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Let's Breakdown Scott Burnside's Latest Shameful Article about the New Jersey Devils

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When Lou Lamoriello fired John MacLean and announced Jacques Lemaire as the interim head coach of the New Jersey Devils, word traveled fast. Since it was, as far as I know, the second coaching change of the 2010-11 season and it came out of nowhere, everyone was abuzz.  The moment the Star Ledger confirmed the news, reactions were quick and varied.  The tweets Kevin picked up on and the comments to his post here about the change got a good cross-section of the reaction.  #Lemaire actually was trending on Twitter.   And so everyone in the world of hockey had some big news to write about and understandably so.

I can't claim to have read every writer's post or article about the decision to fire MacLean and name Lemaire as the caretaker coach.  Yet, I'm pretty confident I read one of the worst articles about it as well as any article about the Devils from this 2010-11 season. Even worse than anything I've written! Given that the Devils have been awful, everyone's been jumping in with their take when something inevitably has gone wrong.  From senseless trade speculation to tabloid trash written to create a story that doesn't exist. I've ignored a lot of it since A) the team's playing like morons regularly so I really don't need to deal with more stupidity. and B) to not waste a badly thought-out article or incorrect narrative with my time.   It was called out in the comments to Kevin's post and it's so bad, it needs more than just  a "this is a terrible article" statement.

The culprit?  Scott Burnside. You may know him as the guy who regularly picks the Devils to finish out of the playoffs. While it's admirable that ESPN has him and Pierre Lebrun keep a close pulse on what's going on in a sport that ESPN doesn't have the TV rights to, Burnside simply clowned himself so badly, it's impossible to ignore.  And he's considered to be mainstream since he writes for  All the more reason to respond to it instead of silently accepting it; despite how many brain cells I lost going through it. It's the Christmas season and while you may not observe it like I do, you can at least understand my desire to give him the gift of knowledge to combat the ignorance he write about the Devils.

Like Arthur Staple before him, the only worthy response is to fisk this Burnside article.  To all who read this, have a merry and blessed Christmas!

First, let's go over the title.  The title on the website, which appears at the top of the window, reads "New Jersey Devils fire coach John MacLean, bring back Jacques Lemaire."  That's fine. Straight to the point. That's the news.  Here's the title to Burnside's actual article on the page:

Devils' circle of shame now complete

You can take three guesses as to the tone of this piece by Burnside.  Let's get right to it:

Take all the emotion of the season out of the equation and the New Jersey Devils' firing of coach John MacLean two days before Christmas still remains one shoddy piece of work.

Let's take the emotion of the season out of the equation.  Remember that at the time of firing, the Devils were 9-22-2 with 59 goals scored and 103 goals allowed. The Devils lost 7 of their last 8, their last road win was on November 3, and the Devils were tied in points with the New York Islanders for 30th place in the NHL.   In a results-oriented business, MacLean was not coaching the players he has to anything resembling a good result.

That alone would justify that the coach has to go regardless of it was two days before Christmas or  two days after Christmas.  Yet, Burnside's already carping about the timing as if it means anything. The NHL had 13 games on December 23; the league certainly didn't regard the day as particularly special, so it was business as usual.  As per business, MacLean wasn't getting the job done so he was canned like any other incompetent person at their job - regardless of date.  

But Burnside claims this is still "shoddy."  Yes, firing a guy who led his team to a mere 9 wins in 33 games is "shoddy."  I'm not even past the first sentence and I'm shaking my head already.

It is the work of an organization without a soul, and without a clue.

Firing a coach who witnesses a team playing poorly regularly and does nothing about it? Soulless. A team filled with talent, featuring several veterans from a team who won 48 games last season, on pace for about 23?  No clue.  All from a writer who wrote just three days ago the following about the Devils:

Thus far, president and GM Lou Lamoriello has resisted the urge to fire rookie head coach John MacLean. Not sure why this is the case, unless it is out of pure vanity.

Three days ago, Burnside was baffled over why MacLean still had a job (I agree, for what it's worth) and said Lou was being vain for not pulling the trigger.  Now that Lou went ahead and did it, the organization is soulless and clueless.

My head hurts.

With Thursday morning's announcement -- that president and GM Lou Lamoriello followed a well-worn, circular path and brought back Jacques Lemaire for a third stint behind the New Jersey bench starting Thursday night against the equally inept New York Islanders -- the Devils' circle of shame is now complete.

