June 17, 2010
John MacLean is the guy in your office that worked his ass off for about a decade, left after a dispute with his bosses, returned to a different cubicle years later to work his ass off again and has been soldiering on for years while waiting for that big promotion.
Which is to say that Lou Lamoriello finally gave him the corner office and the keys to the executive washroom Thursday.
Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reported Thursday that the New Jersey Devils will name former star, former assistant coach and current bench boss of their AHL affiliate John MacLean as their new head coach. From the Ledger:
Although former Canadiens and Penguins coach Michel Therrien and Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland were considered candidates for the job, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello felt it was MacLean's time.
Lamoriello never ruled out the possibility of choosing MacLean, although the reason why he waited so long after the conclusion of the season has yet to be explained.
Because what's a few more weeks, right? MacLean was passed over when the Devils hired Claude Julien, Brent Sutter and Jacques Lemaire, both due to the perception that he was too close with the players and because he didn't have head-coaching experience.
Well, MacLean led the Lowell Devils to their first AHL playoff berth since 2000 last season, so there's your head-coaching experience. And perhaps after Lemaire's chilly relationship with players like captain Jamie Langenbrunner(notes), the pendulum swings back to "players' guy" like it did when Lamoriello hired Larry Robinson, another player-advocate former assistant, as head coach a decade ago.
What can't be ignored here is that MacLean's a company man, and the Devils clearly have an organizational hockey dogma Lamoriello wants the head coach to advocate. Lemaire bought in, and Sutter's style fit it, too. Would a coach from outside the organization? Tough to say; but MacLean's been coaching it for several seasons now. That's not to say he'll be Lou's puppet ... well, I guess that's what we're saying, in hindsight.
As a Devils fan, I'm a little torn here. When the window to win a Cup with Marty Brodeur in goal and some other veterans still being viable is closing fast, you'd like a coach with NHL head-coaching experience leading the charge. Ken Hitchcock, for example, is an instant-results guy. Then again, they had a veteran coach last postseason, and the Philadelphia Flyers basically had a first-round bye.
Overall, I'm happy his patience has been rewarded and I'm eager to see who his assistants might be (c'monnnn Scott Stevens). I turned on MacLean as a fan when he requested a trade back in 1997-98, on a game-day no less. But I've come around thanks to his determination in his second career, and I support this move; and, really, because we'll always have this as fans: