The New Jersey Devils will have two new head coaches running their AHL and ECHL affiliates next season.
Rich Kowalsky will take the reigns as coach of the Albany Devils, while Kevin Dean will be behind the bench for the Trenton Devils next season.
Kowalsky, 38, served as head coach of the Trenton Devils for the past four seasons. Under his watch, the team went 138-112-10-18. The team’s best finish was in 2008-09, when they finished second in the North Division and lost in the divisional semifinals. Kowalsky is looking forward to the opportunity to move up and coach the AHL squad.
“I’ve been a head coach now for four years and I think it’s even more comforting knowing there’s a certain familiarity staying in the organization,” Kowalsky said. “There’s probably eight to 10 guys that have played in Lowell that spent significant time with me (in Trenton). I think there will be a half dozen players that will be in Albany next year. For me, it’s just the next step. Yeah, it’s a little different. You’ve got kids that you’re dealing with now all on NHL contracts and with one foot in the door from an NHL standpoint. It was unique situation in Trenton where there was really an emphasis put on development to try to get these kids to the next level for them, which is the American League. So, I think it’s just a natural step.”
Assisting Kowalsky in Albany will be Tommy Albelin, who is a former assistant with the Devils. Kowalsky believes Albelin’s experience will be a big boost to the AHL prospects.
“I thought this would be a good fit not only for me, but for Tommy,” Kowalsky said. “And I just think to be able to have an assistant coach with that much experience in the NHL as a defenseman, I think is great for the young defensemen and all the prospects. But I think it’s good for me as a young coach to be able to bounce things off him.”
General manager Lou Lamoriello realized the importance of getting Albelin experience as a team’s top assistant.
“This gives him an opportunity to make the next step where he’ll be the No. 1 assistant and to see whether this is the route he wants to take,” Lamoriello said. “It will be his first time running the bench, changing the (defense). He’s excited about it. He, in his opinion, wasn’t ready to be a head coach. Not that he was offered (the job), but we’ve had these discussions.”
Kevin Dean served as an assistant coach the past four seasons while the team was in Lowell. The head coaching job in Trenton will be his first professional coaching experience.
Dean, who worked with John MacLean last year in Lowell, where he learned how to hold players accountable. That experience, Dean believes, will help him tremendously with this coaching opportunity.
“I think I’ve always been a pretty good communicator, but one thing I learned last year working with John MacLean was accountability,” Dean said. “These guys need to be held accountable and they need to know when they do well and when they don’t do well. I think accountability is a huge part of it. I think they want to be held accountable, too.”
Vince Williams remains in Trenton to serve as the assistant to Dean.
The Devils completed their coaching staff today, naming former Lighting assistant Adam Oates to the same position with the organization.
Oates will fall under the role of “offensive assistant” that new coach John MacLean spoke about during his introductory press conference. With the Lightning, Oates helped improve the power play, something the Devils desperately need to improve.
General manager Lou Lamoriello had nothing but praise for the assistant coach.
“Throughout his career, Adam was without question one of the top playmaking centers, particularly on the power play, and was considered one of the top face-off players in the game,” Lamoriello said in a statement released by the team. “These attributes bring a different dimension to our coaching staff and both John and I are delighted that Adam is joining our organization.”
Oates, 47, played in 1,337 NHL games, registering 341 goals and 1,079 assists for 1,420 points and 415 penalty minutes. The former center played for Detroit, St. Louis (where he was teammates with Scott Stevens in 1990-91), Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton. Oates played in five NHL All-Star games, and reached the 100 point mark on four occasions. He ranks sixth all-time in assists. Oates retired from playing on April 3, 2004, and took his first NHL assistant job last season with the Lightning.
Oates joins Larry Robinson and Chris Terreri on MacLean’s staff.
I think Oates could do well with the Devils this season. Clearly, the power play needs help. If he can do something to get solid production night in and night out, then I’ll be happy. Too many times over the past few years we’ve watched the Devils look really sharp with the man advantage on night and unorganized the next. The team needs stability, and it seems Oates can bring this to the organization.
I also think his influence will be good for the young centers on this team, especially a guy like Travis Zajac. We all saw Zajac take a step forward last season, and Oates may be able to continue to improve Zajac’s overall play. Oates’ assist numbers are stellar, and I’m sure he can help Zajac to develop better on-ice vision and playmaking skills. While Zajac is one of the better centers in the league, I’m sure he’ll benefit from some time with Oates.
Here are some stories from today’s press conference:
Parise Excited To Play For MacLean
Add Zach Parise to the list of players excited to be playing for new head coach John MacLean.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Parise said to Tom Gulliti. “Hopefully, he’ll bring some new ideas, something fresh for all of us, because we need that.”
As the Devils all-time goals leader (347), the expectation is the team will become more offensive minded under MacLean. Parise believes MacLean will bring the team’s offensive game up to speed.
“Hopefully, we’ll be a lot more offensive minded and play more of a puck-possession game,” Parise said, “because that’s the way these teams that are winning now play.”
But it doesn’t all come down to offense. What matters is whether or not the players will respect the coach. Parise, who experienced MacLean running the bench during Lou Lamoriello’s two stints as coach. While he wasn’t the actual coach, Parise believed MacLean did a solid job.
“I really liked him then when he was doing that,” Parise said. “And when guys were called up from Lowell this year we’d always ask them how Mac was doing there and they all liked playing for him.”
So far, Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner have come to the support of MacLean. Hopefully, his hiring is this well received throughout the locker room.
Langenbrunner Will Remain Captain
Both Lamoriello and MacLean strongly supported Langenbrunner’s current captaincy, telling the media that there would be no change in captain this season.
