By Brian Monzo
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Leave it to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello to keep everyone waiting… and waiting… and waiting… and then striking to catch us off guard.
That’s exactly what Lamoriello did when he hired former Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer as the new man behind the bench for the Devils. You had heard names like Ken Hitchcock, Michel Therrien and Adam Oates as possibilities. DeBoer went under the radar to get the gig.
DeBoer, let go by the Panthers after three playoff-less seasons, brings his defensive style of coaching to Newark. Prior to his time in Florida, DeBoer, 43, coached in the juniors — notably the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL — and was very successful, winning just under 500 games.
In his first season with the Panthers, they won 41 games, posting their best record in over a decade. Florida’s inability to add premier talent hurt them from there, and the team went 62-77-25 in his last two years.
What do I like about this move? DeBoer now has NHL experience. He also has a better team to work with, and a potential future superstar defenseman with 2011 first-round pick Adam Larsson. DeBoer’s experience with junior players should be a huge element in developing Larsson as a top NHL defenseman sooner rather than later.
How DeBoer handles Ilya Kovalchuk is something that will be viewed closely. John MacLean was not able to work with Kovalchuk, and was dismissed a few months into the season. Obviously Lamoriello knows this will be tricky situation. He isn’t dumb, so something throughout the interview process must have convinced Lou that DeBoer could handle someone of Kovalchuk’s stature.
Another scenario to watch will be how DeBoer works with Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg. Brodeur will be 40 in May, and the smart thing to do will be to start him 60 percent of the time, which would allow him to be fresh if the Devils make the playoffs. Everyone knows Brodeur will want to play 82 games, but it is going to be DeBoer’s job to keep him in the best shape throughout the year.
It’s perhaps going to be his toughest task.
The Devils have developed a young team. Zach Parise, who will going to arbitration early next month, is still their top stud. But youngster Jacob Josefson, Matt Corrente, Mattias Tedenby and Nick Palmieri should all benefit from DeBoer’s experience with young players.
You can see the theme here. DeBoer coaches defense and has experience with young players. Knowing that, it must have been an easy choice for New Jersey.
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Is DeBoer the right man for the job? Sound off in the comments below…