At the end of April, I put out another call looking for new writers for In Lou We Trust to write about the New Jersey Devils. I've opened up the audition to the community at large in order to get some new perspectives and additional voices on the front page with regularity. Since then, I've received eighteen entries that met the submission criteria. Regardless of how they're received, I thank the writers of each and every one of them - you know who you are - for stepping up and submitting an entry. (One more instruction for those who made submissions and received letters, by the way. Please do not comment on your submission or any of the other audition posts. This will help allow others to freely judge the work and show that you can handle online reactions. No drama is the best drama.)
Throughout the this week, I will post each one under an anonymous name so you can discuss and critique the post without regard to who actually wrote it. I can ensure you that I did not change any of the content outside of formatting it in to the SBN platform. To that end, please note that I don't necessarily agree with what the posts actually say. I'm just letting them stand on their own. Please be constructive in any criticism and do offer your thoughts about whether you liked (or disliked) the post in addition to discussing it's content. Don't be mean, but be fair.
Now, I assigned a letter to each writer based on when I received it. However, I decided to mix up the letters in terms of order of posting. So this process continues with the submission of
Writer R Dillon71, who wonders about the fate of Devils head coach Peter DeBoer.
After a disappointing, stressful, turbulent season, the Devils have to look to make changes. No, this does not mean blow up the roster, fire everybody, and start over. Although the season was a disappointment we have to remember we were separated from the playoffs by a skills competition. Still, changes are needed. One area the Devils already decided would not be changed is the Head Coaching position. Devils extended Peter DeBoer's contract through next season. Since we don't know what player changes may be coming, lets look at what DeBoer should be looking to do.
DeBoer is a very hard coach to judge. His system is boring. He has missed the playoffs in two straight years. He lacks the emotion other coaches show and isn't very outspoken. On the other hand, he took a talented team to the Stanley Cup finals, and kept a team who lost most of that talent, competitive for the most part of the last two years. What DeBoer went through with the departures of key players is not his fault. Quite frankly a lot of teams who lose their two superstars would be happy to be in contention for the playoffs in the following years. The time has come. In his 4th season, DeBoer is on the hot seat and if changes aren't made to bring this team back to the playoffs, it is hard to see DeBoer being back for another season. So what can he do.
Handling of Goalies:
For the Devils it always has, and always will, start from the back. Lou has consistently built the team from the net out. Last year DeBoer had a tough time dealing with playing time between an NHL legend and the Devils' future. Neither Schneider, nor Marty, ever took the reins of the competition. Cory ended up with 43 starts to Marty's 39. Next year, hopefully #30 will realize it is time to hang up the skates, or will sign with another team (as hard as that is to imagine). With Marty likely out, DeBoer's decision here becomes a lot easier. Giving Cory around 58-62 starts should give the team more consistency, get Cory in a rhythm, and make the goalie situation much less dramatic.
Out with the Old, In with the New
The Devils are the oldest team in the NHL. When you are the oldest team in the league and not in the playoffs, it does not say many good things about your future. Just for some background, of the 16 teams in the playoffs this year, 6 teams are in the top 10 oldest teams, 7 teams are in the middle-aged teams, and 2 were in the 10 youngest teams category. So although going young isn't the answer, finding some youth to combine with an already veteran presence seems to correlate to success.
So should there be a bit of a youth movement in NJ? By now we have all seen that DeBoer favors his veterans, like Salvador and Volchenkov, and loves his fourth line of Gionta, Carter, and Bernier. And while these guys did play a large part in the cup run of 2012, especially the fourth line, it is time to put those days behind us and look at the future. These players simply didn't get it done last year and there is no reason to believe they will be able to get it done in the future. The fate of the 4th line is in the hands of Lou with all three being UFAs. Carter (the only one I personally would think of retaining) was a minus-6 with 7 goals in 62 games. Bernier was useless last year. A minus-15, 3 goals in 78 games, just shouldn't be acceptable at this level. Gionta was a minus-8 with 4 goals in 66 games. Despite these mediocre statistics, Bernier, Gionta, and Carter all played over 60 games and likely would have played more if it were not for injuries. Meanwhile, prospects like Ried Boucher and Jacob Josefson get under 30 games played. Boucher had 7 points in 23 games and was a plus-2. That is .30 points per game, nearly doubling the production of the three previously mentioned players. Josefson, while not putting up great point production, was an even plus/minus on the season and contributed a short handed goal. Perhaps the most telling event of JJ this year was the praise he received from Jagr. Perhaps when your prospect is endorsed by one of the all time greatest hockey players, you find a way to get him into more that 27 games.
DeBoer must handle his young defensemen better as well. The only young defensive prospect DeBoer was comfortable with seemed to be Jon Merrill who was in the lineup almost every game after being called up. The problem I had was with DeBoer's handling of Eric Gelinas and Adam Larsson. Gelinas, who actually played the most games out of the group, was a very good addition to the team. He was 8th on the team in scoring and was an important threat on the Power Play, all while staying at a respectable minus-3. DeBoer, however, was not pleased with this performance and elected to play defenseman like Peter Harrold, minus-2 with 4 points in 33 games, and Bryce Salvador minus-2 with 4 points in 40 games, over Eric. I understand that Gelinas defensive game wasn't perfect, but his plus minus shows that a good offensive game can offset those issues. Not to mention, DeBoer complains about his defensive ability, and then makes him play forward on a make shift 4th line. Go figure. Finally, Adam Larsson. Larsson was another player who hasn't received a fair chance from DeBoer. Adam opened the season with the Devils until he got hurt in late November. He struggled to work his way back into the NHL and into the Devils lineup for the rest of the year. In his rookie campaign Larsson averaged 20:37 time on ice per game. Next year, 18:06. This year, 17:47. It seems to me as if DeBoer is progressing Larsson backwards. When undrafted Peter Harrold, who likely wouldn't be a member of any other NHL team is averaging more time on ice per game then your franchise's top 5 draft pick, while putting up worse numbers, there is something to be said about the coaching and management of your prospects. It is unacceptable.
Next year I hope to see an infusion of youth into the Devils lineup, even more than we saw this year. When we look at teams who are successful now, they have a good balance of veteran stability and young energy. Last years Stanley Cup teams are prime examples. Blackhawks added youth with Brandon Saad and Nick Leddy. Bruins did so with Dougie Hamilton and Tory Krug. Adding this young talent proves year after year to be effective and it is time the Devils look to add their young talent to the team on a regular basis even it means cutting ties with a few of the teams veterans. Next week I will follow up with what I think DeBoer should keep the same, including taking a look at his system, and his line combinations.
Thank you for reading. What are your initial thoughts? Do you think DeBoer deserved to be back for another year? Do you think these changes will better the Devils next year? Will some of these situations simply work themselves out over time? What would you change? I look forward to hearing what other fans have to say on the coach's decisions and my evaluations of them.
Now that you read
Writer R Dillon71's post, I want to know what you think about it. What do you think of the subject matter? What did you think about how Writer R Dillon71 wrote this post? Based on how it was written and what was it about, is this the kind of post you would want to see regularly at In Lou We Trust? Please leave your answers and other comments about this post in the comments. Thanks go to Writer R Dillon71 for the submission and thank you for reading.