Travis Zajac (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Devils GM/coach Lou Lamoriello has stated that the team's traditional year-end awards for MVP and Unsung Hero will not be given out this season. And based on how New Jersey's campaign has gone, who could blame him?
The New Jersey Devils got booed off the ice Tuesday night in their home finale.
A big reason for that was they were playing the New York Rangers, whose fans have no problem crossing the river for a good ol' rivalry game. But if some Devils supporters had gotten in on the action, you couldn't blame them, since New Jersey's season has been an abject failure.
So perhaps it is not a coincidence that GM/coach Lou Lamoriello told local reporters that the Devils would not be handing out their traditional team awards this season. And you know what? I'm on board with that.
Lamoriello wouldn't expand on why the tradition was called off, so obviously I'm doing a bit of assuming here, but I could understand if he didn't want to reward the players with honors when his team is set to finish 25th overall, behind a Columbus team that racked up 500 man-games lost.
Say what you will about his track record lately, but I like Lamoriello's old-school mentality. In our everybody-gets-a-ribbon culture, Lamoriello is taking it back to a meritocracy. These are professional athletes and I doubt they would even want to win MVP or Player's Player after this campaign. You think Mike Cammalleri is content right now? No way. And Cory Schneider's probably going stir-crazy thinking about how long his summer will be. I don't care if the awards came with a Dinosaur BBQ gift card – if you're an NHLer you want to be in the playoffs and anything less is the pits, unless you're a young team that made a lot of progress (think Calgary last year).
And say what you will about Lamoriello's results since the 2012 Stanley Cup final, but I still love talking to him about hockey. He may be a throwback, but the Devils have also embraced analytics and given young players such as Damon Severson a chance to bloom.
Even during his days with Providence College in the 1970s, Lamoriello would mix dogma and enlightenment. Players would get custom skates and stretch before practice (this was the 70s, remember), but they also had to have a big enough tape knob on the end of their stick that if they dropped it, they could pick it up without taking their glove off. The pre-game meal was always steak, baked potato and a vegetable, plus two pieces of toast and two pats of butter - never three pats.
Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke played for that team and also recalled bag skates at odd hours when he broke Lamoriello's rules when I spoke to him for a story about their history together a few years ago. But there was always reverence in his voice, too.
Lamoriello is as synonymous with the Devils now as Marty Brodeur and that will never change. Is it right that he keeps coming back to coach when he is unsatisfied with his current bench boss (Pete DeBoer being the casualty this season)? That's a decision for ownership. But I can get on board with shelving team trophies, because this is a season to remember in New Jersey; a season the Devils do not want to repeat again.