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Peter DeBoer? Devils Make Head-Scratching Selection

Peter DeBoer became the seventh coach for the Devils in the past seven years. Photo Credit: Andy Marlin/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils finally finished their coaching search two days ago, becoming the last team to fill that spot. The selection is still a bit of a head-scratcher.

Several big names were linked to the team’s open spot. Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therien, two veteran coaches with playoff experience, seemed destined for the job at one time or another. The Montreal Canadiens link still existed, with Guy Carbonneau finding his name attached to the position. Assistants like Mike Haviland were thrown into the discussion. Reports even had the Devils dipping into the college ranks, with Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves possibly taking over. Surprisngly, none of these guys earned the job.

Instead, Devils’ president and general manager Lou Lamoriello decided to hire Peter DeBoer. Does it ring a bell? DeBoer spent the past three seasons as the Florida Panthers coach, compiling a less-than-stellar 103-107-36 record. He never made the playoffs, but came close, losing out to the Canadiens in a tiebreaker during the 2008-09 season. Before coaching in the NHL, he spent seven seasons as the Kitchner Rangers head coach. That team won the Memorial Cup in 2003 and featured right-winger David Clarkson.

Clarkson gave the hire a ringing endorsement.

“I think Pete is going to be a great fit,” Clarkson told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record yesterday. “Wherever he goes, he finds a way to get the best out of the players.”

Lamoriello believes DeBoer can serve a dual purpose. First and foremost, the team needed a coach who could bring them back to the playoffs. The veteran-laden roster is seeing their championship window close rapidly. The organization’s 14-year playoff streak snapped last year, and Lamoriello doesn’t want to make that an every year occurance.

He also needed a coach who could relate to young players. The Devils relied heavily on rookies last season, and their better prospects are knocking on the NHL door. DeBoer spent the past three years coaching young players with Florida. The teams weren’t great, but it gave him the opportunity to learn the ropes. Lamoriello believes that experience served him well.

“He’s young,” Lamoriello said to Gulitti. “He has excellent experiences in dealing with all types of players. He also served as an assistant where he an opportunity in international play with league players and to (be able to) sit and watch how other people handed them. And I think he’s had three years of outstanding apprenticeship (with Florida), if that’s what you want to call it.”

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An Analysis of the Johan Hedberg Signing

Hedberg recorded a career-best 2.38 goals against average and was given the Player's Player award. Photo Credit: Justin Aller/Getty Images

Last year, the New Jersey Devils watched Johan Hedberg save their season, posting a career-best 2.38 goals-against average. He more than earned the $1.5 million (plus bonuses) he signed for last July. It was only logical that Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello wanted the goalie back.

While the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement before July 1, Lamoriello didn’t let Hedberg stay on the market long. He re-signed “The Moose” to a one-year, $1.25 million contract. Getting a fan favorite back excited plenty fans. Bringing back a solid player with for less than he made last year made the signing even better. Lamoriello definitely earned himself some praise with this move.

At the beginning of last season, I laid out my expectations for Hedberg. I expected him to be a solid backup, and pegged him as a streaky goalie. Martin Brodeur just came off a season where he played 77 games and returned to Vezina form. I figured Hedberg would start between 12-15 games, so he wouldn’t be too important. But, of course, things didn’t play out that way. Brodeur fought through injuries and inconsistent play, limiting him to just 56 games played. Desperately needing some solid goaltending, the Devils leaned on Hedberg. The Moose wouldn’t disappoint.

Hedberg became one of two Devils to actually play solid hockey until John MacLean. He kept the team in the game, stringing together quality starts. He once allowed his goals-against average to climb north of 3.00, and that month Brodeur came back from injury. When Jacques Lemaire took over, he played even better. Hedberg reeled off 7 straight wins during February, recording a 1.43 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage. Fans serenaded him with chants of “Moose” during home games, and antler hats started popping up around the arena.

