> Ray Shero has guided the Penguins using three principles: accountability, work ethic and passion.
> The players appreciate Shero's willingness to go out and acquire the pieces to consistently make them a Stanley Cup contender.
> Treating the players in a first-class manner has impressed the players.
> Shero is respected for his honest methods dealing with players.
In the five years since Ray Shero was hired as the Penguins executive vice president and general manager on May 25, 2006, the team has gone from National Hockey League bottom feeder to one of the league’s elite franchises.
So it was no surprise on Monday morning when the Penguins announced the team has agreed to terms with Shero on a five-year contract extension
through the 2015-16 campaign.
“It’s been a big turnaround,” said goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
, one of four players on the current roster who pre-date Shero. “Along with (former head coach) Michel Therrien, both of them played a big part in it, giving us a chance to get comfortable with things. And off the ice, Shero is great to our family and great to us.”
Shero has been the perfect fit for the Penguins thanks to his dual ability to make the team winners on the ice while at the same time promoting a tight-knit family atmosphere off the ice.
When Shero arrived in 2006 he brought with him three principles for the team moving forward: accountability, work ethic and passion.
Not only are those three phrases are emblazoned on the walls of the Penguins locker room, they serve as the foundation for the way Shero runs his team – a fact not lost on his players.Accountability
When you serve as the general manager of an NHL franchise, often times you are judged simply based upon your team’s win-loss record. Shero gets an A-plus in that area, seeing as how the Penguins have won one Stanley Cup, gone to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals and have posted a 186-107-35 regular-season record during his tenure.
“His message has always been the same,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “He talks to his players and his expectations are always high of us. And he expects a lot of himself. I think successful teams start at the top, in terms of ownership and management and it filters right through. They lead by example, and every year they do the things they need to do to make us competitive. And it’s something that makes us accountable as players. When you look at our team since Ray’s come in, we’ve become a competitor, each and every year and he’s a part of that.”
Shero has proven to be one of the game’s best wheelers and dealers around the March trading deadline and during the free agent signing period, which Crosby says further delivers a strong message to the players – the goal is to win.
“It’s the message you want,” Crosby said. “Nobody wants to play on a team just trying to get by or squeezing to get into the playoffs. You want to play for a team that’s committed to winning and has that attitude. That sends a message every year when he does the things he needs to do to make us competitive.”
Shero’s pulling the trigger on moves that acquired the likes of Gary Roberts, Marian Hossa and Bill Guerin, or more recently Paul Martin
, Zbynek Michalek
and Mike Comrie are what fans can easily measure.
What goes unnoticed is the hard work Shero puts in behind the scenes to make sure the Penguins are among the best run franchises in all of sports.
In today’s NHL, particularly with the salary cap placing all 30 teams on equal footing, it’s the small things that add up to bigger things for players.
“He’s just honest, and I think that’s what people appreciate about him. Especially now, with the cap, hockey is a business and you have to make business decisions, but you can do it in a certain way, by talking face-to-face and be honest with people. He does it in a professional way. - Brooks Orpik
Shero has assembled a hockey operations team around him that goes out of its way on a daily basis to ensure the team is well cared for and has an environment that has a family feel.
There is a fine line that comes with this because you never want to pamper players too much, but defenseman Brooks Orpik
, who is the longest-tenured Penguin, says you need some luxury around the team because that’s what helps attract and motivate players.
“I remember right when he first took over, he changed the whole locker room, he put that whole breakfast area in there and tinkered with some other stuff,” Orpik said. “He wanted to make it so you were excited to come here, like it was the comfort of your own home, as opposed to coming to a rink where you’re not real comfortable. Everything changed when he took over. I’m not comparing his (regime) to what it was like before, but it seems like everything, detail-wise, was changed.
“And I don’t know if this was Ray, or a combination of Ray and the owners, but to me it’s the way we travel, with hotels and food. Anything you need, we get. It’s first class all the way.”
Such treatment has gone a long way towards the Penguins either re-signing players like Orpik and Crosby, or adding a marquee addition like Martin.
“Everything’s first class and that’s all you can ask for as a player,” Crosby said. “At the end of the day, you have to go out and play, and that’s what our job is. I think he does everything, along with the rest of the organization, to make sure that our job is clear and simple. They take care of everything else and allow us to be the best we can be.”
“They’ve had a lot of success here, and that happens for a reason when you have the right people in charge,” recent signee Martin added. “And it’s a trickle-down effect when you put the right people in that position. I’ve heard they run their organization the right way here, and that’s definitely something as a player you want to be a part of. Success on and off the ice goes hand-in-hand and it’s appealing.”Passion
When it comes to winning, nobody wants to do so more than Shero. But winning only goes so far in today’s day and age.
What separates Shero from many of his contemporaries across the league is how he is able to balance his passion for winning with his passion for caring about the well-being of his players and staff.
“You can go around to different organizations, most of them take really good care of you, but this one goes above and beyond,” said Brent Johnson
, who gave up a chance to become an unrestricted free agent last spring to sign a two-year deal with the Penguins. “Ray has done a great job with the guys. He’s polite, he talks to everyone, he’s not standoff-ish – he’s very nice. Especially if you’re a young guy, he likes to get to know people and I guess that’s a good thing for the dressing room, too. It feels comfortable.”
According to Orpik, what really earns Shero the respect of the players is the honesty he brings to the job. There are no gray lines – and that’s just the way the players want it.
When things are going well, Shero is there to offer praise. On the flip side, if a player needs to improve his performance, Shero isn’t afraid to make that known.
“He’s just honest, and I think that’s what people appreciate about him,” Orpik said. “Especially now, with the cap, hockey is a business and you have to make business decisions, but you can do it in a certain way, by talking face-to-face and be honest with people. He does it in a professional way.”
Accountability. Work Ethic. Passion. Three principles that have fueled Ray Shero’s current success, and three principles that will allow Shero to continue keeping the Penguins among the league’s elite well into the future.