THE SCENE: Yankee Stadium, mezzanine level, offices of George Steinbrenner. The Yankees' principal owner is sitting with some trusted advisers, some baseball people.

"This is what I should have done, years ago," he says while holding up a headline announcing Lou Lamoriello's recent activity.

"What's that, Mr. Steinbrenner?" any one of those advisers would reply.

"Fire the manager and hire myself," he says.

"There's still time," one of his more ambitious advisers says.

"Nah, I'm too old and fat," the Boss says. "Can't fit in the uni. Don't want everyone laughing at me the way they laughed at Trump on Wrestlemania the other night."

 The scene: The Raiders' offices, Oakland, Calif. Owner Al Davis is sitting on his leather couch, fidgeting with a Rubik's Cube.

"You know, I should coach the team just like this guy is doing," he tells his trusty adviser, holding up the newspaper.

"You tried that once," the adviser replies.


"Not really," says Al. "How did I do?"

"You turned your team around."

"No kidding. When was that?"

"Nineteen sixty-three," says the aide. "You were 33."

"Oh," says Al. "Never mind."

These are the two who come immediately to mind when I think about Lou Lamoriello, the Devils' general manager who, for the second season in a row, fired a coach and replaced him with . . . himself.

Like Davis' and Steinbrenner's, Lamoriello's sanity and ego have been evaluated over the last 48 hours, especially since his team has recorded the second-best record in its conference despite a barrage of injuries to its better players.

"I looked at all the positives and negatives, and I didn't let opinion get in the way," Lamoriello said Monday. "I looked at facts."

He did not say which ones. The Devils entered last night's game against Ottawa with a record of 47-24-8, and winners of four of their last five games.

So clearly these were not those facts.

"You don't always judge by wins and losses," he said. "You have to look at the big picture. I wasn't happy with where we were going and where our frame of mind was at."

Yeah, pal, well, try the frame of mind 80 miles down the pike if you want to see real unhappiness.

He has had 14 head coaches in 19 seasons as Devils GM, and if that number sounds familiar, it should. Your Flyers have trotted out 14 goalies since Martin Brodeur became Lamoriello's goaltender, which just happens to coincide with his enviable success. New Jersey has won three Stanley Cups with this pair. What people have debated for years, especially as teams have followed New Jersey's trapping formula to Stanley Cup titles, is how much is Marty, and how much is Lou.

Based on the number of coaches, Lou has cast his vote for the latter. Claude Julien guided the Devils to first place in the Atlantic Division and second place overall in the Eastern Conference, despite a slew of injuries to his best players and a team salary that would bubble over the cap even with a minor league call-up. The Devils won four games with fewer than 18 skaters this season. Tied with the Flyers in goals scored during regulation play, they added no scoring punch at the trade deadline - because financially, they couldn't.

Imagine how Steinbrenner would view a GM who had put him in such a pickle.

Or Davis.

Interestingly, Steinbrenner came close to owning the Devils a few years ago, when he looked to launch his YES Network. Imagine, for a minute, that he did.

George to Lou: "We're not scoring enough goals!"

George to Lou: "What do you mean we can't trade for Forsberg!!!?"

George to Lou: "You fired the coach? Didn't we just sign him to a long-term deal!!!???"

The actual owner of the team is a former Wall Street honcho named Jeffrey Vanderbeek, who hopes to open a 17,625-seat, luxury-box-friendly arena in downtown Newark by next season. He told the New York Times that he was "100 percent behind" Lou's latest move.

Then again, Vanderbeek believes fans, who did not exactly pack the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford - even after Cup-winning seasons - will flock to downtown Newark next season, many more of them paying elevated luxury-box prices.

So maybe it makes sense that he backed Lamoriello's latest play.

Who knows, maybe it even works, the Devils win another Cup, and Lou is again heralded as a hockey savant. But unless we want to see the Boss in pinstripes when they open the new Yankee Stadium, root real hard against that. *

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