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Lamoriello confident Devils moving in right direction

by Mike G. Morreale / New Jersey Devils

NEWARK, N.J. – New Jersey Devils president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello watched and listened as team co-owner Joshua Harris talked about the recent changes within the organization in a roundtable discussion with the media on Saturday at Prudential Center.

Lamoriello, who first approached Harris and co-owner David Blitzer about the possibility of hiring Ray Shero as the team's new general manager, is confident the pieces are in place to help the organization move in the right direction. Shero was hired on May 5 after a 28-year run by Lamoriello in the same role.

Lamoriello, 72, said there is a process that needs to happen to achieve the ultimate goal of winning.

"Look, everybody wants to win," Lamoriello said. "Everything is going to be done within the power and the knowledge to win but the winning is the end result of everything else you do. You never put winning before doing the things necessary that give you the ability to win and that's the focus we are taking right now.

"[Harris and Blitzer] have given us the resources and they are going to do everything they can to help this organization."

Lamoriello was asked if he agreed with Harris in that the top priority in the off-season, in addition to naming a head coach, will be pinpointing players who can help the team offensively. Shero admitted at the time of his hiring that is something he will look at but not at the expense of the defensive approach the organization has taken since Lamoriello took over in 1987.

"Look at the teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs right now and what you see is defense overriding everything," he said. "But when you don't win, you don't win, and I take full responsibility for that. But when you lose a Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, you don't replace them overnight. Look at teams in the playoffs and take some of the key players off those rosters and what would they become.

"We've got a solid goalie and improving defense but no question offense needs to be added. How that comes about I think is the question everyone is asking."

Lamoriello maintained a high standard during his tenure as GM despite making 19 coaching changes, including stepping in as interim coach during three different seasons. In Peter DeBoer's first season as coach in 2011-12, the Devils lost to the Los Angeles Kings in six games in the Stanley Cup Final. In the summer of 2012, they lost Parise to the Minnesota Wild via free agency. In July 2013, Kovalchuk decided to retire from the NHL at 30 years old and return to Russia with 12 years remaining on a contract reportedly worth $77 million.

Lamoriello said he wasn't ruling out any transactions to be made prior to or during the NHL Draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., next month.

"All final decisions on a head coach and trades will come from the general manager," Lamoriello said. "You can't close any avenue no matter what sport you're in or whether there's a potential to trade up, down or trade. We saw that here a couple years ago with Cory Schneider; there was a need in that area for the future and we had a high pick and an opportunity came to us and it was done. You never know when that will happen so you have to have an open mind. You can't always say exactly what you want to do and this managerial group understands that."

Under Lamoriello, the Devils made the playoffs all but four times between 1988 and 2013, including 13 consecutive postseason berths from 1997-2010. New Jersey finished with a winning record every season from 1992-93 through 2009-10 and reached the Stanley Cup Final five times, winning the Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003.

The Devils missed the playoffs their first five seasons in New Jersey prior to Lamoriello becoming GM. He built a perennial contender but the Devils have failed to qualify for the postseason in each of the past three seasons.

"[Lamoriello] has [brought] so much to this organization," Harris said. "It was regarded as a 'Mickey Mouse' organization before he came in and he built a winning culture and won three Cups. Even more than that, when the organization was going through financial issues Lou helped hold the place together in a high-class way. This organization has a lot of historical figures but Lou Lamoriello really is the heart and soul of it all."

Harris hopes Lamoriello remains with the Devils for the long haul.

"I really hope he's a Devil for life both figuratively and day-to-day [as team president]," Harris said. "We are also glad he helped find someone like [Shero] because Lou deeply cares about the New Jersey Devils; we appreciate everything he's done and will do."

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