The good times wouldn’t last, as Brodeur eventually won back his spot. The appreciation shown by both fans and teammates wouldn’t end with him moving back to the bench. In addition to the praise of Devils’ fans, Hedberg’s teammates gave him the Player’s Player award. Everyone in the organization appreciated his contribution, and he rewarded them with a stellar season.

Hedberg once again made a personal sacrifice to join the Devils. Last year, he left his wife and daughter in Atlanta to play in New Jersey. He admitted he didn’t like it, and I’m surprised he chose the Devils again. When a player is willing to give up living near his immediate family to play for your team, it speaks volumes to the respect he must have for New Jersey. Even without a coach, he made the sacrifice to return to the team.

Just like last season, this is a low-risk signing. I don’t want to speculate on games played, because only Brodeur knows how much he’ll play next season. He proved a more than capable backup, and could form a solid goalie tandem if the new coach decides to use one.

It’ll be another year of Moose calls at the Rock. For fans and players, it’ll be another year to enjoy a quality teammate and positive locker room presence.

Devils Need A Veteran Presence Behind The Bench

The Devils need a new coach, and Ken Hitchcock would bring a veteran presence and winning record to the team. Photo Credit: Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

It’s the offseason, which means the New Jersey Devils can only be doing one thing – looking for a new head coach.

Today, Devils’ president and general manager Lou Lamoriello announced the team would not hire a coach before the NHL Entry Draft Friday night. A few names are connected to the Devils, most notably Ken Hitchcock. There doesn’t seem to be a candidate on the horizon, and New Jersey appears doubtful to have a coach by the open of free agency. For a team that missed the playoffs, it’s incredible that this checklist item hasn’t been done.

There are several qualified and interesting candidates out there. Lamoriello could return to former Devil Kirk Muller, who is an assistant with the Montreal Canadiens. Mike Haviland, one of the hotter coaching prospects, could lead the team. Recently-fired Craig Ramsay would bring a veteran presence behind the bench.

With so many candidates, it’s a crapshoot as to who will become the organization’s next coach. There should be, however, one determining factor – the amount of actual NHL coaching experience. If the Devils want to return to the postseason, they need to hire a veteran coach.

This isn’t a revolutionary idea – just look at last season. John MacLean, the team’s assistant coach from 2002-2009, helped coach the Lowell Devils to a winning record during the 2009-2010 season. They finished fourth in the Atlantic Division and made the playoffs. They couldn’t advance past the first round, but he did exactly what the organization wanted – gain experience and show he could succeed as a coach.

Devils fans were excited to welcome one of the most successful former players to the bench. MacLean promised a more up-tempo system and a continued emphasis on “the Devils way.” After several first-round flameouts, he seemed to breath life into the organization. Many believed he would be the change this veteran team needed.

That optimism lasted until the end of October. MacLean promptly led the team into a tailspin. By December 23, the Devils were 9-22-2 and MacLean didn’t have a job. In rode Jacques Lemaire, leading the team on an incredible second half run.

The run proved something pivotal to the franchise’s success – the vital need to find a veteran coach. There’s no doubt the Devils are changing the guard. This isn’t the Devils of the early-2000s, with a large core of older players supplemented by younger call-ups. An AHL coach could find success with the various young players on this roster. The veterans, however, won’t respond to the unproven coach. It didn’t happen last year, and I’d seriously doubt it happening again.

I’m not going to guess on the team’s next head coach. With Lamoriello, playing the guessing game is an exercise in futility. But I will bet on one thing – the Devils next coach won’t be some hotshot assistant making his coaching debut. It’ll be an established veteran with a proven track record.

A Look Back: A History of The Devils’ Top 10 Draft Picks

Photo Credit: Wild.NHL.com

The New Jersey Devils enter this year’s draft with a top 10 pick, an unusual spot for the franchise. They haven’t had a top-10 pick since 1996. The last top-10 pick to make a significant contribution was Scott Niedermayer, who came to the Devils third overall in the 1991 draft.

