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With Alain Nasreddine and Geoff Ward Hires, Ray Shero Sets Tone for the Rebuilding Devils

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The New Jersey Devils officially announced the reported hiring of Alain Nasreddine and the not-reported hiring of Geoff Ward as assistant coaches. This post is a reaction to the news, noting that these moves are evidence that Ray Shero is setting the tone for a re-building team.

After being an assistant with Boston for 7 seasons, Geoff Ward was the head coach for Adler Mannheim.  The DEL coach of the year is now a New Jersey assistant.
After being an assistant with Boston for 7 seasons, Geoff Ward was the head coach for Adler Mannheim. The DEL coach of the year is now a New Jersey assistant.
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Last night, I wrote about the report out of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Alain Nasreddine would be hired by the New Jersey Devils as an assistant head coach.  Today, the Devils did hire him - and Geoff Ward as assistant coaches. Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice has plenty about these hirings and confirmed some other changes to the staff.  In this post about the hirings themselves, he stated that Adam Oates will not return as he was seeking a head coaching job.  In this follow-up post, Gulitti wrote that Scott Stevens will not return as an assistant head coach.  Nasreddine will coach the defense and so Stevens' services are not needed.  In that same post, Gulitti stated that there's only one candidate for the goaltending coach position: Chris Terreri, the team's goaltending's coach.  I would suspect he'll keep his position. Lastly, the statuses of Mike Foligno, Tommy Albelin, and Albany's coaching staff remain in discussion with Ray Shero.  So there will be more decisions for Shero to make.

The announcement of Ward surprised me.  He certainly fits the desire for someone with NHL experience.  In this post by Gulitti where he spoke with Shero and Hynes about both hires, Gulitti noted that Ward coached the forwards and ran the power play with Boston.  Ward also ran practices when Claude Julien was in Sochi in 2014 in his seventh and final season with the Bruins. With Nasreddine on defense, it seems like a natural fit for Ward to focus on the offense.  The Bruins weren't necessarily production powerhouses, but they did have an even strength shots for per 60 minute rate over 30 in five of those seven seasons per War on Ice.  In five of those seven seasons, Boston had an even strength shooting attempts per 60 minute rate over 55 per War on Ice. I'd agree that the Bruins have been rather talented in those seasons, but it suggests that's Ward's ways helped them be successful in creating offense. That's something the Devils could use, lack of talent aside.

As I'm late on this news, I do want to highlight this news in a larger light.  If there were doubts that this was Ray Shero's team, then these hires should make them fade away.  The Devils are certainly in a re-building mode. They were a bad team last season and the reasons for that go deeper than just not having one or two players.   This is the right time to get new faces, new voices, and new ideas in the organization.  It began with Lou stepping down (up?) for Shero and since then, it's been Shero's job.  While there's certainly an influence from Shero's former days with Pittsburgh, he has done just that with the head coaching and assistant positions. Even if Terreri (which would be OK, it's not like goaltending was an issue last season), Foligno and Albelin return, they would likely be in lesser roles than Nasreddine and Ward and they would work with a brand new head coach in Hynes.  Combined with going out and signing two players from Europe - Sergey Kalinin, Vojtech Mozik - to serve some kind of role is consistent with wanting to go outside for something different.  There's more to do - and likely more to come (e.g. scouting director).

That's the tone Shero is setting.  Let's get different perspectives and see how they can help improve a team that needs it.  I think it's a good one to take.  Yes, I know there's a lot of love for Scott Stevens because he is Scott Stevens - legendary defenseman and hockey player.  Alas, Scott Stevens is not so legendary as a coach.  If he cannot help the team or do as well as Nasreddine, then he should not return.  Yes, I know there's a lot of respect for the "legacy" of the team.  Alas, that legacy has not helped the Devils succeed in most of their recent seasons nor prevented them from their current situation of being stuck near the bottom without much hope of moving up quickly.  If some new coaches coming in can help them get on the right path to where they want to be, then they should be given the chance.   My main takeaway is that Shero is doing that and we'll see whether it works out.  Regardless of whatever it does or not, these are not decisions Shero is making because Lou told him to; these are Shero's decisions.  Hopefully they work because the goal for the Devils is to get better in time, not to adhere to some tradition that really won't do that.

Again, there will be more news about the coaching staff in weeks to come but it's coming together. John Hynes will be the head coach and he will be supported by Alain Nasreddine and Geoff Ward. I wish both of them the best of luck.  What do you make of both hires, now that they've been announced by the team? What's your taken on Oates and Stevens certainly not returning?  Is there anyone from the New Jersey and Albany staffs that you want Shero to keep around?  Lastly, do these moves confirm that this is Shero setting the tone for a re-build - or do you need more evidence?  Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the coaching hires. Thank you for reading.