s hiring in 2014, he has created and stuck to a blueprint of his vision for the Maple Leafs. Now that the general manager is hired, the entire hockey operations department appears set. It’s all in place now for Lamoriello to focus on the challenge of improving the on-ice product.

"Lou has been about winning,” Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock told NHL.com. "Lou is a guy who has pushed himself to get better every single day. I think a senior management guy joining our team, understanding what the vision and what the plan is, is a home run for all of us.

"Everyone concerns themselves with the team on the ice; the team off the ice precedes the team on the ice. I think we're set up very good."

“I understand that it’s going to take some patience,” Lamoriello said. “I understand that it’s going to be not something that’s going to happen overnight.”

But at age 72 (Lamoriello will turn 73 in October), how long will this arrangement last? According to Shanahan, Lamoriello’s contract is for three years — information that was a state secret within the New Jersey organization under his reign. The obvious candidate to assume his role in 2018, if that indeed is when a transition would occur, would be current assistant GM Kyle Dubas, who, along with Director of Player Personnel Mark Hunter, has been running the show since Dave Nonis was fired in April.

Lamoriello says he will have full autonomy with the Maple Leafs, but the committee of minds Shanahan has put together will have their input in the decision-making process and also benefit from the experience that was added on Thursday morning.

“I think having Lou in the organization is an opportunity for him to mentor us all,” said Shanahan.  “There are a lot of general managers in the league right now that would point to Lou as somebody that helped them along in their careers, and I have since I’ve been here in Toronto. People have asked me who’s influenced me in my playing career, and even in my career in management, whether it was at the NHL or now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Lou was somebody that certainly had an influence on me.”

There's no doubt Dubas will become an NHL general manager someday. The Maple Leafs would certainly hope it's with them after a few years of sponging knowledge off of Lamoriello.

“He’s a young fellow who has tremendous abilities, I know of his background,” said Lamoriello. “And if he doesn’t become a general manager here — and I’m not going to be here for a lifetime — it’s going to be his fault.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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