Not even two hours before the New Jersey Devils started their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, some massive news hit the world of the Devils and the NHL at large. Ray Shero was fired as general manager of the Devils. Devils play-by-play announcer for MSG, Steve Cangialosi, broke the news on Twitter. The Devils released this statement stating that Shero and the organization “agreed to part ways.” Josh Harris had a makeshift press conference with former assistant GM and now interim GM Tom Fitzgerald. CJ summed up the news in this post. Oh, and the Devils had that game against the hottest team in the league and, believe it or not, beat them 3-1.
Still, this is is the story with the Devils right now. Ray Shero built the current roster and off-ice personnel (coaches, scouts, analysts, equipment staff, player development, etc.) as it stands in New Jersey. The team just had two major changes last month. Shero fired head coach John Hynes, whom he hired in 2015; and, about two weeks after that, traded Taylor Hall in a rental deal to Arizona. The team has improved in its results since that trade and was 28th in the NHL after being mired in 30th just before beating the Bolts (now 27th). It is a lost season, but it seemed like things were possibly heading in a more positive direction. Now the Devils do not have a GM and it is not entirely clear what the way forward will look like for this season and beyond.
As we did after the Hall trade, we put together another quick roundtable. I asked the writing staff a list of questions related to Shero, his firing, and what they think will happen next. I thank those who were able to respond in a prompt manner. I had ten questions, here are ten varying answers for you to read, react, and respond in kind.
The dust is still settling on the news; more was revealed since I sent out the questions to the other writers. First, on Monday afternoon, Elliotte Friedman stated that Shero was given a four year extension last season (hat-tip: Devils Insiders). That is, well, surprising in of itself. Second, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reported that Martin Brodeur is not in the running for the Devils GM position. This invalidates one of the questions I did ask, but I am keeping it in there for posterity’s sake and for the possibility that, well, he can be put back in the running in the future.
1. How did you react when you saw the news that Ray Shero was fired before the Tampa Bay game on January 12?
Mike Stromberg (MS): I actually found out the news from a friend who texted me “Shero just got canned. Holy [expletive].” My reaction was, well, pretty much that. Definitely a “holy crap” moment for sure. That Shero’s job was in some jeopardy was not particularly surprising, given how this season has unfolded, but this was a shocking move in its timing, if nothing else.
Gerard Lionetti (GL): I literally could not believe the news when I first saw it; as more and more sources began to report on it, that was when it really set in.
Alex Potts (AP): I was initially confused. I am not against the firing at all. He had two first overall picks which look good, but otherwise, he has not moved this organization forward. But why now? What advantage does the organization get by firing him at this point, after Hynes has been fired and Hall traded? It reminded me of the Jets firing their GM after the draft and after hiring Adam Gase. Weird timing.
Chris Fieldhouse (CF): I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was in the car coming back from New York, and my phone battery was on 10 or so percent - so I was freaking out silently in the car to not disturb anyone else. It was a shock, and a disquieting one at that considering the turmoil the rest of the team has gone through. I thought he would at least stay to the end of the season, but here we are.
CJ Turtoro (CJT): I wasn’t happy or sad – just very surprised. Timing seemed bizarre. We’d improved recently, they let him ditch Hynes and Hall, they were in the middle of a back-to-back and had a bye week coming up. Just very strange.
John Fischer (JF): I was surprised like many other Devils fans all around the world. That Shero was fired, Steve Cangialosi broke it, and it happened literally right before a game similar to when John Hynes was fired. I was stuck in traffic on my way to the game when I found out, so I had some time to process it amid the intermittent movement and braking. Even after accepting the news, it is still a bit shocking that it came to this and that it happened just a few days ago and not, say, after the season ended in April.