A well-worn circular path?  Let's see, what is this circle?  Lemaire's first stint lasted from 1993 to 1997. Both went on their separate ways, Lemaire eventually ending up in Minnesota for a while and the Devils winning Cups and loads of hockey games.  The Devils hired Lemaire for the 2009-10 season to replace Brent Sutter, who quit on the team.  Lemaire retired after the 2010 playoffs, the Devils went to hire John MacLean, and this season happened. I'm not sure how this is a well-worn circle, but perhaps I'm quibbling.

For what it's worth, I don't think bringing back Lemaire as an interim is particularly shameful.  I think it was the right decision, and the decision will force some players to shape out or possibly get shipped out.  Shameful would be sticking with MacLean in spite of results.  In any case, I'm sure Burnside is going to get into how this is a circle of shame.

For years, in many people's eyes, Lamoriello could do no wrong. He built a three-time champion out of a raggedy organization and he did it with quiet ruthlessness. It was Lou's way or the highway. And there was a kind of reverence at how Lamoriello managed to create a kind of cult of success even though his style seemed more than a little counter-intuitive.

Or not.   Burnside is stepping back a bit to talk about Lou.  Lou has turned a mediocre-at-best Devils team from 1988 into a regular contender and three-time champion.  That's true.  I'm not sure how Burnside arrived at ascribing it as a "cult of success;" generally success breeds success and that can sell itself to players, coaches, scouts, executives, etc.  I'm also not sure how it was counter-intuitive.  Perhaps Burnside will explain what he means.

But those days of winning are long gone; so, too, is any reverence for how Lamoriello conducts his business. Or at least it should be.

Or not.   Anyway, those days of winning that happened last season are long gone.  A bit hyperbolic since it either implies that winning must equal Cups which is a rather steep expectation or that last season was a long time ago.   But the past is the past.  What gets me here is the second part. So is Burnside saying that, at a minimum, there should be no more respect for how Lou does his job. Apparently, Burnside believes 34 games from this season means more than the 22 prior seasons Lou was general manager.  The Devils are on pace for missing the playoffs for the third time since 1987-88, and as per Burnside, that's it.  That's the tipping point.  Forget about the possibility of winning in the future; turn off the lights, the party's over, you don't have to go home but you can't stay here, etc.

OK, to be fair, Burnside doesn't write all that. That's the message I'm reading.  Let's move on:

Top players have been fleeing Lamoriello and the Devils at the first opportunity since the lockout,

Top players like Ilya Kovalchuk, who re-signed with the Devils this past summer?  Zach Parise, who re-upped with the Devils in 2008?  Patrik Elias and Martin Brodeur, who both re-signed with New Jersey in 2007?  Travis Zajac, who re-signed with New Jersey in 2009?  Some have left, sure, but not all of them, Scott.

and coaches have come and gone like last-minute shoppers at Macy's.

Oh, Scott Burnside. You didn't do your research.  Here are all the coaches for the Devils since the lockout:

  1. Larry Robinson, who stepped down in the middle of the 2005-06 season citing health issues (and 4 days before Christmas! So soulless!)
  2. Claude Julien, who was fired before the 2007 playoffs.
  3. Brent Sutter, who resigned from the Devils after the 2009 playoffs.
  4. Jacques Lemaire, who retired after the 2010 playoffs.
  5. John MacLean, who was fired 33 games into the 2010-11 season, compiling a 9-22-2 record.

Only Julien and MacLean have actually been fired.  And the play and record by MacLean is more than sufficient justification to fire a coach. Robinson literally couldn't do the job,  Sutter quit, and Lemaire retired.  That's hardly on Lou or the organization.

And there comes a time when winning fails to cover up the disconnect with the realities of the "new" NHL. Like the sad little drama that played out Thursday morning, for instance.

Funny, I thought winning hockey games meant you were well in-line with the realities of the "new" NHL.  I guess Burnside feels the Devils were winning in spite of fitting in the narrative of what good teams are supposed to do in recent years.   I wonder if he'll have the same thought if/when the Detroit Red Wings have a bad season. 

And what sad little drama played out this morning?  Lou fired MacLean, Lemaire was named the interim head coach, and Lemaire coached that night.  Where was the drama?  The only one sad here is MacLean and perhaps some of the players (who need to learn to deal with it).

