Is John MacLean the right coach for the Devils?

1 Comment

MacLean.jpgThe Devils took a route most expected was coming, promoting John
MacLean from coach of the Lowell (Albany) Devils to be the next head
coach in New Jersey. MacLean is young and should have a new approach
that will do the team good, after a number of years of coming up
disappointingly short in the postseason.

John
Fischer of In Lou We Trust
, as he always does, as a very lengthy
breakdown of the hiring as he goes over various pros and cons of John
MacLean being named the next coach of the Devils. Fischer is lukewarm on
the hiring, as he’s worried the move was made perhaps more out of
loyalty to arguably the greatest Devils player in franchise history
after he had just one season under his best of coaching at the
professional level. Says John, speaking of one of his “cons” of the
hiring:

When things go south for some period of time
for this team – and it will
happen at some point – what will MacLean fall back on?  When a player
comes to him with an issue, will MacLean have the acumen to handle the
issue well for both sides?   These are questions I’m sure were raised,
but his inexperience doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence at this
juncture.  MacLean has been a head coach for Lowell last season and that
was his only season of being a head coach in pro hockey.    He’s still
relatively new and still learning.  Fortunately, the promotion of
Robinson, who has been a head coach for several years in LA and NJ, to
be an assistant can help and teach MacLean further.

The
initial reaction by Fischer is one of cautious optimism, especially in
light of the news that MacLean isn’t expected to make sweeping changes
on the team and that the one issue that might have been at the heart of
the matter — Lou Lamoriello — is still in charge and likely picked a
coach he’s certain will be a company man.

Fischer also
acknowledges that hiring MacLean from within the organization could be a
good thing, as the three previous hires were from outside the Devils’
organization. MacLean is familiar with the players and the system, and
there shouldn’t be much — if any — of a rough transition from Lemaire
to MacLean. In fact, even if MacLean doesn’t change much overall, you
would hope that the team and the players will respond to a coach like
MacLean much more favorably.

He might not be making sweeping
changes, but it’s not as if the Devils need complete rebuilding. What
needs to be done is for the coach to find a way for the players to
believe in what they are trying to do on the ice, something that wasn’t
in place last season. MacLean may be young and relatively new, but
Lamoriello is confident in him as a coach.

Too confident? Well, he
didn’t seem to be looking elsewhere for a coach and didn’t go on a
long, drawn out search for coaches. MacLean was his first choice and
that’s who will be behind the bench next season in New Jersey.

Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

How in the world did he get up?

Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

Talk about hard-headed.

Who could take Taylor Hall’s place if he has to miss the All-Star Game?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With Taylor Hall set to miss the next couple of games due to a hand injury, and with that injury putting his All-Star Game prospects in jeopardy, we look at the players who are worthy of replacing the New Jersey Devils forward if he has to miss this weekend’s festivities.

Two names that immediately come to mind are Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel and Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier.

There was already an argument that Kessel deserved to be at the ASG over Sidney Crosby. He was leading the Penguins in points then and two weeks later, he continues to pace Pittsburgh with 21 goals (tied with Evgeni Malkin) and 54 points, three more points than Crosby.

Couturier has already smashed his previous career highs in both goals (26) and points (47). He’s been part of the reason that Claude Giroux is already headed to the ASG and deserves to be there himself.

At third would have to be Sebastian Aho. The talent in the Metropolitan is evident with his snub. He’s clearly the best player on the Carolina Hurricanes this season (no disrespect to Teuvo Teravainen).

Aho is well on his way to eclipsing his rookie-season totals and a big reason why the Hurricanes are three points back of a playoff spot.

Beyond those three guys, there’s a few that certainly deserve the honor:

  • Anders Lee has 27 goals this season, seven off the pace he set last season with half the season to go.
  • Jakub Voracek leads the NHL with 45 assists, four more than teammate Giroux.
  • Evgeni Malkin. Not having a bad year.

It’s important to remember that the at-least-one-player-per-team rule goes out the window when it comes to replacing another All-Star.

There are certainly some very deserving names that didn’t get the first call.

But life’s about second chances.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Tampa Bay Lightning vs Chicago Blackhawks

Getty Images
2 Comments

CLICK HERE TO WATCH

Projected Lines

Tampa Bay Lightning

Nikita KucherovBrayden PointTyler Johnson

Vladislav NamestnikovSteven StamkosChris Kunitz

Alex Killorn — Matthew Peca — Yanni Gourde

Michael Bournival — Cedric PaquetteRyan Callahan

Jake DotchinAnton Stralman

Mikhail SergachevDan Girardi

Braydon CoburnAndrej Sustr

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

NHL on NBCSN: ‘Out of sync’ Lightning look to end three-game losing skid against ‘Hawks

Chicago Blackhawks

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsAnthony Duclair

Patrick SharpNick SchmaltzPatrick Kane

Alex DeBrincatArtem AnisimovRyan Hartman

Tomas Jurco — David Kampf — Vinnie Hinostroza

Duncan KeithJordan Oesterle

Erik Gustafsson — Brent Seabrook

Michal KempnyConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Jeff Glass

Are Penguins making the right call with Sprong demotion?

Getty
3 Comments

After being a healthy scratch for two games and seemingly being in the doghouse since at least Jan. 17, Daniel Sprong is headed back to the AHL.

To some degree, the move was made because it seems like Bryan Rust is getting ready to return to the mix after being sidelined since Dec. 27. Still, it’s a frustrating development for those who believe in Sprong’s potential as the 46th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft.

All of the 20-year-old’s points came in one game, as Sprong scored two goals and one assist against the Islanders on Jan. 5. He went without a point in his other seven appearances in the NHL this season, with six coming during his latest stint.

Sprong was in the double digits in ice time each night until the Penguins’ loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 17, when he was glued to the bench from the second period on. Considering his lack of production in general, it’s understandable that head coach Mike Sullivan is more reactive to mistakes.

Certain details make the move more debatable, though.

For those who believe that Ryan Reaves‘ role is antiquated, it must be frustrating to see Sprong get demoted. Reaves has been averaging less than seven minutes per game (6:41) despite taking a spot in the lineup for 49 contests. Pittsburgh is in a life-or-death battle for a playoff spot, and many believe that his presence (and the first rounder they gave up to acquire him) is a waste for the Penguins.

The Pens also seem like they’re taking a questionable all-or-nothing approach with Sprong.

Sprong’s most common even-strength linemates (by far) were Sidney Crosby and Dominik Simon, via Natural Stat Trick. Maybe Sprong isn’t quite the right fit for Crosby at this point in his career, but there has to be at least a chance that he could provide more punch for the Penguins’ lineup than someone like Reaves lower in the lineup?

His possession stats have been solid in a small sample size and he hasn’t been shy, firing just less than three shots on goal per game (22 SOG in eight games). Couldn’t the Penguins find room for Rust and Sprong?

These are questions at least some Penguins media members and fans are asking right now, but the bottom line is that the team clearly believes that Reaves is a difference-maker. If Sprong is going to rank as one as well, it sounds like he’ll need to earn his next chance first.

We’ll see how the Sprong-less Penguins fare against the Carolina Hurricanes in a pretty important game on Tuesday. In other Penguins news, Matt Murray was overwhelmed by the support he received from his team and teammates following his father’s death.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.