Shero’s First Move as GM

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Well it did not take long for new Devils General Manager Ray Shero to make his first move. Like I said in my last blog I hoped it would have been a big splash this is more like a rain drop hitting the Pacific Ocean. 

Friday night forward Jordin Tootoo was resigned by the team to a one year, one way $825,000 contract. While I liked the energy and bite that Tootoo brought to the team last year, I felt Steve Bernier did a better job and contributed more. Tootoo played on a line with Travis Zajac and Mike Cammalleri for most of the season and did not produce as nearly as much as he should have. He finished the season with only 10 goals and 5 assists in 68 games played while Bernier had 16 goals and 16 assists in 67 games. We only need one of these types of players on this team and I hope that it stays that way. 

Back to Shero, I’m sure Lou and him had had talks about this signing before he was introduced as the new GM. So technically this is still a Lou move but Shero is one who officially gave him the contract. Im still waiting on the first real Shero move and that will hopefully be a lot bigger than the signing of a fourth line player. 


Jack Adams Award Predictions

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The Jack Adams Award goes to the best coach in the NHL and just a few days ago the three finalists were announced. They are Alain Vigneault from the New York Rangers, Peter Laviolette from the Nashville Predators and finally Bob Hartley from the Calgary Flames. All three of these coaches had fantastic years with their teams and are all well deserving of the award. 

Vigneault led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals last year only to lose in five games to the Los Angeles Kings. He followed that performance up with a President’s Trophy this year for the best team in the regular season. He had a great season, actually his team had the best season in the entire league but I do not think that he will be the winner this year. 

So it comes down to Laviolette and Hartley, both coaches whose teams missed the playoffs last year. So when I think of the Jack Adams award I think of the coach that was able to get the biggest improvement out of his team from the prior team. That coach is without a doubt Bob Hartley. He faced so much adversity this year with his number one defenseman in Mark Giordano going down to a torn bicep muscle and management trading away one of their top six forwards in Curtis Glencross at the trade deadline in the midst of a playoff run. But even with the setbacks, he was able to motivate his team to give all they had night in and night out and were able to make the playoffs. 

Laviolette did a great job this year and I can see him winning this award but my gut is telling me Hartley and I have to go with it. The Predators will be a great team for the next few years, lets hope that Laviolette and guide them to the promised land because Nashville is a great hockey town. 

The Next Coach of The New Jersey Devils is…

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The search for the Devils next head coach is underway and there are many names being tossed around already. The issue with the Devils is that their head coaching vacancy is not that “sexy” compared to the other teams such as Toronto, San Jose, Philadelphia, or Detroit. Ray Shero will have to do a good job not only in his interviews but to also market the team as a supreme destination for the potential coaches. 

Here are my top five potential coaches for the Devils in no particular order. 

1. Scott Stevens: Stevens was one ring in the three ring circus that was the Devils coaching staff at the end of the season. He was however the only coach who had a huge impact on the players, especially Adam Larsson. He helped Larsson take that next step in his game and helped the entire defensive corps become better players. Although he is a defensive coach he knows how to motivate players with his fiery personality. 

2. Paul MacLean: He was fired by the Senators early last season and the Devild reportedly had interest in him when they made their coaching change but Ottawa wanted compensation and they were unwilling to give them what they wanted. MacLean is a former Jack Adams recipient and I believe that he would be a great fit for the Devils.

3. Mike Babcock: I would probably bet my entire life savings that he is not coming here because he wants to pave the way for coaches to be paid better and I can see a team with unlimited funds such as Toronto or Philadelphia giving him a blank check and keys to the franchise. But hey I can dream right?

4. Dan Bylsma: It is no secret that Shero and Bylsma were great friends when they worked together in Pittsburgh and Shero has already said that Bylsma would get consideration for the job but he would have to interview just like everyone else. Bylsma worries me because he had the best player in the world with Sidney Crosby and a top ten player in Evgeni Malkin and could only win one cup. However that was mostly Marc-Andre Fleury’s fault for crumbling in the playoffs. He would definitely bring an offensive game to the Devils, which is something that we are desperately needing. 

5. Jon Hynes: This is my wildcard coach. He has no NHL experience but he has led the Pittsburgh Penguins farm team for the past five years and has made them the ultra competitive even when most of the players are called up to the big club because of all the injuries the Penguins have. He has a great defensive system and Shero is VERY high on him. The issue with Hynes are that this would be his first NHL team and one that is rebuilding could spell trouble and the other issue is that Pittsburgh would probably want some form of draft pick compensation. The Devils need to restock their cupboards with prospects and trading them away for an unproven coach is probably not the best thing to do. 

Lou Lamoriello Step’s Down as GM, Ray Shero Takes Over

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Lou Lamoriello shocked the hockey world the other day as he stepped down as general manager of the New Jersey Devils and appointed former Pittsburgh Penguin general manager Ray Shero. Lamoriello will stay on as President of the team but this will be the first time in 27 years that he is not the general manager of the team. 

This is such a shock to me as I am a fan of Lou because of all the success that the franchise has had over the years but it was time for him to go. I can not remember who tweeted this saying when they found out Lou was stepping down but it described the moment perfectly for all Devils fans, “This is like when Mom and Dad tell you that Grandpa has to go live in the nursing home.” 

The past few seasons for the Devils have been rough with missing the playoffs for the 3rd straight year, not to mention the questionable free agent signings (i.e. Ryane Clowe). 

