TORONTO (Mar. 2) — Exactly how the Maple Leafs will be generally managed beyond next season may or may not be a topic of internal debate at the Air Canada Centre. Lou Lamoriello, destined for the Builders’ wing in the Hockey Hall of Fame, is finishing the second of a three–year contract he signed with Brendan Shanahan in July 2015. When the deal expires in the summer of 2018, Lou will be 75 and, perhaps, willing to don a robe; slide into a pair of comfortable slippers and spend his “golden” years relaxing in an easy–chair.
Somehow, though, we doubt it.
Much can change, of course, between now and next year at this time. First and foremost, Lamoriello has to remain healthy and capable of bearing the demands of his profession. Should that be the case, it is difficult to fathom Lou either wishing to step down as GM, or the Leafs offering him “another role” with the team. In fact, if I’m Shanahan, there is little chance of Lamoriello’s contract even nearing termination without being extended. Having so much to yet accomplish — and coming toward the fiscal challenge of retaining the club’s young and dynamic nucleus — the Leafs need a veteran hand on the tiller through at least the 2019–20 season. Undoubtedly, it should belong to the tight–lipped, taciturn executive already in command.
LEAFS HAVE DONE WELL WITH THE TANDEM OF PRESIDENT BRENDAN SHANAHAN (RIGHT) AND GM LOU LAMORIELLO. IT NEEDS TO REMAIN INTACT BEYOND NEXT SEASON. BRUCE BENNETT NHL.COM
I write this solely as an opinion… and without knowledge of a succession plan. There remains conjecture that one of Mark Hunter or Kyle Dubas has been assured of a promotion when Lamoriello’s deal expires. I do not, however, believe that Shanahan would have offered such a guarantee two summers ago. And given Lamoriello’s guile in all matters pertaining to the salary cap, why would the Leafs president not wish for his hand–picked GM to stick around? Without question, Lou isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; we’re fairly certain he does not exchange Christmas cards with Stephane Robidas or Joffrey Lupul. His willingness, however, to exploit technicalities in the Collective Bargaining Agreement — players be damned — will benefit the Leafs as William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews move toward coming off entry–level restriction, beginning next summer. And, no less importantly, as Lamoriello ventures to somehow accrue a Norris Trophy type on the blue line — without which he knows the Leafs cannot challenge for the Stanley Cup.
It will be a formidable expenditure — likely in the neighborhood of $35 million; nearly half the current $73 million cap figure. The renowned Chicago Blackhawks’ model of sustaining a high–priced, high–capped nucleus while juggling, from year–to–year, lesser components, requires experience and hockey intuition.
Lamoriello possesses both.
This is not — in any way — meant to discredit those working beneath Lamoriello. Hunter almost surely has designs on being a GM in the NHL, yet his sharp eye for evaluating talent in the junior and college ranks is paramount to the Maple Leafs. He remains among the most–respected bird–dogs in the game. Dubas, still only 30 years of age, is a lesser–known commodity — a bright and highly–regarded junior hockey mind with an enviable grasp of analytics. But, not someone with whom I’d feel comfortable in the big chair while the Leafs are approaching such abundant roster challenges. He’d be well–served to study and learn from the master until the core of the team — and that blue–line horse — is secured. Should it happen by the summer of 2020, Kyle will be all of 33; hardly a dinosaur. And, with invaluable tutelage under his belt.
Neither, in my view, should Shanahan feel threatened by the potential of Dubas bolting elsewhere in the event Lamoriello is extended. I’m not suggesting this will happen, but it remains a possibility.
For a minimum three seasons after this, the Leafs need to be Lou’s domain.
