It's hard to overstate Lou Lamoriello's importance in New Jersey.
He's been there since 1987, when he came over from Providence College. During his tenure, the New Jersey Devils have been one of the top teams in the National Hockey League, winning Stanley Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003. He's also been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for his 20-plus years as architect of one of the NHL's highest-winning clubs, and even served a couple of stints behind the bench as head coach.
But just like Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko hung them up several years ago, and one day in the not-too-distant future Martin Brodeur will go, Lou Lamoriello won't be around forever. So who might the Devils choose to replace their longtime CEO/president/general manager, who turns 70 this year, when he finally does decide to retire?
Here's a look at some (but not all) possible choices:
The most obvious choice would be Lamoriello’s right-hand man, director of scouting David Conte. Now in his 26th year with the Devils organization, the Colgate University graduate has been the one calling the shots on draft day. It was under his watch that the Devils drafted the likes of Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer, Zach Parise and Adam Henrique—and besides Lamoriello, there’s no one who knows the organization, its needs or its player depth better.
Currently the assistant general manager with the Vancouver Canucks, he helped assemble a Stanley Cup Finals and Presidents' Trophy-winning squad last season. A former assistant GM with the Phoenix Coyotes, he’ll undoubtedly be looking to one day look over his own NHL team.
An assistant GM with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he is a former Michigan Wolverine forward who also holds an MBA. Besides helping the Pens to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances in 2008 and 2009—including a Cup championship the second time around—he also runs their successful AHL affiliate in Wilkes Barre-Scranton.
Former NHL player and 30-goal scorer has helped assemble the Nashville Predators into a perennial playoff contender in his 14 years with the club, including his tenure as assistant GM that began back in 2006. Six years later, he’s likely looking to be the boss of his own club.
After skating for Harvard's 1989 NCAA championship team, he became the assistant GM with the Calgary Flames last year after serving as the pro and college scouting director with the Boston Bruins. He got his start as a scout with the Devils, however, and might be looking to return to New Jersey one day if it means he gets the final say-so on player personnel.
The younger Lamoriello is the general manager of the Albany Devils, New Jersey’s primary minor league affiliate in the American Hockey League, and a Providence graduate like his more famous father. If they don’t choose Conte, or he decides to stay in charge of scouting or retire himself, could the Devils possibly choose another Lamoriello to lead the way?
Burlew is the general manager of the Devils' ECHL affiliate in Kalamazoo, Mich.—yes, there is a Kalamazoo. A former college player at Miami (Ohio) and a former professional referee, he has been on the job with the K-Wings for two seasons now.
Former University of Notre Dame goaltender could possibly be a candidate down the line, if not for New Jersey then perhaps somewhere else. Now the president and governor of the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs (where he’s in more of a sales and marketing capacity), he still spent 15 years as general manager with the Grand Rapids Griffins, the longtime AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings.
There are other options outside of the NHL, minor league and major junior levels—or even perhaps Europe. The Devils could also simply delve once more into the collegiate hockey ranks, as they once did in hiring Lamoriello, to locate his successor.
Hey, it worked 25 years ago.