Has New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello Lost Touch with Reality?

By Mark Donatiello
Ed Mulholland – USA TODAY SPORTS

New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, in his decision to retain head coach Peter DeBoer, has proven that he’s changed his ways. Far better Devils coaches have been fired for far less than the epic collapse that led the New Jersey Devils out of the playoffs.

Perhaps DeBoer does indeed deserve another chance to lead the Devils after taking them to the Stanley Cup just last year, but Lamoriello’s contentment with a losing atmosphere is far from the only evidence suggesting he has lost his touch.

Lamoriello’s poor decision-making of late starts with the looming first-round pick that the Devils will lose after an illegal contract offer to Ilya Kovalchuk. Though the penalty is unjustified and defies the precedent set by the league on other contracts, Lamoriello’s decision to hold onto his first-round pick when the Devils were Eastern Conference champions lends to short-sighted goals. Unless the Devils win the Stanley Cup this season, the Devils could have sacrificed pick 31 and moved forward.

Lamoriello’s roster is incomplete, and expecting a team with an aging goaltender and so few offensive threats to compete each night is foolish. While Lou Lamoriello made a historically uncharacteristic bold move to acquire Kovalchuk, he’s done nothing to build a winning roster since then.

New Jersey rotated an eight-man group of defensemen that Lamoriello assembled, which proved to be a disaster all season. Bryce Salvador was likely a sentimental re-signing, and even more sentimentally named captain. Anton Volchenkov already filled the role of slow, offensively-challenged defenseman, and Peter Harrold‘s inexpensive contract made him a great NHL option for depth, which made adding depth unnecessary. There was no reason to bring back Salvador last season without moving one of Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder, or a serially out of position Marek Zidlicky. Carrying eight defensemen, when four of them don’t contribute, played a large role in New Jersey’s demise, and it falls on Lamoriello’s shoulders.

The offense lacked punch in 2013. Lamoriello failed to fill the void on the top line left by Zach Parise‘s departure, and it cost the Devils dearly. When players like Alexander Semin were on the free-agent market, the Devils needed to be aggressive. Bobby Ryan and other top scorers were dangled as trade bait all season, but New Jersey stood silent. Their lack of top-six scoring led to middling production from Kovalchuk and poor matchups all season. David Clarkson should not be the leading goal scorer on a playoff-caliber hockey team.

Not having finishers is why New Jersey outshot opponents all year but didn’t score enough goals to win games. Once Kovalchuk went down, the season was lost when Lamoriello elected not to replace even a portion of his production for a stretch run. New Jersey’s top line was a laughable assembly of forwards when compared to last season’s version.

Lamoriello certainly did some good this year, but he seems to have lost touch with what it takes to win in the NHL. Trades for Andrei Loktionov and Steve Sullivan were impressive and risk-free, but their contributions failed to offset the voids in the Devils roster. An aging Martin Brodeur won’t be able to hold on forever, and the team in front of him needs to be better if the Devils are to send him out in style.

While it is Devils blasphemy to attack the man who built this franchise, things are no longer ‘status quo’ in New Jersey.

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