Photo by John Russell
Ray Shero (left) with Predators GM David Poile at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft in Nashville's Gaylord Entertainment Center.
On May 25, Predators assistant general manager Ray Shero stepped to a microphone in Pittsburgh, Pa. and announced that he had accepted the general manager position with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. The move was a bittersweet one for the Predators franchise, which lost a likable and talented member of its staff but was proud to see Shero rewarded with a GM opportunity. He spent eight years as the assistant general manager in Nashville and six years in the same role with the Ottawa Senators.
In Nashville, Shero oversaw the Predators' primary developmental affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, while also negotiating player contracts, managing scouting at the professional and amateur levels, and directing the day-to-day operation of the Predators' hockey department. On Monday, Shero paid a visit to the Predators front office to say farewell to his Nashville co-workers. He will be relocating to the Pittsburgh area with his wife, Karen, and his two sons, Christopher and Kyle. This week he was also kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for nashvillepredators.com.
Q. How has the past month or so been for you?
A. It's been really educational. It's been interesting. A little bit of the process was actually during the time we were in playoffs, and both [owner] Craig [Leipold] and David [Poile] were very generous in giving me a day here or there to get this process started. That was very good of them. Once the playoffs ended for us, it certainly took up a bit of my time. I was working for the Predators and that was my focus, basically, and if something else worked out somewhere else, hey, that was great. Since then there were a couple different opportunities, and it's been very hectic. Then when the Pittsburgh opportunity happened, since then--May 25--it has been very hectic. It's been exciting, and it's a new challenge obviously--a big challenge--but an exciting opportunity with a really good young team.
Q. What about your time with the Predators do you think prepared you for a GM role?
A. I think just working with David and the experience that he showed me in terms of having the patience, having the plan, having the vision for what you want to try to accomplish. Once you have that in place, you can deviate here and there if any opportunities arise, but the overall plan is very important to have. Especially with this new CBA (collective bargaining agreement). There are a lot of similarities between Pittsburgh and Nashville in terms of payroll, in terms of young players, in terms of trying to surround these guys with good veterans, good people, that type of thing. And that's what I'm trying to do right now as we move forward in the next year or so--get some good support players and the right support players to build around the young players we have in Pittsburgh.
Q. Do you have a favorite memory from your time with the Predators?
A. Just being in Colorado when we made the playoffs there [in 2004]. We didn't win the game to get in the playoffs but just that feeling when Vancouver and Edmonton played that game and we were in Colorado the night before the last game of the season. We were just on pins and needles and everybody was doing their different thing and either trying not to pay attention to the game or they're watching the game. When that game ended and Vancouver won and that put us in the playoffs, that was just a great, great feeling. Because that was a culmination for everybody, starting with Craig and David and Jack Diller who started the franchise really. That was a great culmination of everybody's work. That was probably the best moment I think. What I'll remember of Nashville is the people. There are some great people, and I really worked with some great people there. I'm hopeful to do that in Pittsburgh, in terms of having good people to work with. That makes your job better and it makes you smarter.
Q. There is a story about you going to scout current Milwaukee goaltender Pekka Rinne during the warm-up before a game in Finland because he rarely played during the actual games. Is that true?
A. That's a true story. But it's one of those things. We definitely did that. That was Janne Kekalainen, Nashville's Finnish scout. I've known Janne for a long time and I was over in Finland and we had to go to Oulu, Finland. Actually Mikko Lehtonen was playing in the game--the defenseman we drafted [in 2001]--but Janne says, "Listen, there's a goalie here that I want you to see." We had to fly up for the game because it was a seven-hour car ride and there were bad roads in the winter time. So we flew up there and of course Janne said we've got to get there for warm-up. I was like, "OK." Because Pekka Rinne, the goalie, never played. So you've got to see him in warm-up. So I watch him and he's taking shots and I turned to Janne after warm-up and said, 'It's your call, buddy.' I can barely draft a goalie during the game let alone warm-up. But it was good to lay eyes on him. You could see how big he was. That was Janne's call, but it was just a neat thing--we've got to get there for warm-up and see Pekka Rinne.
Q. Any particular scouting finds that you are proud of from your time in Nashville?
A. Everybody has their guy, and I hate to say that's my guy or, "Yeah, I'm responsible for that guy." Because the staff we had, we worked very closely together and for every guy we found or signed or drafted, there's always the guy we signed or drafted that didn't work out. And we're all responsible for the good and the bad. That was the best thing about the staff. We had a very good staff. No one ever took credit or tried to take credit for something. We worked very close together and that's the way David had it. I'm very cognizant of that, that it's always a team effort--good or bad.
Q. If you had your choice, would you rather be a GM under the old CBA or the current one? Why?
A. Current CBA. I love the challenge. It's a more level playing field for everybody. Certainly there are still--as we'll see this summer--the top players are going to get their money. But you're managing payroll. You're managing a budget. Not every team is going to be at the cap but you're certainly not going to see that disparity any more of $40 million between one team at $23 million and one team at $63 million or something like that. That makes it a more level playing field. It really comes down to good drafting, good signings, good personnel decisions, and managing your payroll. And that comes down to good management.
Q. What are your thoughts on the Predators' future?
A. I think they've got a great future. If you take a look at the depth chart, number one they've got the goalie in Tomas Vokoun. If you look at the depth chart on defense they've certainly got some of the better young defensemen in the league. It's difficult to find those guys. So they're set up on defense very well moving forward. There are some good young wingers--Martin Erat, Scottie Upshall, Jordin Tootoo, guys like this. Down the middle there are still some holes there as we all know, but that's hard to find. It's hard to get good young defensemen and good young centers. So they've got the defensemen covered, and they're going to keep working at that center position I'm sure to build some depth there if they can. They've got a nice future for themselves and they've got a very good coach and a very good manager.
Q. Will the first call to David Poile to discuss a trade be wierd for you?
A. No, business is business. I don't think it will be too difficult. I'm not sure if we'll make any deals. Who knows? It was funny, there was one manager in the league that it had been a long time--maybe 15, 16 years--that David had never made a trade with the guy. So it's funny. You never know, and it's got to be a fit for both sides. I don't think it will be any different than anybody else. Certainly if I ever make a trade with David, I hope it works out well for both parties.
Q. Finally, are your sons excited to know they'll be skating with young Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby on occasion?
A. Yeah, they're excited. They loved Nashville though. It's going to be tough to leave their friends and they love the Predators. We've always told them that Daddy may have to move whether Daddy gets fired or hired, so you may have to go. They're at the right age to move I think--8 and 10--and I think once they get established up there they'll be fine. Certainly they're excited about the Sidney Crosby-Mario Lemieux connection and things like that.