Despite the fact that the NHL season ended roughly two months ago for our New Jersey Devils, and that we haven't even arrived at the draft yet, it would still be a lie to say the offseason has not been busy for the team. Lou Lamoriello stepped down as GM (while remaining on as President) and hired former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero. Shero would hire former Wilkes-Barre Scranton coach John Hynes to be their new bench boss, and just announced Alain Nasreddine and Geoff Ward would join him behind the bench. Do these drastic changes signal a New Jersey rebuild? Or is Lou simply setting the team up for a reloaded future? Let's take a brief look.
It is at this point that I would like to apologize that this will not be a lengthy, in-depth look at these issues. When not writing for this site, I am a full-time middle school English teacher and this is the last (and seemingly busiest) week of school for the kids.
Anyway, back to the Devils! Looking over the roster, there are a number of names set to be unrestricted free agents: Michael Ryder, Martin Havlat, Steve Bernier, Scott Gomez, Mark Fraser, Peter Harrold, and Bryce Salvador all may not be back with New Jersey next year. Outside of one of Gomez/Bernier and Harrold as a seventh defenseman, I can't say I care all that much. Michael Ryder was the definition of a failed experiment; Martin Havlat couldn't even be called an experiment as he just flat out failed. Mark Fraser somehow was even worse than his first stint in New Jersey, and while Bryce Salvador was a good soldier for many years, the game has simply passed him by; he should hang up the skates and join the staff in some capacity.
While a lot of players are on their way out, New Jersey need talent coming in; not just bodies, but talented bodies. We could also use to ditch one of Dainius Zubrus and Tuomo Ruutul; the two essentially serve the same purpose and the former showed between the second half of 2013-14 and this past season that he is done as an effective NHL player. The forwards need some talented youth not only to pot some goals, but also to make the team faster, so that they can keep up with the rest of the league. Conversely, the defense is all very young and green outside of Andy Greene (pun sort of intended?) so adding another veteran on the back end couldn't hurt,
If being a Devils fan has taught me (with me being a teacher, that pun was definitely unintentional) anything so far, it's that good ol' Lou doesn't rebuild; he just reloads. The Devils have some talent to work with; Cory Schneider posted some elite numbers last year, and the young defensemen are just starting to blossom. Travis Zajac may not be a 1C, but he's still a serviceable player; he just needs to learn not to hit the post so often! Adam Henrique and Mike Cammalleri are both good top 6 forwards, Patrik Elias is still Patty and we have a good number of role players to fill out the bottom 6. The forward that the Devils draft as well as any others acquired through trades/free agency are going to be important this year; if they gel well with the pieces we have, there's no reason to believe that New Jersey couldn't improve on the past couple of dismal seasons quickly.
Again, I do apologize for this article being shorter than my usual entries; I will be back next week with a much longer piece on the day before the draft. As always thank you guys for reading (even this short little blurb of an article), remember to like ILWT on Facebook if you haven't already, and let's all get excited about the draft next Friday!