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Have the Gears Started Turning?

The New Jersey Devils have officially named John Maclean head coach.

It’s a large hump general manager Lou Lamoriello has gotten over that theoretically stalled his focus on additional priorities on his off-season checklist such as trying to re-sign pending unrestricted free agents Paul Martin and Illya Kovalchuk and determining how to improve his roster. With Maclean officially named head coach, have the gears begun to turn on what’s been anticipated to be an eventful summer in Jersey? Based on what I’ve read on blogs and heard from sources, the Devils are believed to undergo a summer housecleaning project with rumors of the Devils offering Kovalchuk mega-deals, negotiating deals for players such as Tomas Kaberle, and even putting franchise goaltender Martin Brodeur’s future with the team in question. It’s possible Lamoriello is setting his deals up, which he intended on implementing subsequent to completing his coaching search.

I’d like to talk about the Maclean hiring before anything. I was finishing a lovely write up on how opportunities exist this off-season for the Devils to resurrect their defense’s old good name when I went to look something up on the Star Ledger’s web site and came across the breaking news. Overall, I’m content with the hiring because it gives the Devils a young yet familiar face inheriting the position. I see long term stability in Maclean and being described as a player’s coach, he looks like someone the players will connect with. Maclean is expected to reinstate at least a portion of the offensive element Brent Sutter worked into the Devil’s play, which Maclean appeared to have achieved during his coaching stint with the Devil’s AHL affiliate, the Lowell Devils. Although Lowell went 39-31-10, they finished high in the ranks of goal output, power play percentage, and reached the post-season for the first time in about ten years. Devils players that have been interviewed following Maclean’s hiring said they asked the many AHL call-ups this year about Maclean and each one said they enjoyed playing for him.

Maclean is undoubtedly familiar with the organization, having played there over fourteen years, spent six as an assistant coach, and this past season as Lowell’s head coach, whose experience made the difference in Maclean getting the job according to interviews. Contrary to the criticism Lemaire and Sutter underwent by fans regarding their alleged misusage or overlooking of the youth crop, Maclean’s time in Lowell has made him familiar with most of the organization’s prospects. Going into training camp, it’s possible he’ll give youngsters like Matthew Corrente, Tyler Eckford, Nick Palmieri, Vladimir Zharkov, and others a longer look, having worked with them closely for a full season. He could be able to determine who’s eligible to compete at the NHL level and who isn’t.

My only concerns are that Maclean has played with five current members of the Devils (Pandolfo, Elias, Rolston, Brodeur, Langenbrunner), which may or may not conflict with their acknowledgement of his superior coaching status, the respect they give or are supposed to give, and how it affects their role. I always felt if the Devils brought in Maclean, the veteran core needed to be completely or at least partially dismantled because of the potential relationships between him and the team’s veterans. Maclean was noted in saying goaltender Martin Brodeur will play, likely meaning he has no intention of lessening his seasonal workload, which brings up my second concern that the Maclean was only hired so he can be Lamoriello’s puppet for him to channel his philosophy on handling the roster, team’s style of play, treatment and privileges certain veterans or important players get. Although there have already been accusations Lou refused to venture outside his “box” when he hired Maclean, at the end of the day, I can’t think of a more qualified individual that’s familiar with the organization’s general philosophy, intentions, and players with a great chance of being poised to maintain the position long term.

Now that the Devils finally have their coach, the question stands: What’s next? The timing couldn’t be any better as Maclean was hired over a week before the draft and with plenty of time until July 1st. Reports indicate Illya Kovalchuk is intent on testing the free agent market, although a source told me after the Devils offered him a long term deal with extra features that may contradict statements said by Maclean and Lamoriello, he’d wait to see who Lemaire’s successor was before deepening his consideration of passing on testing the free agent waters. Kovalchuk hasn’t responded to Maclean’s hiring, but defenseman Paul Martin, who agreed with Lamoriello to stall talks on negotiating a new deal until he found a new head coach lauded the move, but remains torn on committing to the Devils according to a report from the Star Ledger’s Rich Chere.

Both Maclean and Lamoriello could have already, or will discuss what they believe the right moves will be to fix this team. It remains unclear whether we’ll see the Devils make pull off a few trades or UFA signings, merely tweak the roster, or pull a complete overhaul, but like I mentioned earlier, there’s reason to believe Lou has something up his sleeve based on the rumors linked to the Devils and names rumored to be available. I will admit I know more than I’m saying, but I don’t want to risk having anything to do with leaking information that causes Lamoriello to pull out on a deal, which he’s reputed for doing, and a few other reasons.

Right now, it’s ultimately uncertain what Lou Lamoriello has in store for this team, if he has anything at all. Despite high expectations in anticipation to seeing an active off-season that’s believably going to start in the upcoming days or weeks, the odds of seeing something happen have potentially been heightened now that the arguably most important task on Lou’s off-season checklist has been fulfilled. I’ll end this write up on the note of saying this…In recent years, Lamoriello has taken his time finding a coach during the off-season in a time period that’s lasted well into July on multiple occasions. This is Lamoriello’s second off-season head coach hiring that occurred in June since Pat Burns was hired immediately after the firing of Kevin Constantine back in 2002. Maclean was a great choice, but did this unusual event transpire because Lamoriello may have felt pressured in addressing other priorities he intended on fulfilling before a certain time or date to go along with whatever plan he has set up…? Or am I just looking into things too much?

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In response to “Have the Gears Started Turning?”

  1. Kevin Jun 18 20105:40 pm


    Hey Mike,
    Do you see the Devils trying to bring back John Madden in this off-season. He isn’t going to take the pay cut to stay in Chicago. So do you see the Devils paying the 2.5-2.75 million to bring him back? If so, would he keep his 3rd line center/mentor role which he had in Chicago last season?

  2. Mike Luciano Jun 19 201012:17 pm


    That’s a good question. The thought has crossed my mind especially since Lou likes to bring back former Devils. I’m going to have to lean towards no just because it looks like the Devils are going to rely on their youth crop to occupy the center slots since they’ve got guys like Henrique, Josefson, Sestito, and Swift that had respectable years in the AHL and junior leagues. At the beginning of the season, I felt Pelley needed a full year on the fourth line before being considered to succeed Madden but he spent a lot of time at wing in the latter half of the season so he’s a bit of a question mark going into next season. Overall, I don’t think Madden will be returning next year but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up coming back.

    1. Ben Petrino Jun 19 20109:54 pm


      Since we have Arnott now I can see Madden coming back and then it’s like pre-lockout Devils 2.0. Madden comes back if we don’t bring Niedermayer back, we don’t bring Nieds back we bring in Madden.

      Josefson is the only player that might get time next year. Swift isn’t good, Henrique is our new top prospect but needs time to get better, and Sestito isn’t good. Look at the Red Wings, they don’t rush their young players and they play when they are ready. We should do the same, and it looks like Lou is doing just that.

      Arnott is obviously going to play with Elias and most likely Langenbrunner. Veteran guys who know what it takes. I don’t know who plays right win with Zajac and Parise but if Zubrus can reestablish that chemistry he found briefly last season maybe it can work out.

  3. Kevin Jun 19 20103:59 pm


    Jason Arnott traded to Devils

  4. Mike Luciano Jun 19 201010:04 pm


    I really liked the Arnott deal a lot. I can see why a lot of Devils fans may have disliked the trade, due to Arnott’s age (35) and salary ($4.5 million), but he has a year left and I don’t think we gave up anything I can see the Devils regretting in the long term. Halischuk is on the path to becoming a 3rd, 4th line winger that could get 15-20 goals on a good year and draft picks are a coin toss.

    It would make sense for Arnott to play with Elias. I’d like to see Maclean reunite the ZZ Pops line and why not give Zharkov or Zubrus a shot with Arnott and Elias? There was an article in the Star Ledger that quoted Lou saying this deal doesn’t take the Devils out of re-signing Kovalchuk and a few other things that gives me reason to believe the Devil’s aren’t done yet. Lou seems intent on really shaking things up and I think the Maclean hiring and Arnott trade precede an eventful off-season in New Jersey.

    Swift had a good year in the minors but guys like him, Palmieri, and Vasynouv may need another season before being considered for a full time spot on the big team. I’d like Henrique to have a stint in the minors for a year or two, even Josefson depending on what Lou does with the 3rd line center slot. I heard a rumor the Devils were looking at Brendan Morrison but having acquired Arnott I’d rather they go young from here on out.

  5. Ben Petrino Jun 20 20109:39 am


    At this point I can pretty much assume that Rolston is going to be playing with Arnott and Elias. Lou know that Rolston has played like garbage for two seasons and I think this is a way for him to try to get him going.

    I’m pretty sure this takes us out of the running, because we have 11 mil to sign 7 players. Kovy would be most of that 11mil and I just don’t see him meshing well with Elias and Arnott. Nobody saw this trade coming so I guess we can’t predict what Lou is going to do but I just can’t see Kovy coming back.

    I think I’d actually like Morrison to be on the team. We need a third line center and he’s coming off a great offensive year and he’ll play good defense too. We’re all about two way players.

    Right now I think Josefson and Henrique are our best bet for future players that will be full time. Right now, we see a lot of prospects get rushed before they are ready and it can really ruin their careers.

  6. Mike Luciano Jun 20 201012:36 pm


    You can’t discount Tenneby, and young defensemen like Corrente (who I’d like to see on the team next year), and Eckford. Urbom and Gelinas look promising, but they’re a few years away. Both could start off in Lowell next year, but it’s a long shot.

    As for Rolston, I don’t want to lose faith in him and still think he can score 20-25 goals in the right situation but if Lou finds a sucker or has to take a bad contract back, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t back next year. If Lou tells him there’s no place for him in next year’s plans, he’ll waive his NTC…as far as Morrison goes, I’ll take him at the right price and no more than a year. If Lou signs Morrison, then I don’t think we should expect to see Henrique or Josefson making the team next year, which I’d be alright with. Like you said Ben, you don’t want to rush these prospects. I think Zharkov is a good example. He was having a good year in Lowell and hadn’t scored a goal after he was called up. I’d like to see him on the big team next year though.

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