With the news earlier Tuesday that the New York Islanders officially signed Lou Lamoriello as their president of hockey operations, two things happened:
First, the irritable Internet commentariat faithfully (and ironically) announced their indifference.
Second, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ organization crystallized into its vision for the future.
Lamoriello was, of course, the general manager of the Maple Leafs for the past three seasons. That was part of a master plan that came to fruition right on schedule, with Kyle Dubas named the new general manager about two weeks ago.
Perhaps an inadvertent but understandable part of the master plan also came when assistant general manager Mark Hunter left the organization. Without question, Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan knew this was a possibility.
And many in Leafdom also knew it was a possibility, with the 55-year-old Hunter passed over in favour of the 32-year-old Dubas.
“This was a likely scenario,” Shanahan said. “What was most important to me was picking the person that I thought was ready to take the Leafs to the next stage of development.”
Both departures came Tuesday, within 70 minutes of one another. Hunter was out, the Leafs announced it, Lamoriello was hired by New York, the Islanders announced it. Hockey moves fast.
Lamoriello inherits a team that is frankly going through a bit of an interesting time. He has “full authority over all hockey matters with the organization” and must have at the top of his list the issue of one John Tavares. As we’ve discussed, the 27-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent and is future is uncertain.
Back in Toronto, this is Dubas’ team now. He’s in sink-or-swim territory and he has a young team to work with, plus he’ll be set to make a splash at the upcoming draft. The Maple Leafs said that Hunter offered to stay on until the draft to help out, but the franchise declined.
For Toronto, there are some tasks that require immediate attention. The Marlies need a GM and someone has to be appointed or hired as director of scouting. Dubas’ fingerprints will be all over these decisions, but Shanahan will also face the fire if his system blows up.
It’s a time of transition for the Maple Leafs, who have the roster and the gumption to make something happen for a change. And if getting there is a process of introducing new blood to an old system, Shanahan definitely made the right call.