What are the Devils looking for?

On December 26, the New Jersey Devils’ front office informed coach Peter DeBoer that he was being let go. It was a move that made sense based on where the Devils sat in the standings but I fail to understand the firing past that. I am not saying that DeBoer should have been kept on past this season but I do not know what New Jersey was thinking severing ties before even reaching the midpoint of the season. It is time to take a second look at DeBoer’s dismissal.

Now, I understand that DeBoer was struggling to get positive results from his team, as New Jersey went 12-17-3 this year with him as the coach. The Devils ranked among the bottom teams in the league in terms of goals per game and goals allowed per game. New Jersey’s special teams were struggling as well as the penalty kill ranked in the bottom third of the league. The Devils are also tied for most shorthanded goals allowed with five. All of the shortcomings were abundantly clear for DeBoer’s ability to morph the Devils into a competitive team. Clearly, he was not getting it done any more as the lead man in New Jersey. The Devils organization recognized that and took care of it. That is not the issue. The issue is New Jersey’s course of action after the front office has taken in the days following DeBoer’s release.

It is becoming painfully more obvious by the day that the Devils’ organization did not have a plan in place for how they would proceed following DeBoer’s firing. The team, now more than a week later, has still not announced a head coach. General Manager Lou Lamoriello hinted that the front office might not name anyone head coach for the remainder of the season and instead will have three coaches picking of the slack, making them all assistant head coaches. Not only is that unconventional, it just does not make sense. I understand that DeBoer was struggling as the coach but why would you fire him if you do not intend to replace him. I fail to grasp the logic behind the move.

It has not lead to any newfound success either. The Devils have gone 1-3 since firing DeBoer and are dropping further down the standings. New Jersey now sits 11 points behind the rival Rangers for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. While that margin is not insurmountable, it is highly unlikely that the Devils earn twelve more points than New York the rest of the way. So, it does not seem like the Devils’ organization fired DeBoer to make a run at the playoffs either, making this move even more head-scratching. New Jersey does not have enough easy games in January either to make me think that it could potentially climb back into the playoff conversation. The Devils only play three teams this month that do not have more wins than loses. That does not exactly make me too confident.

So once again, the Devils had every right to fire DeBoer. I am not in any way questioning the motive behind the move. I am just perplexed by the handling of the ensuing situation. The New Jersey front office needs to find some stability at head coach because this new model for coaching they are implementing is not very effective. I hardly think that this team stood a chance of turning itself around if DeBoer had stayed on. However, as New Jersey regains star Patrick Elias from illness, thus making the team infinitely more competitive, it makes me think that the Devils would have been better off keeping DeBoer for the time being and waiting until season’s end to let him go. As of right now, I see a team with no direction and no hopes of finding one without a legitimate head coach.


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