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New Jersey Devils 2017-18 Season Preview Part 5: Coaches & Management

After two years of rebuilding, the coaching and management begin to get put in the spotlight. This piece introduces/analyzes who to blame/credit for the upcoming season.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This is the 5th installment of the 2017-18 Season Preview. It covers the coaches, management and ownership of the Devils. This segment of the preview has become increasingly important in recent years as the franchise has entered a period of transition. This means that the front office and bench are going to be given the task of guiding us out of the playoff-less abyss. If they fail, they will be tossed aside for ones who can. It’s a high-pressure position to be in and so it certainly helps that someone who’s never held a front office position or played organized ice hockey above the pee-wee level is here to critique their performance and give clearly objective assessments of whether or not they’ve succeeded. You’re welcome.

And so without further ado...

General Manager: Ray Shero

We all know this man. The current GM took over for the man, the myth, the former blog’s namesake, Lou Lamoriello in 2015. He began rebuilding immediately and hasn’t really looked back since. Here’s a comprehensive list of the transactions the Devils have made since then. I’ll list here, some of Shero’s greatest hits.

  1. Traded a 2015 2nd (Ryan Gropp) and 3rd (Rem Pitlick) round pick for Kyle Palmieri — eventually signed to a 5-year deal in 2016.
  2. 2015 Draft Class (Zacha, Blackwood, Speers, White, Seney)
  3. Signed John Moore to a 3-year deal
  4. Signed and flipped Lee Stempniak for a 2016 4th rounder (Evan Cormier) and a 2017 2nd rounder (used to trade for Mirco Mueller)
  5. 2016 Draft Class (McLeod, Bastian, Anderson, Gignac, Maltsev, Cormier, Rykov, Bratt, Davies)
  6. Traded Adam Larsson to Edmonton for Taylor Hall
  7. Signed Ben Lovejoy to a 3-year deal
  8. Claimed Stefan Noesen and PA Parenteau off waivers. Parenteau eventually traded for 6th rounder.
  9. Traded 2017 2nd (Mario Ferraro) and 4th (Brandon Crawley) rounders for Mirco Mueller.
  10. 2017 Draft Class (Hischier, Boqvist, Zetterlund, Walsh, Popugaev, Senn, Studenic, Talvitie, Chainey, Zaitsev, Hellickson)
  11. Bought out Devante Smith-Pelly and Michael Cammalleri.
  12. Traded 2018 2nd and 3rd rounders to Washington for Marcus Johansson.
  13. Signed Will Butcher
  14. Re-signed Damon Severson to a 6-year deal

This is by no means a list of every transaction — for that matter it’s not even the 13 most consequential ones. It’s literally the ones that I noticed and thought were important when reading through the history.

But overall, Shero’s moves have been very well received — especially the big ones. He has converted Adam Larsson, 2 Second rounders, and 2 Third rounders into Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, and Marcus Johansson — aka half of our top 6.

His trades have been the big moves, because , as I said in July, that’s how you have to build a team in New Jersey

UFAs will seldom if ever pick the Devils. We have to create our core by drafting well, trading for talent, and re-signing when possible. The moves that some teams can afford to do in UFA periods, we will need to replicate with extra trades (See: Mojo, Palms, Hall). The necessity for additional flexibility in this trade-dependent rebuild is why Shero is getting the best possible value rather than plugging holes and it is why he’s keeping cap space open even though he isn’t signing big UFAs.

I think Hynes has been very creative with how he’s used the very minimal assets he was given and converted it into a team that many of us can be excited about. It took him really only two years to do it. Now, ultimately, the jury is still out on many of these moves because the Devils are still not a finished product. But I’m sure that if you polled league front offices on Shero’s moves so far — there would be a consensus that he’s gotten good value on most major transactions. It’s now on the players and coaches to realize that value. Primarily, this will be attributed to reputable talent-developer and head coach: John Hynes.

