New Jersey Devils News & Clips: Dec. 20, 2018

  1. SUMMARY
  2. LOCAL PRINT/WEB
  3. TV/VIDEO LINKS
  4. RADIO LINKS
  5. NATIONAL PRINT/WEB

    1) SUMMARY

     

    The Devils will face-off against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Nationwide Arena (7 pm, FS-O, MSG). Tonight’s game is the first of four contests between New Jersey and Columbus.  Tonight’s matchup is the first head-to-head matchup between New Jersey and Columbus, and the start of the Devils seventh of 14 sets back-to-back contests. The Devils are 4-4-1 against Metropolitan Division opponents so far this season.

    Abbey Mastracco, The Record, spoke to Devils general manager Ray Shero about head coach John Hynes and why he is choosing to stick with him.

    “He’s always adapting and learning,” Shero said. “It doesn’t matter about our start. Last year we were 8-2 and I saw a different coach. In the summertime I saw a different coach leading them into training camp and on the ice.”

    “He’s got a presence,” Shero said. “The players respect him and he’s grown into that. You need to see that and that’s what I was hoping for before I even hired John.

    “I wanted to hire the right coach for the right team and this was the team I saw. It wasn’t a situation I wanted to get into where it’s three years and that’s it.”

    Mastracco also spoke to Devils head coach John Hynes about the teams struggles and how each player needs to individually step up and out-compete their opponents.

    “There’s games where we have and it and games where certain individuals don’t,” Hynes said Wednesday after an off-ice practice at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House. “If you look at the two games over the weekend, we didn’t have many passengers, we were competitive in the hard areas of the game and last night we weren’t.”

    “It comes down to the player,” Hynes said. “It comes down to the poise, the confidence to have the puck on your stick to make the play, the competitive nature to win 50-50 puck battles and a give a second-effort and engage in physical confrontations and be comfortable with those things.”

    Corey Masisak, The Athletic, sat down with Ray Shero to talk about expectations of the team, individual players, and head coach John Hynes.

    2) LOCAL PRINT/WEB

     

    1. Why NJ Devils’ Ray Shero isn’t deviating from his rebuild plan

    By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

    https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/20/why-nj-devils-ray-shero-isnt-deviating-rebuild-plan/2366924002/

    NEWARK — Ray Shero can sense the discontent.

    He sees John Hynes’ terse press conferences following lopsided losses. He hears the boos for the $6 million goaltender. The Devils general manager may not be on Twitter, but he can practically hear the fans pounding their keyboards from his office at Prudential Center.

    Shero knows that with each loss, the New Jersey fanbase is growing increasingly angry, confused and disappointed with yet another losing season. Even worse, this one came after a season of promise in the playoffs.

    “I know we suck right now,” Shero said this week at Prudential Center, in his first interview with beat reporters since training camp opened in September.

    So, don’t worry. He’s well aware.

    “From a fan standpoint, they’re disappointed,” he said. “Well, really? So am I.”

    The Devils were the upstart darlings of the NHL the last time he spoke to the media. But since then they’ve tumbled to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. But that doesn’t mean Shero is going to suddenly veer off course by doing something like firing the head coach. That would only set the team back.

    A rebuild doesn’t always go in a straight line. Sure, the trajectory is supposed to head upward and a trip to the postseason was a good indication that things were trending upward. Fans may not have anticipated a drop-off this steep Shero himself was anticipating some curveballs along the way.

    While the fans and the media may have expected something more this season, Shero himself was wary about setting concrete goals for the team to reach.

    “We never talked about expectations,” Shero said. “We never talked about anything except gaining respect in the league and we really established that in a big way. I don’t think we really got away from that. I don’t.”

    Shero set out to bring the Devils back to prominence by rebuilding from within. He wanted to change the culture and bring financial and competitive sustainability to a team who hadn’t won since 2012 and was deep in the red, hamstrung by the type of big contracts that once dominated an earlier era.

    The culture has been changed, the player development program has been overhauled and they now have cap space to work with.

    Shero is just getting started.

    “We’re building something here and we started that last year,” Shero said. “We’re going to continue with it and I see it continuing.”

    Which is why he’s not about to fire the coach.

    John Hynes’ status

    Shero and Hynes go back to the Pittsburgh Penguins days when Shero was the GM and Hynes was the coach for the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Long ago, Shero noticed his talent for development and the way he was able to motivate his players. A natural-born leader with a talent for getting the most of his players in order to achieve success.

    Hynes was tabbed by the Devils because they needed a coach who could grow with the team and the GM feels the coach has done exactly that.

    “He’s always adapting and learning,” Shero said. “It doesn’t matter about our start. Last year we were 8-2 and I saw a different coach. In the summertime I saw a different coach leading them into training camp and on the ice.”

    Shero respects the fact that he spends time with coaches in other sports to learn about leadership and personnel management. He believes Hynes had a big hand in Taylor Hall’s Hart Trophy campaign and capable of coaching elite players.

    Chuck Fletcher, who was with the Devils as a senior advisor until the Philadelphia Flyers hired him to replace Ron Hextall as the general manager earlier this month, also had high praise for Hynes.

    Longtime former New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello may have seen coaches as disposable assets, but Shero, who is the son of former Flyers’ and Rangers’ coach Fred Shero, doesn’t share in that philosophy.

    “He’s got a presence,” Shero said. “The players respect him and he’s grown into that. You need to see that and that’s what I was hoping for before I even hired John.

    “I wanted to hire the right coach for the right team and this was the team I saw. It wasn’t a situation I wanted to get into where it’s three years and that’s it.”

    Flaws in the system

    Shero has lauded Hynes’ developmental track record in the past, but acknowledges the fact that some of the players the Devils were counting on develop aren’t ready to contribute or have taken a step back.

    Shero doesn’t necessarily look at young players like Miles Wood (homegrown) or Stefan Noesen (waiver claim) and think they’re regressing, but he is concerned with production. Pavel Zacha was sent back to the AHL this season, John Quenneville is still trying to show that he can stick in the NHL and Blake Speers seems to have faded.

    Many of the Devils’ top AHL prospects are holdovers from the Lamoriello regime. Shero wasn’t able to draft for New Jersey until 2016, after he hired his own director of amateur scouting, Paul Castron.

    Shero is preaching patience with regards to the revamped player development system.

    But patience does not come quite as easy when it comes to the goaltending. There is a level of concern when it comes to both Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid.

    “We’re, what, 28th or 29th in the league right now?” Shero said. “Unless we went to 56 teams, it ain’t good.”

    With Schneider injured, the organization thinks it’s the right time to give Mackenzie Blackwood a chance. They’ve been pleased with his development this season and the way he bounced back from a tough 2017-18 season.

    But Schneider is still owed $6 million per year through 2021-22. It’s not unfair to say the Devils need their most expensive and arguably one of their most important assets to play better. A 4.66 GAA is not good enough in the NHL.

    “You wouldn’t ask the question if there wasn’t a concern, right?” Shero said. “It’s been well-documented with Cory. It’s not good enough and he knows it’s not good enough.”

    The contract, which was awarded to Schneider by Lamoriello, could be something of an albatross if he fails to come back from this dismal stretch.

