The end of an era happened on Thursday for the New Jersey Devils franchise when president and former GM and head coach Lou Lamoriello stepped down as president and left to become the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. This marks the end of 28 years with the Devils franchise, and it’s a move which will go on to ultimately be classified as a mistake.
It seems like the Devils organization has been moving away from the past since long-time (and often embattled) owner Jeff Vanderbeek sold the Devils to Josh Harris and David Blitzer. That original move was one that excited many Devils fans, as their ownership situation was not good for a long time. One of the main reasons fans were behind it was because the team was keeping Lamoriello to take care of most of the hockey operations, and the owners would deal with the financials and marketing.
That ended pretty abruptly after a roller-coaster season this past year. Despite trying their hardest to compete, the Devils weren’t winning games. They fired head coach Peter DeBoer and went with the bizarre philosophy of three head coaches running the team, one being Lamoriello. After the season, Lamoriello stepped down as head coach, and then he stepped down as GM in favor of former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero.
Shero was given a majority of the power, especially when it came to signing head coach John Hynes. This was clearly a Shero move, because Hynes came out of the Penguins organization. When it was time to announce drafting Pavel Zacha, Shero let David Conte announce the pick. Not two weeks later, Conte was out as head of scouting for the Devils.
Shero could not even find a place for Scott Stevens on the coaching staff, who seemed to be getting good progress out of Eric Gelinas and Adam Larsson last season. They signed assistant coaches with no ties to the Devils at all. They even seemed to alienate themselves from Martin Brodeur, who gave the team 21 great seasons on the ice and was willing to give them more of his time off of the ice. It seemed like he had a handshake deal with Lamoriello, but that curiously didn’t happen this offseason and Brodeur decided to stay with the St. Louis Blues.
With the loss of Lamoriello, will Shero try to make this his team completely? Will the signings and draft picks of Lamoriello now be made available? There are some good assets on this Devils team, despite where they will be in the standings. Adam Henrique is a young player pretty much every team will want. Cory Schneider is still one of the best goalies in the game and can win games by himself. A young defensive corps, led by Larsson and the veteran Andy Greene, has all the potential in the world to become a top unit in the NHL. Will Shero try to trade any of these pieces away now that this is his team?
Time will tell if the game had passed Lamoriello by completely. The one thing the Devils are losing beyond his legacy is the amount of connections he has throughout the league. He was given Schneider for a first-round pick and was always able to work the trade market better than anyone. He got Ilya Kovalchuk for Johnny Oduya and a bag of peanuts. He knew how to work the market, and now the Devils will be without that asset.
The Devils proved that it was time to move on. They will be a team that tries to get to where the rest of the league is offensively. Now it is time to thank Lamoriello for all he has done for the Devils organization, which includes three Stanley Cups and five Eastern Conference Championships. He will move on to Toronto and finish his NHL career unlike anyone thought he would.