2. Do you think Ray Shero deserved to be fired by the Devils? Why do you think was the trigger pulled?
MS: This is a very tough question to answer. On a macro level, I think it is hard to argue with removing a GM who is in year five of his tenure with his team sitting in 28th place. On a micro level, it’s hard to look at any one move and say, “that was a huge mistake” or really any series of moves. There are certainly a couple trades that I don’t think were good (Mirco Mueller, Michael Grabner) and some parts of his overall strategy that are worth criticizing (his inactivity in the summer of 2018), but I was generally in agreement with a healthy majority of Shero’s moves. The reality is that the Devils are (very) far from a playoff spot in a year that they should be in the thick of things, though, and the GM has to take some heat for that.
GL: I am not sure Shero deserved to be fired, but perhaps ownership was seeing things that we as outside observers are not privy to; not enough is known at this point (nor may it ever be known), but from the information that we have, I’m surprised he did not at least last through the season.
AP: I think it was a deserved firing. The team was pretty close to rock bottom after the 2014-15 season when he was hired. Where is the team now? Pretty close to rock bottom in the NHL still. Five years is a pretty good amount of time, and other than what is looking more and more like a fluke playoff run, the Devils have been outright bad under his tenure.
CF: He didn’t “deserve” to be fired in such an unceremonious fashion, but I do not think he had exactly done enough correctly in the last year or so to warrant continuing with the Devils after the season. I was starting to drift towards an expectation that they would make Brodeur or someone else GM after the season ended.
CJT: Yes and no. He did a lot good, but was a victim of indecisiveness when it came to deciding if the team was ready to compete. Jumped the gun a bit in 2018, and then went “all-in” for 2020 but failed to address the most important position (goalie). His overall vision for the rebuild can deservedly be questioned even if he made a lot of good individual moves.
JF: I do not think he was fully deserving of getting the axe just yet. I can agree that the pressure was on, but I figured he would have one more offseason to make it all right. I do think the team’s talent was held back under Hynes and to a degree under Alain Nasreddine as well. A new coaching staff could really take this team to where I think they could be. A pro-active offseason from Shero could address the team’s current needs. However, the owners clearly disagreed. I think they lost a lot of faith in Shero’s plan over the past few months. I can see why as his big moves last Summer faltered right out of the gate on top of the team becoming entrenched in last place in the division more than halfway through this season. After a bad 2018-19, seeing this season so far go down the tubes was not only unexpected but unacceptable. Hence, ownership decided to cut their losses.
3. The timing for this move is odd. Why do you think Shero was fired now and not earlier or later?
MS: My impression is that ownership has probably been wrestling with this idea since it became clear that this was a lost season. Perhaps they recently had some conversations with Shero on how he planned to right the ship in the wake of this season’s implosion and the Hall departure, and ultimately decided that they did not agree with his plan.
GL: Again, I think ownership knows something that we do not; that or Shero’s inability to make timely decisions finally wore on the owners to the point where they were done with him.
AP: I really cannot say with any certainty why he was fired now. My only real guess is that the owners do not want him involved in this year’s draft, and also do not want him involved in choosing the next head coach. Doing this now allows a new GM more time to prep for the draft this summer. If that isn’t it though, I am pretty lost. Ultimately, I think a combination of the delayed Hynes firing, the goaltender situation (giving Schneider so much of a leash early on), and the Subban trade did him in.
CF: Ray Shero understood that Alain Nasreddine should get a chance as interim head coach for an extended period, and I think Josh Harris understands that Tom Fitzgerald should get a chance as interim GM for an extended period. Fitzgerald is obviously a well-rounded individual, and I think the team was made better for a short period having him behind the bench, though Hynes and Hall still remained at the time. Therefore, I am willing to see what he thinks is a good way to build a roster - and that is why I think Shero was fired now, rather than later.
As for why it didn’t happen earlier: we thought this team would probably finish between 85 and 100 points, generally. Right now it looks more like 70-85. He did, as far as we were concerned, a good job with the offseason. How can you do better than bringing Subban, Gusev, and Simmonds to the team when you already drafted Jack Hughes?
CJT: Has to be disagreement over how to approach the trade deadline and the lead-in to it. My guess is ownership wants to compete sooner than Shero thought was reasonable, but I don’t know the exact disagreement.
