The Devils rebuild hiccup is now officially a full-on change of direction.
Tonight, a few hours before the game against the Lightning, Steve Cangialosi reported that Shero was no longer the GM of the New Jersey Devils — a news break that was subsequently confirmed by Josh Harris in an official press release which said ““The New Jersey Devils and General Manager Ray Shero have agreed to part ways, effective immediately.”
There is, obviously, a lot to take in here. Firstly, this is the press release in its entirety:
The New Jersey Devils and General Manager Ray Shero have agreed to part ways, effective immediately. Ray is a talented hockey executive and I am confident he will have great success in the future. However, Ray and I are in agreement that the Devils need to move in a new direction and that this change is in the best interest of the team. In the coming weeks and months, we will be launching a formal search for a new General Manager. We are very optimistic about our future and have a lot of talent, both on and off the ice. Tom Fitzgerald will serve as interim General Manager and he will receive support from Martin Brodeur, who will serve as an advisor to and on hockey operations. Our organization remains deeply committed to creating a sustainably winning franchise. Our fans deserve nothing but the best hockey. We thank them for their continued support as we work toward our goals.
The first thing to clarify is that this was not Ray Shero resigning, nor was it him being fired — it was a mutual parting of ways. This, to me, indicates that there was fundamental disagreement over the direction the team should be taking heading into the deadline and the offseason. What that disagreement was, we likely won’t know until we find out what the ownerships plan actually is.
This also seems likely because, otherwise, the timing makes no sense. The floundering Binghamton team has been on a tear as of late, Hall hasn’t lit the world on fire post-trade, the team’s been a little better lately, and his biggest mistake in my opinion — goaltending — has notably improved recently. This indicates that there was either a difference of opinions that would have impacted transactions intended to be made in the near future, or something else was happening to which we’re not privy.
The last thing to note here is that Martin Brodeur is going to be playing a key role, it appears, in guiding the team through the rest of the season. He was an AGM for the Blues so him and joined the Devils as an Executive VP of business development in 2018. It certainly seems like he’s been trying to piece together the skillset to be able to become an NHL GM, and given these roles, he’s likely not far from getting a shot somewhere — the now-open Devils position being the most obvious opportunity.
The All About the Jersey staff will be posting our thoughts as a group in a day or two, but here are a few quick nuggets to digest as context for this decision.
The timing is objectively awkward. If they had fundamental disagreements about the trajectory of the team, you would have thought they’d wait for the new guy to come in before deciding to fire the head coach and trade the franchise cornerstone in Taylor Hall. That is, of course, unless they agreed with him on those moves, but not on the rest of his thoughts on the direction of the franchise.
This team has been rebuilding for 5 years, and this move is an obvious indication that the management intends to go in a new direction — it is not yet clear whether that means cleaning house or tweaking some things to build around Hughes, Hischier, etc.
For the more subjective “is this good or bad?” end of things, you’ll have to determine that for yourself. Here are some things that may flavor the overall taste this news will leave in your mouth.
First of all, Shero was probably one of the best traders in the NHL during his tenure, regularly weaponizing cap space better than nearly ever other GM and capitalizing on moves that were frequently lauded by fans and media at the time they were made. Many of those trades did not work out as well as we would have hoped upon the pulling of the trigger, however. Marcus Johansson dropped in value after we acquired him as evidenced by the price he fetched subsequently. The infamous “one for one” Hall-Larsson deal was excellent, but now we just have a very large junior hockey player and some scraps to show for it. P.K. Subban was a shot absolutely worth taking, but one that hasn’t worked out. After all is said and done, we’re left wondering if this was bad luck, or if Shero lacked scouting/vision to competently steer this team towards a winning model.
Which brings us to the second, but likely more important point. For Shero, the results simply weren’t there. Over the past 5 years the Devils have been one of the worst teams in the NHL (158-167-48, 6th worst PTS%) despite hitting the lottery jackpot twice in that time and being gifted Nikita Gusev. In the end this is a results-oriented profession, and he was not getting them. Harris indicated as much in his press conference where he pretty much just said “we’re not getting it done”
For Ray Shero, he was fired from a Penguins franchise that had not one, but two generational talents on the same team. And he’s now been fired from a roster that had, at one point, 3 separate non-bust 1st overall draft picks. Can he actually build a roster, or has he just been lucky? Those questions will persist, though I suspect he’ll be given another chance elsewhere.
For the Devils, what now? Tom Fitzgerald is the Nasreddine to Shero’s Hynes — he’s the protegee who has followed the mentor for most of his recent career. If management does, indeed, crave a new direction, it seems unlikely Fitz will provide that. Will he get a chance to prove himself? Will Marty be a candidate? Will they go a new direction entirely?
Fans are left with a ton of questions, and very few answers. Many will, understandably, have a hard time resisting the urge to declare this franchise’s deepening spiral a dumpster fire. I can’t tell you whether its good or bad right now, but I can tell you that things will be changing. And given how things have been recently — perhaps that’s not terrible.
What do you think of the move? Vote in the poll below and use this comments space to ruminate publicly as you deem fit.
How do you feel that Ray Shero is no longer the Devils GM?
This poll is closed
Great! Need a new direction
Bad. His moves weren’t the problem
There’s been a lot of coverage around the league of this affair so I’ll link to a few of them here for extra reading.
ESPN’s Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski discuss why this move happened now, what’s coming, and reflect on Ray’s impact.
From The Athletic($), Burnside called the Devils ownership clueless, and Masisak reflected on the best and worst of Shero’s tenure.
Chris Ryan of NJ.com also did a 5 best and 5 worst piece.