To kick off our draft coverage, The Devils’ Den will run down every top-10 pick the organization made. Some were wildly successful, others were pretty big busts. That’s the nature of the draft.

And here we go:

1982 Draft: Rocky Trottier – 1st round, 8th overall

The name Trottier should sound familiar – his brother, Bryan, won six Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. Rocky wouldn’t emulate his brother’s success. Trottier spent most of the 1983-84 season with Medicine Hat in the WHL, recording 84 points (30 goals, 54 assists). He appeared in five with the Devils that season, recording just two points.

The Devils gave Trottier his shot during the 1984-85 season. He played in 33 games, but couldn’t find that scoring touch. He recorded just six points (four goals, two assists) and a minus-3 rating. He did attempt the first penalty shot in history on December 17, 1984, scoring against Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Andy Moog.

That season would be his last in the NHL. Trottier bounced around the AHL and played internationally before retiring after the 1989-90 season.

Other notables from the 1982 draft: Ken Daneyko (1st round, 18th overall), Pat Verbeek (3rd round, 43rd overall)

1983 Draft: John MacLean – 1st round, 6th overall

The organization made up for the bust of Trottier with the success of MacLean. He recorded 98 points with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL during the 1982-83 campaign, showing his offensive potential. He lasted just 30 games with the Generals during the 1983-84 season before earning a call-up. His debut didn’t wow people – in 23 games, he scored one goal – but he would ultimately find success.

MacLean became one of the most accomplished scorers in team history. He recorded three-straight 40 goal seasons (1988-1991) and finished the franchise leader in goals (347). On April 3, 1988, MacLean scored an overtime goal against the Chicago Blackhawks, clinching the first postseason berth in franchise history. While he didn’t work out as the team’s coach, MacLean was one of the team’s best picks.

Other notables from the 1983 draft: Chris Terreri (5th round, 85th overall), Viacheslav Fetisov (8th round, 145th overall)

1984 Draft: Kirk Muller – 1st round, 2nd overall

The Devils drafted another great forward in 1984. Muller, drafted behind Mario Lemieux, became one of the best to wear the Devils’ sweater. “Captain Kirk” debuted during the 1984-85 season after recording 94 points in just 49 games for the Guelph Platers of the OHL in 1983-84. Muller made an immediate impact, leading the team with 80 games played. He also recorded 54 points, a solid number for a rookie.

He continued to improve year after year. He set a record for points by a center with 94 during the 1987-88 season, a mark that still stands today. He finished below 70 points twice in his Devils’ career. Unfortunately, the team never seriously contended for the Stanley Cup. They traded Captain Kirk to the Montreal Canadiens, where he won a Stanley Cup in 1993.

Other notables from the 1984 draft: Craig Billington (2nd round, 23rd overall), Kirk McLean (6th round, 107th overall), Mike Peluso (10th round, 190th overall)

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The 2010-2011 Player Review Best Of The Rest: Defense

May 31, 2011 2 comments

Fraser took a step back this season, recording negative numbers in every important defensive category. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. Many of those breakdowns revolved around individual player performances. We broke down all players who skated in at least 40 games, because they contributed to over half the games (and outcomes) this season. In the next few days, we’ll look at “The Best of the Rest,” breaking down other players who skated in less than 40 games. Today, we’ll look at the remaining defensive players.

Of all the positions to suffer from injuries, the New Jersey Devils’ blueline was among the most volatile. They lost stalwart Bryce Salvador before the season even started, a major blow to the defensive corps. Injuries to promising rookie Matt Taormina left another hole needing to be filled. Anton Volchenkov and Colin White both missed stretches of games as well.

As a result, seven defenseman filled in, playing at least four games. Below is a list of those players and their performance this season. Some were good, others were just ok, and a few shouldn’t be back next season. We’ll take a look at them, in order of games played. And here we go:

Mark Fraser – 26 GP, 2 Points (2 A)

Fraser entered this season with a new contract (two-year, $1.085 million) and heightened expectations. He played well during the 2009-10 season, skating in 61 games and recording six points. The 2010-11 regular season would represent a major step backward. Fraser broke his hand on October 13, causing him to miss 32 games. He couldn’t consistently crack the lineup, playing in just 12 straight games.

