New Jersey Devils: Fans Need To Be Patient With Ray Shero

Ray Shero inherited a mess when he took over, there is no other way to put it. Fans need to give him time and they will be rewarded.

There have been some fans out there lately that are not happy with how the season has gone for the New Jersey Devils. That is okay, nobody likes to lose. In fact, I hate it! Losing stinks and nobody has had very much fun from about November 15th on. It got worse when the first ever reigning Hart Trophy winner in Devils history went down with a knee injury on December 23rd.

Now, everybody is all worried about how some key guys coming off their entry-level deals are going to work, who will be in net moving forward, or how they are going to re-sign Taylor Hall who will certainly command a rather lucrative contract.

These issues are causing some people to turn on Devils general manager Ray Shero. That is a very unfortunate mindset for those people. Shero has done a really nice job since his arrival in New Jersey in 2015. Don’t google the Devils roster that he inherited that year, it isn’t very pretty. They also had an elite goalie in Cory Schneider that made it really hard to have the draft position needed to really make a huge difference. Instead of being in the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel conversation, they got Pavel Zacha.

Of course, there is his crowning achievement. That would be the time that he traded a second pair defenseman in Adam Larsson to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for left wing Taylor Hall. That trade worked out. Taylor Hall needed a year to acclimate to a new team, but in his second year with the Devils, he had 93 points. That great season earned him the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player. That is not only the best trade in Devils history, but it is one of the best trades in NHL history. This alone got Shero’s Devils tenure off to a good start.

The Hall trade was obviously the most important move Shero has made, but it is not the boldest. Anybody who watches hockey with even slight regularity would have made that trade ten times over. The boldest move during Shero’s tenure was the time he traded fan favorite Adam Henrique to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenseman Sami Vatanen. Henrique scored one of the most iconic goals in the team’s history and was just beloved by the entire fanbase for a variety of reasons.

It was a bold move to move a guy loved that much but with a bunch of centers and decent forward depth, he added a very good defenseman to a team with a weakness at the position. It definitely worked out, because he was the team’s best defenseman once he got comfortable and most believe that they would not have made the playoffs if the trade wasn’t made.

There are some underground trades that were made that added the necessary depth in order to make sure the young guys get some playoff experience in 2017. For example, the acquisitions of Michael Grabner and Patrick Maroon. Grabner didn’t score at the same clip he did with the New York Rangers, but he was a valuable penalty killer and a good locker room presence. Maroon was a pleasant surprise and found a very nice role on the team. The acquisition of Mirco Mueller was pretty under the radar and Mueller has been a solid player when healthy.

In 2017, the Devils won the NHL Draft Lottery. That put a very big decision on the shoulders of Shero. Should he take Nico Hischier, the Swiss kid who used the World Junior Championships to propel himself into the conversation? Or should he take Nolan Patrick, the boy who was the consensus number one pick for almost the whole season prior but battled injuries in his draft year?

The safe pick would have been taking Patrick, but he took Hischier. That has really turned out to be the right move as Hischier has been much better in the NHL offensively and his two-way game is really showing signs of turning him into one of the best two-way centers in the whole league. This is another great move by Shero as the Devils have their top line pretty much set.

Hall on the left, Hischier in the middle, and Kyle Palmieri on the right wing. Well, where did Palmieri come from? You guessed it, a trade at the draft made by Shero. The entire top line and a very good one I might add is all the work of a great general manager. Is he perfect? No, but is any general manager? Absolutely not. There is always work to be done to improve.

There will also need to be draft gems added to the mix. That is all up to the general manager and his scouts to find. The Devils have one of those in Jesper Bratt. Bratt was a late round pick who has been able to contribute some serious offense to the team. He is certainly going to be a big part of the future of this team, and the more guys like that Shero finds the better.

Shero has done pretty well with handling the free agent market. By that, it is clear that not spending is what I mean by doing good. He won the Will Butcher sweepstakes, which is an entry-level deal. He did not overpay for James van Riemsdyk or James Neal, guys who might get them in cap trouble when it comes time to re-signing some of the core to big-money contracts.  Overspending in free agency is how you become the Minnesota Wild.

Take a look at the Chicago Blackhawks. They were a very bad hockey team for a long time. They were so bad that they drafted Brent Seabrook, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in the top 10 of three different drafts. They also hit on a few non-first-round guys like Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford, and Dustin Byfuglien. They waited until it was time to go for it right now to add a star free agent. Marian Hossa was that guy and they won the Stanley Cup three times in six years.

If you want a little bit more of a recent example, check the NHL standings right now. The Tampa Bay Lightning lead the entire league in points by a wide margin. They drafted Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman both in the top three. Their goaltender Andrei Vasilevsky was a first-round pick as well. They hit on Nikita Kucherov in the second round and a few other later round guys like Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and even the undrafted Tyler Johnson.

The point is to stick behind Ray Shero and trust what he does. He has previous success in Pittsburgh and has been building around his star players that he acquired himself since coming to New Jersey. He won’t deviate from that plan and spend recklessly in free agency just to appease impatient people. If you are a Devils fan, watch and enjoy the games and look for the youngsters to keep improving.

The next big days on the schedule for Shero and his staff are exciting for all of us fans. The draft lottery is on April 9th, the night before we enjoy the Stanley Cup playoffs. Then there is the Entry Draft and free agency following the awarding of the Stanley Cup. Look for Shero to keep improving on his plan.