As training camp begins in less than a week, more news is coming out regarding the New Jersey Devils. Today's big change involves the bench. Legendary defenseman and assistant coach Scott Stevens has stepped down from his position. Tom Gulitti reported earlier this morning at Fire & Ice from Lou himself that Stevens made the decision. There will be no search for a replacement. Former Devils defenseman Tommy Albelin has been promoted from Albany to take his spot. This is a return for Albelin. He was an assistant under Brent Sutter. In the summer of 2010, Albelin was moved to Albany to be an assistant. Now he will get his shot.
This story has a little more juice than that, though. Rich Chere had this short piece at NJ.com proclaiming why Stevens left. There were two reasons, actually. One was that he didn't like to travel. I would have guessed that. Back when Stevens was a special assignment coach, he would be with the team in New Jersey and for games in the area. However, he didn't go with the team. The other reason was that he felt his tactics were not being utilized as much as he wanted. Also, apparently "strategical" is a word so I learned three things from the article.
This is the part of the post where I would delve into that second part about his ideas. I wasn't in coaching meetings, practices, and video sessions so I don't know what those would be. In fact, it's not readily apparent what Stevens really did for the team as an assistant coach for the last two seasons. I expect that he was in charge of the defense. After all, he did come on staff after Larry Robinson left in 2012 to go to San Jose. We know that the Devils have been particularly stingy in terms of shot prevention under Peter DeBoer at even strength - even away from home. But how much of that is on the players, on DeBoer and his systems, and on Stevens? I can't say. After playing around with the Hextally tool at War on Ice, the Devils were stronger on shot prevention while Stevens was behind the bench than the four seasons before at even strength. So there's that. But because of potentially significant factors like DeBoer, style of play, and the defensemen themselves, I'm hesitant to attribute a lot of that to him. Essentially, I'm not sure that this is a big loss. If there was some word to what those ideas would be, then that would be something. The results suggest to me that they weren't so needed - shot prevention was among the least of New Jersey's problems last season.
By the same token, I'm not sure what to expect from Albelin, also (not really) known as Scotty Swedens. Those on New Jersey who've been with Albany for some length of time over the past four years know about Albelin. Was it a positive development working with him, working with the head coach, or did the player succeed on their own terms? It's hard to say. The 2013-14 Albany Devils averaged 25.25 shots against per game. I had to calculate that as the AHL doesn't readily have team stats, but I would figure that's really low. That may speak well of him from a shot prevention standpoint; I defer to those closer to Albany regarding Albelin's performance behind the bench in past years. So all I have are straws to grasp at. I presume Albelin will be in charge of the defense, which will allow him to pull from his past experience as a player. His recent work with the Devils' many defensive prospects could be a benefit. More importantly, this is a real opportunity as Albelin has been in the system coaching-wise for quite some time. This is a promotion. This is his time to show management (and other teams for the future) he can do well in a bigger role. He has every incentive to be a positive force. So I hope he will be; but that's all I have: hope. Not much in the way of evidence unless someone closer to Albany can speak to Albelin's assets and/or issues.
I certainly wish Albelin well in his new role and the best for Stevens as he sorts out his own future. Maybe he'll return to the bench in the future. Maybe he'll be a special assignment coach or an advisor again so he doesn't have to travel. Maybe he'll have more "strategical" ideas. We'll see. It appears the staff this year will be DeBoer, Albelin, Dave Barr, Mike Foligno, and Chris Terreri. Are you pleased about this group going into 2014-15? How about the promotion of Albelin instead of looking outside of the organization to replace Stevens? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the coaching news in the comments. Thank you for reading. (P.S. I'm not worried about Ryan Carter or Eric Gelinas.)