A look at his numbers shows his general ineffectiveness. Fraser only averaged 13:58 minutes a game, managing to pull down a plus-0.18 rating. Despite a low goals-against per 60 rate (1.65 at even strength), his other numbers weren’t strong. His on-ice Corsi rating (minus-2.03) ranked far below his off-ice rating (plus-2.02). Opponents shots against fell from 26.8 with him on the ice to 24.8 with him off.

Despite it all, he still recorded a plus-1.0 GVT. I’m willing to give him a pass for this season. Both injuries and the inability to play consistently showed on the ice. He’ll battle for a spot next season, but could be pushed out with the strong play of Mark Fayne and the return of Salvador.

Matt Corrente – 22 GP, 6 P (6 A)

Like Fraser, Corrente entered the season with heightened expectations. The Devils’ first round pick (30th overall) in 2006 had yet to make his mark and earn a consistent roster spot. Training camp would be his opportunity to finally earn that spot.

Corrente performed worse than Fraser in his limited role this season. He missed 38 games with a shoulder injury, managing just an average time on ice of 13:35. He managed a plus-0.32 rating, higher than Fraser. The goals against numbers didn’t reflect well, with the team allowing more goals against with him on the ice (3.32) than him off (3.03). Shots against followed the same trend. Opponents averaged 29.3 shots per 60 with Corrente on the ice. Off the ice, that number fell to 23.3. The Corsi rating is just as bad. On the ice, the number sat at minus-0.83. Off the ice, the team improved to plus-9.63.

Despite all of that, Corrente recorded a plus-1.3 GVT. His six assists probably helped that cause, and he showed a surprising willingness to contribute offensively. He’s flashed his potential, but time might be running short. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, and the organization will probably re-sign him. He’ll find it hard to crack the lineup, especially with some rookies outplaying him over the course of the season.

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The 2010-2011 Player Review: Patrik Elias

May 15, 2011 1 comment

Patrik Elias led all New Jersey Devils skaters with 62 points this season. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s review, we focus on Patrik Elias.

Patrik Elias entered his 15th season looking to rebound. During an injury-filled 2009-2010 season, Elias collected his lowest point total (48) since the 2005-06 season, and he only suited up for 58 games. The trade to re-acquire Jason Arnott made that goal even easier to reach. With John MacLean taking over and promising a more up-tempo style, the pieces for Elias all seemed to fall into place.

Things, as we know, didn’t go according to plan. But with everything falling apart, Elias continued to produce. He was the only Devils’ player selected to the All-Star game, the third of his career and first since the 2001-2002 season. He finished first in assists (41) and second in goals (21). He stepped up and became the de-facto team leader, answering every tough questions time and time again. After the team dealt Jamie Langenbrunner to the Dallas Stars, I argued the team should give Elias the captaincy.

Elias finished the first half of the season as the Devils’ best player. Even with Ilya Kovalchuk’s amazing second half, respect needs to go to the Devils’ center. He stepped up when his team needed him the most. It was a great bounce back year for Elias, and arguably was the team’s best player.

Elias At Even Strength

Elias continued his strong two-way play this past season. We all know he’s penciled in on the second line every season, but it’s usually a question of where. He split time on both the left-wing and center this season, transitioning back into the center position as the season wore on. That didn’t hurt his production, as his rating of plus-0.58 put him fourth on the team. Playing within the top six forwards allowed him to average 2.13 points per 60. That quality of teammates (plus-0.081) outweighed that of opponents (plus-0.049), a rarity this season.

Elias played a huge role in producing even-strength offense this season. On the ice, he helped the team produce 2.68 goals per 60 (48 total), tops among all skaters. He also helped put pucks on net, bumping the Devils shots for per 60 average to 27.9, also tops among all skaters. Off the ice, those numbers dropped. The team averaged 1.58 goals for per 60 with him off the ice, and the shots for per 60 dropped to 25.6.

