COMMENTARY | New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer knows what it takes to guide a successful team. His first season with the Devils in 2011-12, saw the team reach the Stanley Cup Finals, before bowing to the Los Angeles Kings.
One reason for the Devils' success was the fore-checking system that DeBoer implemented, which was tailor-made for the talent that he inherited.
DeBoer also knows a bit about guiding an unsuccessful squad, as the Devils' mid-season collapse last year took them out of the playoffs and the team's dismal start to this season is becoming more magnified with each mounting loss.
One reason for the Devils' struggles this year is the use of DeBoer's system, although now, he doesn't have the athletes to play the same style. With the exception of Damien Brunner, and a few others, this is one very slow hockey team.
If DeBoer has been feeling the pressure, it's about to pick up immensely as Thursday's game with Vancouver will be the team's 10th game of the year and general manager Lou Lamoriello is known for making his observations based on 10-game increments. If the Devils fall to Vancouver and drop to 1-6-3, it's quite conceivable that DeBoer's career with the Devils will quickly come to an abrupt end.
It was evident in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Columbus that some veterans were just going through the motions. Even Travis Zajac, known for his hustle and two-way play, seemed disinterested at times and was floating around. The same can be said for Danius Zubrus.
The veterans know they have little to fear in losing their roles, in large part due to DeBoer's tendency to stick with them over the younger players. The mistakes that get a second- or third-year player a seat next to Lamoriello in the press box the following are often ignored when made by a veteran.
It's one thing to watch the defense make consistent boneheaded plays if the defenseman making the errors are Adam Larsson, Mark Fayne or Eric Gelinas, who was recalled by the team for Thursday's game with Vancouver. At least you know they are learning.
It's a different matter entirely to watch Peter Harrold or Anton Volchenkov make the consistent blunders, yet see themselves right back in the line-up the next game.
Lamoriello hasn't been afraid to make coaching changes in the past when he believes the team is underachieving. If the team drops another game or two, DeBoer could very well find that out first hand.
Allen Moody is an author and sports bettor living in Nevada. A newspaper sports reporter for 12 years, he has been a fan of the New Jersey Devils since the "Mickey Mouse" years in the early 1980s.
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