There is talk with some New Jersey Devils fans that they would like to see a change in the team’s front office. But current GM Lou Lamoriello has done it all for the team. He has been their general manager for 27 seasons. He has been their coach when they needed someone behind the bench. He has been lauded by most of the GMs around the league, which usually helps in trade negotiations. For someone who has been with the organization for so long, why would fans be turning on him? Is this a grass-is-always-greener situation?
There are two main reasons why people say the Devils should look at a new GM: the prospects and free-agent signings. I will break down these two subjects to see where the truth lies.
It is no surprise to say that the Devils’ draft picks have not all worked out. It is hard to pinpoint who is going to make it to the NHL when you pick in the 20s every season. Even with that said, you expect some kind of production out of your farm system. There was a run from 2004-2007 where the Devils’ best draft pick was obviously Travis Zajac, but outside of that, it wasn’t good. Out of 27 draft picks in that time, only three have double-digit goals in their career.
Since then, however, he seems to get one really promising young player per draft. He got Adam Henrique in 2008 (the team’s most promising player), Eric Gelinas in 2009, Jon Merrill in 2010, Adam Larsson, Reid Boucher and Reece Scarlett in 2011, Damon Severson, Stefan Matteau and Graham Black in 2012 and Steve Santini and Myles Bell in 2013. Obviously, some of these may not be sure things, but they have had great starts to their careers. While the Devils usually rank low in terms of team prospect rankings, they do have a decent amount of NHL-caliber players.
Free agency hasn’t been so kind to Lamoriello. He signed Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe last season, whom both battled injuries and ineffectiveness. He also signed them to play with Ilya Kovalchuk, who would have taken the scoring load off of them. Speaking of which, you have to hand it to Lamoriello to add that clause to his contract saying it was voided if he retired, almost seeing some of the writing on the wall. He dealt with an owner who just did not have any money. Despite having one of the best arenas in the world, there never seemed to be money to add players. While he may have wasted money on Clowe, he avoided David Clarkson‘s albatross of a contract. He showed that he was nothing more than a system player when he posted 11 points in 60 games.
He did lost Zach Parise to free agency, but who knows if he ever had a chance. There was talk that during the Devils’ 2012 Stanley Cup run, Parise was talking to fellow free-agent-to-be Ryan Suter about going to the Minnesota Wild together. It may have been out of Lamoriello’s hands from the start.
Some also point to the fact that he fired Claude Julien, who is excelling with the Boston Bruins. This is a mistake that is currently on his resume, but there has to be more to this story than we know.
Where he excels is in trades. He brought future star goaltender Cory Schneider to the team for a first-round pick. Nobody saw this coming. He is the best when it comes to keeping rumors under wraps. He makes friends with all the GMs, so they want to work with him. He gets the most out of deals with other teams (in most situations).
Give Lamoriello a chance with the new owners. Josh Harris seems to know how to build a young team, with what he is doing with the Philadelphia 76ers. He showed he is willing to take chances. He doesn’t know much hockey, so he is willing to let Lamoriello make the decisions and he will sign the checks. This offseason will say whether or not Lou’s time has come and gone. He has no restraints for the first time in a long time. Give him a chance to make a splash, and then judge how it works out this season.