An open letter to the future coach of the New Jersey Devils
Dear Future Coach,
First of all, welcome! You have just signed on for a job that requires seemingly no good reason to be fired. In fact, no Devils coach has lasted more than three years since Jacques Lemaire stepped down in 1998. Incidentally, if you happen to be Jacques Lemaire, welcome back—and please know that if you try to implement the trap again, I will be calling for your head on a platter shortly.
Now, one thing you’ll need to learn rather quickly is that in many ways you are more a figurehead than anything else; Lou Lamoriello will coach the team vicariously through you. In fact, the only thing stopping the Devils’ President/CEO/General Manager/Head Ticket Salesman/Janitor/Popcorn Vendor/Backup Goaltender/Usher/Zamboni Driver from doing your job anyway is that it just seems like so much more work!
But there’s no going back now, you’re the guy! (Unless you miss your "family," and by "family" you mean your brother who happens to be the GM of another team.) So before you begin your tenure behind the Devils bench, allow me to offer a few suggestions to help you make the most of your stay:
1. The system. Is down.
See, here at the New Jersey Devils, we feel like Brent was this guy we were seeing for a few years, and even though he had a lot of potential, he was afraid of commitment. But as far as what he did with the way the Devils play, we couldn’t have asked for more. It doesn’t matter what you think about defense winning championships, look at who we have on defense now compared to 2003…we don’t have the horses required to play defense-first anymore. Besides, look at what we accomplished under our shiny new forechecking system. One of the highlights of this past season was beating the two best teams in the league—Boston and San Jose—on back-to-back nights. We have arguably the best group of forwards that we’ve had in years, and if we don’t continue playing to our strengths, you’ll quickly find yourself the new head coach of the unemployment line.
2. Who’s Line Is It Anyway?
Congratulations, as the new head coach of the Devils, you’ve inherited the biggest waste of $3.5 million a year in NHL history. Any coach worth his salt can see Dainius Zubrus as a third liner at best. Zubrus may have been a second liner in Sutter’s bizarro universe where Brian Rolston is a fourth liner, but here on Earth you and I both know Rolston belongs with Elias. Otherwise, don’t be shocked when he doesn’t put up the numbers you expect of him.
3. The Kids Are Alright
We’ve got some great young prospects here, and a few of them might be ready to hit the NHL for good. Should you find yourself with Nicklas Bergfors on your lineup card, the appropriate thing to do is either put him on the top two lines, or scratch him. Bergfors is an offensive player whose role is to produce on a team’s top two lines. The last guy who had your job decided to play him on the fourth line, for around three minutes a night, and then scratched him because he "wasn’t producing." How could he be expected to do anything when he barely played, and had to rely on linemates like Mike Rupp and Bobby Holik to help him get on the scoresheet? … Exactly.
Well, that about wraps it up. I hope that this helps you become adjusted to what you’re about to undertake. So, to summarize, understand your position under Lou, keep the offensive system, put together realistic lines, and play the kids properly when you have them, and you should be just fine. Unless of course Lou wakes up one day on the wrong side of the bed.
Best of luck,
The Jersey Devil