TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. It’s fitting that Ray Shero takes over one of the NHL oldest rosters in the New Jersey Devils after making the Penguins one of the oldest rosters during the end of his tenure. After a year out of the game, the former Penguins General Manager goes into one of the worst situations in hockey. The Devils are an aging team at forward with a bad roster upfront and a poor farm system.
When Shero was hired by the Penguins in 2006 he came in with a small-market mindset after long stints with Ottawa and Nashville. Shero had a five year plan, wanted to build through the draft and had a philosophy of not committing a contract more than two years to non-core players who were in their 30’s. After three to four years at the helm, we obviously saw that philosophy thrown out the window by Shero with an influence from ownership also at fault.
Shero’s final five years in Pittsburgh, he operated under a win-at-all cost mindset and it put the Penguins in the situation they are in now with Jim Rutherford following the same blueprint in his first season. Lou Lamoriello lost Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise in a one year span, yet, Lamoriello all operated under a win-at-all cost mentality using up roster spots with veterans like Scott Gomez, Jordin Tootoo instead of implementing young players. How Shero constructed his roster was exactly the same as Lamoriello with the likes of Richard Park, Tanner Glass, Jason Williams, among others filling roster spots instead of inserting youth during the latter stages of his tenure in Pittsburgh. The only difference being is at least Shero had Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby to use as an excuse for constructing the roster that way.
Shero has one great building block in Cory Schneider and some good pieces on the blueline led by 32 year old Andy Greene and young blueliners with upside and who could be trade bait to upgrade the forward group.
Shero’s daunting task is improving the forward group. What the Devils do with the 6th overall pick will be telling. That pick will likely be actively shopped for a long-term top-6 forward as it’s still hard to envision Lamoriello sitting back and being in favor of a full-out rebuilding process.
However, what’s going to be fascinating is if Shero’s learned from his mistakes in Pittsburgh and goes back to the philosophies he believed in when first on the job in Pittsburgh. If he comes into this job like the GM he was during the final four to five years in Pittsburgh, then it will be like the Devils have a clone of Lamoriello.
Outside of Pittsburgh, Shero has this reputation for being a great GM. Building a Stanley Cup team around Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal on their entry level deals was the easy task. The true evaluation was always going to be when those three were out of their entry level deals and taking up a significant portion of the salary cap. Shero won four playoff series in five years during that span.
From becoming too invested emotionally with veteran players, to the lack of trust with young role players that was previously a staple in the Penguins success early on in Shero’s tenure, to drafting low upside college forwards, Shero aced Part I of his Penguins tenure of making the Penguins a Stanley Cup team quickly but failed miserably in sustaining it because of key mistakes in areas mentioned above.
This is a challenging job and it’s going to be an intriguing situation to evaluate four to five years from now on whether Shero changed or not.
2. The Devils received permission from the Penguins in mid-March to talk with Shero and it all adds up now as speculation has been mounting for the past couple weeks that Assistant General Manager Tom Fitzgerald intends to pursue other opportunities and he is fully expected to be offered a prominent position by Shero in the Devils organization. Fitzgerald also of interest to the Boston Bruins, lives in the Boston area. Newark is only about four hours away from Boston.
The Penguins opted against receiving a third round pick for Shero as the primary goal was to get his $3.5 million salary for next season off the books at all costs. Despite the rule in place, many organizations believe they shouldn’t be compensated for a coach or executive that they fired. Now if Shero tries to hire John Hynes who is under contract for two more years, that will be a different story.
3. Is trading Chris Kunitz for a mid-round draft pick and signing Justin Williams a step in the right direction for the Penguins or just more of the same?
It would likely be a regression despite Williams playoff pedigree as the Penguins would be getting slower on the wing, a major problem this season.
However, sources say Jim Rutherford and Jason Karmanos remain infatuated with the idea of adding Williams to the mix this summer and it’s highly likely the Penguins poke around on Williams this summer. The Penguins tried to acquire Williams multiple times via trade, even offering a first round pick for Williams, before acquiring David Perron in January.
Williams, 33, had 18 goals and 41 points in 2014-2015. He made $3.065 million and was seeking a five year, $20 million deal from the Kings this season.
4. A player who has shown flashes in short stretches in his career, the question with Francisco Cervelli has always been whether he’s capable to perform under a starting catchers workload. Offensively he has a line of .262/.304/.323 with a strike out rate of 24% and is hitting .214 with runners in scoring position. The greatest concern moving forward is teams running on Cervelli at will. He has thrown out eight of 32 runners and it’s the amount of runners trying to run on Cervelli that’s so alarming. Cincinnati will be running on Cervelli all series.
5. Trading Travis Snider this past off-season made the sense from the standpoint of selling high on him, but it was a trade that had a high chance of back firing on a team expecting to contend for the division title and the Pirates reasoning of getting “financial flexibility” from a player making $2.1 million never added up.
Snider is hitting .281 on the season for the Orioles, including .360 with runners in scoring position.