    “Sometimes a goalie is so good or hot that it masks a lot of problems,” Shero said. “Sometimes it’s the other way.”

    When will they go for it?

    Shero is not sitting by idly waiting for the Devils to snap out of this funk and suddenly start playing like a contender. He’s actively looking for deals to better the club in the long- and short-term and everyone knows he’s willing to deal just about anyone, regardless of the emotional connection they may have to the team and the fanbase.

    But the Devils may be more than just one or two moves away from contending. Shero is adamant about avoiding costly free agents who would require long-term deals since that’s what got the Devils into this mess to begin with.

    Owners Joshua Harris and David Blitzer are behind him with this plan. They want to see a return on their investment, as every owner does, and sustained success over time is certainly a high return.

    So, will Shero ever throw caution to the wind and put together a product powerful enough to contend with the elite teams in the league? Shero will pull the trigger when the time is right, but not if it’s going to be detrimental in the future. He’s attempting to build a powerhouse that will remain so for years to come, not a one-year, flash-in-the-pan team.

    “I’ll deviate from the plan at the right time for the right reasons. Absolutely,” Shero said. “I didn’t promise this was going to be without some bumps. That’s part of a rebuild.”

    The message has not changed since the day he was hired. It’s not changing anytime soon.

    2. NJ Devils trying to rid themselves of ‘passengers’ in search for lineup depth

    By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

    https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/19/nj-devils-trying-rid-themselves-passengers-lineup/2365444002/

    NEWARK — John Hynes likes to use the term “passengers” when referring to the lineup.

    Tuesday night, the lineup was full of passengers with no one driving the bus.

    The Devils’ brutal 7-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs stands out as one of the worst in a season full of bad losses because of the way the team had played in its last two games. They were resilient, relentless and they came from behind for an overtime win and a shootout loss. Those two games should have been building block games.

    But you know what happened instead. Hynes knows why too: They didn’t outwork the competition.

    “There’s games where we have and it and games where certain individuals don’t,” Hynes said Wednesday after an off-ice practice at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House. “If you look at the two games over the weekend, we didn’t have many passengers, we were competitive in the hard areas of the game and last night we weren’t.”

    The roster isn’t the most talented in the league, but Hynes genuinely believes they’re too talented to be where they are right now, which is last in the Eastern Conference (11-14-7, 29 points). The Devils aren’t executing within their system for a myriad of reasons.

    You could point to defensemen being out of position, bad goaltending and bad bounces. The puck management is there on some nights and absent on others. The Devils have been snakebitten on the breakaway, unable to capitalize on their chances. And there have been plenty.

    But Hynes wants and needs his team to be more assertive and more confident in their abilities in order to execute and outwork the competition.

    “It comes down to the player,” Hynes said. “It comes down to the poise, the confidence to have the puck on your stick to make the play, the competitive nature to win 50-50 puck battles and a give a second-effort and engage in physical confrontations and be comfortable with those things.”

    The coaches can preach all of these things until they’re blue in the face but it’s up to them to execute.

    It’s a traffic jam in New Jersey with too many passengers and not enough drivers.

    Book on Blackwood

    With three games left on the docket this week, goalie Mackenzie Blackwood may end up making a few appearances, so the 20 minutes he played against Toronto were beneficial. While the Devils didn’t learn anything new about the 22-year-old out of Thunder Bay, Ontario, they were pleased to see his composure in his NHL debut.

    “He was certainly prepared,” Hynes said. “He came in and made a great save in the third period and made a couple other saves after that. Certainly, a few other things to work on but I thought he handled himself well.”

    Roster freeze

    The NHL roster freeze goes into effect Wednesday at midnight and teams will be unable to make moves until midnight on Dec. 26. This prevents any players on NHL active rosters or injured reserve from being traded, waived or loaned during the holiday period.

    3. Why Ray Shero isn’t deviating from his plan after Devils’ disappointing start to season: 4 takeaways | How to help Cory Schneider

    By Chris Ryan, NJ.com

    https://www.nj.com/expo/sports/erry-2018/12/0afd1b1fd27233/why-ray-shero-isnt-deviating-f.html

    When Ray Shero sat down with media members during December of 2016, the Devils general manager had a clear tone. In the midst of a seven-game losing streak that preceded an eventual last place finish in the Eastern Conference, Shero called out the effort and drive of his team.

    When GM had a similar sit down with media members on Tuesday, the tone was far different than the one conducted two years ago.

    Shero talked with reporters for more than an hour about the Devils’ 2018-19 season, and while he expressed disappointment in the team’s results, where New Jersey has lost 21 of 32 games, he remained confident the culture and identity established at the start of the 2017-18 season remained in tact.

    Shero touched on a variety of topics, from expectations to goaltending to the rebuild. Here’s how he addressed those issues.

    Sticking to the plan

    When Shero arrived in New Jersey in 2015, his message was clear. He wanted to build the Devils the right way, without shortcuts. He wanted to get faster and deeper through the NHL Draft while making other moves to build the Devils back into a perennial playoff contender.

    He’s said it on multiple occasions over multiple years. He’s also said that plan won’t always be without adversity.

    “In the words of the great Mike Tyson, everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face,” Shero said. “And yeah, we got punched in the face a little bit this year. It’s a speed bump. We’ve got a plan here and we’ll stick with it. But it’s also from our fans’ standpoint too. When I came here, we wanted to engage the fans and everything. Get to know the players, and the community’s important. We’re doing all of that, and we want the fans to be a part of it.”

    So, yes, like fans, Shero isn’t thrilled about the team’s 11-14-7 start to the season. Coming off a playoff appearance in 2017-18, it’s not the start — record-wise — the Devils expected.

    That said, Shero still sees some of the same qualities in the Devils that became a trademark during the 2017-18 run. They play with speed and pride — something that was on display when the team rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime on Friday.

    There have been games where players have deviated from the game plan or structure, which will happen to any team over the course of an 82-game season. They’ve been outclassed in five games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, losing handily in all of them to two teams expected to contend for the Stanley Cup.

    While the Devils are currently at the bottom of the standings, he still sees a big difference in his current group from the one that bottomed out in 2016-17, finishing last in the Eastern Conference.

    “Play with pride. That;s why it was so disappointing that year,” he said. “But this (current) team, again, they battle and battle. We’ve got a lot of hockey to play, and for it to be about expectations, it’s more of our identity and how we’re playing.”

    All that said, Shero is by no means done in his efforts to make the Devils a better team and organization.

    Even if the Devils were sitting in first place atop the league, he would still be searching for ways to make them better in the short and long term.

    “We’ve got a lot of work to do as an (organization),” he said. “But we’ve got a lot of good things in place. We’ve got upside to the team. We’ve got upside with our cap space, our ownership. There’s a lot to expect, because it’s in a good spot.

    “And you’re always looking to get better, and that’s certainly our goal. Again, the basis of our team is identity that we play hard and we play fast, and we’ve become a good team. That’s been a good story. It’s a ways to go, but it’s not a disappointment. It’s not.”

    Where Devils’ goaltending stands

    Before Cory Schneider went on injured reserve with an abdominal strain, Shero met with the struggling goalie in Los Angeles at the start of the team’s California road trip.