You can blame owner Jeff Vanderbeek for pursuing free-agent forward Ilya Kovalchuk no matter the cost (and the cost was incredibly steep) and if the rumors are true that Vanderbeek pushed Lamoriello into the deal against his will, then Lamoriello should have done the honorable thing and walked away with his integrity intact this past summer.

Wait, what?  Jeff now does hockey operations? Since when, Burnside?  All he does is supply the money because, well, he's the owner and has been since 2004.   You're telling me that, all of the sudden, Jeff decided to do something different from what he has been doing and force Lou's hand.  And so it's Jeff's fault the Devils signed Ilya Kovalchuk?

All you have are rumors is because you have no actual evidence.  It's the sort of talk I expect to read on a message board or hear from a confused fan who claims to have their finger on the pulse of the team.  Yet, there is no proof.  Is this some kind of journalist trick to fan the flames of a narrative without actually having any basis for a claim? Something where you can claim something, take credit if it comes true, and deny it if it doesn't?

And based on these rumors, you say Lou should step down because...what?  Because his boss says, "Hey, I want this player in Devils red?"  You do realize that Lou made a trade for Kovalchuk, he wanted him here in 2010. While the playoffs were a flop, it wasn't Kovalchuk's fault.  The Devils were pleased enough with 27 points in 27 games along with his pedigree and decided to offer a lot to retain him.  Why would this seem so unreasonable for Lou?  Why would this sully his integrity? At what point did Jeff come in to insist that this happen?  Can you even answer these questions?

If, as Lamoriello has stated all along, the deal was his and his alone (as are all the decisions related to how this team came to be), then the hard truth is Lamoriello should be fired for having run this once proud organization into the very ice of the Prudential Center.

So after questioning whether Lou's telling you the truth, Burnside plainly says he should be fired.   Because 34 games have went incredibly badly and that completely outweighs everything that has been done in the past.  One bad stretch in a season and you're done.  That's Burnside's point so far.  The players make fundamental mistakes, the coach has no clue, and Lou, who does not coach the team or play on the ice, should be the one who's fired.  That's "hard truth," according to Scott Burnside.  

That along with Lou either needing to step down if Jeff forced him to sign Kovalchuk, or get fired if Jeff didn't.  This after being vain for not firing MacLean earlier and being soulless and clueless for doing so on Thursday.  Goodness, Lou can't win with Burnside.

I've heard of short attention spans, but this is silly.  If this is Burnside's rationale for having a GM fired, where's the articles screaming for Steve Tambellini, someone who deserves it, to be fired?  Where's the pieces demanding that Brian Burke and Garth Snow step down?  Each have faltered for much longer and much harder with their teams than Lou.  Or do they get a pass because you expected their teams to suck this season while the Devils' fall has been a terrible surprise?

Let's be clear, the Devils' problems go far beyond the Kovalchuk signing and its cost (a cadre of young talent in the initial trade with Atlanta before last season's trade deadline, and a $3 million fine and two draft picks in the subsequent sanctions from the NHL after the first contract offer was ruled to have contravened the collective-bargaining agreement). But the costs are at the core of a host of interconnected issues that suggest this season's freefall is not a blip on the radar, but a harbinger of things to come.

The initial trade sent a 22-year old Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya (a 28-year old defenseman who looked his best when next to Paul Martin and didn't manage that in 2009-10), Patrice Cormier (a prospect center who got some buzz for representing Canada at the WJCs and then elbowing Mikael Tam in the face), a first round pick, and a second round pick to the Thrashers.  All for a then 26-year old Kovalchuk, a 25-year old Anssi Salmela, and their second round pick.  That's not a cadre of young talent.  That's two unknown assets (the picks), a prospect who has yet to break into the NHL, and two non-essential NHL players in exchange for Ilya Kovalchuk plus a third-pairing defenseman and a pick.  It's not the big blow to the Devils' prospect system you may think it to be.

As far as the penalties go, that was the NHL at their most petulant.  Lou can't do anything about the rules being changed in the middle of the CBA contract.

Anyway, peep that last sentence.  The costs are at a core of something worse to come.  I have a feeling I know what's coming.

There were the ill-advised contracts offered to Brian Rolston, Bryce Salvador and Dainius Zubrus and the ill-advised reacquisition of Jason Arnott. The current salary cap situation makes re-signing Zach Parise, who is set to become a restricted free agent July 1, problematic if not impossible.

