It still remains to be seen whether or not the New Jersey Devils will have a vastly different look on the ice next season. The view of the personnel guiding the team, however, has changed completely.
The restructuring began on May 4, when long-time general manager Lou Lamiorello stepped down from the post and handed the reins to Ray Shero. A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builders category, Lamiorello will remain in his position of team president.
Shero spent nearly a year unemployed as he was relieved of his duties as general manager by Pittsburgh on May 16, 2014. Under Shero’s rule, the Penguins made back-to-back appearances in the Stanley Cup Final, winning the championship on their second opportunity in 2009.
The first order of business for Shero was finding a successor for the trio of Lamiorello, Adam Oates and Scott Stevens, who finished the 2014-15 season as co-coaches after Peter DeBoer was fired on December 26. A number of well-known commodities were on the market, such as Todd McLellan and Mike Babcock, but Shero elected to go off the board with his selection.
Familiar with his work while together in the Penguins organization, Shero tabbed John Hynes as the Devils’ bench boss on June 2, making him the youngest coach in the NHL at the age of 40. Hynes first was hired by Shero back in 2009, when he was named an assistant coach for Pittsburgh’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
In less than a year, Hynes was promoted to head coach of the baby Penguins and led the club to the conference final twice during his five-year tenure. His only other head-coaching experience was with USA Hockey, as he guided the Under-17 development team, the Under-18 national team and the Under-20 national team that participated in the 2008 World Junior Championships.
Stevens was one of the candidates who interviewed for the position that ultimately went to Hynes, a decision that cost New Jersey its third-round pick in the 2016 draft — which is now the property of Pittsburgh. Certainly disappointed, the Hall-of-Fame defenseman was willing to settle for being a member of Hynes’ staff, but that also was not to be.
Shero instead continued the theme of familiarity, naming Alain Nasreddine as an assistant coach on Wednesday along with Geoff Ward. Those choices seemingly have left Tommy Albelin and Mike Foligno, who were the Devils’ assistants last season, on the outside looking in.
Stevens also is now in limbo. The possibility of remaining with the organization in a different capacity remains, but Shero isn’t yet aware of what the former New Jersey captain’s desire is.
“That’s a different conversation with Scott that I’ll have to have or he’ll have to have with me in terms of where he wants to go with his career,” Shero told NorthJersey.com. “He would be a valuable addition to any staff, I’m sure, but it’s a matter of what direction he wants to go and what’s important to him, whether it’s in New Jersey or somewhere else.”
Nasreddine is a former defenseman who appeared in 74 NHL games with four different teams. One of those teams was Pittsburgh, where he registered all five of his career points in the league during the 2006-07 season.
After two campaigns in Germany, Nasreddine decided to hang up the skates and joined the coaching ranks. In August of 2010, the 39-year-old was hired as an assistant to Hynes with AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where they toiled together for five seasons.
Ward has a fairly lengthy coaching resume, as he guided a pair of teams in the Ontario Hockey League as well as Arkansas of the ECHL, Hamilton of the AHL and two clubs in Germany from 1994-2007. The 53-year-old then served as an assistant under Claude Julien in Boston for seven years, getting his name engraved on the Stanley Cup in 2010.
This past season, Ward was behind the bench for Alder Mannheim of the German League and won Coach of the Year honors after leading the club to the championship.
Now that his house is in order, Shero must begin the most difficult part of his job — putting together a roster than can compete for a title. And doing such for a team that has missed the playoffs each of the last three seasons will be no easy task.