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If you look over the list of potential head coaches, there is one name that clearly jumps out as the favorite, and that is Ken Hitchcock. Coming off the World Championships where Hitchcock was at the helm for Team Canada, it seems there is little doubt he will be a head coach in the NHL this upcoming season.
In fact, rumors have circulated on the Internet that several teams have or are expected to inquire about his availability, as Hitchcock still is under contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. It's expected to be a mere formality for the Blue Jackets to approve Hitchcock's departure, so that shouldn't be an obstacle for him to potentially become the Devils new head coach.
Hitchcock, age 59 (60 in December), is a 15-year NHL coaching veteran, who has previously had stops with the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets, reaching the postseason in all three spots.
He had great success in his seven years in Dallas, winning the division title in each of his five full seasons, including a Stanley Cup in 1999 and a Western Conference Championship in 2000. There was some success in Philadelphia, but only one appearance in the conference finals in 2004 and a quick dismissal after just eight games in the 2006-07 season. Hitchcock brought the Blue Jackets to one playoff berth in his four seasons there but got swept by the Detroit Red Wings there.
There seems to be no question that Hitchcock is looking forward to another NHL coaching job, and he has been linked to the Devils at times over the last couple of seasons now, so it's hard to think it would be a surprise to anyone if he ultimately got the job.
That being said, the biggest negatives against him are his reputation for not working well with young players and some say that the game has past him by. After Lemaire's success with working with the likes of Mark Fayne, Mattias Tedenby, Nick Palmieri and Jacob Josefson, it will be critical for the next coach to help develop young talent, because guys like Alexander Urbom, Adam Henrique, Eric Gelinas and Brandon Burlon may not be all that far away from cracking the lineup on a regular basis.
As for today's NHL passing Hitchcock by, I'm not sure that's a fair criticism. He should be able to command the respect needed in the locker room that the team will need, so he will definitely have that working for him. It's up to Lou Lamoriello to decide whether or not Ken Hitchcock is the right fit for the Devils head coach, and Hitchcock's potential ability to work with young players make potentially make or break his candidacy.