Yep, I knew it.  First, the Rolston, Salvador, and Zubrus deals were just as bad last season and two seasons ago, and yet they won games.  The playoffs weren't great, but given this season, one cannot say that's anything to sneeze at.   Second, two of those three players don't have trade clauses and the third just got waived.   It's possible, though difficult, for Lou to move them.  Third, how was acquiring Arnott ill-advised? The Devils needed a second line center and Arnott's one of the few Devils, until recently, who wasn't in a miserable shooting slump.   Fourth, the salary cap may be going up for next season, somewhere around $2 to $3 million.  If that happens and Lou can clear some salary and remove Jamie Langenbrunner, Johan Hedberg, and Arnott from the books, there will be room for Parise. Not a lot, per CapGeek; it may cause a headache, but I think keeping Parise is worth it.

But that's a post-2010-11 problem.  Parise is a restricted free agent, so his options are limited. Plus, he and the Devils have until June 30, 2011 to make something happen.  Worrying about it now is kind of pointless to me, though not worrying about it would undercut Burnside's rant against Lou.

(Christmas Morning Update: ILWT user bence174 did some digging and found that you really liked the Rolston signing in this FanPost.  Once again, hindsight - when you want to look right for knowing now what you couldn't know then. Good catch, bence174.)

After all of this, Burnside circles back to MacLean:

MacLean was an iffy replacement for Lemaire, who was forced out of the position after the team's third straight first-round playoff exit. The longtime Devils player and assistant/minor league coach was chosen because the Devils do things their own way, which means rarely jumping outside the box, not because he was considered a great coaching mind, a la Guy Boucher or Dan Bylsma.

At least Burnside is consistent here, he wasn't enthused about the MacLean hire back in June. (Aside: That article is also irritating in it's invective, but I'm just going to focus on this one.)   Though I question how Burnside can say the Devils rarely jump outside of the box since Lou was more than willing to go outside of his organization's familiarity to hire Claude Julien back in 2006-07, and outside of the NHL's familiarity Brent Sutter for 2007-08.  Of course thanks to hindsight, which is perfect for blaming others for not knowing the future, we now know the hire was a poor one.

There is a reason there are laws against marrying within a family. It destroys the gene pool, produces physical and mental deficiencies. The Devils have never learned this lesson. Instead, they recycle and recycle, a shocking conceit that only Devils know how to be Devils. Larry Robinson, Lemaire, Bobby Holik, Arnott, Rolston. "Out with the old and in with the old" is the mantra by which the Devils live and die.

This section is so dumb, it makes me want to bang my head against a wall.   First, comparing the decision to hire John MacLean, an internal promotion after several years of being an assistant head coach and one year of being a head coach at the AHL level, to incest is just inappropriate and disgusting.  For shame, Burnside.

Second, the Devils only "recycle and recycle" when you only pick out examples of it while ignoring the rest.   Zubrus and Salvador weren't old Devils, but got signed to those bad deals Burnside mentioned earlier in this article.  The aforementioned Kovalchuk, who apparently is crux to Burnside's ridiculous thesis, wasn't an old Devil but got retained.  Lou went out and got Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder, and Johan Hedberg despite not being old Devils. 

It's such a weak charge, Burnside calls out Bobby Holik who was signed for one year two seasons ago to fill a fourth line role as justification.  Among an assistant head coach, the current interim head coach, a center the Devils traded for this season, and another guy they signed two seasons ago. His mantra would be a damning claim if it had any serious weight behind it.

Instead of reaching out to the kind of coach he should have hired this past offseason -- a guy like Bob Hartley, who won a Cup in Colorado and coached Kovalchuk when the Russian sniper was at his best in Atlanta, or Ken Hitchcock, or Craig MacTavish -- Lamoriello hired MacLean.

I can't really disagree here but once again, this charge is made with the benefit of hindsight.

Then, after defending him to the hilt, after pledging to "stay the course," after insisting over and over he had no problem with the coaching staff, Lamoriello fired MacLean two days before Christmas. Even after making the move, Lamoriello was telling reporters Thursday he still thought MacLean was a fine coach.


I see Burnside's comprehension skills revealed themselves to be inadequate.

I direct you, the reader, and Mr. Burnside  to this part of an article that confirmed the firing of MacLean by Dave Hutchinson and Steve Politi of the Star Ledger: (emphasis mine)

Lamoriello said he contacted Lemaire Wednesday night about the possibility of returning and to hear his assessment of the Devils season. Lamoriello said he then spoke to MacLean this morning about his decision. Lamoriello said MacLean will stay with the organization in some capacity.

