According to Marc Ciampa of the Devils’ official website, Tom Fitzgerald, the Devils’ Assistant GM, will be moving from the bench back to the front office.
Fitzgerald came down to work as an assistant coach on October 16. He has been behind the bench for the team since then.
Ciampa quoted Devils head coach John Hynes as saying: “It was great having Fitzy around. He’s been around for awhile so he knows what’s going on and he’s seen the players. We know this wasn’t going to be forever. It’s a different voice, different observations. It’s kind of run its course and he’s done a fantastic job.”
Ciampa notes that with Fitzgerald behind the bench, “the team saw some great improvements in its penalty kill. The penalty kill at the time was 57.1% which ranked last in the NHL. From that date until present, the Devils penalty kill has ranked seventh in the NHL at 85.2%.”
Since October 16, the team is 6-8-1 if my memory is right, which is a little bit of an improvement over those 15 games than their first seven in which they went 1-4-2.
Hynes also told Ciampa that “We’re certainly going to miss him. But the difference is he’s around all the time anyways so the difference will be basically on the bench and not on the ice. It was great having him. We’ll continue to have him as a resource but it was the right time for him [and for us] to have him back in what he was actually hired to do.”
Ciampa wrote that Travis Zajac told him, in regards to Fitzgerald’s contributions to the team at practice, “I think face-offs, just the little things, where to be in the d-zone and positioning. He’s played the game, he’s been in every situation. For a team like that, that’s always helpful.”
I know that this will be a somewhat controversial move for the Devils amongst fans.
There are many fans who want to see general manager Ray Shero fire Hynes due to the results so far this season, as well as the majority of the last five years. The team improved with Fitzgerald with the team behind the bench. This will not make the “Fire Hynes” contingent of fans very happy because now it is all Hynes and his staff running the show.
What I think I see is Ray sort of putting Hynes and his staff to the test. They do not have the fresh perspective of Fitzgerald with them, so they need to sink or swim for the last time.
Should the team not continue to improve, I could see Shero firing Hynes at some point this season. Not a guarantee, but something that I feel very strongly could happen.