Peter DeBoer hasn’t exactly been a successful coach in the NHL.
He’s 204-183-69 in six seasons, with two games left for the New Jersey Devils in 2013-14. He’s been to the playoffs once, and it was a heck of a run: All the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final of 2012, before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in his first season as Devils coach.
The Florida Panthers, with whom he spent his first three seasons from 2008-2011, came within a whisper of a playoff seed in his first year as coach, placing third in the Southeast.
But the optics don’t reveal the circumstances. His Florida teams had diminishing talent levels due to economics. His New Jersey teams lost Zach Parise for Year 2 and Ilya Kovalchuk for Year 3, both non-playoff years for the Devils.
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has never had a team that missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons, and hence has never had a coach return after they did so. Doug Carpenter came back for a third season in 1988 back when this was a Mickey Mouse franchise, and was summarily dismissed by freshman GM Lamoriello in favor of Jim Schoenfeld that season, who led the Devils to their first playoff appearance.
Thus began a run of 16 coaching changes Lamoriello has made over the last 25 years, and there’s speculation it could happen again. Only it might not be Lou pulling the trigger.
DeBoer’s contract is reportedly up after this season, and with Brendan Shanahan at the helm and Randy Carlyle looking like he’ll be fired, the speculation is that DeBoer could leave for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
DeBoer, 45, is believed to be in the final season of a three-year contract with the Devils. The thought out of Toronto is that the puck-possession game DeBoer prefers and his ability to bring out the most in David Clarkson (both in Kitchener in the OHL and with the Devils) and Nazem Kadri (Kitchener) would make him the right man to take over the Maple Leafs. Of course, DeBoer also has Ontario roots, so the job could be intriguing to him, as well.
Losing DeBoer with be a third consecutive annual gut punch for the Devils.
Sure, he has his detractors – some dislike his usage of players, some simply aren’t settling for a playoff contending Devils team vs. one that makes the cut – but his teams are a pain to play, are well-coached, possess the hell out of the puck (fourth in the NHL in corsi-for, behind Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston) and frankly he’s a victim of circumstance.
* The loss of the team’s two best forwards in consecutive seasons.
* The Martin Brodeur headache he was handed this season, a combination of fading star’s hungry ego and the acquisition of his replacement with one year left on Marty’s contract.
* The fact the players led DeBoer’s team to an 0-12 record in the shootout, which is the reason we’re not talking about where the Devils are seeded in the tournament now.
DeBoer’s a damn good coach. As a Devils fan, I’d hate to see him fired and I’d hate to see him leave. But as he’s discovered through the years, thanks to his depleted rosters, it’s a business. The Leafs could make him a heck of an offer.
One thing’s for sure, based on his history: Year 1 of Peter DeBoer as Leafs coach will be a doozy.