    The veteran goalie’s struggles this season are clear, and one loss in two starts following the meeting dropped Schneider to 0-5-1. The goalie needs to be better, and both Schneider and Shero know it.

    “We’re doing everything we can to help him. It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or you’re 32,” Shero said. “This is development as a play, as a person. You want to be put in the best position possible, and he’s no different. This has been a really, with Cory, especially the beginning of his year was really good. He surprised a lot of people and got off to a good start, and with that, Keith Kinkaid was really awesome (in the second half).”

    While Schneider is on IR after suffering his current injury while being pulled in a 5-4 OT comeback win over the Vegas Golden Knights last Friday, Shero did say the goalie’s hip is healthy following major offseason surgery to repair torn cartilage.

    So that aspect is good news for Schneider, but it doesn’t explain his struggles that date back to December of 2017, when he last won a regular-season game.

    “It’s our job to find a solution, and certainly Cory’s job as well,” Shero said. “We’ll continue to do that. In the meantime, Keith Kinkaid, he’s one of the guys you work with, and you’ve seen the growth in his game the last couple years, growth as a person. It’s been a great story and that’s what you need.”

    Schneider’s struggles this season are well documented. But now take him out of the equation entirely.

    Using Keith Kinkaid’s .902 save percentage alone, the Devils would still rank 18th in the NHL. It’s not terrible, but it’s still far from the dominant second half Kinkaid posted in 2017-18. With Schneider and Mackenzie Blackwood’s one period of play in the mix, the Devils are 30th in the NHL in save percentage.

    So regardless of who is in net for the Devils, whether it be Kinkaid, Schneider or the recently recalled Blackwood, they need better performances. Part of that falls on the goalies themselves, and part of it falls on the play in front of them.

    “Now with Mackenzie’s up here, and depending how long Cory will be, he’ll play. Keith can’t play them all, and it will be a great opportunity,” Shero said. “This is what you’re seeing around the league. And let’s be honest, we’re 28th, 29th in the league. Unless we went to 56 teams, that ain’t good. And it needs to be better overall. That’s a team game overall, and we understand that.”

    When to go for it

    Coming off a playoff appearance in 2017-18, it’s understandable for a fan to want the Devils to make a big splash to take the next step. That could be through signing a big free agent, trading future assets for a player or two that could help now or spending some of the Devils’ valuable cap room.

    Shero didn’t do that this summer. HE dabbled with a couple big-name free agents who ultimately signed elsewhere, such as James van Riemsdyk, who took a longer deal to sign with the Flyers.

    That didn’t mean Shero was going to resort to plan B by spending money on a lesser player, just for the sake of spending.

    Shero wants to help the team turnaround in the short term, but he’s not going to sacrifice the foundation he’s been trying to set for the past four seasons.

    “It’s fun because this is the challenge of the job, trying to sort this out, but also keeping with the plan,” Shero said. “I think my history shows, I’ll deviate from the plan, at the right time and for the right reasons. Absolutely. But from the fans’ standpoint, I think it’s important to know, from day one, it’s been about them and the engagement and interaction and knowing we’re about the team.

    “And you know what, you’re getting to the point now where they give a (expletive). They’re disappointed, they’re frustrated? Well you know what? So am I. But I didn’t promise it was going to be without some bumps, and that’s part of a rebuild.”

    How Chuck Fletcher fit in, and what Shero gained from his brief Devils stint

    Chuck Fletcher’s tenure with the Devils lasted just five months, spanning from his appointment as a senior advisor in June to his hiring as the GM of the Flyers in November.

    Most of Fletcher’s work with the Devils went on behind the scenes, but he provided Shero with some valuable insight.

    The two worked together prior to New Jersey, with Fletcher serving as assistant GM to Shero with the Pittsburgh Penguins before going to run the Minnesota Wild. So Fletcher came in as not only a trusted voice to Shero, but someone who could give a fresh perspective on what the Devils had.

    Of all the things Fletcher told Shero, the biggest vote of confidence went to coach John Hynes. Fletcher never had any ties to Hynes when Shero hired him as an AHL coach in Pittsburgh. From seeing and listening to Hynes in New Jersey, Fletcher gave his stamp of approval.

    “‘I’m telling you, this guy’s outstanding,” Shero recalled Fletcher saying. “‘You have a hell of a coach here.'”

    While talking about Fletcher, Shero also got into some of the philosophical processes of evaluating talent within an organization.

    Shero gets constant reports and updates on the team’s prospects from his own staff, and he can make plenty of evaluations off them. But some of his biggest insights come from other GMs.

    When Shero was buying at the trade deadline in 2017-18, he talked to other executives around the league, and he would hear which Devils prospects other teams were eyeing in potential trades.

    “That’s when you find out who has value in these prospects,” Shero said.” I know who these teams are asking for. ‘No, we’re not trading this guy, but they like this guy more than (we) do, what’s going on?’ It’s a great exercise to go through.”

     

     

    3) TV/VIDEO LINKS

     

    1. WATCH: NJ Devils’ John Hynes breaks down off-ice workout

    By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

    https://www.northjersey.com/videos/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/19/watch-nj-devils-john-hynes-breaks-down-off-ice-workout/2365467002/

     

    2. Off Ice Workouts: John Hynes

    By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

    https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/off-ice-workouts-john-hynes/t-277437418/c-64103103

     

    4) RADIO LINKS – N/A

    5) NATIONAL PRINT/WEB

     

    1. How a pregame gift to a kid with cancer and a couple of broken sticks led to another magical night for Brian Boyle

    By Corey Masisak, The Athletic

    https://theathletic.com/721530/2018/12/20/how-a-pregame-gift-to-a-kid-with-cancer-and-a-couple-of-broken-sticks-led-to-another-magical-night-for-brian-boyle/

    Brian Boyle scored one of the biggest goals of the Devils’ season Saturday night in Nashville, helping the club steal a point in a 2-1 shootout loss despite not having Taylor Hall and struggling to generate offense for most of the evening.

    Yet that wasn’t the only special story of his night.

    Last season Boyle met a little girl named Kendall James at Bridgestone Arena, and it was one of the most memorable moments in a season full of them for one of the NHL’s new faces of the fight against cancer. Boyle, who was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia last September, has embraced the role and tries to meet with people in similar circumstances whenever he can.

    The Devils were facing the second game of a back-to-back when they traveled to Nashville this season, but Boyle met up with another young person enduring a similar fight.

    Alexander Berthelot, 14, was diagnosed with CML in December 2016. He’s on his school’s tennis team in Franklin, Tenn., and plays the saxophone.

    As Boyle put it, Berthelot was in much worse shape than the Devils forward when the disease was found in his body. Berthelot takes a slightly different type of inhibitor medication, a routine that includes one pill per day instead of the two that Boyle takes. But like Boyle, Berthelot’s medication has provided great results.

    The two met Saturday about two hours before the game. They talked about where they are with their treatments. Boyle said Berthelot has another scan coming up soon where they’re hoping for the same diagnosis Boyle received in October, that the cancer is in remission.