JF: I am not fully sure why it had to be on January 12, right before a game. If this was related to the return from the Hall trade, then would they have not dumped him after the deal in December? If the owners were becoming skeptical of Shero’s ideas, then why was he still able to make that trade? If this was planned to happen, then why not do it on the following Sunday right before a full week off so personnel have enough time to process the change and prepare for a very busy Saturday? I have more questions than any thoughts on the timing. My best guess is that something went down more recently (that day?) between Shero and the owners that may have been the proverbial last straw and so this decision was made as quickly as possible. Even if that did happen, I still find the timing of this move to be questionable.
4. Tom Fitzgerald was Shero’s assistant GM and is the current interim GM. With the trade deadline coming up in about six weeks, what do you think he will do with this roster?
MS: This is the million-dollar question. Did Shero have plans to strip down this roster and ownership did not want that? Or did he plan to keep everyone in place and ownership wanted to jettison everyone not singed long term? If feels like they would not put Fitzgerald in place if they did not feel they were on the same page, though. My gut says we will see a lot of the veteran group moved out in the coming month-plus, if only because change begets more change.
GL: I do not think Fitzgerald will reinvent the wheel here; he will move pending UFAs for assets, perhaps get Andy Greene a chance at a Stanley Cup on a contender, and maybe ship out one player with some term still on their deal. I do not expect the team to be super busy.
AP: While the Devils can be sellers, I do not think much will happen by the deadline. There is word that Palmieri is on the trade block, but I am less confident he gets moved. I also have thought of him more as a core member of the team, but then again, perhaps he moves on too after next season if this team stays bad, so I might have to rethink that. Perhaps some minor pieces get moved, but I don’t think Fitzgerald does anything major.
CF: If he wants to make a good impression with these owners, I think he should avoid trading big pieces. He should focus his attention on re-signing Sami Vatanen and Jesper Bratt to long-term deals, and talk to Andy Greene and Wayne Simmonds about taking lesser salaries for next season. Much more important than the adding of talent at this moment is the management of the salary cap.
CJT: He’s got to sell some pieces. I mean, we’re not competing this year. But I think guys like Palmieri and Coleman stay. Vatanen seems likely to be moved.
JF: Josh Harris’ under-prepared press conference did not really reveal much. What I got out of it is that the expectation is that the Devils need to be a competitive team ASAP PDQ. Under Shero, I expected another deadline where the Devils would be sellers and possibly get some picks to fill in the ones they traded away in other deals (e.g. The Gusev deal to Las Vegas). Under Fitzgerald, I think the Devils may do a lot less than be sellers at the deadline. They may only move players they know for sure will not be part of the team in 2020-21. Even that may wait until the 2020 NHL Draft in June when, I hope, the Devils would have a full-time GM and a better idea on what the overall expectation is for the team.
As far as what to do with the roster itself outside of trades, I think the team will continue to lean on Blackwood to see if he’s a true #1 goalie in this league. I think they will continue to rotate players in Taylor Hall’s former spot to see who can thrive in an offensive role and who cannot. I think the order from Fitzgerald will be to encourage the team to play respectable hockey as a full-on tank would only set the team further back for 2020-21. That all said, that is what I think will happen. The harsher truth is that it is all up in the air. It depends on what Harris has told Fitzgerald about his expectations in private.
5. With the press release stating that the team will conduct a formal search for a new GM, do you think Fitzgerald has a real shot at being New Jersey’s next GM?
MS: I think he has a chance, if only because he’s been a pretty popular target for a lot of other teams looking for GMs. It’s interesting that the Devils have simultaneously “cleaned house” but also kept pretty much everyone but the top guys in place over the past couple months. If I were making odds, Fitzgerald strikes me as having as good a chance as anyone.
GL: I think he has a shot, albeit not a very good one; he is definitely known as a “Shero Guy” which will probably work against him if ownership truly wants to move in a different direction.
