The Devils play well. Even when they don’t play well, like last year, they still play well enough to get into the playoffs. Very few NHL teams, if any, do as much with so little as the Devils.
The Devils have been positively dominant this season under coach Pat Burns.
They entered this season having been bounced out of the first round of the playoffs, with no real prospects for a better season. They needed scoring and it didn’t look like anyone would give them any. But slowly the team came around, and now they’re number two in the East.
Happy ending, right?
Maybe not. Word on the street, the street being the New York Times, is that the Devil players aren’t happy with Pat Burns’ coaching style. Apparently, Burns is too gruff and heavy-handed for some players. And as the existence of the Times article indicates, players are starting to go public with their griping.
This isn’t a new situation for the Devils. They had another tough-guy coach from 1998-2000: Robbie Ftorek (now coaching Boston). How tough was he? He banned beer on the team buses and flights, going so far as to walk the aisles, making sure no one was drinking. Ftorek was fired March 23, 2000, a mere eight games left in the season. Larry Robinson took over and the Devils won the Cup.
Of course, even Robinson, a player’s coach and all around nice guy, was fired in January 2002. But there again, message tune-out might have been an issue. Larry Brooks of the New York Post seems positively psychic in this January 6, 2002 report:

    The dysfunctional Devils are playing like a team that wants to get Larry Robinson fired, that’s become more obvious every day and every week.
    Which is only fairly amazing.
    Maybe the guilty parties should go back and read what they had to say about Robinson in the press clippings last year and the year before that.
    Or maybe that was the problem last June. Maybe the Devils spent too much time reading the clippings proclaiming them &#151 prematurely, as it turned out &#151 to be an all-time team.

So Burns should be careful. You don’t want the Devils tuning you out.
Because they’re not the ones who’ll be fired.
The secret to Devil success seems to be not being too mean, or too nice, but being juuuussst right.