    At the end of the meet-up, Boyle decided to give Berthelot a signed stick. That’s where this story began to take an unconventional turn.

    Boyle did not have that many sticks with him on the trip: five, but only four that he liked enough to use during a game, and really three that were in a condition that he typically wants from his sticks.

    He gave one of those three to Berthelot.

    “He didn’t ask for one,” Boyle said. “I just wanted to give him one. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it.”

    Now, Boyle has been playing on the wing for most of this season instead of in his typical center position. He still takes faceoffs, which can be hazardous to sticks, but he had noticed that playing on the wing has led to fewer broken twigs over the course of this season.

    Boyle broke one of his two “good” sticks in the second period. Then the other one broke early in the third period.

    He was down to two sticks — one was about two weeks old and “whippy” by his determination. It had lost some of the stiffness he typically likes with his 107 flex Bauer Nexus sticks. Given that Boyle is not a normal-sized hockey player at 6-foot-7 and 244 pounds, he can’t exactly just borrow a teammate’s stick, either.

    He had that fifth stick on the trip, but he did not consider it game-worthy. Boyle had seen the way Marcus Johansson had crafted the curve on his stick and decided to mold this one in the same manner. It has a different curve and lie than what he is used to, so it’s one he’s reserved for experimenting with after practice or in the offseason, not to use in a one-goal game in the third period.

    “I thought I was going to have to ask one of the equipment guys to track down Alexander and get my stick back,” Boyle said.

    To be clear, he was joking. He said if the “whippy” stick had broken, he’d have used the Johansson-like prototype.

    Still, imagine the looks or the chirps Boyle might have received had he taken a shift in the third period with a stick featuring his autograph.

    It turned out the “whippy” stick worked just fine for Boyle.

    His goal with 91 seconds left in regulation came with six skaters on the ice after the Devils pulled goaltender Keith Kinkaid. The shift started with 2:25 left and with a wrinkle — New Jersey put four forwards and one defenseman on the ice for the offensive zone draw.

    Boyle joined the top line — Johansson, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri — along with Will Butcher, and took the faceoff. Jesper Bratt became the extra attacker, so the Devils had five forwards on the ice when Johansson’s shot from the right wing kicked into the slot and Boyle snapped the rebound into the top right corner. It was his ninth goal of the season, which tied him with Blake Coleman for third on the team.

    While the Predators prevailed in the shootout, and Boyle’s “whippy” stick didn’t have anymore magic in it during the one-on-one competition, it was another night to remember for him and a “special” one for Alexander and the Berthelot family.

    2. State of the rebuild: Candid GM Ray Shero goes in-depth on the Devils’ plan, roster, coaches and more

    By Corey Masisak, The Athletic

    https://theathletic.com/724229/2018/12/19/state-of-the-rebuild-candid-gm-ray-shero-goes-in-depth-on-the-devils-plan-roster-coaches-and-more/

    Devils general manager Ray Shero met with a group of assembled media for about an hour Tuesday. It was the first “scrum” he’s done since training camp and came at the end of a mini-press tour that included interviews with NHL.com, MSG Networks and Leafs Lunch in recent days.

    The reason for the media availability is pretty obvious. New Jersey has lost 21 of its 32 games this season (11-14-7) and sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference one year after reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six seasons. This is Shero’s fourth season in charge, during which he’s been tasked with rebuilding the club after the Lou Lamoriello era that left the Devils with an eroding NHL roster and one of the worst farm systems in the league.

    New Jersey has crumbled since beginning the season 4-0 and 5-2-1, and fan unrest has been prevalent online and at Prudential Center.

    Shero spoke at length about a variety of topics, but perhaps the most interesting takeaway from the meeting — which happened before New Jersey lost 7-2 at The Rock to the Toronto Maple Leafs — was something he mentioned near the very end. In the middle of a response, Shero referenced a collection of excerpted interviews he’s done since he arrived in northern New Jersey and offered a window into his detail-oriented process.

    “The fans are awesome. We want them engaged,” Shero said. “We want them to know what we’re doing like we’ve said from Day 1. Do these guys (the assembled media) have all those excerpts from since I was hired? It’s really easy to look at this and be consistent with the message.”

    That question was directed at Pete Albietz, the team’s vice president of communications, who’s responsible for maintaining a record of Shero’s public comments, including 17 quotes excerpted from stories and radio interviews ranging from the day he was hired — May 5, 2015 — to last week.

    To set the scene, Shero spoke for about an hour but actually fielded only five questions. His answers are often long and drift in different directions, though there’s always a lot to unpack, whether a great story from the past to help illuminate a point or a frank assessment that other GMs might shy away from. To make this a cleaner experience for our readers, we’re going to list the five questions first, then re-arrange Shero’s answers into a more organized set of topics that should make his “state of the franchise” easier to digest.

    First, the questions:

    At this point in the season, what is your assessment of the way things have gone so far and are they below expectations? Right at expectations? How would you assess to this point in the season?

    What is your level of concern with the goaltending right now?

    You said on MSG the other night there are some young players that you were expecting to take a step forward and haven’t. I’m sure it’s a continuous evaluation, but is there — I don’t know if you’d call it this — but a deadline for when you need to see what you’re looking for before you have to move on or look for other alternatives?

    What’s your take on how John (Hynes) has handled all of this? You talked about building a culture and last year you had a lot of success so it’s easy to keep guys on track, but when the results don’t go your way how has he done in terms of keeping them on message?

    When Ron Hextall got fired, he openly said, “It was not time to go for it.” Where are you on that process? Does it just happen? Can you flip at a moment’s notice and say now’s the time?

    Now, for Shero’s responses …

    On the 2018-19 season

    I think we had a really good training camp. It reminded me a lot of last year in terms of the things we established and guys came back in great shape. I think we got off to a really great start to the season and then there’s parts of our game that weren’t as good. In a nutshell, what are we 30 games in or something like that, I think the expectations are … that’s an interesting word because our expectations are built around (that) we have some expectations now, which is awesome. Maybe my first year there wasn’t much (in terms of expectations). My second year, definitely after my second year there wasn’t much. Then after last year, we really see something that is starting to come together both on and off the ice and with our fans and what we’re doing. I think that’s been awesome. In a nutshell, I think a lot of parts of our game have been good. That’s the beauty of using all the information you have. You’re judged on wins and losses and points at the end of the day, but we haven’t been that far off. Our conversion is not there like last year. Our goaltending is not there like last year. Special teams have been … the penalty kill started off really good, the power play started off really good. You still have to score at the right time, kill at the right time, get the right save.

    What have we played, (eight) overtime games? We’ve left a lot of points on the table, which certainly they add up. But to me, I really look at the identity we wanted to establish when I hired John Hynes in early June 2015. We said “fast, attacking, supportive.” I know, not even what people thought, I could see it — people looking at me like “good luck.” It wasn’t immediate, but this was the mindset we wanted to have in terms of how we wanted to practice, players we may want to look at to acquire and sort of the identity of your team both on and off the ice. I think last year was really what you saw coming together, from draft picks to free agents to traded players.

