Assistant coach Larry Robinson has moved on from New Jersey. He has signed a deal to be an associate coach with the San Jose Sharks. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Today, Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette dropped some big news on Twitter. Hall of Fame defenseman and New Jersey Devils assistant coach Larry Robinson has been hired by the San Jose Sharks as an associate coach for two years, including a one-year option. Stubbs also tweeted that Robinson will formally be announced by the Sharks tomorrow; Robinson was talking with Tampa Bay; but he was impressed by Doug Wilson and Todd McLellan. Stubbs said that San Jose has been interested in him when they learned that Robinson wanted to keep coaching.
While there's probably more to be revealed, that last tweet I linked by Stubbs really sticks out to me. It was news that Robinson wanted to keep coaching. Let's take a step back. A little less than two weeks ago, user NJHockey8 FanShotted this post by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice. While much of the post was about Adam Oates (the first assistant to move on), the user highlighted the end of that post where Gulitti reported that Robinson was considering retirement or taking a lesser role. That must have been the case, but clearly Robinson chose a third path and when that came out, other teams picked up on it. It's unclear whether Robinson wanted to stay in New Jersey and if so, whether Lou wanted to keep him. I'm sure that news will come out in the near future; but for now, this news is enough to digest.
If this seems like a shock, that's because it is to a point. Out of seemingly nowhere on a Sunday afternoon, the New Jersey Devils are down another assistant. And it's not just any coach, but Larry Robinson. The same Larry Robinson who replaced Robbie Ftorek and was behind the bench (and throwing trash cans in locker rooms) during the 2000 Stanley Cup run. The same Larry Robinson who went from being fired during the 2001-02 season but became a special assignment coach with the team anyway in 2002-03. The same Larry Robinson who stepped up to be the head coach in 2005 when Pat Burns couldn't due to cancer, stepped down for his own health concerns, and then stepped back into be an assistant from fall of 2007 through today. The same Larry Robinson who focused on the defensemen, helping players as good as Paul Martin to fringe guys like Mike Mottau get to a level where their talents could be best put to use in the NHL. As far as I can tell, Larry Robinson was an excellent assistant in New Jersey and someone with his knowledge and acumen simply can't be replaced.
Alas, the Devils must try to replace his position anyway. There are two obvious candidates from within should Lou and Peter DeBoer, who I presume would have some say, want to go that route. The first is current special assignment coach Scott Stevens. You know him, he was the cornerstone of the Devils' defense for years as well as their leader. My limited understanding was that he didn't want to travel so he has remained in a lesser role. Should he change his mind there and want to work with the players more closely, then he may have a shot. I have to emphasize "may," because I have no idea of whether he can coach or not. The second is Tommy Albelin. In addition to being a former defenseman, he's been with New Jersey as an assistant for a few years and has been moved down to Albany since 2010 to take a more active assistant role. Albelin has the benefit of experience as a coach. I don't know how well he's done in Albany or his main functions are. However, if the Devils believe he's gained enough knowledge and he's done well enough at that level, then it wouldn't surprise me if he gets promoted back to the NHL and given a shot. Of course, the Devils may go outside for someone else for whatever reason - and that may turn out to be the best option. Whoever they decide upon, I expect the assistant to work with the defensemen since that's the spot on the bench that's open for now.
Until then and even as we wait for more information about the news, it is what it is. Larry Robinson is no longer in the Devils organization. I can only hope he has left on good terms and I wish him the best of luck in his new position in San Jose. Thank you for what you've done for this organization, Larry Robinson.