BUFFALO, N.Y. — The New Jersey Devils have promoted player personnel directors Tom Fitzgerald and Dan MacKinnon to front-office vice president positions.
Fitzgerald adds the title of executive vice president to his title as assistant general manager. MacKinnon was elevated to a senior vice president’s role and assistant general manager after previously serving as the Devils senior director of player personnel.
The promotions were announced Saturday while the Devils compete in the Sabres prospects tournament in Buffalo. The moves solidify a management structure under the GM and alternate governor Ray Shero.
Fitzgerald had been a candidate for the Minnesota Wild’s GM opening over each of the past two years.
The departure of Thomas Greiss and a record-breaking AHL season apparently aren’t enough to inspire the Pittsburgh Penguins to tab Matt Murray as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup, as the team website reports.
Management’s explanation is simple enough: Fleury is the No. 1 guy, so why not allow Murray to get more reps as the top dog in the AHL instead of being glued to the bench?
“He’s not coming in here and beating out Marc-Andre Fleury and taking over this team,” Assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald said. “We love what we have down the line here, and it is down the line. He just turned 21. He needs to play hockey games. You can’t develop if he’s sitting on the bench. That’s just a fact.”
Although he said the Penguins knew he was good, Fitzgerald admitted that they didn’t expect him to generate the kind of 2014-15 campaign he did, winning the AHL’s goalie of the year award while putting up big numbers.
A devil’s advocate take might be that it’s sometimes wise to ride out surprise hot streaks with goalies. The Ottawa Senators rode Andrew Hammond’s out-of-left-field surge to a playoff berth while Devan Dubnyk went from the scrap heap to saving the Minnesota Wild’s season, and neither team anticipated either scenario, right?
Regardless, the good news for the Penguins is that Murray seems fine with both scenarios.
“I think either way could be good for me,” Murray said. “I think playing in the AHL wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but also practicing with the best players in the world wouldn’t be a bad thing either, so the way I look at it, either way I can take the positives out of it. Wherever I end up, I’m still going to have the same determinations and play the same way each and every day and let things take care of itself.”
Matching a record-breaking season might be asking for too much, but if Murray’s for real, he’ll get his big chance sooner or later.
The Pittsburgh Penguins search for a new general manager continues on and while the list of candidates is pretty well known at this point, but figuring out who has the edge for the job is tricky.
There’s not a lot of talk coming out of Pittsburgh about the direction things are headed as Penguins brass including Mario Lemieux, Joe Burkel, and David Morehouse are keeping mum.
All that means is there’s plenty of speculation to go around. Hall of Fame writer Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has about as much credibility as anyone regarding the team and he ranked the top five candidates for the position.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Penguins assistant GM Jason Botterill was his top choice.
“Sometimes, the best answer is the most obvious one, and that might well be the case here. Botterill was Shero’s assistant and has handled every conceivable duty, from negotiating contracts to evaluating free agents, during five seasons in that role. He is regarded as one of the top young front-office talents in the league, and it’s a given that he will be a general manager sometime soon. There appears to be no good reason that it shouldn’t happen now. Here.”
As for the rest of his top five, Lightning assistant GM Julien BriseBois came in second, Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton was third, NBC Sports’ Pierre McGuire fourth, and fellow Pens assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald fifth.
The common thread with that group is none of them have been in the top GM position before. All five are or have been assistant GMs. Pittsburgh looking for some new blood at the executive ranks may seem like a curious move, but a fresh set of eyes can do a lot of good.