One of the more overlooked aspects of a team is the fact that there isn't just a head coach, but a coaching staff. The head coach is important, but various assistants can be responsible for different aspects of the game. Usually, teams will have a separate assistant for goaltenders at a minimum, and it's common for someone on staff to be focused on a position and/or special teams.
It's been my understanding that the while the head coach may change, usually the staff is usually set in New Jersey. The last time I can recall an assistant coach joining New Jersey along with a head coaching hire was Mario Tremblay acting as an assistant for Jacques Lemaire back in 2009, who subsequently left after that season.
While the New Jersey Devils hired Peter DeBoer to be the head coach for the 2011-12 season, what has been lost among the current Wait/Hope for An Important Re-Signing 2011 is the possibility of some other changes to the coaching staff. As evidence of this possibility, I have to thank user DownGoesAvery posting this MLive article discussing the possibility of Todd Watson joining DeBoer's staff as an assistant coach in this FanShot today. Check out Kyle Austin's opening to his article:
Saginaw Spirit coach and General Manager Todd Watson is a candidate for an assistant coaching position with the New Jersey Devils, according to a source familiar with the situation.
I can't say I know too much about the head coach and general manager of the OHL's Saginaw Spirit beyond what's in the article. I can't really comment on whether there's a good fit. However, the notion that he's a candidate means there is an opening of some kind in New Jersey - regardless of who will be selected.
Just to review, here's the current staff per the Devils' official website. Chris Terreri is the goaltending coach, a position earned after some considerble time under long-time goalie coach Jacques Caron. Larry Robinson has been an assistant coach for the Devils before and took the position last season after serving for two seasons as a special assignment coach. One of his Robinson's main functions was focusing on the team's defense. Adam Oates was hired last summer as an assistant, presumably brought in to help the team's power play among other tasks.
I must remind you that the Devils were in the middle of the league in generating 5-on-4 shots; just ahead of Florida in scoring the fewest power play goals in the league in 5-on-4 situations; and just behind Florida in power play goals in all man advantage situations last season. I don't think it's too unfair to suggest that Oates didn't succeed all that much at that aspect of the game. Therefore, I understand that some Devils fans may want this potential new assistant coach to at least take over on power play duties, if not replace Oates entirely. At least, that was Kevin's reaction to the MLive article DownGoesAvery FanShotted. Given that DeBoer's teams in Florida were pretty punchless on the power play too, I can't say hiring someone to focus on the power play would be a bad idea either.
I'm not so certain that this will happen, though. As poor as the PP was in 2010-11, having Zach Parise for more than a month would certainly help. So would Oates just having more experience with the team to know what does and does not work for a power play. I could see Oates sticking around to that end.
Besides, presuming there will be a new person hired as an assistant head coach, the Devils could simply just add an assistant and split up responsibilities further. This may depend on what DeBoer wants to do in 2011-12, but a few suggestions come to mind. For starters, it might help to have an assistant up in the press box area and relaying on-going shifts in tactics could be an option. IPerhaps the assistant would run the power play while Oates does something else. Maybe the assistant would take a more behind-the-scenes role and focus on game preparation, reviewing film, and scouting the opposition. There are all sorts of possibilities; I'm just throwing suggestions out there.
Similarly, who knows whether the Devils will go outside to name a new assistant? Scott Stevens has been a special assignment coach for the past three seasons, now entering his fourth season. It seems to me that it would be a logical choice to promote him to assistant coach, should the Devils want to hire from within. However, I wouldn't hold my breath for the Devils legend to get that role though. I'm not really sure what he does in his special assignment coaching role, nor do I know whether serving in that role for yet another season will qualify him to be an assistant coach. I'm not saying it'll never happen, just that I have my doubts. Of course, that's for the Devils and Stevens to work out.
Enough of my speculation, I want to hear yours. Do you think the Devils need a new assistant coach on DeBoer's staff? If so, what do you want this assistant to do? And do you think it will be Todd Watson? If you don't think the Devils need a new assistant, then why do you think that way? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils' coaching staff going into the 2011-12 season in the comments. Thanks for reading.