Peter DeBoer has coached 236 games with the Devils. That’s more than everyone except Jacques Lemaire in the Lou Lamoriello Era, dating back to 1987.
His debut season was a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. That was an Ilya Kovalchuk ago. A Zach Parise ago. A Larry Robinson and an Adam Oates ago.
It's DeBoer’s only appearance in the playoffs during his six years as an NHL head coach. They’ve not made the playoffs in the following two seasons. This season, the results are middling at best.
Assigning blame when a team is stumbling and bumbling its way through the first two months of the season is never easy, and such is the case for the New Jersey Devils and their increasingly maligned coach.
The Devils are 9-11-4. Not terrible, not great. But they’re 2-8-2 in their last 12 games, including a 4-game Western Conference swing that saw them only defeat the Edmonton Oilers, which is something you have to try really hard not to do. They returned home and blew a lead vs. Detroit before losing in a shootout, much like they blew a lead in Calgary two games earlier and did the same.
How much of this is DeBoer’s fault?
Some of it can be laid at his feet, with odd line combination decisions and personnel management, contributing to the team’s anemic offensive (58 goals in 24 games, the 23rd best offense in the NHL); and his mistrust of the team’s backup netminders, leading to Cory Schneider getting a preposterous 23 starts, which is already more than half his total from last season.
But is it on DeBoer that Patrik Elias decided to act his age this season, with just one goal in his last 23 games? Is it on DeBoer that little injuries to key players like Mike Cammalleri and Adam Henrique have added up, while Ryane Clowe’s noggin continues to make his signing one of the most baffling and reactionary in Lou Lamoriello’s tenure?
Is it on DeBoer that the Devils have gone from seventh in the NHL in Corsi percentage (52.57) in one-goal situations last season to 19th this season (49.49)? (Via War On Ice.)
Is it on DeBoer that the Devils have taken 102 minor penalties this season, mostly for hooking and holding; or is that a function of having a slow-skating roster, with defensemen like Bryce Salvador (when healthy) and Marek Zidlicky compensating for poor positioning with bad penalties?
Is it on DeBoer that Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas haven’t played well enough to earn more ice time, or has his frequent dog-housing of both stunted their growth?
(It’s important to note here that one of the valid criticisms of DeBoer last year was not playing the kids enough on defense. By losing Mark Fayne and Anton Volchenkov in the offseason and Salvador to injury, his hand was forced and as a result the team found a real gem in Damon Severson.)
Is it on DeBoer that this team might not be built to win in 2014-15?
The question is just as much “how much of this is on DeBoer?” as it is “what’s the next guy going to do differently?”
Is another coach going to miraculously spark this hodgepodge of veteran players into an offensive machine? Have them keep their hands and sticks off opponents? Win a [expletive] shootout, which is again this team’s undoing (1-3 so far; 1-16 in the last two seasons)?
The good news for DeBoer is that they haven’t quit on him. Their effort against the Islanders on Saturday, in a losing effort, was indicative of that.
The bad news is that unless this team has a strong December, they’ll be hustling for another guy behind the bench come early 2015.