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Arrival of Shero, Hynes signals new era for Devils

by Mike G. Morreale / New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils made some alterations on and off the ice after failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs a third straight season.

Among those moves, there was none bigger than Ray Shero replacing Hockey Hall of Fame member Lou Lamoriello as general manager on May 4.

Lamoriello stayed on as president but resigned July 23 to become GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a move that took many by surprise. Lamoriello, who was Devils president and GM since 1987, won the Stanley Cup three times in those 28 years (1995, 2000, 2003).

In June, Shero introduced John Hynes as the fourth Devils coach in five years. Lamoriello and assistants Scott Stevens and Adam Oates served as co-coaches after Peter DeBoer was fired in December 2014.

Hynes was coach of the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League the past five seasons. His team reached the conference finals twice and the conference semifinals twice. The 40-year-old is the youngest coach in the NHL.

"I don't really think about the age; I know this is a tremendous opportunity and it's a difficult League to get to and stay in," Hynes said. "It's about being able to come in, earn the respect of the players and bring value to what we're doing, and focus on what we have to do every day to be a really good hockey team."

New Jersey last season was 32-36-14 and finished 20 points short of qualifying for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

You need your best players to buy in, work hard, and be leaders because that will drive your team to a certain level of focus.John Hynes

When Shero introduced Hynes on June 2, he said he envisions the Devils being fast, attacking and supportive. Hynes said in order to succeed in those areas, they must establish a clear identity.

"You have to have the leaders on your team driving the bus with their work ethic in how you want to practice and play," Hynes said. "You need your best players to buy in, work hard, and be leaders because that will drive your team to a certain level of focus."

Fortunately for Hynes, the Devils have their share of leaders. Offensively there's Patrik Elias, Mike Cammalleri and Travis Zajac. Defensively, Andy Greene has been a mainstay and mentor to the younger players, and Cory Schneider was stout in his first season as a No. 1 goalie in 2014-15.

Defensemen Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill and Damon Severson played vital roles, earned valuable ice time, and figure to be in the mix again as Shero looks to build a younger, faster team. Shero decided not to re-sign forwards Scott Gomez and Steve Bernier or defensemen Mark Fraser and Peter Harrold. The Devils also bought out the final season of left wing Dainius Zubrus' contract. Gomez tied for third on the Devils with 34 points (seven goals) last season.

"I think this is not really about Scott Gomez; it's more about Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique and particularly Jacob Josefson," Shero said of the Devils' other centers. "I really want to find out more about Josefson and give him more opportunity if possible. We're trying to get a little bit younger."

Shero bolstered the defensemen when he signed puck-moving John Moore to a three-year contract. Moore, 24, has nine goals and 40 points in 230 regular-season games over five seasons with three teams.

"There's a plethora of defensemen and guys who can skate and move the puck," Hynes said. "It's encouraging to see because if you can go from the goaltender to the defense to the forwards, it allows a fast-attacking game.

"When you spend less time on the defensive side of the red line because you have the puck or you're playing well offensively, you'll increase your shot totals, increase your opportunity for offense."

The Devils ranked 28th in the NHL scoring 2.15 goals per game and were 29th with 24.5 shots per game in 2014-15.

Shero filled a need at right wing when he acquired forward Kyle Palmieri in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks in June, and the organization is very high on 2015 first-round pick (No. 6) Pavel Zacha.

Prospects Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau are possibilities to remain on the roster a full season. Forward Sergey Kalinin (6-foot-3, 190 pounds), who spent the past five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, signed a free agent contract in May. The 24-year-old had 12 goals, 25 points, 95 hits and a 50 percent faceoff efficiency in 58 games as captain of Avangard Omsk last season.

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