Ray Shero's dismissal after 4½ seasons as Devils General Manager was not so much a comment on his and his team performance as a story about lines of authority and autonomy within the hierarchy.
Don't make a mistake. This is an owner-managed operation. If you haven't noticed that David Blitzer and Josh Harris are in charge, you may have missed the summer deal for PK Subban, hatched in the owners' suite. Not that New Jersey was alone as another team from the Eastern Conference, who was beaten 76th, also had discussions with the Predators about GM levels, sources said.
CBC's redoubtable Elliotte Friedman has previously reported on the “collaborative” process, which is facilitated by personal decision-making. George Steinbrenner also once advocated a collaborative process.
Slap Shots was informed that New Jersey contains an organization chart in which all lines on the hockey side lead to property rather than general manager and that the analytics department's ownership is an issue, with VP Tyler Dellow to Blitzer / Harris reports rather than Shero and is prominently awarded reports from the analytics department in weekly meetings between the owner and the hockey department.
Not that there's anything wrong with the latter or anything else, except that most GMs expect a reasonable level of autonomy without whispering six or eight voices into the bosses' ears. It's not clear if an incident occurred last weekend that triggered the sudden shots before the team's game in Tampa Bay.
This may be a coincidence, but when Dellow worked for the Oilers for two years from 2014/15, Dallas Eakins was fired as head coach for 31 games that season and Craig MacTavish was fired as GM after the season ended.
If only the first overall position of 2017, Nico Hischier, and the first overall position of 2019, Jack Hughes, are in the squad, the Devils are now in a slightly better position than when Shero replaced Lou Lamoriello as GM after 2014 -15 season. However, it is true that the team was unsettled after the surprising qualification for the 2018 playoffs.
But so much of the team's rapid decline is thanks to Cory Schneider's unpredictable implosion on the networks after playing at the elite level when he replaced Martin Brodeur as the team's number 1 in 2014/15. Indeed, it was Schneider's brilliance this year that raised an otherwise suppressed group to 25th overall and the team was eliminated from Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel's lottery.
Shero took some good and some bad steps. The best of course was the shocking takeover of Taylor Hall from Edmonton in a duel for Adam Larsson. Getting Kyle Palmieri out of Anaheim for a second and a third time was a home run. Other trades have not been so successful. Hiring Michael Grabner from the Rangers as of the 2018 reporting date in exchange for Yegor Rykov and a second one became an immediate debacle when number 40 was scratched in the playoffs.
Draft picks were a mixed bag. Shero had only been in action for a few months when the team selected Pavel Zacha as sixth overall in 2015, when Ivan Provorov, Zach Werenski, Timo Meier and Mikko Rantanen were on the board. Michael McLeod, 12th overall, chose two slots before Charlie McAvoy went to Boston has not yet made it. Choosing Hischier over Nolan Patrick seems to have been the right choice, although revisionist history suggests that Miro Heiskanen and Cale Makar, who went three and four respectively, should have been one to two in both permutations.
But Shero wasn't fired here either because his scouting department was badly understated or because he wasn't able to act effectively enough, or because he didn't get enough of the Coyotes back in the last month after making a decision Trade No. 9 instead of trying to sign it in the long run.
The Devils have contested the playoffs once since 2012, they have an interim coach behind the bank in Alain Nasreddine and an interim GM team in which assistant Tom Fitzgerald is advised by Martin Brodeur (and presumably an occupation of thousands in the boardroom). ,
It is unclear whether seasoned front-office people – like the former GM from Vancouver, Mike Gillis – would be interested in the job if it could do without the usual powers. Of course, Blitzer and Harris have the right to do what they want. You own the team. Shero was reminded of this often enough.
George Parros seems hopelessly lost as the director of the player security department, but it's always worth remembering that he would either be unemployed or do it differently if his decisions weren't compatible with Sixth Avenue's vision.
So it wasn't just Parros who thought Matthew Tkachuk's jump on Zack Kassian's neck was a legal hit, but it was the whole force of the NHL that saw no fault.
Which of course couldn't be more wrong.
The Golden Knights of the first year were a unique success story, even if the expansion rules were set in their favor.
But the moment Vegas started committing players to long-term, expensive deals, like with Max Pacioretty after acquiring the Montreal winger and with Jonathan Marchessault after his first year in Vegas, it just became another NHL operation with Cap and performance issues.
Their conformity has never been clearer than with the decision to fire Gerard Gallant of 2018 because Peter DeBoer became available.
Brendan Smith, who suffered misconduct in the first round of the Rangers' 6-2 win against the islanders at 2:13 p.m. on Monday, was credited with a 28-second shift on the official NHL game sheet 8:14 p.m. period began.
He must have returned dressed up as Bobby Valentine.
Which finally reminds me.
Who knew that Major League Baseball also has summer beaters?