AP: I do not really think Fitzgerald has much of a shot at GM. I think this team needs an outside voice to take it in a different direction, and I tend to believe the owners think that too. It wasn’t working under Shero, really at all. Why would it work under the assistant?
CF: I highly doubt Fitzgerald will be able to stay due to the lack of potential moves I think the Devils can reasonably make right now. He’s going to have to do something creative if he wants to stay GM here. The best thing he can probably do is look around for positive-impact RFAs that could be shopped, and take advantage of opponent cap space.
CJT: Yup. We’ll see how he handles the deadline.
JF: Tom Fitzgerald should be in the mix for the Devils’ GM job. He would provide a measure of continuity in management, which may ease concerns for players and personnel about any full-on teardowns. He also carries a level of respect with others in hockey management, which is valuable as the new GM will need to negotiate effectively with other teams for any deals. Fitzgerald was a finalist for the GM position in Minnesota before Paul Fenton was hired, so he clearly has the skills and the ambition to take the position. However, that he was a key member of Shero’s team may be a big obstacle if ownership really does want to go in a new direction. It may be too much of an obstacle to overcome. That alone makes me doubt his chances at the job.
6. The release also stated that Martin Brodeur, who was an assistant GM in St. Louis for a bit of time, will also help. Do you think Brodeur also has a real shot at being New Jersey’s next GM?
MS: This one feels like a stretch. I know Brodeur has been doing some learning on the job over the past several years, but I feel like it would be a major leap to hand over the keys to Marty at this point. The owners seem pretty desperate for success based on the timing of this move and their comments, so I think someone with more experience is a lot more likely to land the job.
GL: Brodeur has less of a shot that Fitzgerald in my opinion simply because of his relative inexperience. The last thing you want is to ruin the legacy of a franchise legend by having him take a job he is not yet prepared for.
AP: I do, however, think Brodeur has more of a shot at GM. He was not really involved on the hockey side of operations before, and he carries huge name recognition for this team. It is like John Elway becoming GM of the Denver Broncos; it just makes sense. I would think he is a finalist for the position.
CF: Yes - mostly because Brodeur has probably worked with Harris on the business side over the last couple years, and Harris might therefore view him as easier to direct in regards to approach. I do not mind this, since Brodeur worked in hockey ops in St. Louis and isn’t totally inexperienced.
CJT: Less so than Fitzgerald, but I think Marty gets and interview and if Fitzgerald botches the deadline he may be in the running. Relatively inexperienced, but it’s happened elsewhere and worked (e.g. Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman).
JF: Martin Brodeur is more of a wild card than Fitzgerald. In Brodeur’s favor, he did spend some time in St. Louis as an assistant GM. He also had the time to integrate with how management in New Jersey took care of business. While he was brought back when Shero was GM, Shero was not necessarily the one who brought him back as Brodeur went to the business side of the team. That means to me he does not have the baggage that Fitzgerald may have. It may also be received warmly by a fanbase that has not had a lot to cheer about over the last five seasons. However, Brodeur has a lot less experience than Fitzgerald; that is a concern. It is also not clear to me that he wants to be a GM. If he did, then why would he take a job with New Jersey that was not in hockey operations like he did in St. Louis? Brodeur could still get a look, but I’m more skeptical of the team hiring Brodeur than hiring Fitzgerald, though.
7. Assuming Fitzgerald and Brodeur will not be the next GM of the Devils, what kind of GM do you want to see take the job? Is there anyone you have in mind?
MS: I don’t know that I have a great answer for this one, but I would like to see someone somewhat analytically inclined take the job. That doesn’t mean it needs to be an “analytics guy” but someone who will at least continue to build the analytics department and heed their recommendations. As far as specific names, I’m not sure on that. I’ve seen the name Mike Gillis floated a few times, which I wouldn’t hate, but I am also not sure if it needs to be a retread like that. My own biases lead me to wonder if a guy like Eric Tulsky, who has helped oversee the Hurricanes’ resurgence in Carolina would make sense, but running an entire team is a little bit different from running an analytics department. My overall knowledge of NHL front offices (or lack thereof) kind of limits my list of names, though.
