Under Devils general manager Ray Shero, the Devils missed the playoffs three of their last four seasons, and it appears they will not participate for the second straight season and fourth in their last five seasons. They improved to 15-19-6 after a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders Thursday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
Meanwhile, Shero’s predecessor Lou Lamoriello has the New York Islanders primed for a second straight playoff season under his leadership. He could be hoisting the Stanley Cup with his new team this time around.
Lamoriello could laugh at the Devils if he wants to after Devils owners Joshua Harris and David Blitzer thought he was outdated to the new NHL, but he won’t. He does not need to with the results speaking for itself. He conducts himself with integrity to resort to that behavior.
The Devils miss Lamoriello’s guidance and leadership. Yes, he made awful moves in his last few years by getting guys past their prime in an attempt to win, but there was more than just making moves. He knew how to create a winning culture by demanding accountability and organization from his players. He knew what he was doing in the job. He commanded respect. He had a plan.
All of Lamoriello’s principles disappeared from the Devils now, and the team created a country club atmosphere, which playing defense used to be optional and every guy is for himself. There is no discipline with this team. No wonder the product stinks.
Like Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, Shero rarely speaks to the media. It is troubling since the Devils fans want answers about where this team is and when will it get better.
If Lamoriello was the Devils general manager, he would take accountability for what has gone on with the Devils because he demanded it from himself and his players.
The Devils lost that hard work and discipline identity the minute Lamoriello left, and now they have no idea of what they want to be.
Shero aimed to have the Devils be offensive-oriented by getting so many guys who can score. It’s how he built that Penguins team that qualified for the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and 2009 and won the Cup in 2009.
It never really worked for the Devils. They scored so many goals and lost so many games.
Losing took its toll on the Devils this season to the point a coaching change happened. The Devils fired John Hynes on Dec. 3 and promoted Alain Nasreddine as their interim coach. This edict came from ownership more than Shero.
The Devils also traded Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes weeks after that since they knew he would not resign with them after not being open to a contract extension.
Those transactions sent a message the Devils are playing for next season.
Who knows where the Devils go from here? It remains to be seen if Shero comes back. If they continue to struggle, a wholesale change could be in store. At this point, it may be the way to go since this once-proud franchise showed it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
But funny thing is happening. The Devils are 6-2-1 in their last nine games based on defense, which is what Shero loathes. He prefers forechecking, attacking and puck possession. But hey when a team is desperate to show progress, it has to resort to boring tactics to win games. Apparently, defense is now their new identity. Desperation causes a team to change plans.
The Devils lulled the Islanders to sleep by giving them a taste of their own medicine by stifling them defensively for 60 minutes. They received great goaltending by Mackenzie Blackwood, who played his way to be the Devils starting goaltender.
The Islanders assumed they would just show up and beat the Devils without their best effort. They played like it, and we will see if they learn their lesson in a rematch Tuesday night at Prudential Center.
Still, Lamoriello’s point was made. There’s something to be said about defense winning games and being the foundation of a hockey team. It’s ugly, and it takes work, but the results are worth it. It’s how the Islanders went through a culture change as soon as he and Islanders coach Barry Trotz took the job last season.
Lamoriello brought credibility to the Islanders as soon as he got the job. His presence meant this team means business. The players and the fans got it right away, and the Islanders have not looked back since.
The Islanders made the playoffs and won a playoff round last season. Expectations grew this season, and so far, the Islanders lived up to it by being 25-11-3, which is good for being the fourth best team in the NHL. Even as they have struggled of late, they found a way to grind out some wins to keep pace with the Metropolitan Division leaders Washington Capitals.
If they acquire a sniper in the trade deadline to pair with Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier, their chances of winning the Stanley Cup gets better.
The Islanders have so much to look forward to while the Devils hope to see something that sticks.
The Islanders know who is in charge and what should be done.
The Devils used to have that guy, and now, they are searching under his successor.