“I think Jamie is a great leader,” MacLean said. “I actually played with him briefly (in Dallas in 2001) and, having coached him, I think he’s good for what we’re going to try to do here in the future. He’s been tremendous with the young guys and himself being a veteran he’ll be able to help everybody with the transition.”
Well, that ends any speculation from our point of view. Even though I wrote this piece about how Langenbrunner needed to go as captain, we won’t see that this year.
Robinson, Terreri To Remain With Staff
Both Larry Robinson and Chris Terreri will return to the Devils staff next season.
Robinson will return as MacLean’s top assistant, while Terreri will be back as the goaltending coach.
Scott Stevens will also remain with the organization as a “roving coach,” working in New Jersey, Albany and Trenton. Stevens requested to remain in that role during last season.
Tommy Albelin will also remain in the organization, but his position is to be determined. Albelin, who was an assistant for the past three years, wanted to gain bench experience. He may end up as an assistant with Albany.
Lamoriello and MacLean will pick one more assistant together. MacLean would prefer the assistant to be offensive minded, because Robinson can focus on defensive issues, but it’s not mandatory.
The wait is finally over for John MacLean.
The Devils’ all-time leader in goals and former AHL affiliate head coach will formally be announced at a 2 p.m. press conference at the Prudential Center.
MacLean will succeed Jacques Lemaire, who retired on April 26, four days after the team’s first round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
MacLean coached the Lowell Devils last season, his first head coaching experience of any kind. He led the team to a 39-31-4-6 record, good for 88 points and the organization’s first playoff berth since 2000.
There has yet to be an announcement on who will fill out MacLean’s staff or who will take over the head coaching position for Albany.
MacLean previously served as a Devils’ assistant coach for seven years. At times, MacLean ran the bench when Lou Lamoriello took over head coaching reigns.
Jamie Langenbrunner, who had several issues with Lemaire, looks forward to the opportunity of starting fresh with MacLean.
“It’s definitely that I’m looking to move forward and get another opportunity at it.” Langenbrunner said to Tom Gulliti. “I don’t really have much to say about (his relationship with Lemaire), but I’m definitely looking forward to a fresh start so to speak.”
Even though MacLean lacks head coaching experience in the NHL, Langenbrunner believes he’s prepared for the task.
“I think any time you go from being an assistant coach to being the head coach, it’s a whole different ballgame,” Langenbrunner said. “You’re not in the same position. You’re not going to be doing exactly the same things. He’s obviously a guy that played in the league for a long time. He understands a lot about the game and he paid his dues not only here as an assistant coach here for many years, but going down to Lowell and getting some head coach experience last year. He’s a guy that knows the game very well.”
MacLean played with Langenbrunner in Dallas, and he’s also played with Martin Brodeur, Jay Pandolfo, Brian Rolston and Patrick Elias.
MacLean, drafted sixth overall by the Devils in 1983, made his debut on October 5, 1983 against the Rangers. The forward scored a pivotal goal in 1988 to clinch the organization’s first playoff birth, and was a member of the 1995 Stanley Cup winning team.
He played 19 total NHL seasons with the Devils, San Jose Sharks, the Rangers and Dallas.
Contrary to popular belief, the Devils did not offer a contract to Chicago Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland. Many speculated that Lamoriello held off an announcement to interview the New Jersey native.
So, what’s my take on the announcement? I think it’s a solid choice. MacLean knows the Devils philosophy and, more importantly, he knows the players. It’s also a break from the defensive-minded coach we usually see hired by the team. We’ve seen other organization succeed with young, unproven coaches, but none have been an integral part of their organization before. I think the hiring of MacLean will bring a fresh take to Devils’ hockey and invigorate a club desperate to get itself out of the first round.
What are your takes? Like the move? Hate it? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!
After a vote of confidence from the general manager and a still-burning passion for coaching, Devils’ coach Jacques Lemaire decided to call it quits after one season.
“After reflection and 17 years of coaching, I decided to retire,” Lemaire said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “It’s tough to leave what you like aside, but it’s a decision that I made and I will do.”
Lemaire originally thought of retiring last year, when he left the Minnesota Wild. But Lou Lamoriello went to Lemaire’s house in Montreal, convincing him to come back to coach the team this season.
Lemaire returned because he believed the Devils could win the Stanley Cup this season, a dream that ended Thursday night.
“When I accepted this (job), I thought we had a chance to go for the Cup and this is the reason why I accepted it,” he said to Gulitti. “You talk about frustration, it is. After one series, you’re out when you’re think of maybe making two, three, four.”
Lemaire said the Devils’ first-round exit isn’t the reason for his retirement. He said it was based solely on not having the energy to make it through an entire season.
The year went really well. It’s not the problems that you have with the players. It’s nothing. It’s part of the game. It’s not the team. It’s not the lack of result that we had in the playoffs. It’s not that at all. I just find that it’s the end of the line. I’ll be 65. It’s just time.
Lemaire will remain with the organization in a capacity to be determined later.
The Devils will now hire their 11th coach since 1997-1998. In the five seasons since the lockout, the Devils have had five different head coaches – including Lamoriello (twice).
Lemaire took over last season for Brent Sutter, who decided to leave the organization to be closer to his family in Alberta, Canada. The former coach took the head coaching job for the Calgary Flames. Lemaire, hired on July 13, 2009, led the Devils to a 48-27-7 (103 points), their ninth Atlantic Division title and second seed in the conference. But the Devils were eliminated in the five games by the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 65-year old Lemaire, who guided the Devils to their first Stanley Cup in 1995, retired with a 588-441-183 record with 1, 213 NHL regular season games. He is the Devils’ all-time leader with 247 wins behind the bench.