It’s a solid move for the team, signing a guy with no NHL-level head coaching experience but who is a genuine Devils hero.
In other words, what he lacks in experience he makes up for in street cred.
But the experience issue was obviously a significant concern as two-time Devils coach Larry Robinson will be one of MacLean’s assistants.
Also interesting is that MacLean never played for Robinson.
The Devils have a reputation for being hard on coaches. They’re led by a world-class goalie who plays way too many games but refuses to ever sit. Players think nothing of openly discussing the kind of style they’d like to play.
When it came down to choosing a coach, GM Lou Lamoriello had two paths: a proven NHL tactician like Michel Therrien, who the players might not like or listen to; or an unproven coach who might better manage the room.
Lamoriello chose to try and tame the room.
What will MacLean be like as coach? He won’t comment on a system, but said he wants the Devils to win.
He’s well-versed in defensive hockey, having played under Jacques Lemaire, but he also asked to be traded out of New Jersey because of Lemaire’s creatively-stifling system.
So if I had to guess, it’s going to be a contemporary NHL offense that isn’t afraid to trap when defense is required.
But the system almost doesn’t matter. I suspect MacLean’s real charge is simply to bring some kind of order to the Devils. The team once-again imploded in the playoffs, almost as if they were trying to throw Lemaire, their coach at the time, under the bus.
MacLean needs to figure out a way to get these headstrong personalities, some of whom he played with, to listen to him without forcing the team to self-destruct. And then, if the Devils re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk, he’s also going to figure out a way to make that whole one-way-offensive-genius-playing-for-team-rooted-in-defense thing work, which Lemaire couldn’t do.
So MacLean has his new coaching hands full, but he seems well positioned to succeed. The Devils seem to tune-out coaches because the coaches aren’t Devils. So now there’s a genuine Devil at the helm of the team. In theory, they’ll need to listen to him. Assuming the players do listen, the issue only becomes if MacLean is saying things worth listening to.
I don’t think that’ll be an issue either, especially with Robinson as his safety net.