Head Coach: John Hynes

John Hynes has been here for the full duration of the rebuild. His reputation as a developer of talent is what encouraged many about his role in fostering a new young team. There hasn’t been much criticism of how he has fared on that end. The young players that actually make it to the roster have fared rather well. The only high-profile ciriticm could have been Zacha, but it looks like he’s poised to turn it around as well. However, even if he is every bit the developer that we hoped — it’s possible there comes a time when he will still need to be swapped out for a winner rather than a teacher. The jury is still out on whether or not Hynes can win. He’s at among the lowest levels of success since being in the NHL (elo rating here). The Devils have been rebuilding though and it’s hard to know how much to blame on him.

Assessment of Hynes is going to be inherently subjective. The only thing I can think of that is exclusively on the coach is their challenge record. Comparably, an inconsequential aspect of their role, but it is also the most easily quantifiable. Since it has been recorded, I figured I’d publish those results here. For those interested, over the past 2 seasons, Hynes is 27th out out of 39 coaches in challenge percentage. Could be relevant given the rule change to penalize coaches for incorrect offside challenges. Though Hynes didn’t really challenge that all that much.

Last year I said the Devils needed to get better on offense or Hynes would start to catch some heat. They did not. Yet he has not. However, being wrong has never really stopped me from saying things in the past so I’ll try it one more time. If our offense does not improve, John Hynes will be on the hot seat. Or at least the assistant coaches will need a shake-up. Which brings me to...

Assistant Coaches:

Geoff Ward (offense), Alain Nasreddine (defense), Roland Melanson (goaltending), Ryane Clowe (...ummm)

Geoff Ward is the assistant coach focusing on offense, and normally that is assessed primarily by powerplay performance. According to Corsica, the Devils had 6.41 expected goals per 60 minutes on the powerplay which was good for 20th in the NHL (actual goals per 60 also ranked 20th), and 22nd in PP%. We should expect this to improve with the added offensive talent. If it doesn’t — this is the guy you blame.

Alain Nasreddine is the defensive coach, a position normally assessed by PK efficiency. The Devils were 19th in the NHL in expected goals against per 60, 21st in actual goals against per 60, and 23rd in PK%. How he deals with the absence of Zajac and Boyle who were likely to be two of our top penalty-killers will be something to watch. Also, if Lovejoy ever gets displaced by one of the newer faces, their fit will also be a performance to keep an eye on.

I honestly don’t know what it is that Ryane Clowe does, but he has the same title as the last two guys. If you have any clue what he does then feel free to say it in the comments and I’ll add it here: _____________

Roland Melanson is the goaltending coach. He was Cory’s coach when he was with the Canucks and Andrew Gross’s write-up covers most of the important stuff there. Terreri had been a coach with the Devils in some capacity for 16 years and so this is a mark of a change and it was likely done to try and fix Schneider’s worst season in his career. It will fall on Melanson to assist him in righting the ship.

Ownership: Joshua Harris and David Blitzer

According to Forbes, the Devils are the 22nd highest valued team in the nhl. For this, the Devils have the new ownership group mostly to credit. They have introduced a fiscal reliability to the franchise that was previously lacking. The fact that the team that has not made the playoffs for 5 straight years and lives in the shadow of bigger market teams to the north and west, and yet there have been no rumors of moving them is a testament to the stability offered by the current ownership group.

That said, some of their decisions have been popular and some have not.

From last year’s article — still true:

They have already acquired a reputation to be prioritizing profitability and that hasn’t been helped by the fact that the food at the arena is even more overpriced than it was originally, the ticket prices were raised (see John’s article and Alex’s), and they removed the more fan-friendly packages like the Pick ‘em Plan (see my article).

However many have commented on the fact that the Rock has become a more family-friendly venue since the ownership changed. Furthermore, the introduction of in-game bells and whistles like a 3-D projector and a massive jumbotron have certainly been popular.

IMO, you can find plenty of things to like and plenty of things not to like about how the current ownership group has operated. Personally, my gratitude for the stability that they’ve given the franchise exceeds any irksome decisions they’ve made to the product. But I can certainly see how some may have a less favorable opinion of them.

Your Thoughts

What do you guys think about the Coaches and Management for this year? Do you think anyone is on the hot seat? Do you have as favorable an opinion of Shero as I’ve presented here? Have any of you figured out what Ryane Clowe does? Leave your thoughts below.