One of the more perplexing moves in the National Hockey League occurred earlier this week when a mysterious team order had the equipment crew change Travis Dermott's jersey number from #3 to #23.
There was zero explanation for this change, and Dermott was confused himself.
We learned this morning that the order came from the general manager, Lou Lamoriello.
On first glance, this shouldn't have looked so confusing. Lamoriello has a history of changing numbers. His philosophy is that a player's number shouldn't detract from the team logo on the front of the jersey. He believes bigger numbers are too "flashy" and barring superstar players with an established pedigree in the league, he changes an incoming player's number.
He appears to have softened in his old age, letting Auston Matthews use #34. He didn't force the current team player's to change their numbers, such as Tyler Bozak, Jake Gardiner, and Morgan Rielly, just to name a few.
But Dermott... he had a low number, and he made it higher. There's very little reason to think of as to why he would do it. Is he trying to avoid the distraction that it could create considering former team captain Dion Phaneuf was #3 with the Leafs? Seems like a stretch.
Maybe he's just playing mind games with the kid.
But maybe something bigger is afoot. There's no direct evidence to prove this theory, but given the very odd nature of this change, it is completely in the realm of possibility.
Perhaps Lou has a move in the works - one that he feels confident will transpire. An established player with the #3?
Here are the current players in the NHL who wear that number.
These are almost exclusively defensemen, and we know the blue line is a position the Leafs are trying to improve ahead of the playoffs. There's no guarantee that this is the reason for the number change, but it's hard to think of anything else. Going from 3 to 23 breaks away from Lamoriello's philosophy, and he certainly didn't make this decision without some sort of ulterior motive.
Hopefully we find out sooner rather than later.