Rejean “Ray” Shero
Pittsburgh Penguins, 2006-present
Atlantic Division Titles, 2007-2008, 2010-2011, 2012-2013
Playoff Appearances: 2007-2013
Stanley Cup Finals Appearances: 2008-2009
Stanley Cup Victory: 2009
Ray Shero is rapidly approaching a rarified universe where precious few other NHL GMs inhabit.
In only seven years of NHL management he has established a record which should be the envy of almost every other active NHL GM today. He took the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Atlantic Division dungeon which they had languished during the early 2000s and has made them the premiere franchise in the Eastern Conference.
He has displayed a wonderful versatility in retaining the stellar talents which already been procured for him when he took over and he has boldly, brashly, shrewdly, and cunningly added even more sterling players to make the Penguins one of the most in-depth rosters in the NHL today; a force to be reckoned with and a team that still has not yet reached its full potential.
Shero ended Pittsburgh’s 17 year Stanley Cup drought; helped keep the team in Pittsburgh; helped the team get a brand, spanking new arena; and thus ensuring that Steel City fans will watch Stanley Cup quality hockey.
Although he is tied with Nashville’s David Poile in career value, Shero surpasses Poile because his Average Season Rating dwarfs Poile’s (10.00 to Poile’s 2.14). Indeed, Shero’s ASR not only ranks high among active GMs but also among the all-time greats. Not counting this present season, my rating system places Ray Shero as the 6th greatest NHL GM of all time in terms of quality of performance. If the Penguins win the Stanley Cup this season Shero’s ASR will glow even brighter and he will enter an even more rarified level.
According to my rating system, Ray Shero is the 5th best NHL in career value and is presently third between Vancouver’s Mike Gillis and Chicago’s Stan Bowman). Still, with the completion of this present season Shero’s ranking will undoubtedly rise even further. The Penguins dominate the Eastern Conference and Shero has already guaranteed himself ten additional plus points in his career value and his average season rating will continue remain at its wonderful level—and, perhaps, rise even higher. If the Penguins win the 2013 Stanley Cup (a distinct possibility) then Shero’s standing in the NHL managerial pantheon will rise greater than ever. (If the Penguins reach the Stanley Cup finals then Shero will crack the top 20 list; if they win the 2013 Cup then Shero could go from #23 to #17 on the all-time list after only seven seasons of NHL managing: impressive!)
In terms of Shero’s historical context, according to my rating system Ray Shero was the eighth best GM of the 2000s (between Bobby Clarke and John Muckler) and—not counting this present season—he is tied for 8th with Detroit’s Ken Holland during the 2010s. Still, considering Pittsburgh’s great performance during this present season there is no doubt that Shero’s rank will rise even higher during this present decade.
Even more significantly, Ray Shero is the fourth greatest GM of the 21st century; ranking above other managerial luminaries like Stan Bowman, Mike Gillis, and Pete Chiarelli. (You will learn the names of the three GMs who are greater than Shero in the weeks and months to come).
Just as Ray Shero’s mentor David Poile learned his hockey at the knee of his late father Bud Poile; so, too, Ray Shero. Fred Shero transferred his hockey genius to his son but that genius manifested itself differently. Freddie Shero was a genius head coach but was as an average general manager. (His career value as a GM was a mere +8).
Ray Shero was drafted by the L.A. Kings in 1982 but never played in the NHL; instead he played collegiate hockey at St. Lawrence University. When he graduated from college he became a player agent and worked in that capacity for seven years before being hired in 1993 as an assistant GM with the fledgling Ottawa Senators. Five years later he transferred to the Nashville Predators where he worked under the auspices of David Poile: the son of a great hockey father mentoring the son of another great hockey father.
Ray Shero spent eight years under Poile’s wing; learning lessons about drafting, developing, and utilizing young hockey talent. When the Pittsburgh Penguins were looking for a brand new general manager in 2006 Ray Shero was ready.
As noted before in my article on Craig Patrick, many of the players who were part of the 2009 Stanley Cup winners had already been drafted by Patrick. (Ray Shero (so far) has only made one significant draft pick: Jordan Staal in 2006). It was Ray Shero’s job to keep the nucleus intact and fill the remaining holes on the team’s roster.
Ray Shero’s true genius lies in making killer trades: Pascal Dupuis and Marian Hossa in 2008; Chris Kunitz in 2009; James Neal and Matt Niskanen in 2011; Brandon Sutter in 2012; and this present season, stealing Brenden Morrow and former Flames graybeard Jerome Iginla to augment the Penguins offense without sacrificing any gems from the Penguins larder. Shero’s performance while approaching the trade deadline was the greatest of all the GMs in the NHL; and he did so without going over the salary cap; still retaining some fiscal space under the salary cap.
Ray Shero has also demonstrated a keen eye for choosing head coaches. Michel Terrien had led the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup finals but in February 2009—with the Penguins playing uninspired, listless hockey—Shero did not hesitate: pulling the trigger on Terrien and tapping Dan Bylsma to succeed him. Dan Bylsma led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup title and has become one of the finest head coaches in the NHL today (and ranks among the top 50 hockey coaches of all time according to my calculations).
Bylsma continues to hold and maintain the Penguins to a sterling standard and when the times comes when he should earn induction to the HHOF as a builder (a distinct possibility) he has Ray Shero to thank for making that possible. In fact Ray Shero has all the potential markings of a HHOF inductee as well.
Even though the Penguins have not won the Stanley Cup since 2009 they have demonstrated consistency, strength, and purpose; not content to rest upon its laurel but always striving to better themselves; always finding room for gold standard players who can make the franchise play at the Stanley Cup level.
This season the Penguins have surpassed themselves. Their winning percentage is the greatest in their 45 season franchise history. They are the strongest team in the Eastern Conference and have all the makings of a potential Stanley Cup championship team. If the Penguins fail to reach the Stanley Cup finals let alone win the title it will be one of the greatest shocks in the NHL this season.
(My next column will feature San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson).