Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Devils add Stevens, Shaw to coaching staff

After the departure of assistants Adam Oates to Washington (head coach) and Larry Robinson to San Jose (associate coach) respectively, the Devils had two big voids on their staff to fill.  GM Lou Lamoriello feels he has the men in place to fill those voids, hiring Matt Shaw to replace Oates and run the power play, while replacing one Hall of Fame defenseman with another by adding Scott Stevens to the staff full-time to fill Robinson's role behind the bench.  More than eight years after playing his final game with the Devils, Stevens now feels ready to take on another role with the team he led to three Stanley Cups, after being a special assignment coach since his retirement in 2005 and spending some well-deserved time with his family as his kids were growing up.

Already in Newark to help out with the team's rookie camp this week, the 48-year old Stevens is enthused about the potential of all the young defensemen in the Devils' system. 

“We have a lot of good, young defensemen and a lot of size, which I like,” Stevens said. “I definitely like size on defense. They take up a lot of space and make things difficult on the other team’s forwards. So, I like that and just the talent level. I think this is the deepest we’ve been on defense for young, upcoming defensemen in a long time. I don’t think we’ve ever had this kind of depth before. It’s very exciting. You can never have enough defensemen. It’s a position that takes some time to develop...We’re looking to try to get some of these guys to the NHL as quickly as possible to help our team.”

Everyone knows about Adam Larsson after he stepped in and held down a starting role admirably for most of the season last year as a 19-year old rookie, but the Devils' system also boasts kids in Albany like fellow Swede Alex Urbom, college players such as Michigan's Jon Merrill as well as other recent draft picks Brandon Burlon, Eric Gelinas, Reece Scarlett and this year's second-rounder Damon Severson.  After Robinson helped Larsson along as a rookie, Stevens will fill the role of working with him and the other kids on defense.  I'm sure he can also teach the vets a thing or two.  Maybe a guy like Anton Volchenkov (thought of as a poor man's Stevens in Ottawa) can be revitalized this year with a little help from #4?

While Shaw is the lesser known of the two hires - at least to Devil fans - his role will be just as critical as he will be called upon to get the most out of a Devils' power play that struggled early and often last year.  During his three seasons in San Jose, the Sharks' power play never ranked lower than fourth, and it finished second last season with a 21.1% conversion rate.  Despite that success, he was available after being let go during the offseason and the Devils wasted little time adding him to the staff after Oates' departure.  Although at first glance he doesn't have any ties to the Devils, he did work on Jacques Lemaire's staff in Minnesota for two years before spending the last three in San Jose, and has also worked with fellow assistant Dave Barr before, so clearly he was on Lou's radar.

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