It’s not unusual for a team to fire its coach when things are going bad. It’s also not odd when the person who created the mess is the one who does the firing. But dismissing the coach two days before Christmas makes the Grinch look like Santa Claus.
This past summer, Devils’ President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello gambled away the team’s future by signing Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk to $100 million, 15-year contract. The forward has since managed only eight goals in his first 19 games, while managing to totally destroy chemistry of the team with a -22 +/- performance.
Lamoriello’s solution was the fire coach John MacLean and bring back the team’s former coach, Jacques Lemaire.
Problem solved? Not so fast. Lamoriello’s role as Grinch has only just begun. There are seven other heartless moves he needs to make if the Devils are going to get back on track as Stanley Cup contenders. The question is, is there enough time left to get the job done this season? The cruel countdown begins:
1. Trade Martin Brodeur.
The Devils’ Hall Of Fame goaltender is beginning to show his age and cost the team games. But when asked by reporters about trading Brodeur, Lamoriello was firm. "That's ridiculous," he said. "He's not going anywhere. We have (49) games left.” Apparently, the Devils aren’t going anywhere either.
2. Break the bad news to the fans.
Lamoriello announced MacLean’s firing in true Grinch style. “This was a decision that certainly was not one that is pleasant or we feel good about,” he said. “But it’s a decision, in my opinion, that had to be made.”
What the general manager failed to spell out clearly is that he’s writing off this entire season on behalf of the team and its fans.
Here’s an indication of how bad things are: “I called Jacques (Wednesday) night, had a conversation with him, and asked him where his thoughts were, how he felt and so forth,” Lamoriello said. “I asked him if he would come back for the second half until we can see exactly where we are and where we’re at.” In other words, Lamoriello is completely lost and so is the team.
Lou then went on to sugarcoat it, without giving any reason for his optimism: “I also felt that there is time to get back on track. I really believe that.”
3. Move The Devils To Brooklyn
After alienating the fan base by destroying a perfectly good team, perhaps it’s time to move on to fresher ground. Brooklyn needs a hockey club to complement the forthcoming arrival of the Nets. Maybe Lou should get that new logo design in the works.
4. Trade Jamie Langenbrunner.
If the coach is being let go for poor team performance, shouldn’t the captain of the team be subjected to a similar fate? It was nice knowing you, Jamie.
5. Give Kovalchuk a Bonus.
Let’s say $50,000 for every goal he puts in the net this year, retroactive to the beginning of the season. It’s clear the man likes money and needs an incentive to score. You’re already in for $100 million. Might as well invest a little more.
6. Rub It In.
It’s bad enough to dismiss a coach for no reason. But why not take it to the next level and torture the guy with doublespeak? “I do not feel by any means that his coaching career is over should that be what he wants to pursue. In my opinion he is an excellent coach,” Lamoriello said. “It’s just, this is the profession we’re in and we have to win. That’s the game. These are tough decisions.”
“As I said, I take responsibility for waiting to try and get it to where it should (be). Under no set of circumstances should all this responsibility be on the coach by any means,” Lamoriello said. “The responsibility lies on the players and myself for what couldn’t be done. Unfortunately, we just weren’t getting it done where we’re at.”
Taking responsibility means suffering the consequences, Mr. Grinch. So clear out your office “where you’re at” and let someone who can get it done, get it done.