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New coach Hynes has Devils adding optimism

by Mike G. Morreale / New Jersey Devils

Head coach John Hynes and general manager Ray Shero are ushering in a new Devils era. (Photo: Getty Images)

New Jersey Devils co-owner Joshua Harris was straightforward when discussing the decision to hire Ray Shero to replace Lou Lamoriello as general manager.

"We bought the team [in August 2013] with the intention of winning, and obviously, the last two seasons have been disappointing to us," Harris said in early May. "We want to build an elite organization, and what that means is we're consistently in the mix and deep in the playoffs for a Stanley Cup.

"We're going to really put in place plans that allow us to do that. Every decision will be made around that philosophy."

Harris couldn't have envisioned that Lamoriello, who resigned as Devils president July 23 to become general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, wouldn't be around to help put those plans in place.

Before Lamoriello took the Toronto job after nearly three decades with New Jersey, it was clear Shero was calling the shots.

He hired John Hynes as coach June 2. Hynes coached the Pittsburgh Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton when Shero was Penguins GM.

On July 9, Shero announced David Conte would not return as Devils scouting director. Conte was a scout for New Jersey for 31 years.

Shero is hopeful the moves have created optimism about the future of the Devils. Here are four others:

Hynes will demand more accountability: The coach has said he will not stand for lackadaisical play; he expects the Devils to be aggressive and attacking. He wants his veterans to help accomplish that.

"We want to be an extremely competitive team every night, and we want to have a very good regular season," Hynes said. "If you do that, you give yourself the best opportunity to advance to the playoffs. We want to be able to come together as a team and be difficult to play against, and if we play a certain way, we feel we'll give ourselves the best chance."

Hynes was AHL coach of the year in 2010-11, when Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished a league-best 58-21-1. He was 231-126-10-17 in five AHL seasons.

A fast, attacking style will generate more offense: The focus at training camp will be finding ways to increase offensive production to give goaltender Cory Schneider some breathing room. The Devils will try to improve their puck-possession game and have all five players involved in the offense. Hynes will stress good defensive structure and a commitment from his players to being ultra-competitive on the puck, something his AHL players did with great success.

An improving defense in front of an elite goaltender: New Jersey's defense is led by veteran Andy Greene, who's done a fine job working with young defensemen Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, Damon Severson and Seth Helgeson. The Devils were fifth in the NHL in shot attempts against (SATA) and sixth in SATA/60 in 2014-15.

The free agent signing of John Moore adds depth and experience. Though Schneider was 26-31-9 last season and under pressure to be perfect most nights, he finished with a 2.26 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage, and five shutouts. Among NHL goalies who played at least 100 games the past three seasons, Schneider has a League-low 2.14 GAA and is third behind the Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask and the Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price with a .924 save percentage.

Kyle Palmieri should boost the offense: Shero acquired Palmieri, who was born in Smithtown, N.Y., and raised in Montvale, N.J., from the Anaheim Ducks for two picks at the 2015 NHL Draft, six years after the Ducks selected him in the first round (No. 26). Palmieri should fill a need on right wing in a top-six role. The 24-year-old has 43 goals and 89 points in 198 NHL games. He's fast, aggressive, likes to take pucks to the net and throws the body.

Mike Morreale

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