I’ve never been the biggest Lou Lamoriello fan. The Devils GM is a smart guy, but he can be downright cruel to his players, and he’s often placed winning ahead of the greater good of hockey. But he doesn’t seem to be any kind of monster or jerk or idiot. And yet, everyone is going after Lamoriello because his off-season signings didn’t work out. I’ve seen about a million articles talking about how he totally failed this summer (examples are here and here). The gist of all of these articles is that Lamoriello signed defensemen Vladimir Malakhov and Dan McGillis and sniper Alexander Mogilny and now all three have left the team.
I’m not denying Lamoriello made some odd choices this off-season. Why he overpaid for his defense, I’ll never know. But his whole off-season was complicated by his trying to re-sign Scott Niedermayer, who took less money to play with his brother in Anaheim. And Lamoriello, to his credit, started making corrections as soon as he realized his team was a dud. It’s not an easy call for a GM to admit he made some mistakes and send his two big hires down to the minors. Yet Lamoriello did that.
Look around the NHL. Look at some imploding teams. How many have GMs who have been willing to lose face and own up to their mistakes to fix the team? Have the Islanders? Have the Penguins? Have the Bruins? (and on a side note, I think Sharks GM Ron Wilson has the definitive question about Joe Thornton: “I don’t understand why you want a guy standing in front of the net who passes as well as Joe Thornton passes…How can he make plays if someone is shooting the puck at him? Why wouldn’t you want him setting up behind the net or at the midboard and taking advantage of his vision and passing ability?”).
And Lamoriello hasn’t been afraid to ask the tough questions. By just about every account, he went behind the bench to best diagnose the problem(s) with his team (login info.). How many GMs are willing to get in the trenches to fix their team? Compare that to the number of GMs who would have just hired a new coach and just blamed the new guy when the team’s fortunes didn’t change.
Also, on a semi-related note, Larry Brooks reminds us to hate the cappers, not the cap.