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Monday, December 19, 2005
Robinson resigns as Devils coach

Associated Press

WEST ORANGE, N.J. -- Larry Robinson can't sleep, he's stressed out, and he's got "pounding headaches" so severe that sometimes he can't move his head.

Stress is a killer. I lost a dear brother last year and that changed my thoughts about life a lot. My parents are no longer around. I want to be able to enjoy my kids.
Larry Robinson

For the Hall of Fame defenseman, it was time to end his second go-round as coach of the New Jersey Devils.

Just five months since being introduced as the replacement for Pat Burns, Robinson stepped down Monday, citing stress and health concerns. Two days earlier, the Devils lost to Carolina to fall to 2-7 in their last nine games.

"Stress is a killer," he said. "I lost a dear brother last year and that changed my thoughts about life a lot. My parents are no longer around. I want to be able to enjoy my kids. I worked and I played for 20 years so I could give everything I wasn't able to have for myself to my children, and they suffered for my absence."

The 54-year-old Robinson choked up when describing how he agonized over his decision.

"Even yesterday I didn't know what I wanted to do. I called my wife in the morning ... I couldn't talk to her on the phone ... I spoke to her and I had to hang up and collect my thoughts," he said, holding back tears. "I spoke to my son and then I went and sat with (goaltenders coach) Jacques (Caron) and he said, 'Listen, your health is more important than anything else.' That's why I think it's best."

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, who coached one NHL game 17 years ago, will lead the team Tuesday night when New Jersey faces the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. He said a new coach would be brought in "as soon as possible."

"I'm going to go behind the bench on a temporary basis until I can do my due diligence and see what the next step is," Lamoriello said, adding that he would not make a hasty decision on a new coach "just to make a decision."

Robinson missed two games earlier this month with flu and sinus problems. He said Monday he continued to have what he called "horrible headaches" and went recently to have medical tests done, including a CT scan. He said he was told the symptoms were stress-related.

"Now I've got grandkids that I haven't seen," he said. "I looked at it the other day and just didn't like the picture. I thought, 'I'm basically back to where I started.' "

Robinson told the Devils of his decision at a meeting before practice Monday morning. They were stunned by the news.

"It wasn't what I anticipated when he started talking," center John Madden said.

Several players said they had noticed a change in the demeanor of Robinson, who has always been a quintessential players' coach but who admitted Monday he had taken out his frustrations on them more than usual.

Veterans Scott Gomez and Alexander Mogilny were benched Saturday for most of the final two periods against Carolina.

"I felt I was being out of character," he said. "Not that I haven't gotten upset with the guys before and screamed and yelled at them. It just seemed that wasn't getting through."

"You look back and he was sick and he was tired and he didn't look too good, but I never thought he was going to step down," forward Sergei Brylin said.

Robinson coached the Devils to the Stanley Cup championship in 2000 and to the Cup final in 2001 before being fired in 2002. His first NHL coaching job was as an assistant with New Jersey in 1993. He was on staff when the Devils won their first championship in 1995 and coached the Los Angeles Kings for four years.

Robinson's resignation is the second NHL coaching change this season, following Eddie Olczyk's dismissal by the Pittsburgh Penguins last week. Wayne Gretzky took an indefinite leave of absence from the Phoenix Coyotes last weekend to tend to his ill mother in Canada.

The Devils began this season under a cloud created by the absence of forward Patrik Elias, the trade of longtime defenseman Scott Niedermayer and the retirement of defenseman Scott Stevens. New Jersey is 14-13-5 and fourth in the Atlantic Division.

Elias returned to practice for the first time Monday since missing several months after contracting hepatitis A last spring. In addition, 37-year-old defenseman Vladimir Malakhov retired and was replaced by Dan McGillis, who was put on waivers but had not yet reported to Albany of the AHL.

Now New Jersey must forge ahead under Lamoriello, whose only experience coaching an NHL game came in the 1998 playoffs against Boston when then-coach Jim Schoenfeld served a one-game suspension.

"You kind of wonder what's next," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "Lou's going to come in, and we don't know for how long. We're going to take it day by day. You can't dwell on the situation. We play so many games in such a short time, sometimes you want to take a step back and evaluate what's going on. But you just can't afford to."