I am admittedly late on the news but I am still quite baffled at today's announcement of who will coach the New Jersey Devils for the rest of 2014-15. Lou announced that they will have two co-coaches instead of a head coach: Scott Stevens and Adam Oates. Here's the relevant section as to why this move was made, as reported by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice:
Lamoriello admitted it was a "unique" situauton to have co-coaches, but felt it would not be "fair" to have one person to coach the team the rest of the season. Lamoriello said the intention is to hire one head coach for the start of the 2015-16 season. He said it could be Stevens or Oates or someone else.
Lamoriello also said he had the authority from ownership to hire a fuil-time head caoch for this season and beyond, but he did not feel that was right choice for the team at this time.
I can understand the idea to not hire someone full time since the season is all but lost at this point. But why name two coaches for the position and then, as the headline indicated, put yourself on the bench for some time too? To put it succinctly like my brother did when I told him about this, when you have two head coaches, you really have no head coach. That's a problem as the position usually requires one person to define the game plan fully among the staff, one person to put their foot down when there are issues and/or unrest, and one person to consult with players man-to-man as needed among other coaching tasks. With two coaches, it's a legitimate question to ask, "Who's really in charge?" Maybe that's why Lou will be there for a short term - though would that not make him the head coach and Oates & Stevens more like coordinators?
Oates is not only a former assistant on the Devils, but he was the head coach in Washington. 2012-13 seemed to go well. As for 2013-14, not so much as he was let go in April along with George McPhee. At least he has an understanding of what that takes. Stevens was an assistant coach for two years, didn't like to travel far with the team, and his focus was on the defense. Gulitti's article noted that Stevens and DeBoer had some differences that led to Stevens leaving. Before one can say that was a bad decision, do note that no other team bothered to try and bring in Stevens. Coaches talk to each other and if an assistant with legitimately good ideas was heading out the door, then he likely would have been contacted about wanting to join someone else. That Stevens has been idle suggests at least to me that his ideas maybe aren't all that and a bag of chips. Maybe we'll see those ideas in action - assuming Oates also thinks they should be tried out.
To me, this did not have to be a "unique" solution to a not really unique situation. Oates was a head coach once, he can be a head coach again. Stevens was an assistant coach once, he can be an assistant again. Lou can remain as GM and try to see what, if anything, could be done with a roster that represents awful drafting of forwards (pro tip to Lou: consider firing David Conte and/or his scouts), risks taken that went south, and is now currently ridden with injuries and illness as now Michael Ryder and Scott Clemmensen have the dreaded mumps. Simple. One head coach, one assistant for the new head coach, and a GM that can remain a GM. That would establish one person at the top of the coaching staff; and he (Oates) would have a legitimate chance at being head coach beyond 2014-15 if things go better and Lou believes he can do more. Instead, there are two co-coaches who may not be on the same page, they could very well be competing against each other if there is a legitimate chance at the full-time job in 2015-16, and coaching instability could lead to uglier performances on the ice. There will even less of an idea of what to do for next season. I believe things can always get worse and, well, they might be for the Devils.
Personally, those who wanted everything to blow up and start from scratch should be pleased with this announcement as I fear that's the path the team is headed for. I don't think that's necessarily a good thing. We'll see how it plays out tonight for the first night. Please leave your thoughts and reactions to the co-coaching announcement in the comments. Thank you for reading.