by PuckStopsHere on 07/11/11 at 03:03 AM ET
For the third time in five years, we are into July and the New Jersey Devils do not have a coach. Conventional wisdom says this is a bad way to run a franchise. Presumably a coach should be involved in the draft and the July free agent frenzy. It is logical to fill out a roster in a way that suits a team’s coach. This isn’t possible when the coach is unknown. It is an important step for a coach to “buy in” to the way his team is selected.
The New Jersey Devils have run a franchise where the coach is an easily replaceable part. This prevents them from hiring top coaches who have other more stable job options. This pattern of being last in the league in hiring a coach takes some of the most attractive coaching options off the table before the Devils get around to hiring one.
The New Jersey Devils lost coach Brent Sutter to the Calgary Flames in 2009 when he was entering his last season of his contract. He realized who replaceable he was in the New Jersey system and expected he was likely to be fired in the upcoming season. He jumped to a more stable coaching position and remains the Calgary Flames coach to this day.
Sutter was hired as the Devils coach on July 12, 2007. This was a similar situation to this year as the hire did not occur until well after the draft and the free agent frenzy. When Sutter had success in the position, he jumped to a safer job in Calgary.
This left the Devils looking for a new coach. It was July 13, 2009 before they hired Jacques Lemaire. Lemaire was not looking for longterm security in a job. He was hoping to coach for one year and then retire. He had a successful year and then retired.
Breaking their pattern of waiting to hire a coach until well into the summer, they promoted assistant coach John MacLean to head coach on June 17, 2010. There was fear that he might jump to a coaching job in another organization if they didn’t act quickly. It turned out that MacLean was a very unsuccessful coach and he was fired and replaced by Jacques Lemaire, who was lured out of retirement to save the season.
With Lemaire again retiring, the Devils need a new coach. They have gone back to taking their time to hire a coach. Likely they will be forced to hire a less than top choice.
The rumor this week was that Guy Carbonneau might be the new coach. He stepped down as coach of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, the team that he co-owns. His team was a sub .500 team in the QMJHL last season. He coached in the NHL for slightly less than three years with the Montreal Canadiens from 2006 to 2009. During that time his team missed the playoffs one year, made the playoffs a second year and he was fired in the third. This makes Carbonneau an interchangeable second rate coach. That is the kind of coach New Jersey will likely be forced to hire. Carbonneau is now on record saying he has not been offered the Devils coaching job and is presumably not their new coach.
At this point in the summer, the New Jersey Devils have no coach. This is the third time in the last five years they have not had a coach at this point in the summer. This is a poor plan to attract top coaches. In fact their treating coaches as interchangeable parts has already coach the Devils a head coach in Brent Sutter. I think this is a mistake in the way Lou Lamoreillo runs the New Jersey Devils and will likely lead to the team hiring a poorer coach than necessary this year. It makes New Jersey an unattractive team to coach for coaches who have other options.
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