PUCK STORIES (1972—2011)
Thanks to my son, Shane, I came upon two big cartons of souvenir pucks I collected while covering the Leafs and the NHL for The FAN–590. Shane, now 20, found them last week while cleaning out his bedroom closet in Thornhill, north of the city. And, they sure bring back a flood of memories:
SHANE WAS EXACTLY 14 DAYS OLD WHEN I BOUGHT THIS PUCK AT A SOUVENIR STAND AT THE AMERICA WEST (NOW TALKING STICK RESORT) ARENA IN DOWNTOWN PHOENIX BEFORE A GAME — DEC. 20, 1996 — BETWEEN THE MAPLE LEAFS AND COYOTES. THE ORIGINAL WINNIPEG JETS HAD RE–LOCATED IN THE DESERT FOR THE 1996–97 NHL SEASON. THE COYOTES PLAYED DOWNTOWN UNTIL MOVING WEST TO GLENDALE, ARIZ. AND THE GILA RIVER ARENA ON DEC. 27, 2003.
YES, I STILL HAVE THE THREE PUCKS I CAUGHT WHILE WATCHING GAMES AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS IN THE 1970’s (BOTH SIDES PICTURED ABOVE). THE TOP PUCK KIND OF HURT, AS IT STRUCK ME IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD AFTER CAROMING OFF THE WALL BEHIND THE NORTH–END SEATS. IT WAS HAMMERED OVER THE GLASS BY ANDRE BOUDRIAS OF THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS ON MY 14th BIRTHDAY — FEB. 3, 1973 (LEAFS LOST, 2–1). A VERY NICE MAN RETRIEVED THE DISC AND HANDED IT TO ME. AT BOTTOM–LEFT IS A PUCK THAT CAME INTO THE SOUTH–END REDS ON MAR. 24, 1975, WHILE THE LEAFS WERE DEFEATING THE CALIFORNIA GOLDEN SEALS, 5–3. AND, THE BOTTOM–RIGHT PUCK FLUTTERED OVER THE SOUTH GLASS WHILE I SAT IN THE RAIL SEATS ON OCT. 31, 1979. I HAD MOVED DOWN FROM MY SOUTH–MEZZANINE SEASON TICKETS TO TAKE PHOTOS AT ICE LEVEL DURING A RATHER HISTORIC GAME, AS GORDIE HOWE, DAVE KEON AND THE HARTFORD WHALERS MADE THEIR FIRST APPEARANCE AT THE GARDENS. BOTH SCORED GOALS IN A 4–2 WIN OVER THE LEAFS.
AN OFFICIAL LEAFS GAME PUCK FROM THE AIR CANADA CENTRE IN THE 1999–2000 NHL SEASON.
THE ACC WAS IN ITS SECOND YEAR WHEN IT HOSTED THE 50th NHL ALL-STAR GAME ON FEB. 6, 2000. IT, TOO, RE–KINDLES A FAMILY MEMORY AS MY DAUGHTER, LAUREN, WAS BORN JUST MORE THAN A WEEK LATER — ON VALENTINE’S DAY.
THIS PUCK CAME AS PART OF A VHS TAPE I BOUGHT AT THE FORUM IN INGLEWOOD, CALIF. WHILE WATCHING THE LOS ANGELES KINGS AND SAN JOSE SHARKS ON DEC. 26, 1991. IT WAS SAN JOSE’S FIRST YEAR IN THE NHL AND THE KINGS’ 25th ANNIVERSARY SEASON. I’LL NEVER FORGET REPEATEDLY GLANCING AT THE OUT–OF–TOWN SCOREBOARD THAT NIGHT AS THE LEAFS WERE OBLITERATED, 12–1, IN PITTSBURGH. IT WAS THE FINAL STRAW FOR NEW GM CLIFF FLETCHER, WHO PULLED OFF THE 10–PLAYER DOUG GILMOUR TRADE WITH CALGARY SEVEN DAYS LATER.
FROM THE 1994 STANLEY CUP FINAL AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN BETWEEN THE NEW YORK RANGERS AND VANCOUVER CANUCKS. THE RANGERS BROKE A 54–YEAR CHAMPIONSHIP DROUGHT IN GAME 7.
STANLEY CUP FINALS: 1989 (Calgary over Montreal) / 2011 (Boston over Vancouver).
FROM THE 1999 EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINAL: TORONTO OVER PHILADELPHIA IN SIX.
