Here's a piece I've recently written for nj.com. It can be found here.
The New Jersey Devils' head coaching job has been that of a revolving door - one coach steps in, and is shortly fired or resigns. For the past decade, this process has been repeated over and over again.
Last season, many thought the Devils had finally found their man, a coach who would stay with the Devils for more than three years, in John MacLean. MacLean, as a player, helped captured the franchise's first Stanley Cup, in 1995. MacLean was always a fan favorite, even after he had signed a contract to play across the Hudson for the hated New York Rangers. After eight years of being an assistant coach with the Devils, and a year of being head coach for the Devil's farm team, MacLean was expected to be the Devils' longest serving coach.
Let's just say it didn't work out too well for McLean and the Devils. And that's an understatement.
A disastrous 9-22-2 start to last season, saw the firing of MacLean, and the return of former head coach Jacques Lemaire. Despite his success, Lemaire decided to return to retirement, leaving Lou Lamiorello in a familiar situation - searching for yet another head coach.
On July 19, Lamiorello hired Peter DeBoer as head coach. DeBoer had a tremendous track record in the Ontario Hockey League, having won the prestigious Memorial Cup - awarded to the champion of the Canadian Hockey League. Though, his success did not transfer into the NHL, as he failed to qualify for the playoffs, during his three year tenure as head coach of the Florida Panthers.
The hiring of DeBoer raised many eyebrows among Devils' fans. Why would they hire a guy who has had little success in the NHL? Well, if you look at the teams DeBoer had coached in Florida, you'll realize he didn't have much to work with. After his first season in 2008-2009, a year in which the Panthers missed the playoffs by just a tiebreaker, the Panthers traded or failed to resign their solid NHL players. By the end of 2010-2011, much of the Panther's team was comprised of more minor league players then NHL players. You'd be foolish to have faulted DeBoer for the Panther's lack of success, over the past three years.
Since the hiring of DeBoer, the Devils team has looked like a decent club. They now play an uptempo game, which best suits the skillful players on this team. The defensemen often jump on plays, but have the endurance - thanks to DeBoer's lengthy skating practices - to easily get back in position.
Currently, the Devils sit at 9th place in the Eastern Conference. They've managing to rack up points, even without their two top centers, Travis Zajac and Jacob Josefson, both whom suffer from a torn achilles and a broken clavicle, respectively.
At this time last season, the Devils were still searching for an identity. This season though, the Devils have solidified themselves as a resilient hard working team.
Peter DeBoer is selling, and the Devils' players are buying into his system. This bodes well for DeBoer, who hopes to remain with the Devils' organization for a long time.