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?
About the Author
Written by Mike Luciano