THE LEAFS DOUBLED THE SHARKS, 6–3, IN SAN JOSE ON DEC. 17, 1996 AND THOSE IN THE PRESS BOX AT THE SAN JOSE ARENA (NOW SAP CENTER) WERE HANDED THE PUCK AT LOWER–LEFT, COMMEMORATING THE SHARKS’ ATTENDANCE MILESTONE. THE WASHINGTON CAPITALS’ 30th NHL SEASON WOULD HAVE BEEN 2004–05, IF NOT FOR THE LOCKOUT CANCELLATION. INSTEAD, IT BECAME 2005–06; THE PUCK AT TOP–RIGHT WAS OBTAINED AT THE VERIZON CENTER.
KEN DRYDEN’S MOTTO AND COMMEMORATIVE DESIGN FOR THE FINAL NHL SEASON AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS. THE LEAFS WERE BOMBED, 6–2, BY CHICAGO IN THE LAST NHL GAME — FEB. 13, 1999.
AN OFFICIAL GAME–USED PUCK FROM JOE LOUIS ARENA IN DETROIT: RED WINGS vs. MAPLE LEAFS, APR. 3, 1997 (2–2 TIE). DETROIT WOULD GO ON TO WIN ITS FIRST STANLEY CUP SINCE 1955.
FROM THE 1999 STANLEY CUP FINAL: DALLAS OVER BUFFALO COURTESY BRETT HULL’S TOE–IN–THE–CREASE TRIPLE–OVERTIME WINNER IN GAME 6. AND, A PUCK FROM THE 1995 STANLEY CUP FINAL AT THE MEADOWLANDS IN NEW JERSEY — THE DEVILS SWEEPING DETROIT FOR THEIR FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP.
COLORFUL PUCKS. PICKED UP THE ITEM, TOP–LEFT, AT THE OLD REUNION ARENA IN DALLAS ON JUNE 10, 2000, THE NIGHT JASON ARNOTT SCORED ON ED BELFOUR IN OVERTIME TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP FOR NEW JERSEY. MINNESOTA RE–ENTERED THE NHL AS THE WILD FOR THE 2000–01 SEASON, BUT THE LEAFS DIDN’T PLAY AT THE XCEL ENERGY CENTER UNTIL DEC. 11, 2003 (1–0 TORONTO; BELFOUR THE SHUTOUT). I BROUGHT THE BRIGHT–RED DISC (TOP–RIGHT) HOME FROM THAT TRIP TO ST. PAUL. AND, I WAS PRIVILEGED TO COVER THE 2001 NHL ALL–STAR GAME AT THE PEPSI CENTER IN DENVER — FROM WHICH I RETURNED WITH A PAIR OF SOUVENIRS.
THE NHL’s MILLENNIAL WAVE OF EXPANSION INVOLVED ATLANTA (1999); COLUMBUS AND MINNESOTA (2000). THE 2004 WORLD CUP OF HOCKEY OCCURRED UNDER A PALL, AS EVERYONE KNEW THE ’04–05 NHL SEASON WOULD NOT BEGIN ON TIME. AS IT WERE, THE ENTIRE SCHEDULE WAS CANCELED BY THE OWNERS.
FROM JUNE 13, 2002 AT JOE LOUIS ARENA. THE GREAT SCOTTY BOWMAN WINNING HIS RECORD NINTH (AND FINAL) STANLEY CUP AS A COACH, LEADING DETROIT OVER CAROLINA IN FIVE GAMES.
BROUGHT HOME THE TOP PUCK FROM THE SCOTTRADE CENTER IN ST. LOUIS AFTER A 2–1 VICTORY BY THE LEAFS OVER THE BLUES ON FEB. 6, 2007. THE PITTSBURGH ITEM CAME FROM THE OLD MELLON ARENA DURING THE 2008 STANLEY CUP FINAL, AS MIKE BABCOCK AND THE DETROIT RED WINGS EMERGED VICTORIOUS IN GAME 6. AND, MY WASHINGTON SOUVENIR IS FROM COVERING THE MAPLE LEAFS FINAL GAME AT THE CAPITAL CENTER IN LANDOVER, MARYLAND (FEB. 16, 1996), A 4–3 TORONTO LOSS. THE CAPS MOVED TO D.C. THE FOLLOWING SEASON.
