With the New Jersey Devils’ 2013-14 season officially in the books, questions for next season abound. Will Martin Brodeur return? Whom will the Devils target in free agency? And what will be done to address the team’s miserable shootout failures?
But the coach? That part has been settled.
Whether Pete DeBoer received an extension or is returning to New Jersey under the terms of his original contract -- my suspicion is the former -- is moot, really. Lou Lamoriello stepped way out of character Sunday night, summoning media members to inform them that DeBoer would be back next year and squashing any and all speculation that he may bolt for greener pastures.
Earlier in the week, there was conjecture that Toronto was a potential landing spot, with new team president Brendan Shanahan reportedly interested in bringing the Ontario native on to help right a team that just suffered one of the more dramatic collapses in recent years.
Then there were reports Sunday morning that DeBoer was on the verge of an extension.
The point is, Lamoriello kept his guy. And that was the right move.
In bringing DeBoer back, Lamoriello spurned the opportunity to hit the panic button or use his coach as a scapegoat for the team's second consecutive season without a playoff appearance. Instead, he affirmed the DeBoer's system and endorsed his coach to guide the franchise moving forward.
DeBoer has gained a reputation as one of the most cerebral, methodical coaches in the game, one who can coax the most out of very little. He certainly did that this season, juggling an awkward situation in goal while getting his team to compete hard every night despite an utter lack of offense and staggering ineptitude in the shootout.
If not for those factors, the Devils would have been a playoff team. Period.
Look at the Devils’ possession numbers and you see a team that controlled play. The notoriously stingy system the Devils employ allowed them to finish in the top five teams in the league in both Fenwick and Corsi ratings, metrics designed to measure puck possession. New Jersey was the only team in the top five of those rankings not to make the playoffs.
The system works. It’s the personnel that needs tweaking.
Jettisoning the coach, who led the team to the Stanley Cup finals just two years ago, would have been a misstep. And someone else would have surely reaped the benefit.
“I think it’s a great move by Lou,” center Travis Zajac said after Sunday’s season finale. “He’s a really good coach, and I know for a fact if he wouldn’t be back here he’d be somewhere else. When you have a good coach, you don’t want to let him go.”