Molinari: How About a Shero Comeback? But Not as GM
Fenway Sports Group has not settled on the structure of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ front office, and it remains to be seen whether the position of president of hockey operations, filled by Brian Burke until he was fired last Friday, will continue to exist.
However, the basic function of that job — someone to serve as a liaison of sorts between the hockey operations and business side of the business — seems critical to preserve, regardless of the title it carries.
While the job description for the position presumably would be multi-layered, ideally, the role would be handled by someone who is well-versed in — and comfortable with — both sides of that corporate equation.
A person who can grasp the nuances of decisions being considered on the hockey side and express the logic (or lack thereof) behind them to executives focused on the business aspects of the franchise. And equally capable of doing the same, in reverse.
A person like former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero.
Shero succeeded Craig Patrick as GM in 2006, and served in that capacity until he and coach Dan Bylsma were fired in 2014.
He was GM and executive vice president when the Penguins earned the franchise’s third Stanley Cup in 2009, and consistently kept them on the short list of serious championship contenders, routinely bolstering their lineup for a postseason run by acquiring the likes of Marian Hossa, Jarome Iginla, Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz, among many others, at NHL trade deadlines.
Shero’s greatest failing with the Penguins might have been his unwavering loyalty to Bylsma, despite a string of upset losses in the playoffs.
He subsequently was GM and executive vice president in New Jersey from May, 2015 until January, 2020.
During his tenure as GM, the Devils drafted the likes of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt, their three highest-scoring forwards in 2022-23.
But Shero’s credentials as a hockey executive had long since been established; it was the business-side experience he picked up as an executive vice president in New Jersey that rounded out his resume and makes him worthy of consideration for whatever go-between role FSG determines is needed for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He reportedly lost his job in New Jersey because he and ownership had conflicting perspectives on the best way to deal with the disappointing way the Devils’ 2019-20 season was playing out.
Shero was named senior advisor to Guerin, the GM in Minnesota, a year later and continues to fill that niche.
That he has a history of identifying and mentoring/developing outstanding young front-office talent — Shero gave Jason Botterill, Tom Fitzgerald and Guerin, all of whom have gone on to be GMs elsewhere, their starts — surely is a plus, as is his personable nature.
Some people, like Burke, have demeanors that are polarizing. Shero seemed to maintain an amicable, respectful relationship with everyone with whom he interacted, inside or outside the organization.
That doesn’t mean his core beliefs are pliable — perhaps he could have held onto his job with the Devils if he’d altered his stance on how best to deal with the Devils’ struggles a few years ago to mesh with those of ownership — but does reflect Shero’s people skills, which would seem to be an asset in the position FSG will be looking to fill.
Precisely what qualities ownership will seek in whoever gets the job, assuming it is filled or what it is called, has not been laid out. Nor has how many people are likely to get serious consideration for the position.
But no matter how many or how few, Ray Shero should be one of them.