Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Devils hire DeBoer as head coach
When watching things happen with the Devils in Lou Lamoriello's world, sometimes I still have to look at the calendar to make sure it's 2011. If the Devils' coaching search proves one thing it's that twitter, blogs and an increasingly voyeuristic 24/7 news cycle is still no match for a Devils' GM in full lockdown mode. After a three-month long coaching search, the Devils surprised everyone and hired former Panther coach Pete DeBoer - someone who hadn't been mentioned in one single rumor all this time.
God knows, I've been hearing and reading about everyone from Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves to former Pens and Habs coach Michel Therrien to ex-Hab coach Guy Carbonneau. Not to mention former coach Larry Robinson, who ran prospects camp recently and denied a rumor from blogger Andy Strickland that he turned down the coaching job. This bears repeating...three months and not one single rumor about DeBoer anywhere.
Over the last few days, it was even rumored (by the Post) that Lou was still trying to convince Jacques Lemaire to come back yet again, and that Therrien was his Plan B. With both Larry Brooks and Mark Everson speculating on Lemaire version 4.0 in the matter of two days, I feared the worst since the Post has actually been spot-on with a lot of Devils news from the original Kovy contract to former coach Brent Sutter's departure and Jamie Langenbrunner's arthroscopic knee surgery in the playoffs a couple years back.
Fortunately with the Devils' press release at around 12:30 that there would finally be a coach announcement today, the speculation was at last nearing an end. Yet, still DeBoer's name wasn't mentioned until TSN's Darren Dreger tweeted just after 1 PM that he was a front-runner and believed he had been named coach - moments after Dreger promised the new coach wasn't Therrien and suggested we were in for a surprise. Although E.J. Hradek also had similar info later, it wasn't until just before three that DeBoer was finally confirmed as the Devils' coach.
Mea culpa Lou, I did fear the worst with this long delay - and that he wouldn't be willing to take a chance for a long-term solution to our coaching carousel after how spectacularly John MacLean failed last year and Sutter's wussing out of the job two years ago. Granted, DeBoer isn't a total rookie like either of those two were, as he was in Florida for three years. Still, he's not a proven winner either, though with the roster he had to work with it's amazing he even had the Panthers in position to make the playoffs (missing on a tiebreaker with Montreal) with an astonishing 41-30-11 record two years ago. And last year, the Panthers played us as tough as anyone in the second half of the season, beating us twice in overtime and only losing 2-1 at home in another second-half matchup.
Ironically, DeBoer's association with Sutter is one of the things I like most about his hire, since he was influenced by his close friend in juniors and believes in the same 'hybrid' system Sutter tried to instill here at different points, of defense without sacrificing being aggressive on the other end of the ice. Unlike Sutter though, DeBoer doesn't seem to have any ties hermetically binding him to Western Canada. He's also coached Devils Travis Zajac, Mark Fraser and most notably David Clarkson (who claims DeBoer to be one of the biggest influences of his career) at different points in his junior career. And lastly, he's 43 - which gives him plenty of time to carve out a niche, as long as things don't go awry.
For what it's worth, the Devils' GM gave no answers as to why the search took an inordinate amount of time (gee, what a surprise) but explained in detail exactly why he hired DeBoer at today's press conference:
“Peter DeBoer is an individual who I have watched coach over the past two decades at the junior, international, and professional levels. His teams have always been well-prepared and disciplined, while maximizing their effort each and every night.” said Lamoriello. “I am looking forward to working with him.”