If Lou's going to keep MacLean in the organization, then he's not going to throw him under the bus.  I don't know about you, but that's pretty obvious to me. It also reduces the supposed "soullessness" of the firing, but again, that would undercut Burnside's whole beef.

Besides, I think user Barry G hit upon it in the middle of this comment, we now know MacLean was the classic case of the Peter Principle.  MacLean was good enough as an assistant and possibly good enough (it was just one season) as a head coach at the AHL level.  Once promoted to a higher position, head coach of a NHL team, he proved to be incompetent. Lou took a chance on him, this was seen as reasonable as many of the people here liked or loved the decision, and it didn't work out. 

So Lou made a change at the head coaching position and will likely ask MacLean to return a lower coaching position (note: not all coaches are head coaches, there are assistant and specialty coaches, surely Burnside, you know this).  If he doesn't want to do that, then I would think there would be a mutual termination of sorts.  I don't see how this is some great sin that should lead to Lou's termination or how this was so shameful.

I do agree that Lou should have made the decision sooner.  You know what, Lou would also agree with that sentiment.  From the same Star Ledger article: (emphasis mine)

"We were teased with signs at different times," Lamoriello said. "It's my fault for waiting so long. Unfortunately, we just weren't getting it done. We finally got our penalty kill and power play going, but for whatever reason our five-on-five did not get going."

He's taking responsibility for this fault along with this season as a whole.  Yet, this is not good enough for Burnside. Maybe I'm being unnecessarily mean here, maybe Burnside didn't know Lou told the press all of this?  Let's continue.

One person who isn't likely to be laughing at the latest recycling job in New Jersey is captain Jamie Langenbrunner. Langenbrunner and Lemaire didn't exactly see eye-to-eye last season, and with Langenbrunner set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and the Devils having grossly mismanaged the salary cap, you don't need to be clairvoyant to see Langenbrunner's time in New Jersey is limited.

I see Burnside has moved on from "shame" to "recycling."   I do agree with the general gist of this; Langenbrunner (among others) won't like this move.  However, I don't think Langenbrunner, who is on the final year of a contract with a cap-hit of $2.8 million per year, will be moved for cap purposes.  The Devils can simply let him walk at the end of this season and he'll be off the books. If Langenbrunner wants out, it's only going to happen because Langenbrunner wants out and someone actually wants the captain of a 9-win team who has contributed to more goals against (at least 3) than goals scored (3).   Maybe it'll happen, but until then, he's going to have to deal with it.

Yes, Langenbrunner does have a no-trade clause, but one would have to assume getting out of New Jersey would be a welcome relief for the classy Langenbrunner if he was approached about waiving his no-trade clause. Langenbrunner won't likely be the only player asked about moving out; the Devils will have some serious housecleaning to do before the trade deadline if they're going to try to right the ship financially, let alone on the ice.

Unfortunately, after this article was put up - it was last updated on December 23 at 5:15 PM - Tom Gulitti reported that Zach Parise could now be out for the rest of the season on Thursday night.   Given that Bryce Salvador isn't progressing any closer to practicing as far as I know, he and Parise remaining on IR could be enough to prevent the Devils from making a trade just to get under the cap.   I could be wrong on that, but it's possible that the Devils may not have to do anything.  I'm not going to fault Burnside for information that came out after the putting up the article.

I will fault him for calling Langenbrunner classy.  Is it classy to sulk for being scratched for a single game? Is it classy to go out to the press to criticize a retired head coach? Is it classy to talk over and over about needing to do better and finding out the problems in the locker room and continue to falter on the ice?  

If Lamoriello's motivation for bringing back Lemaire appears clear -- do what's easiest, do what's most familiar -- you have to wonder about Lemaire's motivation for coming back to a club that is the worst in the NHL.

"Do what's easiest?" Once again, this is a claim that's easily refuted just by looking at what Lou actually said. Back to the Star Ledger article: (emphasis mine)

"We were teased with signs at different times," Lamoriello said. "It's my fault for waiting so long. Unfortunately, we just weren't getting it done. We finally got our penalty kill and power play going, but for whatever reason our five-on-five did not get going."

