Sports Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello offers mid-term report

01:05  13 january  2018
01:05  13 january  2018 Source:   Toronto Star

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Lamoriello sees the upside in the Leafs ’ recent struggle, saying the team is not “at the level we are capable of” even though it holds a playoff position.

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello says the team's recent mini-slump © Graham Hughes Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello says the team's recent mini-slump "opens your eyes."

Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello has certainly kept an eye on his team as it heads into the bye week, and for the most part, he likes what he sees. But Lamoriello isn’t running a glee club. In addition to a first half that started strongly and sagged a bit at the break, there are still expectations, and with them, room for improvements. December was mercurial month, with the Leafs juggling a road-heavy schedule, the celebration of the franchise’s 100th NHL season and then the death of Johnny Bower, who was one of the greatest Leafs of all and someone Lamoriello greatly admired. With the break on, Lamoriello remained in his office, working as he always does. He also took time for a call from the Star to answer a few questions . . . so here’s a Q&A with the Leafs GM and his views on some of the topics surrounding his team and the organization:

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Thursday morning, New Jersey Devils president Lou Lamoriello announced he was leaving the team that he'd been with for the past 28 years to join the Toronto Maple Leafs as their new GM .

Leaf players felt the bye week arrived at a good time, given the team’s 2-3 record in the January homestand. Do you think the break is a good thing for the team right now?

It’s interesting you say that … when you play well, and the break comes, you don’t like to see it, you want to stay on top of things. But coming (when things aren’t going well), you can use it to get yourself re-energized. That’s the approach I’m taking (re-energized). You can’t feel great about the way games have slipped away from us (last two games). We played well in those games but individual mistakes made us come out on the short end of it. We have 53 points in 45 games, and we have to come back (focused). By not doing well there, it opens your eyes as to what we have to do. It’s unfortunate, mistakes happen. We have to do a better job, we have to learn from them … but it should be automatic.

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On a team known for its many young, developing stars, Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello isn’t ignoring the veteran leadership in Toronto.

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What are your impressions of the team at the halfway point of the season?

I’ve answered that a couple of times in the past few days, and if you were to say in September that we’d have 53 points in 45 games, you’d take it. But you pinch yourself and look at the systematic parts of it. We score goals but we’re giving up too many at certain times in the game, so you break down your game, five on five, power play, penalty kill, and go back to the decision making process on the ice, when and where to take chances … but overall you feel good about the team, and the best part of it is, I don’t feel we are at the level we are capable of. That’s the extreme positive for us at this point.

The team’s defencemen have come under criticism of late. What’s your impression of the way they’ve played?

I think its unfair for focus solely on the defencemen. There’s the defencemen, but there’s the forwards, too, the third man high … pinching a puck, and the defenceman gets caught, the third man high (should cover for it), and then you won’t get caught on an odd man rush. There’s the goalie, and you see a goal go in, then you see the opportunities given in front of the goalie. I think it is everyone together. But I feel overall, our defencemen have done a good job.

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Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan introduces Lou Lamoriello as the club's 16th GM . By clicking Accept, I confirm that I have read and understood each of the website terms of service and privacy policy and that I agree to be bound by them.

What do you see in Auston Matthews in his second season in the league?

He came in with a presence and a comfort in his own skin. I think going at a young age to play in Europe helped him both on and off the ice. He came back with confidence to be a top end player. There’s no limits to where he can go . . . God, his parents, gave him size and abilities. He wants to be good . . . he has a bright future in this game.

Freddie Andersen is, once again, on pace to set career highs in shots, games played, and possibly wins. What’s been your impression of Andersen so far?

I’m extremely impressed with Freddie Andersen. Those (workloads) are some of the things we watched in him . . . his experience, how he handles pressure, how he handles a bad goal, and of course, the market he’s playing in. In my opinion, he’s a great goalie.

Johnny Bower. How will you remember him?

I remember him having said to myself, have I ever heard of anyone, players, former players, teammates, young and old, writers, ever say a negative word about him? I’ve never heard of it. He’s one of those individuals you respect as a person, as a player, you like him as a person, you like him as a player, his competitiveness, the way he played the game, he won Cups, how he overcame things (late start to his career), he’s a great example to players who may question themselves. I had the good fortune to know him, and in my career, to know two people I consider icons in sports: Johnny Bower and (New York Yankees hall of fame catcher) Yogi Berra. I don’t know of a negative word ever being said of either of those two, and I feel honoured to have known both of them.

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Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello joined TSN Drive with Dave Feschuk and Steve Simmons on Friday afternoon. Some of the executives I’ve talked to have said, “look, it’s a very unconventional situation to hire a GM after you’ve hired a coach, after you’ve hired that GM ’s assistants.

Trades by GM . Lou Lamoriello . Toronto Maple Leafs acquire. Date. Las Vegas Knights acquire.

There’s a lot of talk these days about the video review for offsides. What are your thoughts on this topic?

There’s always going to be questions depending on what side you’re on. The GMs met on this and tried to get it as close to being perfect as possible, but it never will be. My opinion is offsides are the same for both sides, and no matter what side you’re on, you can question it. When someone comes up with something better, we’ll listen to it . . . but I’ll let the rule be what it is.

The trade deadline is drawing nearer. Do you feel you have enough depth in the organization in the event that a trade that will help the team is not available?

I don’t think you ever make a trade for the sake of making it. If you make one, you make it to help your team get better. We have forward depth in our organization and defensive depth, a little more experience on offence there, than defence. It’s our responsibility to get a player to where they should be (in the minors), but you ask yourself the question all the time . . . and there are sometimes little trades that can make you better. But it’s always the same thing, and every GM in the league will tell you the same thing, you make a trade to make your team better.

You just loaned Travis Dermott and Frederik Gauthier to the Marlies. Can both make it back to the NHL after the break?

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Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello weighs in on the trade deadline, expansion draft and surprising playoff push.

They will be back up. We have three players who haven’t played every day in (Andreas) Borgman, Dermott, and Gauthier . . . who could be sent down so when the (NHL players) come back from the break, those three players will have been playing. It’s good to keep them playing. And both (Dermott and Gauthier) will be back after the break, yes … Dermott has done very well, his maturity, his instincts, he has a bright future.

What are your feelings about the Olympics and the fact no NHLers will not be representing their countries in the Games?

I personally think it’s the right decision. I agree with it 100 per cent.

Where’s the GM going during the break?

I’m going where I am (in his office) at this point (laughs).

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