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NEW JERSEY DEVILS MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 23, 2015
THE MODERATOR:Â Without further ado, Josh Harris.
JOSH HARRIS:Â Thank you for calling in today.Â Before we get started, I'd like to thank the Toronto Maple Leafs, and in particular, Brendan Shanahan, Larry Tannenbaum, really high‑quality organization.Â These things are always complicated and they have been a pleasure, as usual, to deal with.
This is an important day for the Devils organization.Â For the last three decades, Lou was the face of the New Jersey Devils, and he turned an unknown team into one of the most historic franchises in NHL history.Â With three Stanley Cups and introduction into the U.S. and Hockey Hall of Fames, only describes the surface of what he's meant to the NHL, the sport of hockey, and most importantly, Devils fans.
His passion, character and class of the last 28 years will leave a lasting legacy for our franchise.Â I feel very privileged to have worked with Lou over the last two seasons.Â His leadership and cooperation have helped me steer this organization in a new direction, especially over the past three months.Â Lou was helpful and integral in bringing GM Ray Shero on board and he has been a tremendous advocate in helping Ray's transition into New Jersey.
Under Ray's leadership, along with new head coach John Hynes, we are incredibly optimistic about the future of the Devils.
I'd like to publically thank Lou for what he has done for the team, the fans and the State of New Jersey, and on behalf of David Blitzer and the entire organization, we wish him the best of luck as he joins the Maple Leafs organization.
On a personal note, I'm going to very much miss Lou.Â Lou was, in addition to being the president, a friend, and I'll miss his advice and counsel and friendship.
So with that, like to open the line up and take questions, if there are any.Â Thank you.
Q.Â Josh, I was just wondering, is there going to be a search for a new president of the team?Â Is that job going to go to Ray?Â Your thoughts on that right now?
JOSH HARRIS:Â Yeah, our thoughts are that we are in good shape and status quo.Â We don't really feel the need for a president, and we are very excited about working with (ph) Ray and moving forward.
Q.Â Did you see this happening when you approached Lou and told him that you were going to bring in Ray as the general manager?Â Did you see that the writing was on the wall that he was going to look for other opportunities and leave the organization?
JOSH HARRIS:Â The answer is no.Â So that's not really the way it happened.
The way Lou and David and I sat down over a period of many months in advance of approaching Ray and agreed collectively that people like Ray Shero don't come along every day and that it was an ideal time to think about the next number of years for the Devils.
And so we did it all together, and we all spent a lot of time coming up with a scenario where the four of us would work together very closely with Lou as president and Ray as GM.Â That was what we thought we were doing.Â And then very, very, very recently, we found out that Lou as a personal matter, it wasn't working for him.Â So this all came at us very quickly.
So the last 48 hours has been‑‑ has been quite‑‑ we've all had to do a lot of work getting ready for today.
Q.Â For Ray, I know you came here thinking you would wind up working with Lou, along with everyone else.Â But what is it ‑‑ I guess what kind of opportunity is this for you to kind of be the unquestioned voice in the organization now?
RAY SHERO:Â Yeah, when I came here, Lou was a huge factor in me coming here, but a lot of it, also, I've said a number of times, there's two other huge factors, and that was getting Josh Harris and David Blitzer and along with Lou, the combination made a lot of sense for me and my family.
So in terms of changing, it's a choice of Lou; and me for two and a half months, it was an amazing experience, and getting to know him better.Â It's something that from a general manager's standpoint, everyone knows and respects Lou.
But having the opportunity is to me a once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunity to work with Lou, and the two and a half months I spent with him is something that I'll always cherish and what he is as a person.
So in terms of change for me, Josh and David are here, and that's the most important thing for me.Â I'm happy that this move for Lou, it's one he feels very good and passionate about and that's great for the Maple Leafs.Â So moving forward with Josh and David, I feel very comfortable.Â But a lot of that was set up with Josh and David and Lou.Â And Lou feels comfortable enough to move on knowing that this is in pretty good shape now.Â I think it benefits everybody.Â So hopefully it's a happy day for the Leafs and for Lou.
Q.Â Obviously you dealt with Lou a lot when you were in Pittsburgh and he was here.Â But could you just describe what it's like to work with him and maybe discussing trades and the in and out stuff that maybe people don't get to see; how tenacious was Lou in his role as general manager?
RAY SHERO:Â When I was with another team like in Pittsburgh, Lou was pretty direct.Â And some guys‑‑ everybody's got a different style I think.
Lou's style was the first time he called me was maybe my second year, and most guys check in every few weeks, see what's going on; got anything going.Â The first call I got from Lou, I'll remember, it as long as I live.Â He called, and I think the phone was shaking on my end; I was a little nervous, you know, because he asked for a specific player.Â And there was no, hey, how you doing, what's going on.Â It was, like, "Hey, you guys set up this guy a few games, we want to trade him."
I was like, "Huh?Â Very direct.Â I said, "No, I don't think we're interested in trading him."Â So from Lou's standpoint‑‑ that's when I first started trying to pick his brain a bit.Â It's a little like, how do you know to do this?Â I said some guys call around quite a bit.
He said no, if I know I want something, I'll call.Â I'm not going to waste anybody's time.Â That was my first dealings with him.Â And over the last couple months, two and a half months of getting to know him actually when we went through the interview process, Josh David and him, be very direct.
There's so much to be learned in inside speaking from dealing with him.Â I'm certainly better for the experience.Â And as I said, I'm going to cherish it and the friendship I gained with Lou has been‑‑ has been great.Â I'm happy for him that this is the passion and the challenge and obviously the Leafs and Brendan and Mr.Tannenbaum.Â He's a pretty amazing person.Â I mean, he's in the Hall of Fame for a reason.Â They are going to find that out.
Q.Â This is a follow‑up to what Josh just said a moment ago.Â You mentioned that it was as a personal matter, it wasn't working for Lou.Â Could you just elaborate on what was your sense as to what didn't work in the new arrangement for him?
JOSH HARRIS:Â Well, I just think, again, I think you should ask Lou.Â I just think as a personal matter, when you're used to having, you know, absolute control of an organization, Lou was obviously president and Ray was GM.Â I think it was just a different situation for him.Â But I think I'd be speculating beyond that.
I think it's relatively easy‑‑ I think if we all take a step back and think about this from a human perspective, it's relatively easy to see why he might consider a great team like Toronto as an opportunity.
Q.Â Along those lines, a lot has changed for a franchise that has not had much in 30 years, new coach, now scouting director, new GM.Â Curious if you feel like there will be a bigger change in the franchise and the philosophy of the franchise, as well.
JOSH HARRIS:Â So, look, I think we are out to build a winner and a lead hockey team that wins on a consistent basis.Â So that's got to start with the organization that you put in place.Â And the Devils is and was a high‑quality organization.Â Any time you bring in new leadership, there's always change.
I think we try to embrace that and make it really positive.Â So I think it's a good, positive thing.Â You're going to be building on a very high‑quality organization, and we are always challenging each other and ourselves every day to continue to build upon what's there and improve.Â And so, you know, the new leadership is certainly going to be doing that, as well.
Q.Â Obviously now that Lou is completely out of the picture in New Jersey, you can sort of put your hand print on the organization.Â Have you sort of thought about‑‑ you've obviously been a GM before but now the Devils truly are your team.Â There's no Lou in the picture anymore.
RAY SHERO:Â Well, you know, when I came in here with Josh and David and certainly with Lou, this was something we had talked about in terms of Lou and I work very closely together.Â This is more of an extension of Lou‑‑ Lou and I were very comfortable with each other and that was really good.
As I said, my two and a half months with Lou and the inside of the organization was very valuable for me in terms of learning the people, the players, the prospects.
So as Lou moves on, the knowledge he has shared over with me the last two and a half months; okay, moving forward as a GM now that Lou is not here, the sounding board that he was for me was invaluable.
And as you mentioned, I have done this job before for eight years and been an assistant GM for 14 years before that.Â I'm going to take, like with everything, any mentor you've had, and I'll include Lou just for the two and a half months that I was with him, to take that knowledge he imparted in me and move it forward; and certainly some of the things that I believe in to move it forward now that Lou is not here.
But again, going back to Lou, Josh and David, we were on the same page, which was very fortunate for all of us.Â Now that he's not here, it's going to be the same situation.Â We are going to move forward, and as Lou would always say, look forward.
Q.Â In retrospect now, after three years after the fact, do you look at what happened with the Kovalchuk contract as something that strangled the entire franchise and now you've got to move on from that?Â Do you think that the could he have check contract was part of the reason that led to the demise of Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey?
JOSH HARRIS:Â The Kovalchuk thing came and went before our time honestly.Â I'm not going to say‑‑ there's been plenty of speculation on it.Â This was a natural evolution of this organization relative to trying to put in place a leader that was going to be at the helm for the next ten, 20 years.Â I mean, doesn't always work out that way.Â So I don't ‑‑ I think I wouldn't put that much weight on the Kovalchuk transaction relative to this.
Q.Â But Josh, you can obviously see that the franchise is still paying, say, so to speak, paying the fiddler for that contract.Â They have not recovered since Kovalchuk decided to retire.
JOSH HARRIS:Â Look, the reality is, when we bought‑‑ one of the brings that we brought to the table in terms of our investment in the team was deeper pockets and the ability to ultimately invest in a smart and intelligent way.
We intend to do that, and I don't think that‑‑ like I said, I don't really look at it the way you're looking at it.Â I don't think that‑‑ I think that we recognize the quality of this franchise and that's why we're here.
So certainly we also recognize we haven't made the playoffs as much as we'd like over the last limited time period.Â So I think we are going to take the high‑quality organization that exists and we are going to keep pushing to make it better, and I think Ray is a big part of that.
