Devil's Advocate: Why John MacLean May Not Coach the New Jersey Devils

JerseySenior Analyst IJune 10, 2009

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Carolina Hurricanes instructs his players on the bench during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 23, 2008 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Earlier, I discussed the Devils' new coaching vacancy, and put my money (albeit not overwhelmingly) on current assistant John MacLean to replace Brent Sutter. However, I'd like to play Devil's advocate (no pun intended, I promise, it's just a coincidence) and point out what could be working against Johnny Mac.

First of all, as mentioned in the previous post, Lou Lamoriello has had many opportunities to promote MacLean, but has not done so. The Devils have cycled through many coaches since MacLean joined the team as an assistant in 2002, but has never been given a shot to man the reigns.

In fact, Lamoriello has taken the job himself twice rather than give it to MacLean, even on an interim basis, something he was loath to do.

After the first time he was forced to take over the team (following Larry Robinson's midseason resignation), Lamoriello declared he'd never coach the team again; but after firing Claude Julien one season later, Lamoriello once again coached the team, even with MacLean eager to take over.

Times may have changed since then, and MacLean did receive Sutter's vote, but maybe Lou had a reason for overlooking MacLean. On the one hand, perhaps he wasn't ready yeat, but now he is; but on the other hand, Lou may just not like him as a head coach. He might just be a good assistant, and that's all. Tom Gulitti feels this way.

But that's not the only obstacle blocking MacLean. There are many more seasoned coaches available, including former Devils coach Jacques Lemaire. Lou may prefer to turn to a proven commodity with a big name, rather than give the reigns to a rookie.

Gulitti, in the above article, lists many prospective coaches, although many do not stand out. The likes of Marc Crawford, Ted Nolan, and others have all been mentioned, but there does not seem to be an edge to any of these candidates. But in addition to MacLean and Lemaire, two particular coaches stand out.

Peter Laviolette might be the most intriguing name on the list. He's a successful head coach who has recently won a Stanley Cup, and his firy attitude could be welcome in the Devils' locker room.

Plus, he employs a system not terribly different from Sutter's, so it would not be a difficult transition for the team (he's also been getting a lot of love from Devils message boards, but that really doesn't mean anything beyond the fact that he'd be welcomed by the fans).

The second name is Guy Carbonneau. He was recently fired by Montreal, and presents an interesting choice for the Devils, especially since (as Gulitti points out) the team has been successful with their prior onetime-Montreal head coaches.

However, both coaches are still under contract with the teams that fired them, and the Devils would need permission to speak to either of them. Plus, this is pure conjecture: while these coaches may be good fits, none are connected to the Devils in any way.

Still, MacLean has his work cut out for him. Despite his apparent inside track, there are plenty of outside options available, and seeing how Lou has preferred outside hires to MacLean in the past, this may not change now.

I still have my money on MacLean, but like I said, it's not an emphatic prediction. Lou is hard to predict in general, and it's not like MacLean has such a strong grip on the job to begin with.

My only concern is that he'll jump ship if not promoted; Yankee fans watched Don Mattingly leave the team after being spurned the managerial job last year, and MacLean may finally give up hope as well. He's been holding out since 2002, and has had two golden opportunities to get the job; is the third time the charm, or is this strike three?


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