After a dreadful 9-22-2 start the Devils fired Coach John MacLean this morning. Jacques Lemaire will take over the team on an interim basis, but will not coach the Devils beyond this season. The Devils have been a model of consistency and had made the playoffs for 13 straight seasons going into the year, but they are now tied for the worst record in the National Hockey League with the New York Islanders.
It has been a shocking fall for a team that had been considered one of league’s best-run organisations, but some puzzling decisions have led to New Jersey’s demise.
Last spring the Devils executed a trade for talented Russian winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who despite his premier goal-scoring ability, is known to be a liability on defence. Defensive responsibility has long been the Devils’ claim to fame, and when the team signed Kovalchuk to a massive 15-year, $102 million contract this summer, it was left without enough cash to shore up its blue line.
That’s been the team’s Achilles heal this season. The Devils have been beset by injuries, and with precious little depth on defence to begin with, it has been unable to recover.
The Devils face a huge uphill climb if they want to make the playoffs this year, but their long-term prospects aren’t much better. The team has very little wiggle room and must re-sign Zach Parise this summer.
Making matters worse, the Devils’ franchise goalie, Martin Brodeur has had has worst season by a long-shot. He has another year and $5.2 million on his contract, and the Devils may have to consider trading him to a contender to get cap relief.
This is a classic example of a coach taking the fall for a team with bigger problems.
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