TORONTO — According to one jerk, Mike Cammalleri’s New Jersey Devils earned the dubious distinction of having improved the least this off-season. That’s no slight to incoming general manager Ray Shero (more than deserving of another shot) or fresh-faced John Hynes, the youngest coach in the National Hockey League.
Change was due. Results, however, can take time.
By many estimates, Jersey’s road back to the Stanley Cup final is a long one. And despite a compelling young defence core, a stellar No. 1 goalie, and the never-die work ethic of gems like Cammalleri, the organization is still looking to recover from the twin losses of franchise stars Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Catching up with the Toronto-born Cammalleri, 33, at this week’s BioSteel Camp, the veteran offered his take on the departure of Lou Lamoriello from his team to his hometown and touched on five other topics.
On longtime Devils czar Lamoriello leaving to become GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs:
“I was somewhat surprised. But understanding Lou’s personality and his desire to compete and win and be part of something, it does make some sense. He’s a tremendous asset for any organization. So it’ll be good for him here. It’s exciting for Leafs fans. They should be excited he’s coming here with his wealth of knowledge.
On how Lamoriello recruited him to New Jersey as a free agent in 2014:
“We got to know each other fairly intimately through that process. And for me, it was a great life experience, getting to know how he thinks, what he thinks. His belief is a belief in a level of professionalism and a belief in being part of team and putting the team first. That sounds pretty basic and somewhat cliché, but he really practises what he preaches.”
On the Devils' massive summer overhaul, which includes a fresh front office, led by GM Shero, scouting changes, and a new coaching staff:
"In New Jersey, it’s exciting also because we’ve got Ray coming in from Pittsburgh and we’ve got John Hynes coming in also. I’ve heard nothing but great things. He seems like a coach who’s very invested in what he's doing, a very detail-oriented coach. I’m a big believer that those specifics end up in results.... There should be a mutual respect between some of the veteran players and the coaches. You’re working towards a common goal.”
On friend and training mate Raffi Torres, who is recovering from a severe knee injury:
“I’ve been playing against Raffi Torres since I was eight years old.... The poor guy has just been dealing with a terrible injury. It’s been a long time coming for him to rehab. He’s been a really effective player for a long time, so I’m hoping he can get healthy and be back in the league.”
On Arizona prospect Max Domi, whom Cammalleri has trained alongside at BioSteel Camp the last two summers:
"I’ve been a big fan of Max Domi’s since last year at camp. I remember calling Tie last year and telling him how much I thought of Max.”
On the Devils' under-rated talents:
"There are quite a few overlooked guys. The way it is there, you probably don’t get to see a lot of the team. Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Andy Greene—the veteran guys do a lot of really good things out there as teammates and as players. So in markets like [Toronto] people don’t know all that much about them. It’s for us to just get back to doing the best we can on the ice. It was a disappointing year for everybody [in 2014-15].”