I had categorized John as “ON THE ROCKS” in a previous Blog, predicting his demise if things didn’t improve with his Devils. There were several negative “telltale” signs that the players were not responding well to his message. The first sign trouble was the coach’s outburst interrupting practice in the first week of the season. John claimed that the players weren’t focused and not working hard enough. This doesn’t just happen on one day. It’s likely something that was brewing since the beginning and a sign that the players aren’t responding or that practices are not well organized.
The second sign of trouble was the benching of Ilya Kovalchuk. When your top players don’t respond, a coach is definitely in trouble. Benching your top player is a big gamble, especially if you’re a new coach without an existing relationship with the player.
Of course, looking at the Devils’ line-up, there is very little reason for excitement over this team. They have a “no name” defense, some aging players and very little depth. Lou Lamoriello, the Devils General Manager, has been very loyal to many veterans in the past but some of them are on a free fall. The signing of Kovalchuk has brought great difficulty in managing the “CAP” and obviously leaves very little money for other high end players and limiting the quality of the depth players. Injuries to key players like Brodeur and Parise certainly doesn’t help either.
Bringing Jacques Lemaire back is no surprise. Lou never really fires the people who have been loyal to him. He keeps them on the payroll, uses them as advisors and he can bring them back anytime he wants. In return, people like Lemaire, Larry Robinson, Pat Burns before he passed away, won’t refuse Lou if he needs a favor. MacLean will be kept on the payroll as well. He is a long time Devil and will be taken care of.
It’s a given that the Devils won’t make the playoffs this year. They’re 20 points behind a playoff spot. Will Jacques be able to bring this team back to respectability? Yes, there will be some improvement, the team will work harder and play as a team but chances are that they will pick first or second in the June Entry Draft.
Kudos to Tom Renney for the vote of confidence for his team. He told the media that they will make the playoffs this season. It shows his team that he believes in them and should help in the players believing in themselves. With a ten point gap, it’s still possible to achieve this goal but they must go on a winning streak very soon. They do have some talent and the future looks bright but I don’t see Tom’s prediction coming through this season.
Chris Osgood has failed to win his 400th career victory for the second consecutive game. I’m waiting for him to reach his goal. Look for a new Blog about Chris when he does. I was an Assistant Coach/Goalie Coach in Detroit when we drafted him in Detroit.
The San Jose Sharks are finally making a run with a four game winning streak. I’m still waiting for the Boston Bruins to get their act together. I picked those two teams to play in the Stanley Cup Finals.
HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY / CHRISTMAS BREAK