The Toronto Maple Leafs today announced that legendary executive Lou Lamoriello will not return as General Manager next season. President Brendan Shanahan released a statement explaining the decision:
Three years ago, Lou and I agreed on a contract that would see him serve as General Manager of the Maple Leafs for three years and then transition to Senior Advisor for the following four years. This morning I informed Lou that I was not going to deviate from that course of action. I will now focus all of my attention towards making a decision regarding our next GM.
Lamoriello oversaw a tear down and rebuild of the Maple Leafs that has resulted in two straight playoff appearances and a young core that can rival anyone in the league. With both Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter waiting in the wings though as potential GM candidates, the original succession plan can still be put into place. It’s not clear which one—or who from outside the organization—will be given the title, but the Maple Leafs shouldn’t be leaderless for very long.
Dubas, the whiz kid GM from the OHL who has ascended the front office ranks incredibly quickly, was targeted by the Colorado Avalanche last summer as a potential replacement to Joe Sakic. The Maple Leafs didn’t allow Dubas to interview for the job, which was considered by many as a sign that he would eventually be promoted within the Toronto organization. He serves as GM of the Toronto Marlies, who are a powerhouse in the AHL and are on to the second round of the playoffs currently. His unique approach to player development and analytic implementation is a perfect example of how front offices are leaning in various cities around the league.
Hunter on the other hand is more of an old school hockey mind, who has been the backbone of the Maple Leafs’ scouting department for several years. The former NHL player and London Knights GM, Hunter is an outstanding judge of talent among young players and has unearthed several mid and late round picks for the Maple Leafs.
There is always potential for someone else to come in and fill the role for Shanahan and the Maple Leafs, and Lamoriello’s move to advisor may come with some skepticism from those who cover him regularly. Many believe he’s not ready to give up being a GM in the NHL, and as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet noted in his recent 31 Thoughts column, he has ties to the New York Islanders organization. Should Garth Snow move up to a higher role in the organization, Lamoriello could be a potential replacement as GM at least in the short-term.
For the Maple Leafs, this isn’t exactly a firing after a disappointing first-round exit. Instead, Shanahan has maintained a plan from day one and is continuing to move the team further down the line towards perennial Stanley Cup contention. Though Lamoriello is one of the league’s most well-known front office executives, there was a split coming eventually given that he is 75 years old and closing in on retirement.