The complicated Devils power structure behind Ray Shero’s demise

Ray Shero’s dismissal after 4¹/₂ seasons as Devils general manager wasn’t as much a commentary on his and his team’s performance as it was a story about lines of authority and autonomy within the hierarchy.

Make no mistake. This is an owner-driven operation. If you didn’t recognize that David Blitzer and Josh Harris were calling the shots, then you might have missed the summer trade for PK Subban that was hatched in the owners’ suite. Not that New Jersey was alone on this, as another Eastern Conference team beaten to the punch on No. 76 was also holding talks above the GM level with the Predators, sources reported at the time.

There has been previous reporting by CBC’s redoubtable Elliotte Friedman about the “collaborative” process favored by ownership in decision-making. George Steinbrenner once favored a collaborative process, too.

Slap Shots has been told New Jersey features an organizational chart in which all lines on the hockey side lead to ownership rather than the general manager and that the influence the analytics department had on ownership was an issue, with VP Tyler Dellow reporting to Blitzer/Harris rather than Shero and with reports from the analytics department awarded prominence in weekly meetings between ownership and the hockey department.

Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with the latter, or even any of that, except most GMs expect a reasonable amount of autonomy without six or eight voices whispering into the bosses’ ears. It is not clear whether there was an incident last weekend that prompted the sudden firing hours before the team’s game in Tampa Bay.

This may be a coincidence, but when Dellow worked for the Oilers for two years beginning with 2014-15, Dallas Eakins was fired 31 games into that season as head coach and Craig MacTavish was fired as GM after the season had ended.

If for no other reason than the presence of 2017 first-overall pick Nico Hischier and 2019 first-overall pick Jack Hughes on the roster, the Devils are in a slightly better place now than they were when Shero replaced Lou Lamoriello as GM following the 2014-15 season. It is true, however, that the team’s slide after surprisingly qualifying for the 2018 playoffs has been disconcerting.

But so much of the team’s rapid descent is owed to Cory Schneider’s unforeseeable implosion in nets after playing at an elite level once he replaced Martin Brodeur as the team’s No. 1 in 2014-15. Indeed, it was Schneider’s brilliance that year that elevated an otherwise downtrodden group to 25th overall and took the team out of Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel lottery contention.

Shero made some good moves and some bad ones. The best, obviously, was the shocking acquisition of Taylor Hall from Edmonton in a one-for-one for Adam Larsson. Obtaining Kyle Palmieri from Anaheim for a second and a third was a home run. Other trades were not as successful. Renting Michael Grabner from the Rangers at the 2018 deadline in exchange for Yegor Rykov and a second became an immediate debacle when No. 40 was scratched during the playoffs.

Nico Hischier
Nico HischierPaul J. Bereswill

Draft picks were a mixed bag. Shero had been on the job for only a couple of months when the team selected Pavel Zacha sixth overall in 2015 when Ivan Provorov, Zach Werenski, Timo Meier and Mikko Rantanen were on the board. Michael McLeod at 12th overall, chosen two slots before Charlie McAvoy went to Boston, hasn’t hit it yet. Choosing Hischier over Nolan Patrick seems to have been the correct pick, though revisionist history suggests that Miro Heiskanen and Cale Makar, who went three and four, respectively, should have been one-two in either permutation.

Again, though, Shero was not dismissed because his scouting department drafted poorly or because he was not able to trade effectively enough or because he did not handle the Hall pending free-agency situation properly or get back enough from the Coyotes last month after deciding to trade No. 9 rather than attempt to sign him to a long-term deal.

The Devils have made the playoffs once since 2012, they have an interim coach behind the bench in Alain Nasreddine and an interim GM thing going on with assistant Tom Fitzgerald being advised by Martin Brodeur (and, presumably, a cast of thousands in the boardroom).

It is unclear whether experienced front-office people — say such as former Vancouver GM Mike Gillis — would be interested in the job if it comes without customary authority. Blitzer and Harris have the right to do as they please, of course. They own the team. Shero was reminded of that often enough.


George Parros seems to be hopelessly lost as the director of the Department of Player Safety, but it is always worth remembering he either would be out of a job or be doing it very differently if his decisions were not consistent with Sixth Avenue’s vision.

So it is not merely Parros who found Matthew Tkachuk’s leaping run at Zack Kassian’s neck a legal hit, it is the full force of the NHL who saw nothing wrong with it.

Which, of course, could not be more wrong.


The first-year Golden Knights represented a unique success story, even if the expansion rules were rigged in their favor.

But the moment Vegas started signing players to long-term, expensive deals, as with Max Pacioretty after acquiring the winger from Montreal and with Jonathan Marchessault following his first year in Vegas, it became just another NHL operation with cap and performance issues.

Never was their conformity more in evidence than with the decision to dismiss 2018 Coach of the Year Gerard Gallant because Peter DeBoer had become available.


Brendan Smith, who received a game misconduct at 2:13 of the first period of Monday’s 6-2 Rangers’ victory over the Islanders, was given credit on the NHL official game sheet for a 28-second shift beginning at 8:14 of the period.

He must have returned disguised as Bobby Valentine.

Which, finally, reminds me.

Who knew that major league baseball also has buzzer beaters?

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