As expected, Elias continued his strong defensive play. The goals against per 60 didn’t look so good, as the team allowed 2.68 goals against with him on the ice. Off the ice, that number dropped to 2.16. However, he did help limit shot opportunities. On the ice, teams averaged 20.6 shots per 60. Off the ice, that number rose to 24.2, almost a four shot increase.

The Corsi numbers show the balanced, two-way skill of Elias. On the ice, his Corsi rating of plus-14.09 led all skaters. He not only helped produce shots and scoring opportunities, but limited opponents chances. Off the ice, the Corsi tumbled to plus-0.92. That difference was the biggest drop among all skaters. If his production on both ends was ever in doubt, the Corsi helps to prove his value. It was yet another successful season at even strength for Elias.

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The 2010-2011 Player Review: Mattias Tedenby

Tedenby's moves made more than a few goalies look silly this season. Carey Price was one of his late season victims. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s review, we focus on Mattias Tedenby.

For the past few seasons, many New Jersey Devils fans heard about a short right-winger with unlimited scoring potential. Mattias Tedenby, known to many as one of the two great Swedes in the organization, finally got his chance with the Devils this season. In his first full season, we saw the Devils’ future on full display.

Tedenby immediately showed off his offensive potential, scoring a goal in only his second career game. He continued his strong play, converting his first career penalty shot against Braden Holtby and the Capitals on November 22. It continued throughout the month, with him collecting six points in November. John MacLean put him on the second line, where he drew rave reviews from Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias. But it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine for the young Swede.

When Jacques Lemaire took over the team, Tedenby couldn’t crack the lineup. Already struggling to score, Lemaire decided to scratch him for six straight games. The right-winger needed to improve his play, including his defense, to crack the lineup. When he finally returned, on January 17 against the New York Islanders, he made his presence felt, scoring the game-winning goal.

It was a rollercoaster season for Tedenby. At times he flashed his offensive potential, but he seemed to disappear at times. He couldn’t consistently produce offense, and he rotated between the third and fourth lines. It was only his first year playing hockey in North America, so to expect him to produce like Jeff Skinner would be irrational. All in all, it was a solid debut for the Devils’ rookie.

Tedenby At Even Strength

Playing on the bottom two lines for most of the season didn’t get Tedenby much ice time. He only averaged 12:32 minutes per game, the lowest among rookies with at least 40 games played. Despite not playing much, he managed to produce 1.38 points per 60 and record a plus-0.87 rating. It helped that his quality of teammates (plus-0.069) were better than the quality of his competition (minus-0.032).

While at even strength, Tedenby became a solid offensive weapon. The Devils averaged 2.07 goals for per 60 (21 total), third among rookie skaters with at least 40 games played. He posted that number despite playing on the third and fourth lines, a testament to that offensive potential. Off the ice, the goals for per 60 dropped to 1.76. Shots for per 60 followed a similar pattern. With Tedenby on the ice, New Jersey averaged 27.1 shots per 60. Off the ice, that number dropped to 24.7.

Tedenby’s defensive improvements, coupled with his position in the lineup, helped him finish with positive even strength defensive numbers. While on the ice, teams averaged 1.77 goals against per 60 and 24.5 shots against per 60. The goal numbers rose with him off the ice. Goals against per 60 climbed to 2.34, giving Tedenby a negative off-ice plus/minus rating of minus-0.58. The shot numbers dipped slightly to 22.8 per 60.

A look at the Corsi numbers further prove Tedenby’s solid play. Tedenby’s 5.81 rating put him among the top ten of skaters with 50 or more games played.  That rating dropped to 3.91 with him off the ice. Tedenby helped his team produce offense, creating almost two more shots per shift while spending less than 13 minutes a game on the ice. It’s exciting to see him produce in limited minutes. Hopefully that production will continue to rise when he gains a more important role on the ice.

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