New Jersey Devils: As Bad As It’s Been, Tom Fitzgerald Deserves An Extension

New Jersey Devils owner Joshua Harris and Tom Fitzgerald (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
New Jersey Devils owner Joshua Harris and Tom Fitzgerald (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils are currently the worst team this franchise has seen since they wore green on a nightly basis. The early days of the recently relocated Colorado Rockies were very bad, but things feel like they are more “rock bottom” now. There were at least some expectations coming into the season, and this team has talent. They just find ways to lose on a nightly basis.

Usually, there is plenty of blame to go around, but the general manager is in charge of putting the players in place and hiring the coaching staff. So, when it falls apart as spectacularly as it has for the Devils, there will be some blowback on the GM. This is also a special situation since Tom Fitzgerald was working on a one-year deal. He knew he had to show something to the owners in order to get an extension. According to Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts column, he did.

"Is New Jersey working towards an extension with Tom Fitzgerald as general manager? Sounds like it. He has term on his contract, but only this season as GM. The last couple of weeks were very hard — especially that late collapse Sunday against Philadelphia — but, generally, the team is moving in the right direction. — Elliotte Friedman, April 27th edition of 31 Thoughts"

The team is moving in the… right direction. As hard as it is to admit, the Devils are closer now to eventually being a Stanley Cup champion than they were when Ray Shero got fired. It’s insane to think about a team on a 10-game losing streak even thinking about Stanley Cup aspirations, but

Fitzgerald made the right moves to move this team forward, and he avoided moves that would move the team backward. He allowed a lot of open spots when it came to the forward group which allowed players like Yegor Sharangovich and Janne Kuokkanen to transcend their rookie status. It brought an interesting training camp battle that brought the best out of a lot of these prospects that are now NHL forwards.

Next. 5 Players In Jeopardy In Expansion Draft. dark

His moves from the offseason didn’t really work, but how much fault can you give the guy? Ryan Murray didn’t end up being a fit next to P.K. Subban, but he’s looked fine now that he’s finally paired with Damon Severson (although Severson himself is another story). Andreas Johnsson hasn’t been good at all, but he’s also had terrible luck. Pair those together and you have a terrible combination. Corey Crawford retired. It was a great signing, and it went up in smoke.

Fitzgerald didn’t get the monster return that some teams got (like the Nick Foligno deal for example) during the trade deadline, but he was able to get those deals at the deadline last year. You can’t be the bell of the trade ball every year. Still, understanding the market for Kyle Palmieri enough to force a 1st-round pick from the New York Islanders meant something, even if the deal overall was underwhelming.

The Devils need to extend Fitzgerald so they can build for now and the future. There are enough pieces here to make something great, and Fitzgerald has been around the team long enough to make the right moves. He’s known and liked around the league, which will help facilitate moves. More importantly, there aren’t many other candidates who the Devils should clamor for. Unless there is an old-school hockey guy who’s willing to move from coaching to GM (maybe like a Bruce Boudreau type), Fitzgerald is the best possible option for the job. Lindy Ruff and his coaching staff have their issues, but it seems like it’s a short-term move anyway. Hopefully, it leads to the Devils signing a certain European coach, but that’s something to figure out a few years from now.