I FOUND THE ITEM AT LEFT AFTER A LEAFS PRACTICE AT THE GARDENS WHILE STUDYING JOURNALISM AT HUMBER COLLEGE IN EARLY–1979. IT WAS SPECIFICALLY A PRACTICE PUCK, WITH NO LOGO ON THE BACK SIDE. THE TORONTO ROADRUNNERS — EDMONTON’S AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE AFFILIATE — OCCUPIED RICOH COLISEUM DURING THE 2003–04 SEASON. THE FORMER HAMILTON BULLDOGS (1996–03) THEN MOVED BRIEFLY TO EDMONTON AND ARE NOW THE BAKERSFIELD CONDORS, PLAYING OUT OF THE RABOBANK ARENA IN BAKERSFIELD, CALIF. (111 MILES NORTHWEST OF LOS ANGELES).
BOUGHT THIS RANDOM, YET NIFTY COLLECTION OF PUCKS FROM THE OLD WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION (1972–79) AT A COLLECTOR’S SHOW HERE IN TORONTO IN EARLY–1998.
AMONG THE FIRST–YEAR TEAMS (1972–73) IN THE WHA. THE DAYTON AEROS (BOTTOM–LEFT) WAS A CHARTER–FRANCHISE, BUT NO SUITABLE ARENA EXISTED IN THE TOWN LOCATED 54 MILES NORTHEAST OF CINCINNATI. THE HARA ARENA IN SUBURBAN TROTWOOD, OHIO SEATED MERELY 5,000 FOR HOCKEY. SO, ORIGINAL OWNER PAUL DENAULT MOVED THE TEAM TO HOUSTON, WHERE IT THRIVED FOR SIX SEASONS. THE HOUSTON AEROS WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED FOR TALKING GORDIE HOWE OUT OF RETIREMENT IN 1973–74 AND UNITING HIM WITH HIS SONS, MARK AND MARTY.
THE MIAMI SCREAMING EAGLES (TOP–LEFT) MAY BE THE MOST FAMOUS HOCKEY TEAM THAT NEVER PLAYED. ALSO A CHARTER MEMBER OF THE WHA, THE EAGLES MADE THE FIRST BIG SPLASH — SIGNING FUTURE HALL–OF–FAME GOALIE BERNIE PARENT OF THE MAPLE LEAFS. AS WITH DAYTON, HOWEVER, SOUTH FLORIDA DID NOT HAVE A SUITABLE ARENA IN THE EARLY–70’s. PLANS FOR A RINK/OFFICE COMPLEX IN DADE COUNTY WENT AWRY AND THE FRANCHISE MOVED NORTH TO PHILADELPHIA, AS THE BLAZERS. THE NEW YORK RAIDERS PLANNED TO RIVAL THE NHL RANGERS AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, BUT DREW FLIES (5,868 AVERAGE) AND LASTED ONLY ONE SEASON. SAME FOR THE OTTAWA NATIONALS, WHO AVERAGED 3,226 A GAME IN THE CIVIC CENTRE UNDER LANSDOWNE PARK AND BOLTED FOR TORONTO THE FOLLOWING YEAR. THE NEW ENGLAND WHALERS, SHARING BOSTON GARDEN WITH THE BRUINS, AVERAGED A LEAGUE–BEST 6,981 FANS AND DEFEATED WINNIPEG TO WIN THE FIRST WHA CHAMPIONSHIP.
ALONG WITH BERNIE PARENT, THE AFOREMENTIONED BLAZERS (TOP–LEFT) SPIRITED DEREK SANDERSON AND JOHN McKENZIE FROM THE STANLEY CUP–CHAMPION BOSTON BRUINS, BUT DREW ONLY 4,325 FANS PER GAME AND HIGH–TAILED IT TO VANCOUVER AFTER ONE SEASON. THE WINNIPEG JETS ALLOWED THE WHA TO MOVE FORWARD WITH CREDIBILITY BY SIGNING CHICAGO BLACK HAWKS’ SUPERSTAR BOBBY HULL TO A RECORD $2 MILLION CONTRACT.
