Most Likely Candidates to Replace Jacques Lemaire
Was he asked to leave or did he truly retire on his own? Well, at this point, it doesn't really matter. The biggest question is whom will GM Lou Lamoriello hire to be the next Devils coach?
In addition, what kind of tenure can we expect from the next coach? After all, if you look at the history of the Devils, you will see a long list of head coaches. Since his first coaching change on January 26, 1988, Lamoriello has seen the likes of Jim Schoenfeld (124 regular season games), John Cunniff (133), Tom McVie (93), Herb Brooks (84), Jacques Lemaire (378 - stint 1, including Stanley Cup #1), Robbie Ftorek (156), Larry Robinson (141 - stint 1, including Stanley Cup #2), Kevin Constantine (31), Pat Burns (164 - including Stanley Cup #3), Larry Robinson (32 - stint 2), Lou Lamoriello (50 - stint 1), Claude Julien (79), Lou Lamoriello (3 - stint 2), Brent Sutter (164) and Jacques Lemaire (82 - stint 2) all come and go.
For the second straight offseason, and third time in four years, Lamoriello finds himself having to do the coaching search thing again. Let's take a look at some possible candidates, and set some early odds, recognizing the fact that Lou will probably do something off the radar again, like he did with Lemaire last year, and Sutter three years ago.
In fact, let's hope this doesn't become an annual tradition, here's the link to my piece during the last off-season:
The most likely in-house candidate has to be John MacLean. MacLean played well over 900 games with the Devils from 1983-1998, and came back to serve as an assistant coach from 2002 through last season. He served under Coach Pat Burns all the way through the reign of Brent Sutter last year.
To gain some head coaching experience, MacLean served as head coach of the Lowell Devils this year in the AHL and was widely heralded for his work with the younger players of the Devils. You'd have to make him the favorite right now, just because you have to think he's been groomed for this job. However, the question that jumps out is whether or not MacLean is actually ready. Remember, the original plan for Lemaire was to coach at least two seasons.
The biggest knocks against MacLean is that he only has one year of head coaching experience, and that he has played with some of the current Devils. Will it be too difficult to be stern with guys he played with like Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias or Brian Rolston if the situation presented itself? Despite these two big negatives against, you'd have to think MacLean is considered the favorite at this point. Odds: 5-1
The former Stars, Flyers and Blue Jacket certainly would fill the deffense first mantra of the Devils. He also would fill the possible role of "bad cop," which is something the Devils greatly need.
The biggest question against Hitchock, who has a Stanley Cup championship on his resume (1999 with Dallas), is has the game passed him by? He struggled at times in Philadelphia and Columbus and was fired from both spots without much success. While many may view him a strong candidate, I think the Devils need someone a little younger, and with more of a fresh perspective then Hitchock can offer. That being said, it wouldn't that suprising if Lamoriello would end up giving Hitchock the job. Odds: 15-1
Dineen is a relatively "hot" candidate having been the Head Coach of the AHL's Portland franchise since 2005. Along the way (having served under affiliations of both the Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres), Dineen was named the receipient of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the most oustanding head coach in the AHL for the 2005-2006 season.
At age 46, Dineen is a young enough candidate to be considered, "fresh," and he isn't very removed from the game, after all, he retired just 7 years ago. He has five years head coaching experience and overall seems to be coach on the rise. He was rumored to be in the mix for Lamoriello this time last year before Jacques Lemaire returned, so you'd have to think he's a candidate for sure this year. Odds: 20 - 1
The former Avalanche and Thrashers candidate is an interesting candidate to become Devils coach. While I'm not certain GM Lou Lamoriello necessarily has Hartley on his radar, I think Hartley is an excellent candidate.
Hartley beat the Devils as Head Coach of the Avalanche in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals and has a history with star LW Ilya Kovalchuk, which could give the Devils an edge in helping to re-sign Kovalchuk. He coached the Thrashers to their only playoff appearance, even if it didn't lead to any wins in the post season. He has a lifetime NHL coaching record of 329-226-61-34 (in 651 games, good for a .581 winning percentage), and has on his resume four consecutive Conference finals, including 47 playoff wins in his first four years.
He has been out of coaching for two full seasons now, so is he a strong enough candidate for Lamoriello to consider at this point? That's the golden question. He seems pretty reserved and might have the temperment to work well with Lamoriello. Odds: 50 - 1
Guy Carbonneau would be another Devils coach with ties to the Montreal Canadiens. Carbonneau also has a history with Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner, having played together in Dallas.
Carbonneau won 124 games in 2 plus seasons with the Canadiens, and posted a 5-7 record in the playoffs. He also was a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy in 2007-08. His last coaching job was with as head coach for Team Canada in the recent U18 World Championships. Unfortunately, whether it was his fault or not, the team did not live up to expectations, so it may not be a ringing endorsement for Carbonneau as a potential candidate.
However, any coach with Canadien ties usually ends up being at least of some interest to Lou Lamoriello. Odds: 25 - 1
"Captain Kirk," as he was known to the Devils is a guy who has lasted as assistant coach for the Montreal Canadiens since June 20, 2006. His candidacy may be limited a la John MacLean in that he doesn't really have the head coaching experience on his resume to warrant this job.