    It’s really how close the league is and all that’s come together and we’ve missed on a little bit. We’ve missed some of the goaltending. This year we’ve missed that one (extra) power-play goal. One of the areas of overtime — we looked at this closely, I think after the fourth (overtime) game — we found that our turnover rate in overtime was really, really high. If you’re not going to manage the puck, sometimes a team might score in seven seconds and other times it might be with seven seconds left and either way, we weren’t giving ourselves the best chance. I know a lot when into that, and telling them you’re beating yourself. It’s a funny thing. We had a 2-on-0. We had 2-on-1s and … they’re going down the other way and they score. You can’t control that. The game in Anaheim, I thought that was our best game in overtime. Cory had some great saves. I think he got (Adam) Henrique and someone else. We had chances the other way, but we did things in terms of managing puck and not forcing it. We got to a shootout, and then same thing the other night in Nashville. Both teams could have won that game. It was a hell of a game, get to the overtime and again we have a chance to get the extra point in the shootout, but (we) missed. That’s a slight difference of whether it’s two points, three points and that’s kind of the nutshell and becomes the whole thing.

    We’re not out of games. Even in Washington we were down 4-1 and we made it 4-3. We came back against Winnipeg. I thought we played really against Winnipeg and next thing you know they’re up 3-1. I’d have to look, but I think they can convert. OK, let’s give up, playing back-to-back and they didn’t play. We came back and tied it with the goalie pulled. That’s exciting. We’ve tied it with the goalie pulled a few times now. Four times?

    This team, they battle and they battle and we’ve got a lot of hockey to play. To me it’s more about our identity and how we play. Some things you can’t control and the third goal Cory gave up (against Vegas), you don’t draw that up. You’re thinking, “This could be 10-0.” To battle back, even before we got the first goal, we could see that we’re having fun and we’re just playing hard. It was awesome. It’s a good group and they care. We had every reason (to quit). It was 3-zip in seven minutes, Taylor’s not playing, but that’s the group we’ve got. That’s what we’re proud of.

    That Vegas game is exactly what John talked about last year. That’s a brotherhood game. They picked each other up.

    There’s a lot of hockey to be played and that’s part of our job to fix that and also understand what the underlying issue could be and how do we best fix it? Part of it’s players. Part of it’s coaching. Part of it’s player performance. And part of it is certainly me.

    On ‘The Plan’

    You want to sell hope to your fans. You want to sell a plan to your fans. I think you don’t want to sell something that is false, either. I think going back to when I was hired on Day 1, I think I’ve been really consistent with what I was going to do or how this could work and how it wouldn’t work. How long would it take? I don’t know, but I know one thing — it wasn’t working the way it was going. If I had said Day 1, “Oh yeah, in three years we’ll be …” How in the heck do I know? I don’t know. Yeah, we can probably trade a defenseman for a really good forward? I don’t know. OK, but you have a plan. And when opportunities arise, you have to take advantage of them if you think it makes sense. Nothing is changing there. The plan has been consistent. Nothing’s changed. We’re in a good spot. We have outstanding ownership. We have good coaching, and we have cap space. But, listen we came a long way in three years. I don’t want to put any limitations on the team. No one likes to go through a losing streak. Everyone loves a winning streak. Those are great. I learned a long time ago that if you base your decisions or your plan on a winning streak or a losing streak, you never had a plan.

    We never talked about having expectations. We talked about gaining respect around the league and having an identity of our hockey team, which I think last year we established that in a big way. I don’t think we really got away from that, I don’t. When you turn the page quickly like this, you’ve got six, seven, eight first- or second-year guys. If you recall after last year, one of the things I said as exhilarating as that was, to make it with that group of players and lot of them hadn’t been there be before. Having gone through expansion and things like like, it is so fun when you make it like that with your first group of players for the first time, haven’t made it before. They earned it. This is most of the same guys. They earned their way in and they care. I did say, “That’s the easy part. It’s going to get hard” because not only is it expectations, it’s just, “Hey I scored this (last year)” and “Maybe I can score this this year then,” and then it’s “Oh, geez it’s not that easy.” But to me, the identity of our hockey team is the hard work and the resiliency. That’s what we have shown, I think, playing with speed.

    We have a lot of work to do as an organization, but we have a lot of good things in place. We have upside on the team. We have upside with our cap space, with our ownership. There’s a lot to expect, because it’s in a good spot. You’re always looking to get better and that’s certainly our goal, but again the basis of our team is the identity that we play hard and we play fast and we have a good team. That’s been a good story. It’s a ways to go, but it’s not a disappointment. It’s not. You know I was disappointed in ‘16-17. That’s a disappointment. Nope, this is a caring group, a hard-working group. They care about each other. There’s some things that happened where they could easily say, “Oh, forget it,” but they’re sticking with it. That’s the goal. Expectation-wise, we want to be relevant. We want to build something here. We started it last year and we’re going to continue to build it. I’m not judging this team based on the first four games and I’m not judging them on (recent games). I wanted them to stick with it and they have.

    You’re always evaluating the team, in the short- and long-term, but I’m not doing something with this team that I wouldn’t do when we were 4-0. If there’s something, I’m jumping on it. If there was something now, it’d be the same thing. That’s the way it’s always been since I came here. With ownership, we’re on the same page. To take, whether it’s a trade to improve yourself, or listen — you don’t fall in love with any player, unfortunately. That’s the way it goes. You want to see development, but a guy might be having a great year, but maybe that person is the one who is part of something because it makes sense for the short- and long-term of the franchise.

    Making the playoffs was fantastic and I think it was really important. I never said at the beginning of the year, “Geez, our goal is to make the playoffs.” I was probably closer to “I hope we don’t get relegated.” I said at the end of the ‘16-17 season, this is not good. This is not the team I want to have, or I’ll ever have like this (again). That’s no disrespect to anyone. It was more on me.

    Not a lot has changed and the expectations haven’t changed, but it’s also not like, “Eh, this is OK.” It’s not fun. We want, and you can see the players how they battle, how they come back. That’s going to be our team and we’re going to have that identity. That’s the expectation we’re going to have and certainly it’s going to be up to me from this point moving forward adding talent. That’s my job.

    One of the big reasons I came here is Josh (Harris) and David (Blitzer) having a fierce (belief) and I believe 100 percent this is the only way it can be done. I don’t know how long it would have taken. I never would have said, “We are going to trade for the league MVP. We’re going to make the playoffs. We’re going to do this and that. We’re going to get bad and get lucky and win the lottery.” I don’t know. I knew there was a way to do this and you want to do this through the support of ownership. I’m really fortunate that way. You see teams who have a plan and stick with it. In the words of the great Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” OK yeah, we’ve been punched in the face a little this year. OK, this is a speed bump. We have a plan and we are going to stick with it.

    But it’s also from the fans’ standpoint, listen when I came here we wanted to engage the fans on everything. Get to the know the players, the community, youth hockey, everything. We’re doing all of that. We want the fans to be part of that. We want new fans. We have 13 afternoon games this year. Why? Because 15 years from now, those are going to be our new fans. That’s important. That’s bigger picture stuff. But it’s, are you coming along for the ride or not? That’s what we want to share with (the fans). It’s part of explaining what we were doing from Day One and how we want to do it. I think it’s been exactly … it’s not like we went and signed all these free agents and, well, that didn’t work so we are going to change and get rid of this and this.

