After 248 regular season games and 24 playoff games, Peter DeBoer will no longer be the head coach of the New Jersey Devils. Bob MacKenzie of TSN broke the news first on Twitter that he has been fired by the team.
Head coach Pete DeBoer has been fired by the New Jersey Devils.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 26, 2014
This is only a surprise in terms of it's timing. It's not only the day after Christmas, but the Devils are 12-17-7. Short of a miraculous run, the Devils are likely to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason. One the big questions that should be asked is "Why wasn't this done sooner if the coaching was a problem?" It's mostly moot now that it's done, but it's a looming question of "what could have been?" that will likely come up in, say, April.
That being said, it's not that much of a surprise considering the rest of the situation. The record speaks for itself and to a degree, that's enough. But it goes a bit deeper than that. While DeBoer's teams were very competitive for the last three seasons, they have not been this season. By eye, they've been outplayed way more often than not with a mostly veteran team seemingly unable to execute the basics at times. By numbers, their 49.8 Corsi% and a score-adjusted 48.6 Corsi% is not only far worse than previous seasons under DeBoer but it's further damaging as the Devils are a low-event team. This season, the Devils don't generate many attempts while the opposition absolutely has, which does not work well. While that's arguably on the players, blame for that much of a drop off in possession - as James Mirtle tweeted out earlier this month - does lie at the feet of the coaches at least to some extent. And possession definitely matters in hockey.
I don't think DeBoer was a bad coach. I don't think he would've lasted as long as he did if he wasn't. I do think the roster isn't that good with a lot of earlier risks taken and plans made just turning out sour. Like Patrik Elias getting old, a portions of the forwards getting hurt, Michael Ryder running into a 20+ game scoreless streak, and other roster-related issues. But I've also said that with repeated poor performances featuring inferior puck control and movement, DeBoer wasn't going to last. And now that's happened. So I don't think it wasn't an unjustified or a hasty decision to fire DeBoer.
As of right now, a replacement has not been announced. That should come later today, if not then early tomorrow as the Devils have a game to play. While the team enjoyed a huge bounce back in terms of results and performance in 2011, I don't think that's likely to happen this season. I cannot speculate as to who the replacement will be or whether he will become the next head coach of the Devils or just a caretaker for the rest of 2014-15. Look for an update when that news does come out.
Those fans who hated his bland answers to bland post-game questions or his lack of firey demeanor behind the bench or still think what he did in Florida years ago matters now for reasons will be pleased by this news. Those who have concluded that it's all on DeBoer are surely happy. Those players who supported DeBoer, like Jaromir Jagr, are likely not as pleased. Are the Devils actually better off? That truly remains to be seen.
In the meantime, please leave your reaction and other comments about today's big news in the comments. Thank you for reading.