Just one week into the 2017-18 season, New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero knows it’s way too early to talk about the possibility of the playoffs.
At this point in the club’s rebuild, Shero is simply looking for respect.
“I think it really went back to the end of last year, and certainly two years ago … we were a hard-working team, not really skilled, but I think we earned respect,” Shero said during an appearance on Hockey Central at Noon on Wednesday. “How hard we played, we fought to stay in the playoff race until the end and then we kind of fell out.”
The GM joined the Devils in 2015 and was put in charge of rebuilding the team. Struggles were expected during the 2015-16 season, but the team followed it up with an uninspiring 2016-17 that saw the club finish with a 28-40-14 record for 27th place in the league.
“Last year, to me and to [head coach John Hynes], it certainly was not representative of the team we wanted to have or how wanted to play and the meetings I had with players—I didn’t meet with that many players after the season, to be honest, but when I did I made it really clear I wasn’t happy and it’s not, to me, the type of team I’m going to have.”
Lucky for Shero & Co., that bottom-four finish led them to a draft lottery win as they landed the right to select forward Nico Hischier in June. In addition to Hischier, the Devils are seeing a plethora of young talent suit up in their lineup, including No. 1 centre Pavel Zacha, top NCAA defenceman Will Butcher, and surprise standout Jesper Bratt.
Shero explained his mindset this past off-season, and how he addressed it with his players ahead of training camp.
“And then some of the players we brought in really make a difference and at the same time the guys have been, just that we have to get the respect back in the league,” Shero said. “That’s it. That’s my goal. We have to get respect back in the league and that’s going to start Day 1 of training camp in how we’re going to play, how we’re going to practice.”
Clearly, it has resonated so far. The Devils have put together two strong wins with plenty of contributions from young players. Now, they’ll look for a third against another young, fast team in the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Shero also talked about goalie Cory Schneider, centre Pavel Zacha, and how impressed he is by rookie Jesper Bratt. Listen to the full interview here: