Should New Jersey Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald Feel the Heat?
It may seem premature to ask the question posed by the title of this article, but it has merit if we examine all the information here. Tom Fitzgerald is only in his second season as general manager of the New Jersey Devils (not including his time as an interim), so it might not be fair to fully judge the job he’s done. he has done for the moment. However, with the team currently on course to finish with one of its worst point totals since the 1980s, it’s worth wondering today if he’s starting to feel the heat under his seat. I don’t think a GM has ever been fired after such a short tenure (I don’t think that will be the case here either) but I think we’re at a point where we can analyze what he has done so far and the impact it has had on the team.
So far, in terms of drafting, we have to give Fitz an incomplete; most draft picks take at least two seasons after selection to become regular contributors. In most cases, the Devils went with the best player available or picked someone they were very interested in. In any case, we still have to wait and see if the choices made under Fitz pay off, as everyone currently on the Devils roster was picked before they even received the interim tag.
The other moves Fitz has taken, however, are where criticism of him and other members of the team’s management has some validity. The coaching staff in place at the present time was entirely Fitzgerald’s choice; even if he only hired Lindy Ruff directly, his choice led to the others chosen (apart from Alain Nasreddine who inherited it) by Ruff to complete his staff. Mark Recchi and Dave Rogalski have done little (if anything) to tangibly improve the players they work with. In fact, the power play as well as the goalie seemed to regress over the past two seasons. While the truncated and condensed 2021 season could be excused (due to the lack of pre-season and training), 2021-22 doesn’t have the same; if the system/tactics of these coaches were effective, they should have strengthened the respective positions.
Also, Fitz hasn’t done a great job of managing the roster. The Devils have gone through seven goaltenders this season, and after the initial pair dropped, the best the team has sent consistently has been an ill-prepared rookie, who should never have been placed in that position in the first place. Some of his free agent signings and trade acquisitions haven’t been the best either. For the Devils to do better next season, they need to find complementary players (internally or externally) for the current base players. Doing that and dropping some of the unsuitable players should be a big priority, second only to training adjustments.
Fitzgerald needs to make large-scale changes (coaching is a good place to start) before next season for the Devils to start righting the ship. If he doesn’t, I think it would be fair to turn up the heating under his seat. Even though the current squad entered 100% healthy next season, there are still elements (be it coaches, players, or others) that need to be adjusted for the team to succeed. Another “young player development” campaign won’t be enough anymore, and if the Devils sputter and die out in 2022-23 like they did this season, I think Fitz wouldn’t get much more leniency from the ownership share (if applicable) to put a winning product on ice.
What do you think of the work Tom Fitzgerald has done so far as the Devils’ general manager? do you think he should already feel the heat under his proverbial seat? Do you think he should still have some patience for him just two years into labor? What moves would you like to see him make ahead of next season? Leave all the comments below and thanks as always for reading!