GL: I want someone who isn’t afraid to make the moves needed to make the Devils competitive again; I do not have any names in mind, nor will I mind any hiring provided they are willing to put the team’s needs ahead of all else.
AP: Like I said in #5, I think the hire needs to come from outside the organization, although I would not be disappointed with Brodeur. Someone who is not afraid to use analytics to determine their signings and hirings. They would in turn hire a coach who is more invested in analytics. I do not think numbers should be relied on 100% of the time, but the Devils have seemed behind other teams in this regard.
CF: I want to see a GM that works with a coach in roster construction. I think the Devils should try to make bold, rather than cautious moves in the summer. Our next GM should be someone the league has not seen run a team before. I don’t have anyone in mind, but someone who has worked as a scout or coach already would be good - or an overseas GM. Roger Rönnberg in the SHL is supposed to have overhauled Frölunda by moving away from veteran signings to scouting for youth talent in Sweden. I think he would be a boon for an NHL front office. Rikard Grönborg is another interesting European figure, but I view him as more of a coach.
CJT: I am biased, but I just want someone who approaches the game in a modern context. Incorporating advice from both tactical experts and analytical voices whether it be current employees (Tyler Dellow, Matt Cane) or outside consultants. An “old-fashioned” GM is not something I’m interested in, despite some people’s Lou-based nostalgia.
JF: I want a GM that not only favors analytics and new ideas in hockey operations (e.g. hiring Dr. Aimee Kimball was a smart move), but one that will also be willing to think outside of the box. The Devils may need to be creative and bold to get out of their doldrums of poor hockey sooner rather than later. While I would not go as far as to say that Eric Tulsky definitely has to be the guy – I would inquire anyway - but someone like Mike Gillis could fit the bill. To that end, I want the Devils to stay away from GMs who remain stuck in the old ways of the game (e.g. Brian Burke) and/or makes dubious decisions (e.g. Peter Chiarelli). They may promise a quick turnaround but I doubt they will deliver either in the short-term or long-term. A new direction would need some new thinking. At least Gillis is (seemingly) open to that.
8. Who, if anyone, is safe on the New Jersey Devils roster now that Shero is no longer GM?
MS: The only players I would be 100% shocked to see them go at this point are Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. I think pretty much everyone else can be had for the right price. That’s not to say I think everyone, including some of the younger names, is gone, just that I think we could see a lot of movement on the roster. There is a group below Hischier and Hughes that includes Jesper Bratt, Mackenzie Blackwood, Will Butcher, Jesper Boqvist, and maybe Damon Severson that are under contract or team control for years that I don’t expect to go, but I think could be floated as part of a substantial “hockey trade.” Everyone else is probably varying degrees of available, though of the rest, I’d least like to see Nikita Gusev, Kyle Palmieri, and Blake Coleman go.
GL: I think the only names that are safe are Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and MacKenzie Blackwood. Everyone else could be available for the right deal even guys such as Jesper Bratt and Damon Severson, even though I doubt they are moved. Hischier, Hughes and Blackwood all play too important of a role for this team and represent core pieces moving forward; not the types of players that you part with.
AP: Well, obviously Nico and Jack are safe. They are not going anywhere. Travis Zajac is not going anywhere with his $5.75 million cap hit for another couple seasons. I also think Gusev is safe, he has potential anyone can see. Subban is also not going anywhere, because simply who is trading for him and his $9 million cap hit with his performance so far this year? And, of course, Schneider and his $6 million cap hit are stuck here. I could see most anyone else getting moved.
CF: I think they’ll probably be safe for the rest of the season. Whether the aging UFAs such as Greene and Wayne Simmonds will be re-signed is another story. As for the younger players on the team, I can not see Fitzgerald trading any of them. Only Blackwood is safe among the goalies, however.
