A Message To New Jersey Devils Owners: Figure It Out.

(Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

We all know the story about the New Jersey Devils. Close to one year ago, we knew that Jack Hughes was going to be a Devil. We knew P.K. Subban was going to be a Devil. We knew Wayne Simmonds was motivated and coming in on a “prove it” type contract and would provide veteran leadership amongst a locker room of youth. We knew Taylor Hall was excited about the team which in turn made us think about his long term plans in New Jersey. In fact we knew that Hall and the Devils were somewhat in the ballpark of agreeing to an extension. We knew John Hynes just earned an extension and Ray Shero was close to getting one himself. We later knew that Nikita Gusev was coming over from Russia.

Flash forward a year later, and we know much less than we did then. Only three of the seven names in the previous paragraph are still with the team. Even then, Subban is surrounded by trade rumors. Gusev is entering the last year of his contract and no one knows where his head is at about an extension in New Jersey. The only reason why we know Hughes is here for awhile is because his contract status is designed that way. He is under team control for the foreseeable future and no team in their right mind will trade a number-one overall pick just one year after taking him.

What can we figure out? What can the Devils do to try and get back on the right path? What needs to happen for the fans to be happy again? Apparently it is a lot harder than previously thought.

According to a report by Larry Brooks, the Devils hiring process is a mess and no one knows who is hiring who or for what position. Yes, it is Larry Brooks and things he normally says should be taken with a grain of salt. The man is notorious for getting on players and then getting reamed by coaches and players in turn. However he seems to be spot on here. The biggest takeaway from the report is one of the last sentences. “Third parties dealing with the New Jersey hockey department don’t know who is responsible for making decisions”.

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If third parties dealing with the team don’t know who is making the calls, then do the people within the organization know? Is there a power struggle between Josh Harris and David Blitzer over who wants to hire who? Is this the reason why Ray Shero “mutually agreed” to part ways with the team? If this is the case, then the Devils will not be in good shape for the foreseeable future. This has a Eugene Melnyk timetable blueprint all over it. This has incompetency written all over it. This has embarrassment written all over it. So how do we avoid it? How do we know it will all be fixed?

We don’t know if this will all turn out to be sunshine and rainbows because last season sure didn’t. However, we know that Tom Fitzgerald has done a great job as interim General Manager. Is the hiring of a President of Hockey Operations holding up the interim tag being removed? We don’t know.

Would Martin Brodeur be interested in working with Fitzgerald and move over from Business to Hockey Operations? Possibly. We know that Mike Gillis has interviewed for the General Manager position and possibly for the Hockey Operations position. All of this impacts the teams search for a head coach. Maybe they are waiting to see the fate of Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay or someone else they like that may be fired. We don’t know that yet. We do know there are interested parties in working for the Devils. The biggest part about figuring out the front office is who is making the decisions.

It should be an easy task. One partner oversees business operations and the other over hockey operations. However, this ownership group are doing other things. They just bought a stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers, even though it’s a small one. Josh Harris has been rumored for the last week to be an interested party in buying the New York Mets.

It seems as if Harris and Blitzer have been trying to find new toys. The Devils were the shiny new toy in 2013. They played with it for awhile. They invested in it. Results never came. They invested in it even more for this season. The toy immediately broke. Now it seems as if they’re done with this toy and are looking to get more.

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Why would you worry about buying into other teams when the current one you have has absolutely no direction at all? The Philadelphia 76ers have a direction. They are currently one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference with a General Manager and Head Coach. Why can’t the Devils have the same? Why can’t they figure out that Fitzgerald has earned the job they put him in when they decided Shero wasn’t going in the direction they wanted him to go in?

When the press conference announcing Fitzgerald will be taking over it seemed like Harris had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. The firing of Shero was the most surprising firing in a season filled with them. Maybe Shero saw the cracks in the ownership armor and asked to leave before he was dragged into it himself? We don’t know that.

The solutions to the problem seems obvious. This all may be random rambling after pent up frustration as a fan. But seeing a franchise that was known for competing from 1990 through about 2013 to now not having an identity or direction is concerning. They went from Lou Lamoriello and the most structured organization in the league, to uncertainty, to down right chaos. The Devils have had problems attracting free agents in the past. With reports of franchise instability and inconsistent leadership, the fears of not bringing big fish to New Jersey have only been amplified. Which means they’ll have to build through the draft. In some cases they will not see their potential rewards for another few years. Brodeur said the team is at least two years from competing again. With this ownership group it is hard to agree. They need to come together with a plan with the Devils before worrying about the Steelers, Mets, or anything else. They only need to do one thing.

Figure. It. Out.