NEWARK, N.J. (AP) The owner of the New Jersey Devils has no intention of sacrificing the future of the team to make changes that might pick up a couple of extra wins this season.
Speaking 90 minutes before the season opener against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night, Josh Harris said the Devils were starting a new era with general manager Ray Shero in the front office and John Hynes behind the bench.
While saying there is parity in the NHL and this is a younger and faster team, Harris acknowledged that the new leadership is taking over a team that was aging and missed the playoffs three straight seasons.
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After last season, long-time general manager Lou Lamoriello left to join the Toronto Maple Leafs. Shero has cut ties with some players and cleaned house within the organization that won three Stanley Cups since moving to New Jersey from Colorado in 1982.
Harris refused give a time frame for when he hoped to have the team back in the playoffs.
”We’re in a hurry,” he said. ”I’m not a patient person. I have never been a patient person. I hate to lose, so when we lose I don’t have a good time. I want to win but I’m not willing to sacrifice our ultimate goal, which is to be an elite team by making short-term decisions on or off the ice that will inhibit our ability to consistently compete for the Stanley Cup.”
Harris said he has put money into the fan experience on game days with improvements to the Prudential Center, fan lounges and food and bar areas.
”We focused on player development, performance on the ice and building our infrastructure over time, and less on how many wins we have in first bit of the season,” Harris said at a news conference with the media. ”That’s what you go through realistically when you make a lot of change.”
There are seven new players on the Devils’ roster on opening night.
Harris, who also owns the Philadelphia 76ers, said it might be easier for NBA teams to improve quickly getting one outstanding player in the draft. He said hockey is more a team game and it’s a lot harder for one player to make a team better.
In other news, Harris said he planned to invite Lamoriello to the ceremony when the team retires goalie Martin Brodeur’s jersey this season.
Harris disclosed that the Devils are fifth in the NHL in new ticket sales. He added the team retained 90 percent of its season-ticket holders after last season. He refused to quantify the ticket sales. There are 17,625 seats for hockey games.
”We have a ways to go to selling this out every night,” Devils chief executive Scott O’Neil said.
Harris took over the team in 2013 and he said it was in trouble, but it is making significant strides.
”The reality is two years ago when we got here, the roof was leaking and banks were on the doorstep of the company, so the whole management has changed.”