Haste Makes Waste — Proverb Not Coined By Ray Shero
That’s right, the New Jersey Devils general manager didn’t originate the above bromide; he just follows that bit of advice to the letter as he builds an NHL contender.
Which explains why New Jersey’s hockey boss doubled as Mister Cool during the recent Free Agent Frenzy and its current fallout which will last all Summer. He was an onlooker during the crazy-cat period and a wise one at that.
This is Shero, The Man.
He’s studious without being pedantic and exuberant without doing cartwheels out of Prudential Center and on to Mulberry Street.
Now you know why his Devils last season became the stunning surprise NHL team, east of Las Vegas.
It’s all about Redoubtable Ray believing in patience rather than petulance and why his fortifying of New Jersey’s roster will happen in training camp and the days thereafter. Not this second.
Is he concerned? Not a chance. In a one-on-one interview with The Maven, Shero explained why he didn’t do a chorus of “Fools Rush In,” while touching on a number of other team-related subjects.
“The challenge,” said Shero, “is being patient, and not over-react to the point of, ‘I’ve got to do something.’ But we have a lot of good, young players and just signed one of them — Blake Coleman — to a three-year contract.”
— NHL (@NHL) July 18, 2018
No worries. By training camp, he’ll still have 11 forwards from the stunningly competitive 2017-18 squad.
“We wanted Maroon,” Ray allowed, “and offered him more money than St. Louis, but he wanted to return to his hometown and I respect him for that.”
Minus John Moore, Shero also figures on seven returning defensemen and a pair of goalies; none of which is expected to be Cory Schneider who’s still recovering from left hip surgery. Now the top banana in goal is Long Island’s Keith Kinkaid.
Which inspires the question: Can Kinkaid remain solid until — if — Schneider returns to the crease?
“Keith did a great job for us in the homestretch,” the GM explained. “We don’t make the playoffs without him. We now have a ton of confidence in him.”
You’d be ga-ga over this club, too, now that Taylor Hall owns the Hart (MVP) Trophy while Swiss Whiz Nico Hischier was a Calder Trophy candidate and Will Butcher emerged as one of the best rookie D-men this side of the North Pole.
“Will’s hockey sense is terrific; he’s got great instincts. He’s not the biggest defenseman but he’s very elusive. I remember telling him at training camp last fall, ‘Do it right and you’ll have a career.’
“As it happened it turned out that we had uncovered a hidden gem. Here’s a kid who just loves the game and everything about it.”
Will Butcher tells his tale of reaching the NHL, from his small-town roots to the moment he knew he was finally in the pros.
When I asked Shero to name a challenge that he still has to confront between now and training camp, he said it was important for the general staff to review what has been done so far; double-check; see if any mistakes have to be corrected.
“We still have to name assistant coaches,” he added, “and that should happen in the next week or so.”
Then, there’s the matter of monitoring Schneider’s progress.
Shero: “We knew (the surgery) had to be done and everything is on schedule and going in the right direction.”
But until the veteran is physically A+, the goaltending tandem will feature Kinkaid backed by Eddie Lack, who still has the goods to be an effective understudy.
Nobody has to tell Ray that finds such as Hischier arrive on time about as often as New Jersey Transit’s local out of Spring Lake.
Yet, the club’s recent development camp had Shero wearing a Cheshire Cat grin.
Among those who excelled was this year’s first-round pick, defenseman Ty Smith.
“Ty has great hockey instincts,” Shero enthused, “with a quiet leadership and confidence. He’s a nice one to have.”
Another who commanded attention was 2016 first-rounder Michael McLeod who was back at boot camp for the third straight year. Chris Ryan, who covers the club for NJ Advance Media, said McLeod “showed some growth.” Was it enough?
“I told Michael that he should relax,” Shero revealed, “that success does not necessarily happen overnight. ‘Just relax,’ was my advice to him.”
Ray seemed to be taking his own advice. He’s cool, calm and collected, which is more than The Maven can say for himself because I’m a Steve Santini fan and I wanted him up with the big club in 2017-18 as a Top-4 defenseman.
He wasn’t, and I told Ray I was more than a bit peeved and puzzled by it.
“For some guys,” Shero replied, “it’s harder. Steve needed experience in the American League where he got quality minutes. We didn’t want him just sitting around.”
Guaranteed, it won’t happen in 2018-19. I predict that Santini will be to the Big Club this year what Butcher was last season.
As Ray views it, one of his prime targets was the development of a Devils culture. That has been evident in the maturation of players such as Hall, Butcher, Ben Lovejoy and Hischier, among many others.
“We’ve accomplished that (culture-developing) aspect and now we look ahead to next season.”
The Maven made one further demand: “Tell me in four words or less, how you feel about the team now and looking ahead.”
No more than he rushed into the Free Agent Frenzy, this cool-as-a-cucumber customer mulled it over and then delivered a succinctly economical answer:
X-RAYING DEVILS FUTURE PROSPECTS:
Julie Robenhymer of newjerseydevils.com interviewed Devils development coaches Pat Rissmiller, Eric Weinrich and Scott Clemmensen about other Garden State prospects and produced some intriguing names:
JEREMY DAVIES, NORTHEASTERN, 21, DEFENSE:
“Jeremy’s got a real confident attitude, almost to the point of being cocky, but that isn’t a bad thing with the way he plays. He always wants the puck and is a guy that can deliver it to the right areas and has really good skill too. In terms of what he needs to improve on, his overall defensive game and awareness on the ice needs some attention.” — Weinrich
REILLY WALSH, HARVARD, 19, DEFENSE:
“His freshman year, he was able to get tons of ice time which is a little unusual, especially in a top program like that. If he wants to be a full-time pro, his play away from the puck needs to improve. He’s just going to get better as he gets older and matures physically.” — Weinrich
MATT HELLICKSON, NOTRE DAME, 20, DEFENSE:
“One of our scouts, Jim Mill, told me a lot about him and he was really excited. Every time I see him I’m looking for flaws in his game and there really aren’t many. He’s a strong skater, pivots well, keeps it simple and his coaches speak really highly of him. This kid might be our best prospect at this point out of all the college guys.” — Weinrich
JOEY ANDERSON, MINNESOTA DULUTH, 20, FORWARD:
“Joey is like a utility man in baseball. He can play any position, anywhere, any situation. He’s really dedicated and focused on becoming a great pro. We like having self-starters on our team and he’s a really self-motivated player. Coaches will never have to worry about Joey.” — Weinrich
BRETT SENEY, MERRIMACK, 22, FORWARD:
“We were excited to see him get some games in Binghamton to finish the season because he just blossomed. He was like a star. He did everything that we expected that he could do, but he also played with this reckless abandon and was simply fearless. This kid might be the next Jesper Bratt.” — Weinrich
TARIQ HAMMOND, DENVER, 24, DEFENSE:
“He suffered a really tough ankle injury a year ago and it’s been a long recovery process for him, but he’s a defenseman you don’t notice a lot, for all the right reasons. That means he’s not getting beat or exposed and he’s just quietly doing his job. He was one of the captains at Denver and his coach couldn’t say enough good things about his character.” — Weinrich
RYAN SCHMELZER, CANISIUS, 24, FORWARD:
“No one really knew anything about him until he got to Adirondack at the end of the season, but he lit them on fire and he’s been really impressive this week. He’s a good pick up for the depth chart and having him here at camp should be real good for him because I think he’ll take all this information and put it to good use these next six weeks and show up at rookie camp ready to go. I’m excited to see where he can take his game next year.” – Weinrich.