How Ray Shero will approach improving Devils in offseason

April 26, 2018 - The Star Ledger - View Full Article

How Devils general manager Ray Shero will aim to improve his team during the offseason. Watch video

Ray Shero's mindset doesn't change. Whether it's the NHL Draft, free agency, the middle of the season or any other part of the year, he's going to look for ways to improve his team.

That's where the Devils general manager's mindset stood on Wednesday, as he broke down the Devils' 2017-18 season and looked ahead to next year.

He expects to make moves in the coming months to help the Devils become a better team. But like any other offseason, he isn't entirely sure what form those will take.

"Over the last couple summers, I had no idea we'd trade for Kyle Palmieri. No idea we'd trade for Marcus Johansson, let alone Taylor Hall," Shero said. "Part of it, once teams are done, you start having some conversations with general managers and, more importantly, as to what kind of players are going to fit our team and how we play."

Hynes: Devils must 'start over'

Shero's additions of Johansson, Brian Boyle, Drew Stafford and Will Butcher, plus drafting Nico Hischier No. 1 overall, highlighted a busy 2017 summer that helped start the Devils turnaround into a playoff team in 2017-18.

Now Shero's job is to sit down and evaluate what parts of his team made that turnaround possible and what other areas need to chance.

"One of our greatest improvements this year was just the experience that we gained and what we found out about our players, especially our younger players," Shero said. "Certainly the leadership of our veteran players and how key it is to bring in the right veteran players, which I was really happy with this year. Some of the free agents we brought in were fantastic.

"So you count on internal growth of some of these internal players, but in terms of overall improvement of the team, it's a long season. You have injuries. What you saw this year was the importance of depth, deployable depth, and guys like Keith Kinkaid that really were fantastic the last quarter of the year for us to help us make the playoffs."

The Devils have several in-house free agent decisions to make, including one on a player who joined the organization in late-February trade.

Forward Patrick Maroon finished with 13 points in 17 games during March and April while helping the team make a playoff push. Now Maroon can become a free agent on July 1, but Shero could keep him in red and black.

"He was a real good fit for us in terms of our team," Shero said. "He's gone through a lot of adversity in terms of his career and the Anaheim thing was fantastic for him. Had a breakthrough there and then got traded to Edmonton, did a great job there. Talking to him yesterday, he was really excited for the opportunity to play again in the playoffs. It meant a lot. He was a big part of us getting there. He was a big part of the teams he's been on. We'll look seriously at him as a free agent."

Chris Ryan may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRyan_NJ. Find Devils on Facebook.

Why 'start over' was John Hynes' message to Devils entering offseason

April 25, 2018 - The Star Ledger - View Full Article

Devils coach John Hynes had a simple message for his team heading into the offseason after reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Watch video

John Hynes won't let his players rest on their laurels.

Despite making the playoffs after finishing last in the Eastern Conference one season earlier, the Devils received another high bar for offseason expectations from their coach during exit meetings.

A strong offseason set the tone for the Devils' step forward in 2017-18. Now they need an even better, more committed summer to make another step in 2018-19.

"Start over. There's no momentum that carries from year to year," Hynes said. "Where we left off is not going to do us any good going into next year, and really understand what does it take to be a competitive team again. It's just taking it step-by-step. Every player has to have a better offseason than they did last year."

How Moore, Maroon view free agency

Getting out of the basement of the Eastern Conference to the playoffs in one season was the reward for that hard work, but it guarantees nothing for next year.

While the Devils want to become a franchise that gets back to playing postseason hockey consistently, Hynes said the end result can't be the main focus.

"When you look around the league, there's teams that make the playoffs one year and don't make it the next year," Hynes said. "I don't think our discussions with our group are about that. It's about starting over, getting hungry, getting better, and as I said, the process just has to continue."

Playing in the postseason did give a young Devils team some valuable experience which could help springboard their offseason training, knowing the level it takes to reach and succeed in the playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Lightning dispatched the Devils from the playoffs in five games, and New Jersey saw the level of competition it will face in April and May in the future.

"For us, we've got to learn. Why was that? What do we need player-wise to be better? What do the coaches have to do to be better?" Hynes said of their series loss to the Lightning. "That's what you really want to find out. Today, this year, if you look at it, you could say Tampa was a playoff team, and we were a team that made the playoffs. So there's a step we have to take." 

Chris Ryan may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRyan_NJ. Find Devils on Facebook.