New Jersey Devils Introduce John MacLean As Head Coach

Guy Carbonneau: Your latest rumored Devils head coaching target

There aren’t a whole lot of NHL head coaching vacancies left right now. Just ask hot coaching prospect turned Milwaukee Admirals head coach Kirk Muller about that.

One potential job is the New Jersey Devils’ head coaching spot, which opened up once again after Jacques Lemaire rode off into the (trap-free?) sunset. There are plenty of would-be worthy candidates, especially guys who lean in the direction of suffocating defense. Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien are two examples of former bench bosses whose names have been thrown around, although hiring them would buck the fresh-faced trend of hiring either an assistant coach for a successful NHL team or a head coach of a red-hot minor league squad.

Guy Carbonneau might fit the bill in a couple ways. He was the head coach and co-owner of Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the QMJHL, although he mysteriously stepped down from the coaching post this week. Carbonneau adds check marks in major categories such as “defensive minded” (many wonder if he deserves to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for the world-class defense he played during his NHL days) and “Montreal Canadiens product.” Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has a clear tendency to poach coaches who have Habs ties; the team hired Pat Burns, Claude Julien, Larry Robinson and Lemaire in Lou’s time as the general manager.

With all that in mind, it makes a lot of sense that people are spreading rumors of Carbonneau becoming the new New Jersey bench boss. While that might eventually be the case, Carbonneau apparently denied that rumor during an interview on the radio show NHL Home Ice.

What does that mean? We will just have to wait and see if Carbonneau ends up being the man in New Jersey. Lamoriello might seem to have a pattern when it comes to hiring Montreal products, but just about all the other decisions he makes about coaches seem to be wildly unpredictable.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado