Talk about a change in philosophy. Scouring the web for Devils news on trade deadline day used to be like searching the Oscars crowd for black people. Ray Shero comes on board and all the sudden they are pumping out transactions faster than an award winning thoroughbred getting milked for his offspring. I'm sitting here expecting Lou Lamoriello to tell me things are "status quo", and Ray Shero goes 0 to a 100 like he's drunk driving on the Audubon. Oh well, I guess it's only right to break this down by trade...
Do you think a hard, inaccurate slap shot is worth more than a 3rd round pick in the NHL Draft? If your answer is yes then I would like to be the first person to say that you, my friend, are stupid. Also note that the "my friend" in the previous sentence was in jest, because I refuse to consider anyone that misinformed anything more than an acquaintance. The trade of Eric Gelinas just potentially brought back a future NHL prospect, and that's already more than he has proven to be worth. The cat's been out of the bag. The chips have been pushed into the center for so long that they are starting to get stale. Eric Gelinas is not an NHL caliber defenseman. In fact, even using his name and the word "defenseman" in the same sentence is just about the greatest compliment I could give him. He's nothing more than a gifted athlete without the slightest clue how to put his physical abilities to good use on the hockey rink. Don't let the booming shot from the point fool you. The Devils didn't just win this trade by getting a 3rd round pick from Colorado, they won this trade by getting ANYTHING of substance for a fatally flawed player that hasn't managed to progress in the areas of the ice that success at his position are predicated upon.
I'm not going to lie to you. This move hurts a little bit. Not because it wasn't a wise business decision, but because Lee Stempniak's unlikely emergence as a viable top 6 forward is one of the things that has made this Devils team so surprisingly fun to watch. Do I think this is an admission by Ray Shero that he thinks the Devils are out of the playoff picture? Maybe. More likely it's an admission that the Devils aren't ready to win anything of significance right now. Just his way of showing that the Devils relative success hasn't blurred his vision of the bigger picture. This is still a rebuilding team, even if they have rebuilt themselves faster than anyone outside of organization could have possibly imagined. When you get to the nuts and bolts of this deal the Devils got two fairly high draft picks for a player that wasn't even signed until after training camp. That's a credit to Lee Stempniak for proving the entire NHL wrong, but it's a credit to Ray Shero for capitalizing on a player's value when it was at it's highest. I think every Devils fan will miss seeing Stemper in the lineup every night and would love to see him resign here in the offseason, but that doesn't change the fact that flipping him for future assets was the right decision.
You know what they say, one man's trash is another man's garbage. Oh, is that not the saying? Psssh, semantics. Clearly the Devils had no long term plans for Stefan Matteau. This was a team that way going out of their way to get younger and they still couldn't find a consistent spot for him in an all-too-depleted lineup. If that's not the mark of someone whose days are numbered then I don't know what is. Is Devante Smith-Pelly -a player who found himself scratched quite a bit as well- going to bring significantly more to the table offensively? Probably not, but he may very well deliver on the promise of hard nosed physical play that Stefan Matteau was never able to. The only thing that this Devils team needed more than a black guy was another right wing, and Smith-Pelly just so happens to fill both those quotas. He can also do this, which is exponentially more impressive than anything Stefan Matteau has done with the Devils...
Ray Shero did exactly what he should have done. He got rid of players that weren't integral to the Devils long term success, and he got back pieces that potentially could be. As much as it sucks to watch Lee Stempniak walk out that door, the fact that Stefan Matteau and Eric Gelinas went with him kind of eases that pain. Plus, he already knows he holds the key to getting right back in...