A few days before Christmas, longtime New Jersey Devil and freshman coach John MacLean was terminated. His replacement would be a Devil that everyone knew and the man he actually replaced in Jacques Lemaire.
We understand that this move was made to try to shake up a mostly veteran team that comes out flat almost every game. Apparently MacLean did not have a system strong enough to sway veteran personalities nor did he have the hockey intelligence to lead a team to the promised land, let alone the playoffs. However, thinking the retired Lemaire would be able to jump back into the mix and right the ship is honestly somewhat foolish.
When Lemaire re-arrived on the scene, the consensus was he would help the Devils keep the puck out of the net. His trapping system would be implemented for the third time and second time in as many years while the team learned how to play Devil’s hockey once again. Somehow, miraculously, the defense would regain some sort of form and Martin Brodeur would have a save percentage not ranked 43rd amongst qualified leaders.
There was talk that Lou Lamoriello could win an award for GM of the year and that Brodeur’s numbers would plummet while every skater turned around their awful plus/minus.
Lemaire comes out of retirement and into a colossal mess as probably a favor to Lamoriello, who by all accounts is and will remain a legend. Regardless, there seems to be no immediate game plan on how to teach this team to play as they are. The powerplay, which is tied for 24th in the League, has not changed nor have the defensive pairings. We understand that nobody has been moved due to the current roster freeze but there hardly has been any sort of shakeup.
In his two games behind the bench the Devils and Brodeur have allowed four goals and five goals respectively while only putting in one goal in each contest. Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that these games were against the New York Islanders and last night the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are 13th and 14th in the East.
The big problem with this Devils’ team starts at the top with poor contracts handed out in addition to losing their most valuable player in Zach Parise. An uninspired Lemaire will not magically turn this should-be contender into a Stanley Cup winner, they simply need changes to the veteran core in order to truly shake things up.
Consider this coaching change a bandage over a gaping wound, one which probably will take at least a year to heal.