The New Jersey Devils have fired head coach Peter DeBoer and are planning on addressing the media on Saturday. Club general manager Lou Lamoriello had no comment on the firing and did not name a replacement, but New Jersey will play the New York Rangers on Saturday and one has to assume something temporary will be in place for that contest.
The Devils find themselves sitting seventh in the Metropolitan Division with a 12-17-7 record, hardly a shining record but hardly Oilers-bad either. Unfortunately, rumours of firing DeBoer had been in the wind for a time now and it looks like New Jersey’s finally given the bench boss his Christmas present.
DeBoer was hired by the Devils in July of 2011, but he hasn’t made the playoffs since driving his team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. In 2012-2013, they were seven points out of a playoff spot.
The problem, more than anything, appears to be a lack of offensive prowess. They averaging just 2.11 goals per game currently, which is good for 28th overall. Last season, they averaged 2.40 goals per game. What’s more, they were 0-13 in the all-important shootout.
This season, their leading scorer is Jaromir Jagr. He has just 20 points in 35 games and only five of his points are goals. Mike Cammalleri has 11 goals but just 15 points in 24 games, while Adam Henrique has been showing up for 20 points in 29 games. These aren’t bad numbers, but obviously the Devils are hoping for more offensive punch.
Still, DeBoer leaves the Devils as their second winningest coach behind Jacques Lemaire. He is third in games coached and was actually Lemaire’s replacement after the veteran boss was brought back in on an interim basis in December of 2010. Before that, Devils fans will recall Lamoriello canned one John MacLean after he coached just 33 games.
Is firing Deoer the answer? Possibly. But there’s also a culture to this Devils team that still inherently values defensive hockey and that’s not going to change overnight. Getting more out of the shootout and more out of offensive opportunities is something that requires a sea change, not just a bench change.
Maybe the Devils will be more capable of pouring momentum up-ice under a new coach. Or maybe it will just be more of the same, no matter who Lamoriello puts in. Some have been (rightly) suggesting that it’s also time for the 72-year-old general manager to show himself out and with a recent rash of questionable signings, that may be the case. It is, after all, hard to make a case for a more offensively-minded hockey club when one considers some of Lamoriello’s decisions.
There’s the decision to let Zach Parise go for nothing, for instance, or the unfortunate collection of departed free agents (Niedermayer, Rafalski, Clarkson, Gionta, Gomez, Martin, etc.) that he let walk without question. His spending habits have been questionable (ahem, Ryane Clowe) and the current goaltending situation isn’t great no matter what optimists are still thinking about Cory Schneider and his seven year deal.
But for now, it’s DeBoer taking the blame. Maybe that will change on Saturday. Maybe not.