With all the player personnel change going on in Newark, it’s easy to forget about the head coach. Peter DeBoer is entering his third season at the helm of the New Jersey Devils. His first season was a major success; taking NJ to the Stanley Cup Finals. His second campaign was a pretty big disappointment, especially considering how fast of a start they had. Perhaps it’s a bit too early to discuss it, but it might be a conversation that’s not too far down the road depending on the club’s start; how much pressure is on Pete DeBoer in 2013-14?
Maybe it’s unfair to put last year’s collapse on DeBoer, but there’s no denying it happened on his watch, even if there was a 48-game season and injures to overcome. In the middle of last year, I mentioned that DeBoer should be in NJ for a long time. While I still believe he should, this is a big swing year for his job security with GM Lou Lamoriello and new ownership closely watching.
To get one thing out of the way immediately, even if the Devils get off to a rocky start and are in limbo standings-wise heading into the final month or two, I don’t think Lamoriello will axe him. Lamoriello has been quick to fire coaches in-season before, but it appears the players have taken a liking to him, unlike the Brent Sutters and John MacLeans of recent years. Unless the Devils are MacLean-bad, DeBoer will be here the full year.
That said, I have some doubts whether Lamoriello will keep the 45-year-old coach on board for 2014-15 if the Devils miss the playoffs this year. New Jersey hasn’t missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 1985-86 and 1986-87.
Regardless of roster turnover, PDB shouldn’t get a free pass this year. However, it’s very possible he won’t be held to the fire considering the team has lost its three most productive players over the last two offseasons to free agency (or “retirement”). Very few, if any, coaches can survive such a blow.
Heck, throw in the fact that he may be given the dilemma of playing new acquisition Cory Schneider over fan favorite Martin Brodeur. Even if Schneider is playing great and No. 30 isn’t playing at his best, will the Ontario native receive backlash from the fanbase, and more importantly, Brodeur himself? That’s going to be an extremely delicate situation.
He basically has a whole new deck of forwards with no scoring aces. It’s going to take some time for the lines to gel. If they struggle out of the gate, it’s hard to get on DeBoer considering the hand he’s been dealt.
As many angles as there are to look at this, if the team makes the playoffs, DeBoer definitely stays, regardless of the outcome of said postseason. If they miss the playoffs but finish within a few points of a playoff spot, I still think there’s a great chance DeBoer is the guy in 2014-15.
Pete DeBoer is the perfect mold of coach. He doesn’t sugar coat things and never gets too high or low on the outcome of any specific game. He brought an underrated team within two games of its fourth championship. He’s probably the most likeable coach the fanbase has seen since Pat Burns.
The question is, how likeable will he be to management and ownership if he’s the first Devils coach in 27 years to miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons?
The pressure is on.