THE GREATER NEW YORK AREA REMAINED COOL TO THE WHA IN YEAR 2. THE RAIDERS REINCARNATED AS THE GOLDEN BLADES BUT HAD MORE USHERS THAN FANS AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, PERFORMING, OCCASIONALLY, BEFORE A PALTRY 500 SOULS IN THE 17,500–SEAT ARENA. THE CLUB THEN MOVED TO A MINOR–HOCKEY FACILITY IN CHERRY HILL, N.J. (ACROSS THE DELAWARE RIVER FROM PHILADELPHIA) AND BECAME THE NEW JERSEY KNIGHTS. AFTER A SECOND NIGHTMARISH SEASON (2,585 AVERAGE), THE FRANCHISE RE–LOCATED, CROSS–COUNTRY, AS THE SAN DIEGO MARINERS. THE TRANSPLANTED OTTAWA NATIONALS — NOW THE TORONTO TOROS — PLAYED AT TINY VARSITY ARENA IN 1973–74 AND AVERAGED 4,291 FANS PER GAME. THE CLUB MOVED INTO MAPLE LEAF GARDENS FOR THE ’74 PLAYOFFS AND REMAINED THERE FOR TWO SEASONS BEFORE RE–LOCATING IN THE HOCKEY HOTBED OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA.
AFTER ONE YEAR IN PHILADELPHIA AND TWO MORE IN VANCOUVER, THE MIAMI SCREAMING EAGLES FRANCHISE LANDED IN CALGARY AS THE COWBOYS FOR THE 1975–76 SEASON. IT AVERAGED 4,630 FANS IN THE 7,500–SEAT STAMPEDE CORRAL (FUTURE HOME OF THE NHL FLAMES) BEFORE CEASING OPERATION. THE CINCINNATI STINGERS WERE AN EXPANSION TEAM IN 1975–76 AND LASTED UNTIL THE FINAL WHA SEASON OF 1978–79, PLAYING IN THE RIVERFRONT COLISEUM (15,000 CAPACITY). ALSO ENTERING VIA EXPANSION IN ’75–76 WAS THE DENVER SPURS, WHICH HAD A BRAND NEW HOME — THE 15,900–SEAT McNICHOLS ARENA. MORE THAN 11,000 SEATS WERE EMPTY MOST NIGHTS AND THE CLUB HAD NO FUTURE WHEN IT WAS LEARNED THE NHL’s KANSAS CITY SCOUTS WOULD MOVE TO DENVER (AS THE COLORADO ROCKIES) IN 1976–77. AS SUCH, THE SPURS RE–LOCATED IN OTTAWA (AS THE CIVICS) ON JAN. 2, 1976. THE “NEW” TEAM LASTED ALL OF FOUR GAMES (TWO HOME, AT THE CIVIC CENTRE, AND TWO AWAY) BEFORE THE FRANCHISE FOLDED ON JAN. 17.
THE ORIGINAL LOS ANGELES SHARKS FRANCHISE MOVED TO DETROIT AS THE MICHIGAN STAGS FOR THE 1974–75 WHA SEASON, PLAYING IN THE 12,000–SEAT COBO ARENA, ALSO HOME TO THE NBA PISTONS. THE STAGS DREW ONLY 3,000 PER GAME AND FOLDED ON JAN. 18, 1975. A WEEK LATER, THE WHA RESURRECTED THE FRANCHISE IN BALTIMORE AS THE BLADES AND PLACED IT IN THE 13–YEAR–OLD BALTIMORE CIVIC CENTER (CAPACITY 11,500). THE BLADES TOOK PART IN ONLY 17 GAMES (3–13–1) AND THE FRANCHISE DISBANDED AT THE END OF THE ’74–75 SEASON.