Best executive: Lamoriello

Despite criticism from media, agents and some ex-players, Lou Lamoriello has seen his Devils win three Cups in nine years.

Originally Published: December 26, 2003
By Rich Chere | The Hockey News

The Hockey News solicited votes from 42 journalists to come up with "The Best of Everything in Hockey." One correspondent from each NHL city and 12 national media members were asked to vote on various disciplines for active players and executives. In addition, they cast ballots on NHL franchise-related off-ice departments. Five points were awarded for first-place votes, three for second and one for third. The accompanying story and voting results is one of more than 40 areas featured. The complete results can be found in "The Best of Everything in Hockey" magazine. Also featured in the publication are all-time bests from each of the 30 organizations and a fan vote on the top 10 favorite players from each franchise.

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Best Executive
  Name, Team Votes
1. L. Lamoriello, NJ 160
2. Pierre Lacroix, Col 79
3. Ken Holland, Det 31
4. Brian Burke, Van 24
5. Bryan Murray, Ana 21
6. D. Risebrough, Min 19
7. David Conte, NJ 11
8. Bob Gainey, Mtl 5
9. Jim Nill, Det 3
10. John Muckler, Ott 2

Ever since he was a promising catcher invited to play in the San Francisco Giants' system four decades ago -- an offer he turned down to start his coaching career at Providence College -- Lou Lamoriello has played hardball.

As president-GM of the New Jersey Devils since 1987, he has forged a reputation for being tough. He has traded players who challenged him in contract negotiations, banished others who performed to the beats of their own drums, refused to overpay for free agents and insisted his players look, act and perform to his standards.

He has fired close friends and gone through 10 coaches in his 16 seasons running the Devils.

And, despite criticism from media, agents and some ex-players, Lamoriello has seen his Devils win three Cups in nine years.

"We don't apologize for not accepting anything but the best out of a player," Lamoriello said.

And no GM gives more to his organization than Lamoriello, as evidenced by a panel of experts polled by The Hockey News who selected him as best executive.

Lamoriello's winning formula is derived from an insistence on being the final word on every aspect of the organization. And while he has been compared to inspirational leaders such as Vince Lombardi, Lamoriello says you have to approach the game from your own perspective.

"You can't imitate people," he said. "You can't be a clone. You have to take something from others and put it with your own personality. The bottom line is you have to have a passion."

Few people know Lamoriello as well as Vancouver Canucks' GM Brian Burke, who played for him at Providence College.

"The man is driven," Burke said. "He's incredibly bright and focused. Lou is planning for what his team is going to be like four years from now." But, said Burke, Lamoriello doesn't let hockey rule the way he interacts with people.

"He has cultivated a public image as a (callous tough guy), but he cares about people. He'll do anything for you."

Surrounded by exceptional people such as David Conte, who has been the Devils' director of scouting for 18 years and was ranked seventh in the best executive category, Lamoriello is a shrewd judge of talent.

His staff is responsible for the organization's depth, but Lamoriello has rarely failed to swing a trade to acquire the missing pieces of a Cup-winning puzzle.

"He takes a lot of pressure off coaches," said coach Pat Burns. "He makes my job easier."

Lamoriello, 61, is a throwback to NHL executives from the 1930s, '40s and '50s. He pays his players based on market value or lets them walk, and makes decisions based on what he thinks is best for the team.

"No one individual is more important than the franchise and the logo," he said. "This is a team game. You don't win alone. That's something we never veer from."

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