In a recent interview with Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com, Devils co-owner Joshua Harris reiterated that all of the recent changes made to the organization are with one goal in mind: winning.
The Devils have made the playoffs once in the last five years (their run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals being the last trip they have made to the postseason) and in that time, their best divisional finish has been fourth. One of the things that Harris stressed in his interview with Morreale is that the naming of Ray Shero as the new General Manager on May 5 is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting this franchise back on track.
The team is looking for a new head coach and, like Morreale pointed out, they will have plenty of competition for the likes of Mike Babcock; the Detroit Red Wings headman was granted permission by the team to talk to other potential NHL employers. These employers include Edmonton, Buffalo, Philadelphia, San Jose and Toronto, all of whom are looking for a new coach, in addition to the Devils. Harris also said in the interview that money is basically no object. The team is willing to spend “if it makes sense for the franchise.”
Although some of the moves that the ownership duo of Harris and David Blitzer have made with one of their other properties, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, have left fans a little worried for the future of the Devils, a once-proud organization looking to reclaim glory, Harris has reassured loyalists that things are in control. As he told Morreale: “We’re committed to winning in New Jersey and building something here that Newark and the state of New Jersey can be proud of.”
He, like most fans, is very happy with the goaltending (telling Morreale that “…I’m excited about that with Cory and that was a great signing.”) and the defense, especially Andy Greene, who he feels is a player that the team can build around.
In a separate interview Morreale did with Lou Lamoriello, the former GM and current team President shed some more light onto what the team is trying to accomplish. He did acknowledge that part of the team’s downturn coincided with the loss of key players like Zach Parise (who left as a free agent for the Minnesota Wild in the summer of 2012) and Ilya Kovalchuk (who returned to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League). To paraphrase Lou’s take, these are not players that you just replace overnight. Despite this, Lamoriello does not rule out making a trade “prior to or during the NHL Draft” this year in Sunrise, Florida.
What the organization is trying to get back to is the standard that Lamoriello has set: 22 playoff appearances from 1988 to 2013, a winning record every year from 1992-93 to 2009-10, seven trips to the Wales/Eastern Conference Finals from 1988 to 2012, winning five Eastern Conference championships and, finally, three Stanley Cup titles in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
In the interview with Lamoriello, Harris points out that, when Lou was hired, the team was regarded as a “Mickey Mouse organization.” By the time he stepped down, the team had been champions and was seen as a high-class, well run organization.
Although rumors still run rampant that ownership strongly encouraged Lamoriello to step down as team GM, and you can see their point in wanting to do so, to get some new blood into the Devils’ system, there is definitely a respect for Lou from the owners. Harris called Lamoriello the “heart and soul of it all” and hoped “he’s a Devil for life both figuratively and day-to-day [as team president].”
For the New Jersey Devils and their new ownership, while it is important to remember the past and build upon it, the goal is to get the current team back in contention for a Stanley Cup. They may know that is a long process with no “fix it now” approach, but they are truly in it for the long haul.
In closing, I would like to wish New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra a happy 90th birthday today, May 12. He was a good friend of original Devils’ owner Dr. John McMullen and a tremendous hockey fan who played the game in his native St. Louis. He was an early supporter of the Devils when they moved to East Rutherford. Happy Birthday, Yogi!