CJT: Hischier and Hughes. There’s a few more if we’re just talking next season (I think Mackenzie Blackwood makes the cut). But long-term, just those two guys.
JF: Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Mackenzie Blackwood are safe for the future. Hischier just received a lengthy extension earlier this season and has started to flex his talent on opponents this season. Blackwood has been doing everything right to justify a big bump in pay for future seasons. Hughes is an 18-year old forward to build around. I think everyone else on the roster just became more expendable on January 13. Contracts and cap hits will keep some players around longer – like P.K. Subban’s massive deal – but the next GM could go make those deals move as needed. (Example: Subban’s massive deal did not prevent him being traded.) Still, only those three are currently safe for the long-term in my view. Including off-ice personnel such as coaches, scouts, support staff, equipment staff, analysts and so forth. When Shero became GM, he cleaned house on the roster and for hockey operations. The new GM may want to choose to do the same.
9. We know that 2019-20 is effectively lost. If ownership wants the team to go in a better direction, can they reasonably set themselves up for a better 2020-21 right now?
MS: I think moving all of the expiring contracts is probably the right thing to do for this team at this point. Some of the names, like Andy Greene, carry emotional heft and it would be sad to see them go, but if the team can load up on picks, they can use some of them to continue to bolster the roster over the summer. I also really feel like this team is not *that* far away, even with Hall’s departure. They have better than bottom-five talent on the roster, they just need a stable goaltending situation, some help on defense, and a coaching philosophy that maximizes that talent. It would not be that surprising to me to see a retooled Devils team in position to compete for the playoffs in 2021.
GL: Absolutely they can; move expiring contracts for assets, call up players for the old “cup of coffee” if any regulars get hurt and evaluate who should be here going forward, and who needs to be jettisoned.
AP: This is a tough question. I’m not sure they can do much right now. A smart free agency could lead to a reasonably better 2020-21, but define reasonably better. If you are talking playoffs, that might be stretching the bounds of reasonable. But if you are saying mid-80s in points? With some shrewd moves, I could see that.
CF: I think they need to re-sign Sami Vatanen and Bratt and bring up a Binghamton prospect forward line to replace the Kevin Rooney-John Hayden line. That might suck for Binghamton, but the Devils need to see who they can count on next season. Joey Anderson, Michael McLeod, and Nathan Bastian should at least see the roster. If they can’t get it going in 20-30 games, then give a look to someone else next season.
CJT: Definitely. I do not know if they want to, but they could. I explain how here.
JF: I think so provided that they do not have a full-on fire sale by February 24. Again, Blackwood will still get a ton of minutes to show he can be a real starter and not someone who had one or two good months. Hughes can still grow. Hischier, too, while he is already playing at a high level. Players like Bratt, Jesper Boqvist, and Pavel Zacha can all improve as well. I really do think a coaching staff that better fits this roster would help a lot. One that would help facilitate an offense built on speed and can define an even strength defense tactic that is not just five-man penalty kill passively covering the slot and watching the puck. They will need to fill in some pretty major gaps – a big-minute left-sided defenseman to replace Greene, a more talented winger behind Kyle Palmieri, a top left winger – but it is not impossible. I do not know if they will definitely make the playoffs, but they could at least be on track to play meaningful games in March 2021 provided players develop now and the team is not totally gutted in the coming weeks or this coming Summer. I do not expect the latter to happen, but I cannot rule out the possibility.
10. One last question about Shero. How do you currently regard his job as a GM of the Devils now that it is over?
MS: I think Shero was handed one of the more difficult GM tasks in the NHL when he arrived and he did a decent job of better positioning this team for the future. This really was a decrepit organization back in 2015. The team at the NHL level was bad and the best prospects outside the NHL were probably John Quenneville, Stefan Matteau, Steven Santini, and Ried Boucher. That is pretty grim. On the other hand, the results are what they are, and Shero had five years at the helm with only the Supernova Taylor Hall-powered playoff appearance in 2018 to show for it. Ultimately, the organization is in considerably better shape that it was when he arrived, but it would be pretty difficult for it to be worse, to be honest. I think Shero’s tenure will be generally appreciated as a positive transition time for the franchise, though.
