- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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But what about coach Pete DeBoer's future behind the Devils' bench?
With rumors rampant last week about the Toronto Maple Leafs' interest in DeBoer as a potential successor to Randy Carlyle, and reports surfacing Sunday morning about a potential contract extension with the Devils in the works, DeBoer was asked about his future in New Jersey.
Does he expect to be back next season?
"I don't know," he said in his pregame briefing with the media. "I think when you're a coach in this league, I think you come to work, you invest yourself fully in your job, your team and you do the absolute best job you can. I'm comfortable that our staff did that. Other people decide that or make those decisions."
DeBoer declined to discuss any behind-the-scenes action, presumably whether contract negotiations have taken place between him and general manager Lou Lamoriello. Lamoriello recently declined to publicly discuss the matter.
It has been reported that the 45-year-old DeBoer is on the last of a three-year contract. According to multiple reports, DeBoer is in discussions with Lamoriello about a new deal that would keep him in New Jersey.
Other reports have suggested that newly named Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan is intrigued by the idea of bringing the cerebral DeBoer, an Ontario native, into the fold.
It's not hard to see why, considering the Maple Leafs' disastrous implosion late in the season. Though they consistently defied logic throughout the season by winning games despite posting some of the most atrocious possession numbers in the league, those shortcomings caught up with them in recent weeks. The Leafs took an epic nosedive, plummeting with a horrendous 2-12-0 stretch to end the season and miss the playoffs entirely.
Carlyle has taken a beating for his stubborn adherence to a certain style of play and his inability to coax the most out of his roster.
By contrast, DeBoer has cultivated a system in New Jersey that is notoriously stingy and defensively structured. Stars coach Lindy Ruff described it earlier this season as "trying to crawl through a barbed-wire fence with a wool jacket on."
"I really believe that our team game is as good as anyone's in the league. I really believe that on a night-to-night basis," DeBoer said. "There's a reason why we're sitting here today and I said I'd wait until after the season to discuss them, but I don't think there's any secret that the shootout killed us. And when you look at the standings and stats we're probably about a half a goal a night short of being a very good team in this league."
The Devils, who will miss the playoffs for a second straight season, went a mind-boggling 0-for-13 in the shootout. Heading into Sunday, they ranked 27th in the league in goals for, averaging only 2.40 per game.
But the team's possession numbers portray an entirely different picture. Heading into Sunday's matinee against the Boston Bruins, the Devils boast an impressive 53.7 Fenwick percentage, a statistic that quantifies total shots attempted, excluding blocked shots. The Devils are the only team in the top five of that metric that did not qualify for the postseason. The others in the top five? Los Angeles, Chicago, San Jose and Boston.
"That's something we've preached since Day 1 here. To me, the game's not complicated," DeBoer said. "If you have the puck, if you're outchancing the opponent ... if you're putting more shots on net than they are, you should have success."
Considering Toronto's cringe-worthy collapse, this may sound like music to the Leafs' ears.
Everyone that arrives at Prudential Center Sunday afternoon will be assuming that it is goaltender Martin Brodeur's last game as a New Jersey Devil. But will it also be coach Pete DeBoer's last appearance behind the Devils' bench?