Two days after being eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins shook up their front office by firing Ray Shero on Friday, adding a new wrinkle to the Capitals’ search for a new general manager.
That the Penguins made a change wasn’t surprising after they were knocked out of the playoffs by a lower seeded team for the fifth consecutive season and reports surfaced of dissent in the franchise. But that Shero was terminated while coach Dan Bylsma remains in limbo, his fate to be determined by a new GM, was unexpected.
With his sudden availability, Shero jumps to the front of the line of general manager options on the market given that he’s one of only a handful of candidates (Mike Gillis, Darcy Regier, Jay Feaster and Neil Smith are some of the others) who have previously run an NHL team. In addition to Pittsburgh, only the Capitals and Vancouver Canucks are looking for new general managers. Once the news of Shero’s dismissal broke, both Bob McKenzie of TSN and Nick Kypreos of SportsNet linked him to the Capitals’ vacancy.
Shero, 51, spent eight seasons in Pittsburgh during which the Penguins never missed the playoffs and won a Stanley Cup in 2009. He is well known for his willingness to aggressively pursue trades or free agents but has come under heavy criticism in recent months for the Penguins’ lack of depth and having never built a solid supporting cast around Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Failing to complement star players with the right teammates was a regular complaint in the final few seasons of George McPhee’s 17-year tenure in Washington. Would the Capitals consider someone with a similar reputation as the “fresh voice and a fresh set of eyes” that owner Ted Leonsis wants to bring in? There’s also concern about Shero’s ability to draft and develop talent.
But even with those perceived weaknesses, Shero is well respected around the NHL. Prior to joining the Penguins he spent 12 years as an assistant general manager in stints with Ottawa (1993-98) and Nashville (1998-2006), which brings up another possible connection.
Shero and Barry Trotz, arguably the best coaching candidate available, worked together in Nashville and have a good relationship. Earlier this week, Trotz said he was interested in the Capitals’ coaching job but added that team planned to hire a general manager first. The two could be reunited on a new team for next season, but whether it will be with Washington remains to be seen.
>> The Capitals have signed defenseman Christian Djoos to a three-year, entry-level contract. Djoos, 19, was drafted in the seventh round, 197th overall, in 2012. The Gothenburg, Sweden, native registered 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) and four penalty minutes in 47 games with Brynas IF Gavle of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) in 2013-14, ranking tied for second among Brynas defensemen in assists and points. The 5-foot-11, 158-pound defenseman has represented Sweden at two IIHF World Junior Championships (2013, 2014) and one IIHF U18 World Championship (2012), capturing a silver medal at each tournament.