    Here’s how it is going to go. The question of when? I can’t give you that answer. I couldn’t give the answer in that second year in Pittsburgh either, but you feel it and if there’s something there, then yeah. It certainly wasn’t my first year or my second year, and last year it wasn’t, but we added and I thought that was important. Like I didn’t know if (Marcus) Johansson would come back. (Michael) Grabner struggled to score but we needed NHL bodies and (Patrick) Maroon did a good job. There’s still no guarantee. But in the ‘16 and ‘17 drafts we had 20 picks. We’ve traded a couple for (Kyle) Palmieri, then a couple for Johansson, but that was (from the Marc Savard trade) and extra picks.

    The only thing I knew coming here in was we had to get younger. And getting younger doesn’t mean you have a plan, either, but we needed more assets. And we needed to take advantage of things like taking the Savard contract and getting a second-round pick from Florida and get more assets. Also as I said, the foundation with adding pro scouting, amateur scouting, European scouting, development coaches. Why? Because we can’t … this will take 20 years if not. The draft? There’s only seven rounds. Christ, I got drafted in the 11th and that wasn’t even the last round. And you can’t just build through the draft. If you look at this team, it is a combination of trades, college free agency, draft, luck, waivers like Stef Noesen and using an asset like (Adam) Henrique for (Sami) Vatanen. That was obviously good for both teams.

    We are using all avenues to try and get there as quickly as possible. You sit there and sometimes someone is driving and you’re like, “Hurry it up!” “Well, Christ I’m going 75. Do you want me to (expletive) crash or what?” That’s a little what this analogy is like. Our car is in good shape. Some other ones on the same highway aren’t.

    On John Hynes

    I think it’s really … that’s where I see the growth of a coach. I really see that. Especially after our second year, I knew that I wanted to hire the right coach for the right team and this was the team that I saw. It wasn’t a situation that I wanted to get into some expansion in the past and it’s three years and that’s it, got to go younger and get another guy. I wanted someone who could grow with the team.

    You have to earn things and learn and adapt. The first year I thought was fantastic. After the second year, there were some things and we had some hard conversations. I said, “Listen, this is not going to end well.” But he’s always adapting and always learning. It doesn’t matter about our start last year, 8-2, I saw a different coach in the summertime. I saw a different coach in training camp before we get on the ice. He spent a lot of time, he always does, he visited the Falcons, visited the Giants, visited the Steelers. He’s a learner and it’s “OK, how do you draft and how do you deal with veteran players and how do you deal with younger players and where is the accountability?”

    Then, can you coach an elite player? I’m not sure if (Hall) won any MVPs out in Edmonton. I don’t think so. Under coach John Hynes, it was part of the development of the player and of development as a person with Taylor and it was great to see. I always say this with Taylor, but if this had happened for Taylor in his first year here that would have been great, but because it didn’t and it wasn’t a great year for us and it was below his expectations and there were things that we challenged him with that were important to us. Then all of a sudden you see him take control of his career and himself and the team. He has always bought in to John. Taylor was obviously a huge part of our success last year, but it was great to see John’s growth last year as a coach.

    When we did this “Behind the Glass,” I said I believe that John will come off well with this because  I believe he’s got the respect of the players and he’s got a presence. I don’t think people always get to see this behind the bench, but he’s got a presence. Players respect him, and he’s grown into that. You need to see that and that’s what I was hoping for when we hired John.

    On the goaltending

    You wouldn’t ask the question if it wasn’t a concern. Let’s be honest: It’s well-documented with Cory that it’s not good enough and he knows it’s not good enough.

    Keep in mind that last year Cory won 17 games by Dec. 27 and had about a 92 save percentage. Then he faltered and had to be shut down there for I don’t know how long it was and then Keith stepped up and Eddie Lack won the game at Tampa Bay. Keith from Feb. 13 on had 14 wins, the most in the league. The great thing was we didn’t back into the playoffs. We had the hardest schedule after the trade deadline. This team won its way in. It was a hell of a run, which is why it was so exhilarating.

    In the playoffs, Keith played one-and-a-half games and then Cory goes in and plays 3-4-5 and ends with a 1.78 (goals against average) and a 95 save percentage. He gets the hip done and you think, “Oh, we’re on our way. He played great.” And we’re not. It’s not what you plan on. Keith has won games for us and like anything has faltered a little bit, but he played great on the weekend. What’s Cory’s record (0-5-1)? So out of 12 possible points, let’s say you have four? Five? You’re there (in the playoff hunt). That’s what you need obviously. And Cory knows that. It’s one of those things.

    Mackenzie (Blackwood) is up here and depending on what happens with Cory, he’s going to play. Keith can’t play them all. I think it’s a good opportunity. He’s a good young goalie. He’s having a really good year. He had a good first year, second year last year wasn’t but he’s really developed. It’s what you’re seeing around the league.

    With our goaltending, let’s be honest: We’re 28th in the league or 29th in the league. Unless we went to 56 teams, that ain’t good. It needs to be better overall. That’s a team game, as well. We understand that.

    Sometimes a goalie is so good or hot that it masks a lot of problems, and sometimes its not and you’re thinking … you can make bad decisions based on something. I’m not saying it is just that. Certainly, if I said to you guys, (our goaltending) is outstanding you’d say, “What the hell is this guy talking about?” So we see it. It’s there. It’s part of the game. It’s part of our group. We have to be better in certain areas and that’s one of them.

    More on Cory Schneider

    We talk about development all the time. I said this the other day, but with Cory Schneider I met with him in L.A. on Wednesday. We’re doing everything we can to help him, and I don’t care if you’re 20 or you’re 32. It’s development. It’s development as a player and as a person. You want to put him in the best position possible and he’s no different. With Cory, the start of last year was really good. He surprised some people and got off to a really good start. It’s a weird one to figure out. Maybe now with this thing (the abdominal strain), which has nothing to do with his hip so that’s great, I look for the silver lining with a lot of these goalies that had the hip surgery. I met with him and I said there’s Tim Thomas, who came back and won the Stanley Cup the next year, or whether it’s Pekka Rinne, who came back. I’ve known Pekka a long time. If you look back, he had the same hip surgery in 2013, comes back in training camp and he starts out like 2-6. I talked to David Poile about this and asked, “Were you worried at all?” (He said) “Yeah, Christ, we had signed him for 7×7.” Then what happened is it didn’t get better, it got worse because he had the infection and they had to shut him down for 50 games. Then he comes back the next year and is second in the Vezina (Trophy voting) and plays 60-some games. How old is Pekka now? 37, 38? That was a few years ago, and he got to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final a few years later.