But now Ray Shero is at the helm and I can not wait to see what he is going to do. He has a boatload of cap space, a head coach vacancy that has to be filled, an aging forward corp that desperately needs a makeover, and the 6th overall pick in this years NHL entry draft. Talk about a bunch of tools at your disposal to really put your stamp on this team only a year into the job. 

The hire is exciting and while it is only May and the playoffs are in full force, I can’t help but wonder what this new GM’s first move is going to be. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it is a big splash! 

Norris Trophy Predictions

The Norris Trophy is awarded to the league’s top defensemen and this year the league has decided that the top defensemen are Drew Doughty from the Los Angeles Kings, P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens, and Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators. 

I have a problem in how the candidates are selected for this trophy because the league is just selecting the defensemen with the most points. While defensemen are supposed to chip in offensively, the one that does it the best should not win the award. I believe that the candidates should play more of a two way player. There have been multiple times this year where I have watched P.K. Subban try to make a hero play with the puck in the offensive zone and lose it only to be bailed out by Carey Price who happened to be the best goalie this whole year. 

When I think of a great defensemen I think of a Ryan Mcdonagh, or a Shea Weber, or even an Andy Greene because of how great defensively they are and their ability to contribute offensively from time to time. These guys have the hardest job every night. They go up against the opposing teams top line and they have to shut them down. They are usually very successful in their task as well. 

So because that is not the way candidates are selected, I will give my prediction of the finalists that were selected. This year I have to go with Drew Doughty. He was an absolute workhorse for the Kings this year especially with the loss of Slava Voynov in the offseason due to his domestic violence incident. He upped his game to the next level and even though it was not good enough to make it to the playoffs he was still a difference maker every time he stepped onto the ice. Karlsson had a great year too, his team did make the playoffs, and was at times the only player on Ottawa capable of breaking out of their own zone with the puck. But in the end it was not enough to compete with the season that Doughty had. 

Vezina Trophy Predictions

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The Vezina Trophy finalists were announced the other day and before I go into my prediction of who I think should win it I want to say how disrespectful it is to have Devan Dubnyk as a finalist this year. While he was able to come out of nowhere and essentially save his career and go on the insane run with the Minnesota Wild to make the playoffs is remarkable, he should not have gotten consideration for only playing half a season. There are other goalies who deserve the nomination before him such as Braden Holtby, Steve Mason, or even Cory Schneider. 

Now that that is over the finalists are Carey Price from the Montreal Canadians, Pekka Rinne from the Nashville Predators, and the already mentioned Devan Dubnyk from the Minnesota Wild. 

It is pretty hard to even debate because he led the league in save percentage, goals against average, wins and was tied for second in shutouts. This goalie was Carey Price. He showed up every night and put the Canadiens on his back. He would make highlight reel after highlight reel save and many thought that he would have to have a let down eventually. That never happened and his wins kept piling up and his save percentage went through the ceiling. 

Pekke Rinne has a great bounce back year for the Predators and is a worthy finalist but there is nothing that he could do against Price’s numbers because they are just straight up insane. Any other year he would have gotten serious consideration but this year is a lost cause. 

I won’t say much more on Dubnyk because I already voiced my opinions on him in the opening paragraph but I am happy that he was able to revitalize his career and I hope that this was not a one hit wonder. 

Devils Draft Targets

The New Jersey Devils hold the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and will have many options come draft day. There have been rumors a plenty about the Devils trading the pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for sniper Phil Kessel, but in my honest opinion, the Devils are a lot farther away from competing for a championship than a Phil Kessel. I either want them to keep the pick or trade back and get more picks because this draft is very deep this year. 

My dream situation on draft day is that Colorado picks up their phone and calls the New Jersey Devils with an offer of the tenth overall pick and Ryan O’Reilly for our sixth overall pick and Eric Gelinas. While that is a pipe dream and will never happen, it works out for both teams very well. With the sixth overall pick, Colorado is guaranteed one of the top defensemen in the draft in either Noah Hanafin or Ivan Provorov. The Devils will still be able to pick up a good prospect as well as an immediate impact player for their team. 

Here are the top three players that will realistically be available for the Devils to take with the 6th pick. 

1. Matthew Barzal: From the WHL he is a great playmaking center who has a great burst of speed and a decent shot. His downfall is that he did not score much for his team but the WHL is primarily known for its tougher defense. While he did not score much, you watch tape on him and he jumps off of the screen, he is a great hockey player and will be successful at the next level. 

2. Mitch Marner. The reason why Mitch Marner is #2 on my list is because I do not see him getting past Carolina. He is a terrific playmaking center with tons of skill. He is a smaller center but he is still growing. His hands are silky smooth and can make something out of nothing with his puck skills. Crazier things have happened at the draft and I am hoping that he slides to us at number 6. And even if he was drafted by the Devils, he honestly needs another year in the OHL to refine his game and to try and fill out his body a little bit more. 

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3. Lawson Crouse: Crouse is a big big man. Standing at six feet three inches and pushing 200 pounds at only 17 years old, he has already been compared to Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins. He is hockey’s stereotypical power forward, his size will allow his to be successful in the league because he knows how to use it very well to shield the puck from opponents. His knock is that he does not have great puck skills but when you are that size, your job is to get into the dirty areas of the ice and win those battles. Crouse can do that well but the Devils already have players like that and they need more skill which is why Marner and Barzal are higher on this list.