There's your sign, Burnside.  The move wasn't made because it was easy, it was because the team eats it at 5-on-5 and MacLean has done nothing to fix the issue. Some of it is uncontrollable, like shooting percentage.  Any coach who can somehow make that better pretty much has a job for life.    Some of it is quite controllable, like a lack of motivation and in-game adjustments, which is why the Devils have continued to get pounded in the second period throughout this season. Or not punishing players who make terrible errors that end up costing the team.  Or not having the team prepared enough so they get rocked in the first period, followed by a horrid second, and end up lamely trying to make something happen in the third period. Or putting players in combinations that make sense unlike, I don't know, Kovalchuk with Tim Sestito or Mattias Tedenby with Rolston and David Clarkson.   All of this factors in at 5-on-5, which takes up most of the game. 

If you suck at 5-on-5, you're going to lose hockey games; and there has been nothing done by MacLean other than shuffling players about to address that issue.   Lemaire, despite the injuries of last season, had the team play very well at 5-on-5.  So his return makes sense in that light.

As far as motivation goes, I wonder how this is a question.  Why would Lou bring in someone who wouldn't care enough to at least get the team motivated and competitive?  If Lemaire didn't care or had no motivation, then why would he agree to do this?

He looked tired by the end of his one-season stint behind the Devils' bench last season when the seventh-seeded Philadelphia Flyers ate the Devils' lunch in five games in the first round.

Lemaire looked tired? What does this even mean?  What is the point of mentioning this?  How is it even relevant? How is it even proveable?  I'm tired of this article, and thankfully, we're near the end - Just a few more short paragraphs.

What is Lemaire's appetite for coaching a team that was 18 points in arrears of the last playoff spot as of Thursday? More to the point, what does Lemaire bring to the table for a team too short on top young talent and too long in the tooth to jump back into the playoff hunt regardless of the nonsense Lamoriello was talking Thursday about it not being too late?

You'd have to ask Lemaire, Burnside, though that would require doing some work.  Again, it's simple. Lemaire was interested in being the interim head coach for this season, so there's your appetite.

As far as what does Lemaire bring to the table, he actually has bucketloads of experience as a head coach, he's familiar with the Devils, many of the Devils players are familiar with him, he actually will hold people accountable, and he can institute an actual system and tactical philosophy that not only makes sense (it worked last season) for a team that had no identity under MacLean.   Lemaire brings quite a lot.

By the way, nice little shot about not having enough "top young talent and too long in the tooth."  Something tells me you wouldn't say that about the Detroit Red Wings, a team that you could say the same. Except that they are doing quite well this season. It's almost as if having a defined system and style; players who know, respect, and are talented within that system; and not burdened by bad luck, a bad locker room, and a bad coach makes age irrelevant.

There are rumors Lemaire has agreed to come back for the remainder of this season and Lamoriello will go after Hartley in the offseason. Whether or not it's true, why not go after Hartley now?

We're back to rumors. Why is Hartley even rumored? Who is actually suggesting it's Hartley? 

Let's answer the question anyway, since the answer is easy.   By not bringing in a head coach like Harley (or Theirren or Hitchcock or MacTavish), the Devils aren't starting from scratch again in the middle of the season with an unknown.  Oh, sure, we may learn how he did things in Atlanta, but who's to say he wouldn't do different things in New Jersey?   

The whole point of naming of Lemaire as interim is because he's familiar with the set up, there's familiarity between him and the players, and it sends a message to some of those players that they better learn to like Lemaire's approaches as it could be what's happening with a different person for 2011-12.  While Lemaire gets this team back into shape, Lou can determine what works and use that as a guideline on who to hire.   This way, the new head coach comes in during the offseason and isn't jumping in the middle trying to prove himself to the players while trying to get them to be successful.   

The Devils will never be right again until Kovalchuk finds some sort of groove. The team has committed 15 years and $100 million, plus the other assets/fines, to Kovalchuk, so they better make him as comfortable as possible. The sooner Kovalchuk starts to make good on that commitment, the better for this team; logic suggests Lemaire isn't the answer for that, short term or long term.

And forget about coaching and Lou because it's all about Ilya Kovalchuk. I know it's easy to blame the superstar (thanks sjohnson125 for pointing this out), and I find, thanks to you Mr. Burnside, that it's no more ridiculous for a pundit to do it than it is for an organization.