Muller is a legendary Devil, but certainly not any more so then MacLean, so you'd have to think Muller is a darkhorse candidate at this point. Odds: 100-1
MacTavish, 51, had a nine-year run as coach of the Edmonton Oilers from 2000 to 2009, highlighted by a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006 as an eighth seed. However, with just three trips to the playoffs, is he the guy to take the Devils back to where they expect/hope to be?
He definitely has the resume for the job, and should be respected enough by the veterans in the locker room of the Devils, but in the end I think he's a pass for Lamoriello. His defensive mind definitely keeps him at least into the conversation however. Odds: 75-1
The main assistant coach employed by Jacques Lemaire in his tenure in Minnesota and his second stint in New Jersey, Tremblay has his own resume as a head coach to consider. His two year stint as Head Coach of the Montreal Canadiens yielded two first round losses in the playoffs, and unfortunately, he is most known for his running superstar goalie Patrick Roy off the team.
His hot headedness as Head Coach of Montreal definitely hurts his chances of getting the nod from Lamoriello. He would be the best candidate to help continue with Jacques Lemaire's system, but a big question after this past season is whether or not that would be a good move or not. Odds: 500-1
Having left the Montreal Canadiens general manager position due to some personal family tragedy, you would think Gainey wouldn't be a realistic candidate for the Head Coaching job of the New Jersey Devils. However, there have been some rumblings that he might have interest in such a position.
With head coaching experience in both Montreal and and Minnesota/Dallas, Gainey has the resume to fill the job. But, he hasn't been a full-time coach since the 1995-96 season, when he was fired as head coach of the Dallas Stars. He did have two interim stints as Montreal head coach, but those only totaled 57 games.
Gainey has a losing record overall behind the bench, and ultimately that, along with so little head coaching experience in the "new NHL," has to hurt his candidacy. Odds: 1,000 - 1
For Devils fans everywhere, seeing the scowl and stare of Scott Stevens behind the bench is enough to get people ready for next season. That being said, I see little chance of Stevens getting the job, having no official coaching experience.
It is rumored Stevens has little interest in leaving his family on a regular basis, but he could be a candidate for a full-time assistant coach job in the not too distant future. Odds: 10,000 - 1
Already a two-time head coach for the Devils, it appears the days as Head Coach have passed him by. Robinson left his last stint as Devils coach due to the mental strain of being coach back in 2005. At this point, it would be a huge stunner for Robinson to be named Head Coach, but while he still remains as part of the organization, you can't discount the possibility, no matter how remote it may appear. Odds: 50,000-1
Other longshot candidates (in alphabetical order):
Tommy Albelin: Never really considered a true candidate as far as I know. He's been behind the bench for the Devils as an assistant, but I don't think anyone thinks he would get the nod over the more experienced MacLean. Odds: 1,000,000 - 1
Guy Boucher: Head Coach of the record setting Hershey Bears franchise of the AHL, I don't think Boucher has enough experience to warrant Lamoriello to seriously consider hiring him. Odds: 100,000 - 1
Viacheslav Fetisov: A very intriguing candiate with historical ties to the organization, but I'm not even sure Fetisov would be willing to commit to the job if it was even offered to him. It certainly would be a historic selection though if Fetisov somehow got the nod. Odds: 75,000 - 1
Doug Gilmour: The fact that "Killer" almost publically called for the job all but removed him from being a legitimate candidate in my eyes. Beyond that, his experience (or lack there of) ultimately is what prevents him from bing a realistic head coach candidate, but it would be interesting to see him behind the bench if he had interest in being an assitant coach. Odds: 1,000,000 - 1
Mike Haviland: A New Jersey product, Haviland is an up and comer in the NHL. However, I can't forsee his resume getting past MacLean, as neither have coaching experience at the NHL level. He's also an intriguing candidate with everything I've read and heard about him, but even though he was a one-time Devils supplemental draft pick, I can't see Lou giving they keys to the Devils car to Haviland. Odds: 100,000 - 1
Mike Keenan: Even though the Devils might need some tough love from their next head coach, I couldn't see Lamoriello meshing with the outspoken Keenan. Just simply not going to happen in this lifetime. Odds: 100,000,000 - 1
Lou Lamoriello: We know he doesn't want to do it, but remember, he has been the only coach to take the team out of the first round since the lockout. That being said, unless he gets truly desperate, I can't see him giving himself the job for a third tenure. Odds: 1,000,000 - 1
Ted Nolan: Just the kind of off the radar candidate you could think Lamoriello might consider, until you begin to think about the fact that Nolan is a bit of a hot head, and the rumors of him sleeping with Dominik Hasek's wife (while coach in Buffalo) have never escaped him. Too controversial for Lamoriello to strongly consider him. Odds: 10,000,000 - 1
Tom Renney: Another intriguing candidate, the former Rangers coach is now the assistant and rumored heir apparent to Pat Quinn in Edmonton. Chalk it up to the very unlikely category, Renney seems like a good guy, but I don't think he's a good fit. Odds: 100,000 - 1
Keep in mind, you'd have to set the odds for the Field at about 25-1, because no one really knows beyond MacLean what candidates Lamoriello may potentially have in mind.