As blockbuster moves go, Lou Lamoriello’s announcement that he’s stepping aside as Devils general manager will have seismic reverberations for the hockey club.
And with Ray Shero now g.m., we can expect a chain reaction of dynamic moves in what has been Lou’s near-private duchy ever since he moved on to the New Jersey hockey throne in 1987.
Although Shero played it close to the vest during the pungent conference call late Monday afternoon, the following moves are anticipated:
COACHING: Lou made it clear that Ray will decide on the Devs next coach. Dan Bylsma has to be the favorite based on the time Bylsma spent with Shero in Pittsburgh. They won a Cup together in 2009. I see no second choices at the moment.
Dan brings an offensive mentality to a team desperately thirsting for goals. Plus, Bylsma — like Shero up until Monday — is looking for a job. The pair enjoys excellent chemistry as a one-two general staff combo.
What this means for Adam Oates and Scott Stevens is a moot question at the moment. It would seem that Stevens would be a natural to return as defensive coach if nothing else than to help promising youngsters such as Adam Larsson continue their growth. Larsson is the defensive gem of the now and future.
LOU’S FUTURE: For the upcoming season, at least, Lamoriello will, in effect, be Shero’s senior counselor but there’s little doubt that the Devils image will change under the younger g.m. Lou and Ray have a long history as pals and colleagues and their chemistry is as fine as any could expect in a hockey high command.
NEEDS: Offense-Offense-Offense. Shero acknowledges what everyone knows; that the Devils need more than an Adam Henrique and Mike Cammalleri for offense. A lot more. Deals will have to be made; and BIG ones if necessary.
Rest assured that Ray will be talking to Toronto about Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk and their availability. A trade for Kessel at the Draft could happen. New Jersey drafts in the sixth position — Toronto picks fourth — and could use that pick plus a young defenseman and a prospect for Kessel or van Riemsdyk.
DEFENSE-GOALTENDING: The new g.m. agrees that Cory Schneider is a solid number one goalie and that young defenders such as Larsson, Damon Severson, Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill provide a promising group on the back line. Plus reliable Andy Greene figures to be the new captain.
REVAMPING THE SYSTEM: It seems likely that the following players are iffy at best when it comes to a return: Bryce Salvador and Ryane Clowe for health reasons; Martin Havlat and Michael Ryder because there’s no pop left in their offensive guns. Other debatables include Dainius Zubrus, Tuomo Ruutu and possibly even Patrik Elias. Scott Gomez should be back based on his comeback this season. Ditto, Jordin Tootoo.
THE NEW PHILOSOPHY: A new scouting staff may be necessary with the accent on plucking players with offensive ability. The farm system must be rebuilt and, in the interim, Shero must peruse possible trades including Milan Lucic who appears to be available in Boston. Indubitably the club must go with a younger core.
FREE AGENTS: Unrestricteds who must be considered include the following forwards:
- SHAWN MATTHIAS (VAN): He’s one of the better possibilities in a not-so deep free agent class. The 6-4 winger could provide a source of secondary scoring behind Henrique and Cammalleri.
- SCOTTIE UPSHALL (FLA): At 31, Upshall is a veteran who brings depth and could invigorate his teammates as a third or fourth liner.
- MATT BELESKEY (ANA): The 26 year old scored 20+ with Ducks this past season and could provide a 1-2 punch that the Devils have lacked up front for several years.
- DAVID BOOTH (TOR): Still young, Booth can add stability to a Devils offense begging for more production. If he can stay healthy, David could make a difference in the top nine.
- DREW STAFFORD (WPG): This big fellow can give the Devils some much needed size. Now in the prime of his career, he can easily be thrust into a leadership role.
Make no mistake, we are seeing a major new era in New Jersey hockey and it was evident in the comments delivered by Lou and Ray.
“It’s a matter of progression,” Lamoriello asserted. “This is the right thing; and you’ve got to be realistic and honest in life.”
As for Shero, he was as realistic as a previously unemployed g.m. could be.
“The chance for a great situation presented itself,” Hall of Famer Fred Shero’s son allowed. “There are only 30 jobs like this in the NHL. For me it was a terrific opportunity.”
No question, from here on it’s no longer Lou’s Devils because the reins are in Ray’s hands.
“Ray may do things differently than I did,” The Boss concluded, “and that’s progression.”