John MacLean was dealt a very tough hand and struggled greatly this year as a rookie Head Coach in New Jersey.
The New Jersey Devils have been known for a lot of things over the years. Three Stanley Cup Championships, constant playoff appearances and also, constant coaching changes. The decision to fire John MacLean after just 33 games can't be a total surprise considering the history of the Devils' coaching carousel.
MacLean, the rookie coach, was dealt a very tough hand with all the hoopla surrounding the Devils this year. First, he had to deal with the Summer of Kovalchuk, and everything that came with it. Training camp was held with the salary cap situation looming over it. Then, after some injuries temporarily solved the problem, he lost stars Anton Volchenkov, Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur at several points of the season. He also had the benching of Ilya Kovalchuk to deal with.
It just seemed there was always some kind of distraction there to take away from giving MacLean time to breath. I don't think by any stretch of the imagination, you can put a bulk of the blame on him for the Devils 9-22-2 start. Sure, he was a major part of the problem, but I think it's obvious he wasn't the only problem. The players have simply not done enough. The timing of MacLean's firing seems a bit odd too, just two days before Christmas, but many think this move was overdue.
So, what happens now is a very important question for us to consider. Guys like Andy Greene (a staggering -22 thus far this year), Travis Zajac and David Clarkson played better under Lemaire last season and have taken major steps backwards this season.
What happens next with these guys?
What happens with Ilya Kovalchuk?
What about vets like Jamie Langenbrunner, who allegedly had disputes with Jacques Lemaire last season?
How about newcomers like Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder? What can Lemaire do with them? How will Lemaire deal with the burnout issues he had to deal with, which forced his resignation after last year?
Ultimately, can the Devils make a run to get back into the playoff picture? These questions loom large over the team as the Devils look to turn things around quickly beginning tonight with the matchup against the New York Islanders.
What do you guys think? Let me know either below, or follow me on Twitter at LEVINAKL