Feature Friday: Ray Shero

Throughout the 2013-2014 NHL season, I’ll be posting player features each Friday. This week, we’re going to take a look at Ray Shero. 

By: Melissa Esing (Off_thePost)

Photo Credit: Matt Freed /Post-Gazette

Photo Credit: Matt Freed /Post-Gazette

The Pittsburgh Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships back in 1991 and 1992 under general manager Craig Patrick. While that’s an impressive stat to accomplish as a team’s general manager, the Penguins seemed to fall off the following years. Something needed to change, Pittsburgh needed help. Not only were huge trades and roster changes necessary, but a new general manager came into the plan. Ray Shero, previously the assistant general manager of the Nashville Predators, replaced Craig Patrick in 2006. He had quite a heavy task of rebuilding a struggling team, pulling the trigger on difficult decisions and making a name for himself in Pittsburgh- and the NHL. After all, he’s the son of Hall of Famer Fred Shero.

Prior to working with the Nashville Predators, Shero was first an assistant general manager for the Ottawa Senators from 1993-1998. His personal experience in the NHL was short lived, more so non-existent. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1982, but he never actually played. Although he never had that experience, hockey runs through his blood. As previously mentioned, his father Fred played for the New York Rangers, as well as coached the Philadelphia Flyers for seven seasons. He’s a back-to-back championship 1974 and ’75. Additionally, Fred was the head coach of the New York Rangers from 1978-1980, achieving another championship in ’79.

Let’s take a look at some of Shero’s late-season trades.

In 2007-2008, he traded Colby Armstrong, Angelo Esposito, Erik Christensen and a first-round draft pick for Pascal Dupuis and Marian Hossa. Also a deadline move, the Penguins sent Noah Welch to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Gary Roberts, a player that would help to lead a young roster.

During the 2008-2009 season, Shero made the bold move of moving head coach Dan Bylsma up to Pittsburgh from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Another move during this campaign was trading Ryan Whitney for Chris Kunitz. This move still positively affects the Penguins as Kunitz plays well with Sidney Crosby (and Pascal Dupuis, when healthy) on the first line. He also brought in Bill Guerin and he picked up Craig Adams off waivers. The result landed the Penguins another Stanley Cup Championship when they defeated the Detroit Red Wings in the finals.

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP

In 2009-2010, he traded Martin Skoula and Luca Caputi for Alex Ponikarovsky. He also picked up Jordan Leopold, who moved on to the Buffalo Sabres shortly after. The Ponikarovsky move was quite the gamble for Shero. He was giving up a young prospect with potential for a more experienced player, but a few weeks in it showed that his experience didn’t help to make him valuable for the team.

A couple of big moves came in 2010-2011, when Alex Goligoski was traded for James Neal and Matt Niskanen. Today, the two players are big on the roster. Neal is known for his chemistry with Evgeni Malkin, and also for trying to kill opposing players in most games. Matt Niskanen has proved himself to be worth significant money. He’s had 10 goals and 36 assists during the 2013-2014 regular season. Additionally during the 2010-2011 campaign, Shero traded Alex Kovalev for a seventh-round pick from Ottowa.

Shero didn’t make any significant moves in 2011-2012. The Penguins also lost to the Flyers in the first round. Not a good year. However, he earned plaudits for bringing in Jarome Iginla from Calgary in 2013. He also brought in Brenden Morrow, Doug Murray and Jussi Jokinen. The same year, Shero was named General Manager of the Year. Additionally to that, he was named associate general manager for Team USA in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Ever since the 2014 Trade Deadline, most hockey blogs (relating to the Pittsburgh Penguins) went off about how Shero may have single-handedly screwed up any hopes that the team had for seeing the Stanley Cup. He decided to take Marcel Goc from the Florida Panthers and Lee Stempniak from the Calgary Flames, instead of trying to land the caliber of Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks. For a team that struggled on and off throughout the season with countless injuries, and with first-liner Pascal Dupuis out indefinitely for the season, this seemed like a rather dull move for Shero. Many were disappointed.

“Our goal was to try and increase our depth up front and try to help our forward group,” said Shero in an interview. “It was important for us to try and do that I think we accomplished that.”

Yet again, the Penguins have managed to make a playoff appearance this year, and they are walking away with winning the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins are having a rocky, back-and-forth first round with the Columbus Blue Jackets.  They’ve been scoring early in the game, but losing it toward the end, making the series tied 2-2. There are a lot of mixed opinions. Although a lot of blame lies with the roster changes/scratches that are necessary right now, maybe a different trade could have given the team a boost in a situation like this where a lot of mistakes are being made at a crucial time.

Overall, even with some questionable decisions here and there, Shero has brought success to Pittsburgh.