    With Cory, it’s part of the development. There’s a bit off with his foot work. There’s a bit off with a lot of things in his game. It’s got to be … it’s difficult. I’ve been through this with some other goalies. Especially, thinking of Friday night with Vegas. Marc-Andre Fleury, I went through a lot with Marc and I’m so happy for him with how he’s done. Everybody is talking about, and I said this to Cory too, him and Marc are just different personalities, but Cory has let in the first goal, the first shot of the game. I said to him, back in 2010 with Marc we lost in the second round in Game 7 to Montreal and we won the first round in six. So in 13 games, he let in a goal on the first shot in seven of them. Seven of them. In the playoffs. It’s hard, and Marc went through a lot of stuff in the playoffs, but I was really happy, whether it’s the development of people or the development of the athlete, but Marc has really bounced back. He’s certainly had a good career and had a really great story for himself out in Vegas, so it reminded me with Cory and Vegas there.

    It’s our job to find a solution, as well. We’ll continue to do that. In the meantime, Keith Kinkaid is one of the guys we’ve worked with. We’ve seen the growth in his game the last couple years, his growth as a person. It’s been a good story. That’s what you need is more good stories, and for them to continue.

    On the young players

    Miles Wood had 19 goals last year and what’s he got this year? (Three). His game is coming on. Stef Noesen obviously had a good year last year with 12 goals. Blake Coleman has obviously continued to improve and been a real big factor for us. Will Butcher, Jesper Bratt — Jesper missed a month or something like that. (Pavel) Zacha, to send him down when we did I think was good timing, five games before waivers. Then to put him in all of those situations (in Binghamton) and coming back and you kind of saw a different player and I get the goals, but you could see it. Then he kind of slid back. What’s he, 21 (years old)? That’s the thing. The last two games I thought he was really good. He can be what you see. He’s a powerful kid. He can skate and when he takes control, he’s more of a dominant player, which you can see the last two games. I thought he played really well.

    That’s the thing. You wish and hope your younger players are going to get better, but just because you’re a year older doesn’t mean you’re going to be better. They care. They work at it. They don’t call it the freshman slump. They call it the sophomore slump, right?

    I think (Wood) missed most of training camp, but it’s part of his development and part of his maturity as a player. I can see it over the last couple of weeks too, maybe a week before that. He tries so hard sometimes that it’s like, I think we need to put him in a straight jacket. I don’t know what he’s doing out there sometimes. But all of a sudden you can see him in terms of the development and the coaching starting to slow it down. You see him cutting to the middle of the ice and he can also go wide. He’s net front. In terms of the goals like he had last year, in Anaheim he had one or two that he tipped that (Ryan) Miller made great saves.

    On Chuck Fletcher (and more praise for Hynes)

    Having Chuck Fletcher here for five, five-and-a-half months, I told Chuck I think it’s awesome to have an opportunity after nine years as a GM and the trust we have for each other, but he helped us so much more than we helped Chuck. Trust me. I just said, “Let me know what you think of Damon Severson. What do you think of our coaching staff? Watch Zacha. Watch this guy. Watch and let me know what you see.” Whether it was our prospects in rookie camp or training camp, it was really good to get that info back. What was your evaluation of this? Well, we saw him like this. And geez, that was a surprise, or geez was it as bad as we thought? One of the things that he would always say to me — I think the Philly job was on a Sunday and he took the job and we went to lunch — and I can’t remember what game it was. I think it was on a Friday, but I didn’t see John’s postgame press conference. Chuck did and he told me, “This guy is outstanding.” And he would say, “You have a hell of a coach.” He has no ties to John Hynes.

    Sometimes when you talk to GMs, how do you know who is any good on your team? How do you know how good any of your prospects are? You can read stuff and find out and listen to our staff say, “Hey this guy is great,” or “Man, this guy is an awesome prospect,” but really what I find is like last year at the deadline, I’m not selling. I was adding if we can. It was “What do you want for this guy, or that guy? OK, which prospects?” That’s when you find out who has value in your prospects. I know who they’re asking for — it’s this guy, this guy and this guy. Really? OK. No, we’re not trading him, but they (other teams) like this guy more than you guys (his staff) do. What’s going on? You learn a lot about your players and it’s a great exercise to go through. Certainly we’ll identify at the deadline, look we’re not trading (these players) no matter what, but you find out a lot about them. It was really insightful having Chuck here. It was good for me. It was good for (Tom Fitzgerald) and (Dan MacKinnon) and the coaching staff. And we gave him a lot of bad information to take down with him to Philadelphia.

    On knowing when to “go for it” (and how he traded for Marian Hossa)

    That’s a good question, and I read that (quote from Hextall). Unless your part of the meetings in the organization or with ownership or whatever the case is … but I went through that. It happened in Pittsburgh. It was our second year, ‘07-08. In ‘05-06, that was Sid’s first year. I wasn’t there, but he got 102 points as a rookie. I don’t think he won rookie of the year (NOTE: Alex Ovechkin did). Anyway, but they had 58 points as a team. Then I came in the next year, and it’s not about one guy obviously. Craig Patrick did a great job there for 17 years, but in the last five they hadn’t made the playoffs. He was basically under the gun financially. They were getting rid of players. It was a tough way to do things. The plan, like how many years? I didn’t know. (Evgeni) Malkin, we didn’t know if he could come, when he was coming. We found out that summer he basically deserted his team and left and kind of hid out in Finland for a couple weeks. I hadn’t even been the GM of a team yet, and I was getting sued by the KHL and Magnitogorsk. I’m like, “Jesus Christ, I’m getting sued.” The Penguins were like, “Don’t worry, you’re fine.” I was like, “What’s going to happen here?” I hadn’t even gotten paid yet and I’m getting sued by the Russians. That guy is a billionaire.

    Oh boy, that was a tough way to start, but that first year we didn’t know what to expect. We ended up with like 105 points and we were like, “Oh.” That year we traded for Gary Roberts, then made the playoffs and lost in the first round. The next year (go for it) was never part of it. We thought we were still a little ways away. Next thing you know we get to the deadline and we traded for Marian Hossa. From the All-Star Game that year in Atlanta talking with (Thrashers GM) Don Waddell and we had a board meeting there actually. Ron Burkle and Mario (Lemieux) were just like, “We know this isn’t like, part of our plan, but we’re doing pretty good.”

    Shero: Yeah?

    Burkle and Lemieux: What about that Hossa guy?

    I was with Marian in Ottawa when we drafted him and was with him for a few years.

    Shero: Yeah, he’s pretty good.

    Burkle and Lemieux: Do you think we can get him?

    Shero: I don’t know. I can ask. You know he’s unrestricted?

    Burkle and Lemieux: Yeah.

    Shero: You know he makes $7 million?

    Burkle and Lemieux: Yeah.

    I didn’t have to ask a third question.

    Shero: OK, let me check it out.

    About three weeks later, there’s about three minutes left before the deadline and we traded a bunch of stuff for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis, who ended up being like a six-year Penguin. I still remember talking to Mario right about five minutes to go before the deadline. (Waddell) came back to us.

    Shero: Mario, I’ve got a soft deal on the table. It’s this and that. And Hossa. I’ve got this on the table. Mario, this is not what we talked about. Just so you know.

    Mario is on the golf course and he’s fantastic. I still remember. He and Ron worked really well together. There’s like four minutes left. I’ll never forget what he said.

    Lemieux: Ray, I bought this team out of bankruptcy. I’m a risk taker. I’ll never tell you what to do, but I’m telling you that I’m a risk taker.

