Forgive me for criticizing Lou Lamoriello, the man that I have referred to as a businessman and a sports icon, but in times like this, I must. This all started when Lou traded Johnny Oduya for Kovalchuk. Our team clearly could not afford to lose a guy like Oduya, and it showed in the stretch and playoffs. Now it looks like our star player will be leaving too. Bergfors might turn out to be a solid, 25 goal scorer too, plus we lost our 1st round pick in a strong draft year. Great attempt to get Kovy, but a bad time to do it. Sometimes emotions get the best of you, right?!
Now, the long-term effect of my criticism has to do with Lou's attitude on coaching. Lou believes in building from within, as we have drafted Parise, Zajac, Corrente, Tedenby and Josefson in the first round recently, and none of those picks have come in the top 15. Letting key players go has not hurt us severely, although we have not won a championship or even made the conference finals since the departure of Niedermayer/Stevens/Daneyko, etc. As a matter of fact, we have not been that far since we won it all in 2003, the longest drought in Devils history (1982-1988 being the second-longest).
When it comes to coaches, however, Lamoriello seems reluctant to build from within. All three Stanley Cup championship teams had members of the Montreal Canadiens (either as a player, coach, manager, or two of them) as the head coach: Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson and Pat Burns. In addition, Canadiens goaltending draft pick Kevin Constantine and ex-Habs coach Claude Julien have also been around the block with our organization, making five total head coaches out of the Montreal organization. More recently, Lemaire returned and Brent Sutter had a stint here. The bottom line is, Lou isn't willing to give a former Devil the opportunity the chance to develop as head coach in the NHL.
John MacLean was the assistant coach at the NHL level with New Jersey, and then moved to AHL Lowell at the beginning of the 2009-10 season. In my mind, he is ready to take the next step. MacLean would institute the offensive system needed yet pay attention to defense so that Lou would not have a heart attack watching Devils games. MacLean was obviously a long-time Devil, and fans (myself included) would love to see him take over behind the bench, with Stevens and Daneyko as head alternates. That would complete a home-grown coaching staff, with Terreri coaching the goaltenders.
Another very logical choice would be the man that was brought in as the assistant coach in Montreal under Michel Therrein, but served most of his time in Montreal under Guy Carbonneau and last season under Jacques Martin. That would be former Devils' first round pick Kirk Muller. Muller has the potential to be a more offensive coach, but then again, he was the assistant under the defensive Martin in 2009-10. Although Muller has never had a head coaching stint behind the OUA, he would be my selection right now, and he has been throughout the process thus far. MacLean would obviously fit the team, and I think we would all love to see him behind the bench, but Muller would be the best fit for our team right now.
So now, Lou, it is up to him to give someone a chance, like he gives his players a chance, to develop into a head coach in New Jersey for a long time. He can try Muller or MacLean out (it looks like Guy Boucher is Tampa Bay's new coach), or go with Keenan or Hitchcock, and the team will remain the same for the new two years and then we will be in the same position we are in right now. It is up to Lou. Is he ready?