The Devils Have a New G.M., and a New Role for Martin Brodeur
In his role as the Devils’ general manager, Ray Shero fielded questions at two hastily arranged news conferences at Prudential Center in the last six weeks: the first to say he had fired the head coach, and the second to say he had traded one of the team’s star players.
Josh Harris, the Devils’ managing partner, handled the questions at a third unscheduled news conference on Sunday, because he had just fired Shero. Tom Fitzgerald, who had been Shero’s assistant, will serve as the interim general manager.
“I never thought I would become a general manager like this,” said Fitzgerald, who was hired by Shero in 2007 in Pittsburgh after 17 N.H.L. seasons as a player.
Harris said he would give Fitzgerald “very strong consideration” as a permanent replacement, but he added a detail: The Devils’ executive vice president for business development, in attendance at the news conference, would also serve as an “adviser to hockey operations.”
That executive’s name is Martin Brodeur. He is the Devils’ most famous former player, the winningest goaltender in N.H.L. history and the man who helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup three times. Fitzgerald does not have a statue outside the arena, as Brodeur does.
Harris and Fitzgerald did not say exactly what Brodeur would be doing to help. He left a post as assistant general manager in St. Louis for the front-office job in 2018, so he could spend more time with his family. Since returning to New Jersey, Brodeur, 47, has been a happy participant at promotions like the lavish news conference that welcomed defenseman P.K. Subban.
Harris said the load would be on Fitzgerald, but offered no clarity on what influence Brodeur would have on the makeup of the team.
Brodeur made it clear in an interview before the 2018-19 season that he was not interested in shaping a roster, chastened by his stint as assistant general manager with the St. Louis Blues. “I still follow the team, and I’m still a hockey fan,” he said. “I talk to Ray and Fitzy a lot about the game and all that. But my old job was go-go-go.”
Shero, in contrast, had an outsider’s credentials, having risen as an executive in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. He was hired as the Devils’ general manager in 2015, replacing Lou Lamoriello, the architect of the Devils’ dynasty. Lamoriello soon took the general manager job in Toronto, then the same job with the Islanders, whom he has turned into a playoff team. Before Shero’s hire, it had been speculated for years that Brodeur might replace Lamoriello in New Jersey.
On Sunday, after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1, the Devils (17-21-7) were 12 points out of a wild-card playoff berth. They are likely to miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons, a disappointing result given the splashy moves Shero made in the off-season.
In June, the team drafted the center Jack Hughes with the No. 1 overall pick and traded for Subban, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner. A week later, Shero added wingers Wayne Simmonds and Nikita Gusev. But the lackluster results have led to an organizational demolition — trading Taylor Hall, the league’s Most Valuable Player; firing Coach John Hynes last month; and now getting rid of Shero.
Asked Sunday about the timing of Shero’s firing, Harris said: “We’re just not getting it done. We haven’t been winning. There was nothing really specific.”
Fitzgerald said he would hold meetings next week that would help shape plans for the Feb. 24 trade deadline, the N.H.L. draft and free agency. He said he would rely on input from others. Unsaid was whether each insider’s perspective would be given equal weight.
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