Yeah, there will be some change.Â But I think it's likely to be very positive.Â So I don't think I see in any way‑‑ I don't see this organization as, quote, the way you're portraying it as being wounded or struggling after Kovalchuk.Â I don't think it is that way.Â I think we have to execute and move forward.
Q.Â You mentioned having deeper pockets and being able to invest some money.Â Lou suggested in his press conference that spending had been cut back some and that might have gone back to the previous ownership group.Â But your payroll is pretty low going into next season.Â Is spending‑‑ is budgeting something you've been focused on since taking over?
JOSH HARRIS:Â I think Lou was referring‑‑ I kind of am aware of the comment that you're talking about.Â I think he was referring to Vanderbeek.Â The answer, like we've said countless times and we'll say again, our ultimate goal is to build a consistent winner and elite team.
Certainly if that involves makingintel ‑‑ we're not going to be silly about it.Â But we are happy to invest on an intelligent basis across the board.Â So I think, I really have nothing to add other than what I‑‑ I mean, and hopefully that's consistent with what we said.
Q.Â Is your payroll where it is right now because of hockey decisions and not because of financial decisions?
JOSH HARRIS:Â I think in order to build a good team, you need to‑‑ there's free agency, there's trades and there's drafts.Â And you know, we are going to make intelligent‑‑ with our goal in mind, we are going to make intelligent decisions in all those areas.
There is a cap in place in this league and we are not going to spend‑‑ we are not going to invest in assets that we think will hamper our long‑run strategy.
Q.Â Ray, I guess you talked a little bit earlier, but how much did it surprise you, just Lou departing after everything you guys had planned on in the past couple months?
RAY SHERO:Â Surprised I guess.Â Again, as I said, that my relationship with Lou over two and a half months, we spent a lot of time together, a lot of time with Josh and David, a lot of time going over the organization and so forth and getting to know each other.
So, yeah, surprising, but I'll say one thing, and not disappointed at all, because I'm happy for Lou.Â As I said, if this is a passion, if this is a challenge that he's excited about, that's fantastic.Â And I'm fortunate to have spent the time with him and the knowledge and so forth.
This isn't about me at all.Â It's more about Lou and his decision and career decision.Â So all I can say is for me, every day I was with Lou, this was never on my radar.Â And getting better to know Lou, I can't speak for him, but he never acted that way.Â And again, it was all about what was for the Devils and what's best for us and looking forward.
And just talked about ‑‑ and the last question, talking about the team and the payroll, one of the things that we‑‑ it's pretty evident over the last two and a half months the direction of our hockey team:Â And by not re‑signing some players before July 1 and we are going with a younger group, part and parcel of that is a lower payroll.Â It's not like ‑‑ as pretty much set forth before I even got here.Â And I think to do this the right way, fortunately we do have the ownership group here that has the available wherewithal.
There is going to be a time and a place where we are going to step up.Â But right now, it's really to me it's about the younger players and the direction and when we are going to get there; when we want to be in a position to be competing for the Stanley Cup like teams hope to do.Â We are going to do it the right way.
And it's not‑‑ right now, we should not be spending the cap.Â And if Josh and David said to me, do you want to spend to the cap, I would say no, because I don't think that's where we are.Â And when you give younger players opportunities, this is where you are.Â And I've been through this with Ottawa; I've been through it in Nashville and there's a proper way to do it, and that's the vision we have and that's what's set forth by David, Josh and Lou well before I got here.Â And that's a big part of why I signed on.Â I realize this and that's why ‑‑ part of the excitement for me moving forward.
Q.Â Is there a reinvigoration that can happen for Lou in a new job and for yourself in a new job, even if it might look like a daunting task to try to rebuild the team?Â Is there a some kind of reinvigoration that you can have out of this?
RAY SHERO:Â Absolutely.Â I've said this a lot.Â The last two and a half months has been‑‑ it's a lot of work and it's getting to know a lot of different things.Â But that's the excitement of it, I really believe that.Â When things are up and running, we had a good thing going in Pittsburgh after eight years that I was there.Â But we've fallen short at the end.Â Our goal is to win the Cup every year.
But I go back to when I was with Ottawa or Nashville, expansion teams and you're forming, it's exciting.Â And the same thing here.Â It's a lot of new things, new ownership, getting to know everybody.Â It is exciting and every day something new, and every day you wake up and there's something to do.Â And when you go to bed, you haven't finished it all, but that's exciting.
Q.Â Just for practical purposes, how or what Lou was responsible for as the team president, how is that going to be divvied up now and who is going to represent the team at the Board of Governors?Â How are you going to re‑assign that stuff?
JOSH HARRIS:Â Well, I'll take the Board of Governors part.Â I think David and I represent the team at the Board of Governors, along with Scott O'Neill and Ray.Â So I think that's not going to be an issue.Â I'll leave the operating stuff to Ray.
THE MODERATOR:Â Thank you all for joining us today.Â That's the end of our conference call.
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