I’m not quite sure why the Devils have yet to pick a new coach but my gut feeling is that it can’t be a good thing.
After last season’s coaching misfire, with rookie NHL head coach John MacLean destroying the season, followed by former coach Jacques Lemaire returning to his old job, almost managing to bring the Devils back into the playoffs and undo the MacLean damage, one would think GM Lou Lamoriello wants to pin down one of the more important positions in the organization sooner rather than later.
Unrestricted free agent Zach Parise remains unsigned, but I can’t imagine there’s a coach the Devils could hire that would change (for better, or for worse) whatever’s going on with those negotiations.
Given what a challenging situation the Devils are, both in terms of team composition and personalities, I imagine a new coach would want as much notice as possible in terms of starting the gig.
You have the Parise ambiguity, not knowing if your team will have one of its top forwards.
You have the goaltending challenges, with a superstar goalie who might have lost a few steps but has no desire to reduce his workload (and who might be in his last NHL season).
You also have a team that last year had just one 30-goal scorer and just one 20-goal scorer. The next coach of the Devils needs to give Ilya Kovalchuk more production opportunities. Otherwise, what exactly is the point of paying him so much for so long?
These aren’t simple problems to solve. This isn’t a matter of showing up before training camp with a couple of good plays drawn up. These are fundamental team flaws that are going to require a lot of creativity and innovation to resolve.
The Devils need to be a system-oriented defensive team, but also needs enough freedom and flow to let Kovalchuk score a goal every game or two (on average).
If you lock the whole team down, Kovalchuk suffers. If you open everything up, the Devils are probably going to be outscored just about every night.
The next coach of the Devils needs to figure out how to weld systematic defense to European-style offense without creating a team-wide disconnect.
I’m sure it can be done, but I’m not exactly sure how. If it were my job to figure out how to do it, I’d want to get started as soon as possible. And considering Adam Oates and Rick Kowalsky are supposedly in the Devils’ coaching mix and considering that neither has NHL head coaching experience, both are probably anxious to know if they’ll be coaching the Devils next season.
Unless Lamoriello really enjoys the drama of tanking the first half of the season with one coach and then pushing to get back into the playoff race with a second one.
If that’s the case, things seem to be right on schedule.