Bill Guerin and Kyle Dubas followed different paths to becoming an NHL general manager, but they had a common influence in New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello.Guerin is in his first season as GM of the Minnesota Wild, replacing Paul Fenton on Aug. 21 after spending the previous eight seasons in the front office of the Pittsburgh Penguins, first as a player development coach (2011-14) then as assistant GM (2014-19).
But before shifting into management, Guerin played 18 seasons in the NHL, including his first seven with the New Jersey Devils when Lamoriello was their GM. Lamoriello selected Guerin, a forward who had 856 points (429 goals, 427 assists) in 1,263 games, with the No. 5 pick in the 1989 NHL Draft and traded him to the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 4, 1998.
In between, they won the Stanley Cup together in 1995.
“I learned so many things from Lou and from Jacques Lemaire (who coached New Jersey from 1993-98), because they’re like a team those two,” Guerin said during a video call arranged by the NHL on Friday ” But when you played for the Devils and you were playing for Lou, you learn how important the team aspect is, how important the discipline is and how important the sacrifice is, and that no one person, no one player is bigger than the team.
“He just holds true to that even today. He’s never wavered from that.”
Dubas, who started out as a player agent before becoming GM of Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League (2011-14), worked under Lamoriello as assistant GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs for three seasons before replacing him on May 11, 2018.
“I think especially in the last season, the amount that I learned from Lou was incredible,” Dubas said. “Not even just how to operate the team and how to run a sports franchise, but how to treat people, the importance of your family along the way, the importance that he put on me to make sure that I was taking care of that aspect of my life and pushing me to always make sure that our people are always doing the same thing.”
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Lamoriello has built up a wealth of knowledge during his 31 seasons as an NHL GM, during which he won the Stanley Cup three times with the Devils (1995, 2000 and 2003) and was inducted as a builder into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
As a result, Dubas considers himself fortunate to have learned from him. And although there is a considerable age difference between Dubas, who is the NHL’s second-youngest GM at 34 years old (John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes is the youngest at 30 years old), and Lamoriello, the League’s oldest GM at 77, they formed a personal bond that’s continued since Lamoriello joined the Islanders as president of hockey operations and GM on May 22, 2018.
“We still talk all the time and it’s sometimes about hockey, but mostly about life and what’s happening,” Dubas said. “I know the age gap between us is immense, but for me (he’s) become a great mentor and a great friend, and I know my whole family feels the same way about Lou as well.”
Guerin, who retired from playing in 2010, went through some ups and downs during his career with Lamoriello, including a disagreement on his value when Guerin was a restricted free agent that caused him to sit out the first month and a half of the 1997-98 season and ultimately request a trade.
But wanting to represent the United States at the 1998 Nagano Olympics (Lamoriello was also the GM of the U.S. team), Guerin eventually re-signed with the Devils, and although he was traded to Edmonton after 19 games, he did play for the United States in Nagano, where it finished in sixth place.
Whatever bad feelings he might have held back then, Guerin, who is now 49, values his experiences with Lamoriello and has a different appreciation for them now that he’s a GM.
“I’ve taken a lot of things that I learned from him over the years, even in my personal situations, like when I had my contract holdout with him,” Guerin said. “He drew a line in the sand. He knew what I was worth, and you know what? He was going to put the ball in my court and I was going to decide. He made his decision and that was it, and when I was ready to play, I took the deal and that was it because he was the boss.
“The other thing about Lou is he’s incredibly loyal. I know if I got in a jam anytime, anywhere, if I had one dime to make my phone call or get me out of trouble or help me out in a certain way and I called Lou, he’d help me. I know that for a fact.”