On Wednesday, the buzz was that former Montreal Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau might become the next coach of the New Jersey Devils, who remain the only NHL team without one for next season. He stepped down as coach of the Chicoutimi Saguenéen and fit the description of the type of bench boss GM Lou Lamoriello might desire.
In fact, Carbonneau did apply for the Devils' opening … and hasn't heard back. According to the NY Post, neither has former Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish.
(By no means does this disqualify either coach, knowing how close to the vest the Devils play these things.)
So who might be the frontrunner to replace Jacques Lemaire? According to the Newark Star-Ledger:
With former Atlanta Thrashers head coach Craig Ramsay having agreed to become an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers under rookie head coach Kevin Dineen and Ken Hitchcock seemingly out of the picture early, the leading candidate for the Devils' job may be former Penguins coach Michel Therrien.
Therrien, 47, is a scout for the Minnesota Wild. He last coached the Penguins in 2008-09 but was fired 57 games into the season on Feb. 15, 2009, with the team struggling with a 27-25-5 record. Therrien, a disciplinarian who is extremely tough on his players, was replaced in Pittsburgh by Dan Bylsma.
Like Carbo, Therrien is yet another former Canadiens coach on Lamoriello's radar, as he's hired former Habs Jacques Lemaire (twice), Larry Robinson (twice), the late Pat Burns and Claude Julien during his tenure. Unlike Carbo, Therrien has seven years of head coaching experience and a 212-182-45 record with 23 ties. He's been to the playoffs three times, leading the 2002 Canadiens to the conference semifinals and the 2008 Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final.
The central question for any Devils coach is the team's psychology, and not just in the sense that Ilya Kovalchuk has played effective two-way hockey for only two coaches in his entire career. It's a well-compensated, veteran group. When their season went tumbling into the abyss in the first few months, novice coach John MacLean had no answers. Lemaire gave them structure and commanded authority; the group responded with a near-miracle rally.
So Michel Therrien, Hard Ass-in-Chief could be the right fit for a veteran team, even if this Devils fan's gut tells him MacTavish would be the better fit in the long-term.
As if it needed to be written: Lemaire reversing course for one last ride is still the best option, of course. How many boxes of cannoli with accompanying "C'mon, pleeeeeeaaase, Jacques?" notes do you think Lou's sent in the last three weeks?