For the first time in a long time, the Devils have a new leader, and it is Ray Shero, their new General Manager.
Shero was hired in May to take over General Manager duties from Lou Lamoriello, who had the post from 1987. The Devils won three Stanley Cups and five Eastern Conference championships during his illustrious tenure.
Lamoriello was moved up to being team president, but in a surprise move, he left the organization in July to become the Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager.
Shero was the executive vice president and general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2006-07 to 2013-14, and the Penguins compiled a record of 373-193-56 in that time.
During his tenure with the Penguins, they won the Stanley Cup in 2009, two consecutive Eastern Conference championships in 2008 and 2009, and three division titles.
Shero was the General Manager of the Year in 2012-13, a season in which the Penguins made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Before that, Shero served as Assistant General Managerr, as he was with the Ottawa Senators from 1993-98, and the Nashville Predators from 1998-2006. In both cases, he built them into perennial playoff teams.
Shero has a connection to the Devils, as his father Fred, a Hall of Fame Head Coach, was a Devils radio announcer in the 1980s. Ray and Fred Shero are one of the few father-son tandems to have their names on the Stanley Cup.
When it came to choosing a coach, Shero chose one of his rising stars in the Penguins organization, John Hynes.
Hynes coached the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the past five seasons. He guided them to the playoffs in each of those five seasons, including two appearances in the AHL Eastern Conference Finals.
In his first season as head coach, he was names the 2010-11 Coach of the Year award after finishing with the best record in the AHL, at 58-21-0-1, 117 points. He became the second-quickest coach to 100 wins in AHL history, reaching that number in just 152 games.
Before joining the Penguins organization, Hynes was the head coach of USA Hockey’s National Development Program for six seasons from 2003-09, and he had an overall record of 188-31-16-10. He led the United States Under-18 national team to three medals at the World Under-18 Championships, winning the Gold in 2006, Silver in 2004, and Bronze in 2008.
The Devils have a bit of experience from the last time they made the Stanley Cup Finals, in 2012. They are led by forwards Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique, defenseman Andy Greene, and goalie Cory Schneider.
Elias is one of the greatest players in Devils history. Elias was drafted in 1995 and was on the Devils’ Stanley Cup championship teams in 2000 and 2003. Entering his 18th season, he is the franchise’s leader in goals with 406, assists with 611, and points with 1,017.
Elias needs to play 60 games this season to pass Ken Daneyko for most games played in team history, with Daneyko at 1,283. Martin Brodeur is second with 1,259 games played, while Elias is third with 1,224.
While the Devils have Elias as the face of the dynasty years, there were plenty of new players set to carry on that tradition when they made their home preseason debut on Friday night against the Islanders.
One of those is Joseph Blandisi, who the Devils signed as a free agent this past January. Blandisi was named the OHL’s Overage Player of the Year after leading the league with 52 goals and finishing 4th with 112 points in 68 games with Barrie last season.
Blandisi scored the Devils’ first goal in their 4-2 win over the Islanders on Friday night, when he scored a shorthanded goal at the 5:58 mark of the second period. He followed that up just over three minutes later by showing some trademark Devils grit and getting into a fight with the Islanders’ Ben Hallstrom.
Hynes said of Blandisi, “I thought it was a real solid game for him. His skating was a factor. His compete level was a factor and then, I thought you saw as the game went on, he has really good instincts for the game, natural instincts.
“I thought, we saw it early in the game, he looked good, then he played with more jump, obviously after he scored the goal, and he got significantly more ice time. The other part of his game too you saw was, he was pretty physical, he obviously got into a fight, and that’s a little bit of his identity as a player, so I thought tonight he showed a real good look of who he is as a player,” said Hynes.”
Another newcomer that made an impression on Friday night was defenseman John Moore, who scored halfway through the second period to tie the game at 2. Moore was signed by the Devils on July 1st after spending last season with the Rangers and Arizona.
Hynes said of what positives he has seen in his team through training camp and their four preseason games, “Pace of play, consistency of work ethic, playing more on the offensive side of the red line, less in our D-zone. And tonight, I would say later by the second and third period, the team was faster because things became more natural, you could see that they weren’t thinking and playing, they were understanding the concepts more and now they were able to play faster.”
On if he can see the line combinations he likes, Hynes said, “I wouldn’t say yet, I think probably pairs as opposed to combinations, just maybe a center and a wing or identities of players built into it. There’s still another game tomorrow (Saturday vs. the Rangers) and then I think going into next week, I’m going to have to solidify it. We’re still in the process now of trying to figure out who’s who and who deserves to play with who in what roles and we still have a bit of training camp left.”
Hynes did make one big move, as he made defenseman Adam Larsson an assistant captain. Larsson led Devils defenseman in points with 24, notching three goals and 21 assists, which were career highs. Larsson was drafted by the Devils in the first round (4th overall) in 2012 and is entering his fifth season.
On making Larsson an assistant captain or “giving him an A,” Hynes said, “It’s just a situation where Adam’s done a good job and you give guys different opportunities in training camp to see what they can do sometimes when they have a letter on. It doesn’t mean you’re a leader just because you have a letter on your sweater, but spread that around, see what kind of group you have and what the dynamic is.”
With Shero and Hynes on board, the Devils are in good hands and primed to continue their run as a model franchise.