This is the second-to-last paragraph of an article about Lou firing John MacLean and it's all about Ilya Kovalchuk.  We go from Burnside damning Lou for firing him, stating that he should be fired or should have resigned for the deal, lashing at some prior deals, criticizing the decision to hire MacLean at all, hitting out bringing in Lemaire and questioning his commitment, to putting it on Ilya Kovalchuk.   In an article called "Circle of shame," there isn't even a circle.  Just a lot of ranting and raving involving a lot of crap with tiny little pieces of truthfulness like corn amid the crap.

Anyway, how is bringing in Lemaire as an interim head coach a long term concern?  How is it uncomfortable for Kovalchuk, who played for him last season and put up 10 goals and 17 assists in 27 games. Given that he joined the team in the middle of a slump, that he put up a point per game pace seems to suggest that he was doing quite fine.  There's no reason to believe that Lemaire is going to screw Kovalchuk up.  Given Kovalchuk is currently shooting at 8.2%, still way below his season low of 12%, I don't think a coach isn't going to suddenly make it better or worse.

That said, Lemaire will hopefully keep him away from getting shifts with non-offensive forwards like Adam Mair, Rod Pelley, Tim Sestito, et al since that has done nothing.  And if he does do that, it won't last for long, whereas it took MacLean several games to figure that obvious fact out.

Even so, the Devils are only going to get right when several players stop slumping and when the entire team can sharpen up their defense and their possession.  It's not an issue of talent when it's simple things like missing coverages, turning the puck over, passing the puck, communicating to each other, that holds the Devils back and causes them to lose games.  If that's not rectified, Kovalchuk can get into the grooviest groove that ever grooved and it won't matter much.

Of course, admitting that would undercut blaming Kovalchuk, which would in turn further undercut the dramatic calling for Lou to be fired.

Of course, logic seems now to be a forgotten element in how the Devils do business, and Thursday's shuffling of the deck chairs on their sinking ship illustrates that perfectly.

After all of this ranting on the heel of 34 mostly bad games after 22 seasons of mostly excellent results, this is how the article ends. By the end of this, I half-expected a shot at the name of this blog, but at least you avoided that. (Aside: No, I will not change the name of this blog and it's not a point of discussion.) 


Let me remind you all, after all of these words, what happened that led to this article in the first place: MacLean sucked at his job.  The Devils were 9-22-2 with 59 goals scored and 103 goals allowed. The Devils lost 7 of their last 8, their last road win was on November 3, and the Devils were tied in points with the New York Islanders for 30th place in the NHL.   In a results-oriented business, MacLean was not getting them.  So he had to go, and he was.  Lemaire replaces him on an interim basis to finish out the season.  How that is so difficult to understand, much less shameful for Lou and the Devils, I do not know.

That all said and let me show you how I read this ending now:

Of course, logic...

Logic? Logic? Logic? LOGIC?

Burnside, let me quickly recap this long and stupid article.  You kicked things off by calling MacLean's sacking on Thursday to be "soulless" and "without a clue" with out explaining either.  Your claim that the Devils are losing top players and dumping coaches is disingenuous.   You call for Lou to be removed - fired or by voluntary resignation - just because Kovalchuk was re-signed at all.  You bring up points of criticism from the past that aren't as strong as you think they are to anyone who does a little research.  You went as far to compare the MacLean hiring to incest.  Your complaint of "recycling" is found wanting.  You claim Bob Hartley is in the mix for a head coaching job based on rumors and regardless of whether it's true, you question why he - and not anyone else - was hired.  You complain about how Kovalchuk has to get in a groove instead of getting to some explanation of how this is a circle of shame.

You title this piece "Devils' circle of shame is now complete," and it ends with you decrying logic based on the decision to fire MacLean and name Lemaire as an interim head coach without an actual, coherent explanation.  I, the reader, don't get a payoff based on your own title among all of these other flaws pointed out in this very post. I know this is an opinion piece, but there's very little to back it up and it's all over the place so it comes off as ranting.

You're in no position to discuss logic, Scott Burnside.

Let me make this final point.  Don't interpret this as to mean that Lou Lamoriello shouldn't be criticized.  There's plenty to criticize.  Interpret this to mean that if you're going to make an argument, don't be a fool and actually back it up.  Don't just rely on breathless and dramatic hyperbole because you're not happy with how things are. Take a deep breath, point out what went wrong, and what should be done about it now.   That would be a lot more constructive, a lot more fruitful, and a lot more appreciated by all who read it than something like this trash.

No, you're probably not a writer for, but that doesn't mean you should stoop to their level.