Since the firing of then head coach Peter DeBoer was fired back on December 26th, 2014, our New Jersey Devils have resorted to using a triumvirate of hockey greats to run the bench. General manager Lou Lamoriello has restated in a recent interview that the Devils will have only one head coach by the time the 2015-2016 season begins; as of right now it probably won't be Lou himself, which leaves us with the options of retaining/promoting one of Adam Oates and Scott Stevens or looking for a new coach outside of the organization. Today I will take a look at the 2/3 of our coaching hydra that could return, citing their positives and negatives, as well as some outside candidates that might or might not fit behind the New Jersey bench.
One of the NHL's all-time greats, Oates as a player scored 341 goals and recorded 1,079 assists to finish his career with 1,420 points in 1,337 games. As a head coach, however, his record is a bit murkier; while he had some initial success with the Washington Capitals, there were known issues as well as other murmurings of him having problems with personnel. Those same issues seemed to follow him upon his return to New Jersey, leading to a trade where a respected veteran who assumed he was going to be asked about his thoughts on the destination, was shipped out to the highest bidder. While some of the reasoning could just be due to Florida offering the best return possible, I honestly feel it can't just be a coincidence
While Oates did alright as an assistant coach under Peter DeBoer, the man was responsible for a forward group that essentially ran itself; you don't really need to give much advice to a power play unit that contains both Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. Oates has had far less success with an inferior talent pool this season; he might wind up making a good head coach if Lou and Conte get him some tools in free agency and the draft. If they don't, yet choose to make Oates the next head coach, things may take an even uglier turn for Jersey's Team.
Captain Crunch re-joined the Devils at the request of Lou mere months after he resigned his position under DeBoer's regime. Scott has not yet had the chance to be a head coach at the NHL level, so it's hard to evaluate how he might fit if he takes the reigns of the entire team.
His work with the defense has been promising this year, as he has Adam Larsson playing like a fourth overall draft pick; Damon Severson has also been very good in his limited time under Stevens. Jon Merrill has been iffy at times but I'd rather chalk that up to a sophomore slump since he played well under Stevens last year; heck, even Eric Gelinas has looked better since Stevens came back, though his gaffs are not completely gone quite yet.
The question with Stevens taking over would again be the forwards; Scott has been working almost exclusively (at least it seems that way from interviews) with the defense, so it remains unknown how he would deal with a mostly over-the-hill, underwhelming forward corp. Even with the proper players up front, there's no guarantee that the Captain would succeed.
Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings has his contract expiring at the end of this season and every team without a solid coaching options would be foolish to not at least send out feelers and gauge his level of interest.
Todd McLellan and Dave Tippett have to be on the hot seat due to how their respective teams are performing; Tippet might be safe due to the fact that the Arizona Coyotes have been in rebuild mode for months now, but with how disappointing the San Jose Sharks have been, McLellan might be looking for a new employer
Dan Bylsma is a name that has come up numerous times in the past, but seems to be almost unanimously hated by the fan base as a choice for Devils coach. The major argument seems to be that he struggled with a much better roster and therefore would struggle here; I can't say I disagree with this point.
Mine and Yours
I have to say that outside of Babcock (which is more or less a pipe dream) I'm personally a bit underwhelmed by the available choices. I would love to have him here as coach, but even if he does leave Detroit, I just can't see him coming to New Jersey. If I go with my gut, I say Lou hires Oates and brings Stevens back as an assistant, but I really hope I'm wrong because what I have seen from Oates, I'm not entirely a fan of.
I'd like to hear what you think about our coaching situation; who do you think will be manning the bench next season? Who do you want to see? Is there anyone I didn't mention that could be available and would be a good coach? Leave any and all comments below, and as always, thank you for reading!