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Shero recognizes Devils need more offense

by Mike G. Morreale / New Jersey Devils

New general manager Ray Shero has every intention of making the New Jersey Devils the perennial Stanley Cup contenders they were for so long under Lou Lamoriello.

He plans to get there by adding more firepower.

"[Creating more offense] is going to be a goal," Shero said Monday after he was named to his new position. "We would like to augment our defense with a little more offense."

Shero, who was GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins for eight seasons before he was fired last May, realizes there's work to be done in New Jersey. The Devils have failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past three seasons.

One of Shero's top priorities will be to hire a new coach.

Lamoriello, who will continue to serve as Devils president of hockey operations, fired Peter DeBoer on Dec. 26 and took over behind the bench as co-coach along with Adam Oates and Scott Stevens. The Devils were 12-17-7 under DeBoer to open the season and 20-19-7 under Lamoriello, Oates and Stevens.

"I will have a very open mind to everything," Shero said. "I have no preconceived notions coming in, and we certainly have time on our side before NHL Draft (on June 26-27) and NHL free agency (which begins July 1) to get to know everybody. There is nothing concrete on adding a coach right now."

Under Lamoriello, the Devils made the playoffs all but four times between 1988 and 2013, including 13 consecutive 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.

Lamoriello maintained a high standard despite making 19 coaching changes, including stepping in as interim coach in three seasons, and watching several key players leave for more money after first making their mark with the Devils.

In 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 forward Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild via free agency. In July 2013, forward Ilya Kovalchuk decided to quit the NHL at 30 years old and return to Russia with 12 years remaining on a contract worth a reported $77 million.

The losses of Parise and Kovalchuk forced Lamoriello to make some questionable decisions in an attempt to fill the offensive void.

Shero realizes that the Devils have always been a defense-first team and he intends to continue that philosophy. But he also knows New Jersey needs help offensively.

"New Jersey has a foundation that for years has been built upon defense hockey and goaltending; they have an underrated veteran in [defenseman] Andy Greene," Shero said. "Looking at the team from the outside, since I just got here, up front is an area we'll look at. We would want to score more goals and create more offense without abandoning a defensive structure and accountability that has been in place for years."

The Devils had one 20-plus goal-scorer (Mike Cammalleri, 27 goals) and two 40-point producers (Cammalleri, 42 points; Adam Henrique, 43).

Shero inherits a defense that has much promise. Goaltender Cory Schneider has solidified his place as a bonafide NHL starter, and young defensemen Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, Damon Severson and Seth Helgeson should continue to improve.

Lamoriello said there will be no issue working side by side with Shero, who ultimately will make all final decisions.

"It's a progression; I think there's a certain philosophy here that's been successful for a number of years and I think that the decision was to get someone who has experiences in an organization but has the background in winning and knows what it is to win," Lamoriello said.

Shero said building the organization back to where it used to be is his primary focus. It's a process he plans to enjoy while working alongside Lamoriello, who he called "one of the most respected GMs in the business."

"One of the things we discussed in our conversations was how we would do things different, and that doesn't mean good or bad because I have a lot of respect for Lou Lamoriello," Shero said. "What he has done in New Jersey has been unbelievable. The ownership group is committed to winning and opportunity to work Lou was an attraction for me. Our meetings were fantastic. We might have different personalities but the mutual respect for each other is what makes this work."

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