With the announcement this week that Jacques Lemaire is “retiring”, the Devils will once again look for a new top guy to run the bench- though there is no debate as to who runs the team and that’s Lamoriello.
I’m guessing the deserving John MacLean, finally, will be the choice, though Lamoriello is unpredictable. I was working in the broadcast field back in the early 1980s when MacLean was a 17 year-old with the OHL Oshawa Generals. I saw him play a lot in his junior career. He was a hard-working, industrious, team-guy way back then, and had a very solid NHL career. He has been coaching with the Devils as an assistant or in the minors for years, so it may well be his time.
While coaching in professional team sports is certainly a merry-go-round, a couple of NHL teams—notably Nashville and Buffalo, have kept the same management/head coaching tandem in place for over a decade. That’s a credit to Barry Trotz in Nashville and Lindy Ruff in Buffalo, but it also speaks to the values of their respective General Managers.
Since taking over the then-lowly Devils in 1987, Lou has utilized twelve different coaches. That doesn’t include his taking over behind the bench (twice) on an “interim” or the fact that Larry Robinson and Jacques Lemaire have both had the job on two separate occasions.
You can’t argue with success, though I’m not sure some of the coaches who worked for Lou remember the experience fondly (Robbie Ftorek, Kevin Constantine and Claude Julien come to mind).
In the same time period, the Maple Leafs have employed “only” ten different coaches—two of whom were strictly interim assignments. When you include Lamoriello (twice) and the return of Robinson and Lemaire, a total of sixteen head coaches (though not sixteen different people) have been behind the Devils bench. Only one (Lemaire, the first time) has coached for five years. Pat Burns coached for three seasons. Everyone else was around two seasons or less.
When you look at the Detroit Red Wings in the same era, they have had a total of five coaches. That’s it. And they’ve won four Cups themselves.
I’m a bigger fan of the Red Wing approach. Both Lamoriello in New Jersey and Devellano/Holland in Detroit have built fine organizations over the past 20+ seasons, but in Detroit they don’t follow a scorched earth policy with regards to coaches.
In New Jersey, it’s all about Lou (at least that’s the impression I have, I could be wrong, obviously)—which is fine. They’ve won.
But in Detroit, they have been able to develop all kinds of management talent since the late ‘80s—really, since Mike Illitch took over as owner and Jimmy Devellano was first hired from the Islanders as GM in ’82. Scotty Bowman was around for years and they have people like Jim Nill and Yzerman who could be GM’s elsewhere tomorrow, and many other talented people who are part of the Detroit decision-making and evaluation process.
I prefer Detroit’s approach, and for me they remain the model franchise in the National Hockey League—an ideal landing spot for coaches and players alike.
Toronto Maple Leaf hockey blog