GL: I think Shero will be remembered as a mediocre GM for the Devils; he did a spectacular job at the start, but his inability to make decisions in a timely manner (holding onto John Hynes too long, trading Hall at a strange juncture in the season) ultimately will hurt his legacy in the eyes of the fan base, including this writer.
AP: At this current time, it is hard to think of his job as anything but a failure. He had huge shoes to fill in Lou Lamoriello, but even if you cut those lofty standards in half, he failed. Now, if in a few years Hischier and Hughes are dominant all-stars and driving this team to perennial playoff contention? We could have a re-evaluation then about Shero’s impact. But as of today, with one playoff berth in five seasons? Failure.
CF: I regard it mostly positively. Even if you think some of his drafts weren’t good, he rebuilt the prospect pipeline into something to be hopeful for. Hall might have carried the team to the only playoff berth, but Shero traded for Hall. For what it’s worth, the team was watchable through a rebuild and became fun for awhile in the process. I think we’ll look back positively upon his moves, as long as P.K. Subban doesn’t make the team lose any RFAs.
CJT: I think he left it better than he got it, but am okay that they decided to go different direction. He avoided bad contracts, put a few very important pieces in place, and I think a new GM has plenty to work with to build a contender. I will not view his contributions in a negative fashion, but certainly will not be too tempted to view them with rose-colored glasses either.
JF: It is a mixed bag. Over the Christmas holiday, I wrote a season-by-season retrospective of the last decade in Devils hockey. It floored me then and it floors me now at how much changed by Shero. In retrieving links and looking back at those seasons, I recognize that I agree with plenty of the moves Shero did make. I still think several of them held up well. There were not many stinkers from a trade perspective. Maybe the acquired player did not play as well as we would have wanted, but Shero did not give up anyone or any asset that is sorely missed today. Shero’s free agent signings were not particularly great but he also did not make many significant ones from a term and money perspective. The Devils still have a lot of cap space now; they are not hampered by any one contract. Yet, the moves I thought were good did not work out as well as I would have hoped and that hurt his cause.
The biggest flaws in his tenure, in retrospect, is in what he did not do. As much as it made sense at the time, the goaltending issues persisted in the wake of inaction and that helped sunk the team. As great as the draft classes looked after stating “fast, attacking, supportive” in 2015, the Devils were still one of the worst offensive teams in the NHL over the last five seasons. Despite the talent added, not much was done to get them to create more or at least not drown in the run of play in 5-on-5 situations. As much as he is well liked, John Hynes was kept on for too long and Shero waiting until early December 2019 to fire him may have helped seal his own fate in January 2020. It is true that Shero had a lot to build up when he took the job in 2015. It is also true that he built the roster and the organization to his liking. By 2017, it was Ray Shero’s team. The 2017-18 season was its peak with a playoff appearance, although it was result of inconsistently great goaltending and the best season Taylor Hall would ever have. Even that lasted all of five games. Since then, the team has taken steps back instead of progressing. Yes, Ray Shero cannot prevent injuries, he also did very little to add to the 2017-18 roster ahead of 2018-19 either. Another costly set of inactions. To me, what Shero inherited is mostly irrelevant in 2020. Shero built up the team his way and his way did not work as well as expected.
I think history will understand his difficult situation but an honest one will recognize that he did not succeed at his goal to building the Devils back to be regulars in the playoffs and eventually contenders. He leaves the team better than how he found it; but it is still far away from where any of us where we want them to be.
Thanks to Mike, Gerard, Alex, Chris, and CJ for providing me their answers and thoughts on such short notice. Now I turn these questions over to you - the readers also known as the People Who Matter. What are your answers? How do you feel about Shero being fired now that it has been over a day later? Please leave them in the comments. Thank you for reading.