It may seem premature to be asking the question posed by this article’s title, but there’s some merit to it if we look at all the information here. Tom Fitzgerald is in only his second season as general manager of the New Jersey Devils (not counting his time as interim) so it may not be fair to completely judge the job he has done quite yet. However, with the team currently on pace to finish with one of their worst season point totals since the 1980s, it’s worth questioning today if he’s starting to feel some heat under his seat. I don’t think there has ever been a GM fired after such a short tenure (nor do I think that will be the case here) but I think we’re at a point where we can analyze what he’s done so far and the impact it has had on the team.
So far, in terms of drafting, we have to give Fitz an incomplete; most draft picks take at least a couple of seasons after their selection to become regular contributors. In most cases, the Devils went with the best player available or picked someone that they had a high level of interest in. In all cases, we still have to wait and see if the picks made under Fitz pay off, as everyone currently on the Devils roster was chosen even before he was given the interim tag.
The other moves that Fitz has made, however, are where the criticisms of both he, and other members of the team’s management, have some validity. The coaching staff in place right now was completely Fitzgerald’s choice; even if he only directly hired Lindy Ruff, his choice led to the others chosen (aside from Alain Nasreddine who was inherited) by Ruff to fill out his staff. Both Mark Recchi and Dave Rogalski haven’t done much (if anything) to tangibly improve the players that they work with. In fact, both the power play as well as the goaltending have seemed to regress over the past pair of seasons. While the truncated, condensed 2021 season could be excused (due to lack of a preseason and practices), 2021-22 doesn’t have that same out; if the system/tactics of these coaches were effective, they should have boosted the respective positions.
Additionally, Fitz hasn’t done a great job of roster management. The Devils have run through seven goalies this season, and after the initial pair went down, the best the team has sent out regularly has been an underprepared rookie, who should never have been put in this position in the first place. Some of his free agent signings and trade acquisitions haven’t been the greatest fits either. For the Devils to be more successful next season, they need to find some complimentary players (internally or externally) for the current core players. Doing this, and dumping some of the players that are not a fit should be a large priority, right behind coaching adjustments.
Fitzgerald needs to make some large scale changes (coaching is a good place to start) prior to next season for the Devils to start righting the ship. If he fails to do so, I think then it would be fair to have the heat under his seat turned up. Even if the current team came into next season 100% healthy, there’s still some pieces (be they coaching, players or otherwise) that need to be adjusted for the team to be successful. Another campaign of “developing young players” just will not cut it anymore, and if the Devils sputter and flame out in 2022-23 as they did this season, I d believe Fitz would not have much more leniency from ownership (if any) to put a winning product on the ice.
What are your thoughts on the job Tom Fitzgerald has done so far as Devils’ GM; do you believe the he should already be feeling warmth under his proverbial seat? Do you think there should still be some patience for him only two years into the job? What moves would you like to see him make prior to next season? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!