As the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins face off in the Stanley Cup Final, there's another story unfolding off the ice that should give Devils fans reason to be excited for the future.
It's a story many might overlook, and one that has been more than a decade in the making. It's the story of the architect son of a builder who believes in doing things the right way, whose fingerprints are all over both the Penguins and the Predators: general manager Ray Shero.
The name Shero isn't new around the NHL. His father, Fred, was a player and a coach who was known for his innovative coaching techniques that are still used today. His dedication, leadership and philosophy helped him win back-to-back Stanley Cups in the 1970s.
Truly his father's son, Ray knows winning isn't something that happens overnight. It takes years of development. Years of hard work. Years of dedication. It's in these rebuilding years that a team finds its way - its path back to greatness. To understand how we've ended up where we are today, we must unravel the story and follow it back to the start.
Shero was the assistant general manager of the Nashville Predators for eight years, overseeing their AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals as well as overall player development beginning in 1998 with their entrance into the NHL. During that time, he discovered a number of young players, including goaltender Pekka Rinne, who's now between the pipes for Nashville.
Shero's mission then was the same as it is now: Put together a solid core group of players and develop the youth around them. There's no magic, no luck. There's only hard work and time.
Fast forward to 2006 in Pittsburgh, when Shero was announced as the Penguins' new general manager. The team was at a crossroads, having finished last in their division for four straight seasons. Shero was the architect they needed.
In his first two years, Shero built a team around an existing core of talent: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury. He orchestrated key trades for Matt Niskanen and James Neal. Players he drafted or signed making an impact now include Jake Guentzel, Matt Murray, Conor Sheary, Olli Maatta, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson and Tom Kuhnhackl. His blueprint lead the Penguins to a Stanley Cup victory in 2009, and the team never missed a postseason.
Shero came to the Devils in 2015. The last two seasons have been focused on rebuilding. With 11 picks in the 2017 draft - and, of course, the first-overall selection - the team has assets in place to move forward.
That doesn't necessarily mean the Devils will win a Stanley Cup immediately. But looking at Shero's proven track record, there's plenty of reason to be confident he can build a contender.