    I’m not sure what else he said, because I was like, “Donnie, I’ll do it!” That changed everything, and that wasn’t the plan. But when you feel it, you do it. And we felt it. It wasn’t (the plan) on paper, but I say it all the time. I equate it with culture. Like culture, what does that mean? Everyone wants to have culture, but no one wants a bad culture. So what’s a good culture? What does it mean? Dictionary says this, but that’s bullshit. The time to do it is when you feel it.

    On John Moore

    We didn’t re-sign John Moore, and I thought John Moore did an outstanding job here. He was a huge part of what we built, him and Elizabeth both were fantastic, caring. He came here and signed a three-year contract and then he got a five-year contract. You know what? If that’s how things work, that’s fantastic. There were more opportunities for other guys to find out. Mueller has played well at times. Other times, eh … that’s part of finding out on players.

    On a lesson learned from Jim Rutherford

    As a manager, it’s hard enough and you learn this as you go through it, but when you make decisions from the GM’s standpoint like you make a trade or sign a free agent — when you’re young, you want to justify it. You learn from some other veteran GMs, though, sometimes. Jimmy Rutherford is hilarious. I like him a lot. He was in Carolina and he signed a guy for $4 million a year for four years and in November of the first year, he got shuttled out in a four-player deal. I was like “Wait, didn’t they just sign this guy?”

    Shero: (I asked) Jimmy, what happened to that guy?

    Rutherford: Wasn’t working.

    Shero: Really? It’s November.

    Rutherford: Yep, wasn’t working.

    First, to get rid of the guy he was a magician. No. 2, it was like, “Damn, I probably would have said, ‘Yeah, yeah but …’” So you have to identify and you have to be honest with yourself, whether you’re a coach or a general manager. I’ve learned that at least.

    On Kris Letang and Damon Severson

    (The 2009 Stanley Cup Final) was a coming out party for Kris Letang. He was matched up with Hossa’s line with Mark Eaton and Kris was 20 years old. Everyone says Kris Letang this or that, this is how Kris did it. I say it to Damon all the time. Kris has pride in his defensive game. You can see that now with Damon. He’s got it. It wasn’t always … Letang won the Stanley Cup as a third-pairing 20-year-old playing against Hossa and Hossa had nothing in seven games. That’s development. That’s something that comes, and a lot of it was so many of the people that we hired in ‘06-07 are still part of the Penguins training staff or … but that’s why you build for the long-term.

    On Will Butcher and Alex Kerfoot

    Everyone says, “Aw, great singing of Will Butcher.” I was like, “Really? Great signing?” If we had the ‘77 Canadiens defense, do you think he’s signing here? No wonder he signed here. We stink. I had no idea if he was going to make the opening lineup. I remember that last exhibition game against Washington and that was his best game. We just happened to be playing Colorado on Saturday afternoon and we’ve got to get our roster in after that last exhibition game we’ve got seven, eight D. Will doesn’t need waivers and he had a good camp. The last game was pretty good.

    I still remember Thursday and Colorado opens up at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. On Wednesday I’m reading that Alex Kerfoot is going to be playing for the Avalanche. Then we’re going through our roster on Wednesday at about 3 p.m. and I said, “Where does everybody have Butcher?” Some said well here, or maybe at (No.) 7. I said, “John, look I’m never going to tell you who to play, but Will Butcher is (expletive) playing. Alex Kerfoot is (expletive) playing. One guy picked us and the other didn’t?” (He said), “Uh, got it.” If we were playing someone else, who the hell knows?

    I say this with due respect to Alex. Alex Kerfoot, I have all the time in the world for him. He was a really good player and so honest and upfront with us. If we hadn’t maybe won the lottery and picked Nico at center or obviously we had picked McLeod and Zacha and he was a center. It was a hell of a process we went through with him. I respect him and it was so funny. On Friday after they played the Rangers — Alex was, “Mr. Shero, Mr. Fitzgerald” the last time meeting we had with him was here with me, John and Fitzy before Aug. 15 trying to get him (signed).

    Shero: Here is what we see.

    Kerfoot: But you have (these centers).

    Shero: Listen, I’ve never ever told anybody they were guaranteed a spot here. Never told Nico. Not anybody. You’ve got to make the team.

    Kerfoot: Oh, but I’m a center.

    Shero: Alex, I’m going to tell you something. Guys like Datsyuk and Zetterberg, Malkin, Jordan Staal scored 29 goals for us on the wing and he’s a center, right? Good players like to play with good players.

    Anyway he goes to free agency and signs with Colorado. Again, I respect the way he did it and have all the time for him. So they play the Rangers that Thursday and they win. Then they’re skating here that Friday. There were only a few guys left on the ice and I saw him and he saw me, so he comes over.

    Shero: Hey, congratulations.

    It was the first time I had talked to him since Aug. 15.

    Shero: You guys had a great game. You looked good.

    Kerfoot: Yeah, I can’t believe it. It all has happened so quickly.

    Shero: Hey Alex, I was watching the game and who did you play with last night?

    Kerfoot: Oh, I was playing with Matt Duchene and …

    Shero: Yeah, Matt Duchene the center-ice-man. You were playing wing, right?

    Kerfoot: Yeah

    Shero: I told you! Good for you, congratulations.

    He’s a really great kid.

    On organizational culture

    We tried to establish that (culture) the first year, and that goes to your people that work here. They are proud to work for the Devils. You have players that play with pride. OK, the second year (mimes looking up a word in the dictionary) … yeah, culture, we ain’t got that. That’s not what I do, but I said during training camp, maybe three weeks in — I said, “This is turning. I’m telling you I feel it. I’ve been through this before. This is different. I feel it.” But that is culture. You feel it. I don’t know what it says in the dictionary, but I felt it. This is changing. This is a really good group. They care. We have people that love to work here for the Devils. We told them you need to know what’s going on. You need to know what we’re trying to do. And you know what, I know we suck right now — in ‘16-17 — but I want this to be a place … I mean, let’s be honest, it’s a lot of kids and it’s pro sports and these kids could probably make more money somewhere else, but they’re doing it for a reason and I need to give them a good reason to do it.

    So when you go to a party on a Friday night, your Rangers buddies aren’t shitting on you. And right now they are shitting on you, and I want you to be proud to work here and proud to play here. It’s part of the foundation I talked about with Josh and David. I think after that first year in ‘15-16, we probably had about $5 million less on the ice the second year. I don’t think I needed more money, right? At that point, I didn’t want it. I needed to build a foundation for the organization, from assistant general managers to scouting to development people, sports psychology, everything you talk about and they were all in. I don’t think you (see what happened) last year without that. Not a chance. You make the decisions, whether its players, whether it’s girlfriends and spouses. It doesn’t mean a guy is staying here. Trust me. But if you don’t do it that way for that, you do it because it’s the right way to treat people, you care about them and I’ve got to make decisions that change their lives.

    At the end of the day, there’s not a GM lasts forever but after eight years in Pittsburgh, I’m proud of the fact that so many of those people are still there. That was the foundation that’s still there. There’s three (phrases) that are still up in the locker room on the wall that we put there (NOTE: Those phrases are passion, accountability and work ethic). It’s important.

     

     

 

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