After the initial shock of the Devils having a new General Manager wore off and more news and information about the move came to light, it started to make a little bit more sense about why the Devils went in the direction they did.
NHL Network and Hockey Night Live personality E.J. Hradek reported on his Twitter account that the decision for Lou Lamoriello to step down was “strongly encouraged” by ownership. The decision to hire Ray Shero was entirely Lou’s call, however. Also, the Devils could have been in danger of having to give up a draft pick to Pittsburgh for hiring Shero, but the Penguins waved that clause, allowing the Devils to talk to him freely.
Although he will still be involved with the team on a daily basis, it really is “an end of an era” as TSN’s Bob McKenzie put it. Lou was the cornerstone of the Devils franchise for the better part of four decades. He will still be there, but having him in a different role seems rather strange.
That being said, Shero fully intends to keep the philosophy the Devils have had for most of Lamoriello’s tenure as GM: defense first. In an article written for NHL.com by Mike Morreale, the 2013 NHL General Manager of the Year noted that the Devils need to score more often, but did not intend to move away from the thinking that won them three Stanley Cups.
Coming from a situation in Pittsburgh where the Penguins were (and are) loaded with firepower, the Devils style of building from the goalie and defense out may seem very foreign. But it is a solid formula that the Devils have used over the years and Shero even commented that defenseman Andy Greene is “an underrated veteran” that the team can build around. Cory Schneider has to factor into that thinking as well. Morreale also mentions the young d-men that Shero will be able to work with, citing Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, Damon Severson and Seth Helgeson.
What New Jersey lacks is goal scoring. Last season only one Devil broke the 20-goal barrier (Mike Cammalleri’s 27) and only two had more than 40 points (Cammalleri with 42 and Adam Henrique, who led the team with 43). The Devils will make a conscious effort to improve the team in that category come the Draft in late June and free agency on July 1.
What we cannot lose sight of here is that the Devils have a team-wide philosophy that they have worked with for years under Lou Lamoriello. With Lou still in the Devils front office, most fans would assume that nothing would really change too much. But Lou has said that all decisions will be made by Shero. He is the General Manager now and he will make the final verdicts on personnel changes and trades and acquisitions. He is acknowledging the Devils long standing thought process while also addressing the bigger picture of getting the Devils back into Stanley Cup contention.
Although most would assume that Lou knew that the team needed more scoring and help up front, maybe this is exactly what the New Jersey Devils needed: a wakeup call via a voice from outside the organization. Not that Lou could not or would not act to make the Devils better, but maybe he needed someone who could come in and kind of “shake things up” for the team. Getting a fresh perspective is usually a good thing when you are trying to solve a problem.
That being said, Lou and his contributions to the Devils will never be forgotten as long as the franchise exists. He ranks as one of the all-time greatest General Managers in the game and will go down in history as such. When Lou came to this team, it was talented and had the pieces, but was almost directionless. Lou gave it a way to channel the talent it had to winning. The Devils became known as winners. Even though not every move he made over the years panned out (he had just as many bad trades and busts as the next GM), the majority did. A classic example is when he fired head coach Robbie Ftorek on the eve of the 2000 Stanley Cup playoffs and replaced him with Larry Robinson. The move was a head scratcher at the time, but paid off when the Devils won the Cup that year.
Although things will not change immediately overnight (much of the defense that the team is building upon is still very young), with good hockey minds in control, things are likely to get much better for this team than they have been over the last few years.