When Jamie Langenbrunner was traded on Jan. 7, everyone thought he was the lucky one. The New Jersey Devils were 10-28-2 and he was going to a Dallas Stars team that certainly seemed like they were headed to the playoffs. The Devils were an embarrassment. But lately, they seem like the best team in the league.
Everyone will say that firing coach John MacLean and bringing back the experienced Jacques Lemaire made the difference. But if you look more closely, you will see that it wasn't Lemaire that turned the team around. It was Langenbrunner. Langenbrunner leaving.
Coach John MacLean's Record: 9-22-2
Coach Jacques Lemaire's Record with Langenbrunner: 1-5
Coach Jacques Lemaire's Record without Langenbrunner: 16-2-2
Devils with Langenbrunner: 10-27-2
Devils without Langenbrunner: 16-2-2
(I am not counting the Jan. 6 game for either side because Langenbrunner was still on the Devils, but he didn't play in the game because of the upcoming trade.)
Some will say it just took a little while for Lemaire to turn things around, and that's possible. But let's take a look at the Dallas Stars, who prove the case against Langenbrunner even more.
Dallas Stars without Langenbrunner: 24-13-5
Dallas Stars with Langenbrunner: 7-10-1
I'm as stunned as you. As a lifelong Devils fan, I have always liked Langenbrunner. His game on the ice is solid, and I always thought of him as a good captain. Jamie was even the captain of the 2010 US Olympic team.
But then I started thinking about how the Devils have struggled in the playoffs ever since he became the captain (2007-2011). So is it just a coincidence that the Devils got better after he left and the Stars got worse once he arrived? I'm not sure, but when there is evidence on both sides, it's very hard to ignore.