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Like the Red Wing formula, Burke loyal to Wilson; Lamoriello, not so much

For me, I find it impossible as only a fan with no “inside” knowledge to determine exactly when or why a coach may be or is a significant part of why a team may be struggling. 

This is the third year under Wilson’s tutelage in Toronto, and while there are glimpses of progress, too many nights the same old problems seem to re-surface.

Regardless of what some fans may think or want, Burke is 100% behind Wilson, so that’s not where Leaf supporters should look if they are hoping for a sudden rejuvenation.

But Burke’s loyalty (stubbornness?) is not new.   His record indicates he is not one to throw coaches under the bus.  So the Wilson-Burke tandem will likely be around for a long time to come, especially if the blue and white to begin to show real improvement over the next twelve months.

I do, however, find it fascinating to watch how very differently two successful NHL franchises handle the coaching situation.  Both the Red Wings and the Devils have won several Cups since the mid-1990s.  And their approach to this issue could not be more different.

Since Lou Lamoriello became General Manager of the Devils before the 1987-’88 season, (and yes, they were a mess, a “Mickey Mouse organization”, as described by none other than Wayne Gretzky at the time), he has changed coaches 17 times.  (I may be off a bit—it gets confusing trying to add the same names over again, like Robinson and Lemaire.)

In Detroit, meanwhile, since Jacques Demers left in the late ‘80s, they have changed coaches a grand total of four times.

If I’m not mistaken, the changes in New Jersey under Lou started with Doug Carpenter (who went on to briefly coach the Maple Leafs) in 1988 and continued until just a few days ago, when Lemaire started his third (Billy Martin/George Steinbrenner-like) stop behind the Jersey bench.

I’ve posted on this subject before (click on the “Lamoriello” label in the categories section on the right to read more).  The reality is Lamoriello is not an easy guy to coach for.  He seems to have his beliefs, his way of doing things, and if you stray, you’re gone.  Or if you don’t get results quickly, you’re also gone.  (See Cunniff, Ftorek, Constantine, Julien, et al.)

Lou will fire you just about anytime—very early in the season, just before the playoffs.  Everything but during the playoffs themselves.

I listened to an interview last week with a long-time Devils beat reporter and he stressed that Lamoriello demonstrated extreme patience in waiting to fire John MacLean.  Really?  Less than half a season is not exactly showing patience.  Now, the team was playing poorly, granted, but Lamoriello is the guy who constructed this team, and it’s not a very good one—even in the weak Eastern Conference.  Do we really know MacLean is a poor coach, based on this particular group, (including coach-killer Kovalchuk), in his very first months as an NHL head coach?

Lamoriello is a successful General Manager, for sure.  He received max credit when the Devils were good; he should also get the blame when things fall apart, if they ultimately do.

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