NEWARK, NJ - On Wednesday in Newark, a new face joined the Devils coaching staff on the ice for practice. Executive Vice President and Assistant General Manager Tom Fitzgerald will serve in an assistant coach capacity for the foreseeable future, providing another resource for a team looking to turn around their season.
Fitzgerald played more than 1,000 games in the league and captained the Nashville Predators for four seasons. Since 2007-08, Fitzgerald has held executive roles with the Pittsburgh Penguins and now the Devils, giving him a lot of valuable experience in the league both as a player and a member of management. Fitzgerald joined the Devils in the summer of 2015 and has been heavily involved in all matters related to hockey operations. Now he will get the opportunity to observe and provide input to a team that's in need of a spark.
"I've been with Fitzy a long time," said Hynes. "He was in a player development role in Pittsburgh and he was assistant to the GM and he worked with both Dan and myself and Wilkes-Barre in and in Pittsburgh. He played a long time, he's won a cup as a coach. He's been on the bench and done that. He was an excellent faceoff guy, played over a thousand games, and he's invested. He has a lot of belief in the players that are here. He knows who they are. He knows our situation.
"So, I think to be able to have him with his eyes and input on some certain things when you know your teams in a rut, it's good. It's finding solutions, finding ways we can all get better and I think he's going to be a good asset to our team, a good asset to the coaches, and it's something that we all think is really important to do and it will be really beneficial."
"We're all in this together," said Fitzgerald. "You work to try and help these players be the players they are and that we think they are."
Devils forward Taylor Hall agreed with that messaging.
"I think it just sends the message that we're all in this together," Hall said. "And you know, we're going to come out of it together. You know management isn't throwing us away and they're going to stick by us. They're going to join the fight and I think that's a really positive thing."
Around the locker room, the players are open to Fitzgerald's experience and positive impact.
"I think it's just an extra pair of eyes," said Travis Zajac. "He's an ex-player who has played a lot of games and has been successful in this league. He's someone we can maybe lean on a little bit and get some positivity from I think. He's here to help the guys. Right now, it seems like anything we can do to get this thing headed in the right direction, we need to do it."
Fitzgerald will be able to provide better insight into how to improve on face-offs, and he will help the staff and players work to fix their special teams woes.
"I just think it's another voice," said Shero. "We're lucky to have bench strength. Fitzy has done it before. It's about the team and both John and him trying to do what's best for the team to get the best out of themselves and the players. That's really what I think we're looking forward to. We're six games in and we need to be better."
Fitzgerald's early message to the organization is that there is a need to simplify, leading to better execution.
"I just think we have to look at ourselves," said Fitzgerald. "Our staff has to look at some tweaks we have to make to help play faster. I think players are not off the hook at all. There's a lot of effort but simplifying things is really where we need to be. Less is more. I feel, we feel, that we just shoot ourselves in the foot. When something goes wrong, it domino effects. Pucks go in our net."
The Devils first opportunity to show improvement comes quick. The New York Rangers are in town Thursday.