Saturday, 27 December 2014

The New Jersey Debacles

Well, Lou Lamoriello was a busy guy on Boxing Day. No, he wasn't here in Canada looking for great deals on whatever he didn't get for Christmas. Instead, he was busy cleaning house as he dismissed head coach Peter DeBoer and assistant coach Dave Barr from the team. In their place, it was rumored that Paul MacLean might be taking over as the recently-fired Senators coach was looking for work. Today, though, it was announced that Lou Lamoriello himself would step behind the bench once more to join Adam Oates, who will be in charge of the forwards, and Scott Stevens, who will be in charge of the defencemen, as the associate coaches of the New Jersey Devils. Gong show? You betcha.

The Devils are a mess when it comes to offensive production, but they aren't out of a playoff race by any means at this point in the season. They currently sit seventh in the Metropolitan Division with 31 points, but they only trail the Washington Capitals by nine points for the last wild card spot. It's not unthinkable that the Devils could go on a run if they can find some offence. After all, they are 26th-overall for goal differential at -26. While being 25th-overall in goals-against doesn't help, they're also only 26th-overall in goals-for despite having players named Jagr, Elias, Zajac, and Cammalleri, and sit 28th-overall in goals-per-game at 2.11. The Devils were 114-93-41 under DeBoer's watch, but a horrid 4-26 in shootouts which was part of their Achilles' heel last season in missing the playoffs.

Peter DeBoer, though, won't get a chance to right this ship. He'll be at home, watching his former team from his television as they try to make a push for the playoffs under Lamoriello, Oates, and Stevens. Personally, I'm not sure what those three men will accomplish that Oates and Stevens couldn't do under DeBoer, but Lamoriello will oversee everything from a more intimate perspective instead of from his perch in the sky.

Lamoriello does have a solid coaching record after his brief stint as Devils head coach in 2005-06. He went 32-14-4 after firing Larry Robinson following a 14-13-5 start. Adam Oates has a longer track record as he coached the Washington Capitals in 130 games, going 65-48-17 in that span. Scott Stevens has no head coaching experience, but he's been behind the Devils' bench since 2012 as an assistant coach to Mr. DeBoer.

Lamoriello has already said that his time behind the bench will be temporary, so you have to wonder who will run the show as this three-headed monster travels to Madison Square Garden tonight for a game against the Rangers. While Oates and Stevens are co-coaching this team, who gets the final say on goaltending changes or lineup changes? Do they defer to Lamoriello in those cases?

Lou Lamoriello has always done things his way without exception. The firing of DeBoer and appointment of co-coaches is certainly another chapter to Lamoriello's history. His previous odd timings of firing coaches has shaken the Devils as a team enough to win Stanley Cups as well as completely combust. The one factor that Lamoriello can always point to, though, is that the Devils always seem to respond to his moves despite their erratic timings.

Make no mistake, though, that the Devils will live and die by their lack of offence this season. Having three of the five oldest players in the NHL won't help in what is generally regarded as a young man's game, but Lamoriello needed a spark to light the fire under a few players' keisters.

With Trader Lou behind the bench now, it will either be shape up or ship out as the GM's eyes will be on everyone from a much closer point-of-view.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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