For the first time since 1987, the Devils will have a General Manager not named Lou Lamoriello. Former Penguins GM Ray Shero was named the fourth GM in the history of the New Jersey Devils on May 4. Lamoriello will stay on as team President of Hockey Operations.
Shero brings twenty-two years of NHL front office experience to the Devils, having worked for Ottawa from 1993 to 1998 as an assistant General Manager and with the Nashville Predators from 1998 to 2006. He was with Pittsburgh from 2006 to May 16, 2014. In his time as GM of the Penguins, the team went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 (where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings) and 2009 (where they defeated the Red Wings). According to Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com, the Pens were 373-193-56 during his tenure as GM.
Shero is the son of legendary NHL coach Fred Shero, who led the Flyers to two Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975. In Morreale’s article, he quotes Shero as saying that when he was in college at St. Lawrence in the Devils’ early days, his father, a Hockey Hall of Fame member, was a color analyst for the team and he spent time hanging around the club.
Now, the veteran GM, who had spent the past year as a member of USA Hockey’s National Team Advisory Board, is taking over for an absolute hockey legend. Lou Lamoriello took over a team in the New Jersey Devils who had missed the playoffs their first five years in the Garden State. The franchise had made the playoffs only once in their history (in 1978 as the Colorado Rockies). Under Lamoriello’s tenure, the Devils not only gained respect in the NHL, but went on to go to the playoffs 21 times, won nine division titles, five Eastern Conference championships and three Stanley Cup championships. However, since its last Stanley Cup Final appearance (2012), the team has not qualified for the playoffs and Lou felt a change was ultimately needed.
Shero and Lou had a previous history, as the new GM played against Providence College when he was at St. Lawrence and Lamoriello was the Friars’ coach. Lou said in a conference call that “…we have to be realistic in life in different areas and be honest and right now this is the perfect time and the perfect person with great experience.” He also mentioned that one of Shero’s first duties will be to continue the search for a new head coach (the Devils went with a three-man coaching system for most of last season, as Scott Stevens, Adam Oates and Lamoriello took over for the fired Peter DeBoer on December 26). He also said that he and Shero will run all decisions with team owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer, but that in the end, it will be Shero’s call on who will coach the team in 2015-16.
For Shero’s part, he talked about rebuilding the club into a Stanley Cup contender and looking at areas where the Devils need to improve. Getting a man who built the Penguins into one of the NHL’s elite squads was definitely a good move and his pedigree certainly helps.
Looking at Lamoriello’s tenure as GM, Dr. John McMullen’s hiring of him back in 1987 was, to paraphrase the author D’Arcy Jenish in his book The NHL: A Centennial History, one of the most astute moves in hockey history. Lamoriello took a team that was young and hungry helped to make them champions. His contribution to, not only the history of the New Jersey Devils, but NHL history as well cannot be overlooked.
But in the end, Lou knows that he is getting older and the team had been struggling over the last few seasons. Getting an outside perspective on the team and bringing in “fresh blood” might just be the thing to get the team going again.
As Lou said in the conference call, he’s not going anywhere and this move is simply to put the focus back on the team. He said that he knew Shero was the right man for the job when he realized that “He has no ego and know the logo is the most important thing….”
In this Devils fan’s view, this is a fine move. New blood, an outside source was needed to get a fresh look at where the team was going and where it could go. Shero was very successful in Pittsburgh, winning a Cup and hopefully that translates here. Lou felt it was time for him to step down and I could not be happier with this decision.
Lou’s place in organization history and, indeed, in all of hockey history, is secure. He is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and a Hockey Hall of Famer. The team is not losing Lou, but gaining even more hockey knowledge.
This will be a pivotal summer for the Devils. With a new head coach to hire and then the Entry Draft and free agency in June and July, this move could set the course for the Devils for the next several seasons.