By Igor Tsipenyuk
With another failed season in the books for the New Jersey Devils, the organization will now try to decide which current players and staffers will return for the 2014-15 season. For Lou Lamoriello, the Devils and their fans, missing the playoffs in two consecutive seasons and three of the last four is unacceptable. Lou will never publically call out a player or an individual, but the fans certainly don’t have problems with that and have been making themselves heard all year.
The most vocal group was the “Fire Deboer” crowd and I have to say I was part of that group early in the season. The Devils came out of the gate with 7 straight losses so it was easy to jump on that bandwagon, but my reasons were a little different than other fans. While many did not like the coach’s system and his decisions, I simply thought the Devils needed a change to wake them up. I liked Deboer’s system in year one when they went to the finals and I liked it in years two and three when they couldn’t buy a goal. After losing Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuck, Deboer’s system made even more sense for this team. The question now is whether to keep him around despite having consecutive failed seasons.
Deboer’s system re-enforces the Devils’ and the Lamoriellian culture: no one is above the team. Having had great success with that in place, I think it is important to keep that mentality and make decisions based on that. If everyone buys in and does what he is supposed to do, then the team wins.
The Devils control the puck, on average, more than the other team. Having the puck in the offensive zone more than your opponent should lead to more victories.
The team has certainly lost several key players the last few years and yet they still have a chance to win almost every night. There are a number of reasons the Devils didn’t win enough this year: blown leads, lack of scoring and horrific shootouts. I don’t believe Deboer is directly responsible for any of those three. Those are all on the players, and ultimately on the General Manager. Deboer has made the most out of what he was given to work with.
Deboer’s personnel decisions this year have caused the most rancorous responses from fans. It is not important to get into what they were, but on a daily basis there was much anger and disapproval with his decisions.
His failure to acknowledge when something was and wasn’t working essentially ties back into his daily roster decisions. Certain players that he felt “played the right way” were always in the lineup and had more ice time than they deserved.
Considering the skill level of this team and the fact that they will not go into a full rebuild, he is a good fit to win as many games as possible. I believe that Lou can alleviate a majority of the burden with the personnel decisions. It is clear that some players need to be moved, bought out or unsigned. Once those players are gone, Deboer’s job will get easier and his biggest weakness will not hamper the team to the extent that it has. If Lou can do his job well, Deboer can coach the team into the playoffs.