Most NHL general managers will tell you there’s always room for improvement, and you can count Lou Lamoriello among them.
“I’d like to think that things are positive but we’re certainly not satisfied, nor will we ever be because I believe we have a long ways to go in a lot of areas,” Lamoriello said during an appearance on Prime Time Sports Wednesday night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs GM has constructed a fast, young, high-scoring team that bolted out of the gates and onto the scoreboard with a run-and-gun style that had goals coming in bunches to start the season. As scoring as slowed, we’ve seen the club lean a little harder on the blue line and the strong November play of goaltender Frederik Andersen.
Overall, the blue line is stepping up to the challenge—but it’s still very much a work in progress.
“We’re certainly getting better and better at it and I think that … as far as our goals against, that has improved,” he said. “You can get better in every area … but if there is one area, let’s say it’s defence, if you had to pick something. We’re still relatively young there.”
“We have Roman Polak in there right now, he and [Connor] Carrick have been alternating and Ron Hainsey has come in and really helped out tremendously, but certainly three of our key players are still extremely young, whether it be [Morgan] Rielly, [Jake] Gardiner, and [Nikita] Zaitsev. Defencemen, in my opinion, don’t really become seasoned in this league until they’re 26 and 27 years old, although we’re getting players in there earlier and earlier,” Lamoriello explained, adding that rookie defenceman Andreas Borgman is also making an impact. “So I’m certainly happy with what they have done and how we’re coming.”
“It’s very positive going forward,” he said.
That defence was on display Tuesday night against in Calgary as the Maple Leafs held the Flames to 20 shots (19 of which were stopped by Andersen) and even scored a pair—Polak and Zaitsev each got one past Flames netminder Mike Smith—in what was one of the team’s most complete games of the season so far.
Lamoriello, who said he was pleased with the club’s first game of their Western Canada road trip, which continues Thursday in Edmonton, and was also impressed by the droves of Leafs fans interrupted the C of Red at the Saddledome.
“Last night really opened my eyes—not that they haven’t been open over the last couple of years, but when I saw three sections standing full of blue jerseys for warm-ups and then I saw the number of jerseys throughout the crowd,” he said. “It was just amazing. You got the chills seeing it. It sounds a little corny saying that, but it was just amazing.”