Devils John Maclean in Hot Seat, How Bad Can It Get??

John PhenAnalyst IIINovember 3, 2010

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 04: Assistant Coach John MacLean of the New Jersey Devils gives players instructions in their game against the Philadelphia Flyers on October 4, 2008 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Flyers 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils have been the recipients of some good and bad news recently after limping through the first month of the NHL season. The good news is that October is finally over, and not a day too soon.

With a 3-9-1 start and last place standing in the Eastern Conference, the Devils have looked far from the Eastern Conference contender many had them pegged for.

What's the bad news? Have a minute? Because this could take a while.

To say that the Devils are not playing well would be a colossal understatement. One simply needs to take a look at the horrific numbers and performances to see that even though October has come to a close, it's still Halloween inside the Devils locker room.

The Devils were outscored to the tune of 35-17 in it's first 10 games, and their power play has been nothing but executing at a paltry 7.3 percentage.

The once proud team that knows a thing or two about defense has all but vanished, allowing a league high 42 goals through 13 games for a 3.23 goals allowed per game average.

The Devils are also up against the cap, and earlier in the season could only ice a lineup with just nine forwards. This situation will continue to play itself out throughout the season due to the restrictions of the salary cap. The Devils to their credit do not look to be taking the easy road out by simply assigning a high priced veteran to the minors.

The roster is laden with talent that is more than capable of putting the puck in the net. With such names as Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott and Travis Zajac, the Devils have a total of 20 goals for the season. Operating at a 1.54 goals per game average, which is worst in the league.

Did I mention the Devils just lost Zach Parise for three months or possibly more after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus? That means the Devils, in last place, will be without arguably their best player until February.

"The good news is that the meniscus is 100 percent intact," Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press late Tuesday evening.

The Devils are off to their worst start to a season since 1983-84 where they started out just 1-9. But more than the record the fact that this team hasn't been competitive in many of the losses is a huge problem and may be indicative that John Maclean just isn't getting it done behind the bench.

All of this cannot be lost on Lou and further couldn't possibly be lost on coach John Maclean.

It's not as though Maclean has lacked experience, being prepared for this very role for quite some time. Having won the Stanley Cup with the team in 1995 and winning another as an assistant in 2003, you can't honestly say that the man is lacking in pedigree.

Lamoriello has recently restated his confidence in John Maclean, calling the suggestion that the rookie head coach may be fired "ridiculous".

"You're not going to win unless your best players—and this is not targeting any one or two—but your top players have to be your top players, at least 80 percent of them, night in and night out," Lamoriello said.

Who would Lou be talking about in particular? Well, the obvious target would be Ilya Kovalchuk the 100 million dollar man who seems to be the poster boy for all things failed in the CBA and free agency. Kovalchuk played in 27 games for New Jersey last year after coming over from Atlanta in a trade and was a point-per-game player.

Those 10 goals and 17 assists seem like a lifetime ago for Devils fans as Kovalchuk has but three goals and three assists to round out a minus-five rating for the year so far.

Which isn't a bad start to the season, but MacLean still decided to send a message by making Kovalchuk a healthy scratch last weekend. Didn't look like the team heard or got the message as they promptly folded against the Buffalo Sabres at home to the tune of 6-1.

Kovalchuk would return to the lineup against the Rangers and contribute the team's lone goal in a 3-1 loss.

For a player that demanded a $100 million contract, he needs to be better than six points through 13 games.

Could it be star goaltender Martin Brodeur who has not seemed like the Hall of Fame-caliber goaltender of late? The 38-year-old Martin Brodeur may have lost something, but has two shutouts on the year and hasn't exactly been helped by the team in front of him.

Patrik Elias has a game winning goal to his credit, but his two goals and three assists on the season do not outweigh the horrifying minus-10 rating.

Travis Zajac has been invisible for this road trip and for the most part of the season. And by invisible I mean it: no goals, no assists, zip, zilch. Zajac hasn't scored since opening night on October 8th, and has just one goal in 13 games this season.

Jason Arnott was supposed to be better in his second stint with the team, but has seen his ice time dwindle and with a minus-nine who can blame Maclean?

Does John Maclean deserve all the blame? of course not but as head coach the responsibility falls directly at his feet at the end of the day.

His system was supposed to give the talented Devils up front a way to create offense while not sacrificing too much from a defensive standpoint. Maclean continues to say that his system will work if everyone on the team buys into it. With results not exactly forthcoming, does that mean a lack of effort? or has Maclean already lost the team?

Personally it's been difficult to see one of the greatest goaltenders of all time to close out the twilight of his career in this fashion. And although I do not question Maclean's qualifications, perhaps he's just not the right coach for this team at this time.

With Parise out for an extended period of time, and the Devils facing a tough November schedule they must somehow turn it around before the season is over. If not, Lou may have to return behind the bench and try to straighten the ship.

As brilliant as Lou has been in the past, how could he possibly correct this frightening situation with this talented yet troubled team?

Should John Maclean make it out of November, it truly will be Thanksgiving for this team and it's coach.


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