Busy day for the Devils: Dave Barr joins DeBoer’s crowded coaching staff

Lou Lamoriello and the New Jersey Devils were a busy organization this week. A day after unloading Brian Rolston’s contract to the New York Islanders and on the same day as they signed restricted free agent Zach Parise to a one-year, $6 million contract, the Devils added yet another assistant coach to Peter DeBoer’s staff. The organization announced that former Devils player Dave Barr was hired as an assistant coach—a move that completes New Jersey’s coaching staff for the 2011-12 season. Barr spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach in Minnesota with the Wild and was an assistant for the Colorado Avalanche during the 2008-09 season.

GM Lamoriello explained the final hiring to Tom Gulitti of NorthJersey.com’s Fire and Ice blog:

“Dave was in the organization as a player and he has experience as an assistant coach in the league with Minnesota and Colorado. And with Pete coming in, he gives us another perspective from the outside, another set of eyes. I felt that was important.”

(snip)

“Pete sat down with all the assistants from last year and everything was 100 percent positive. If he wasn’t 100 percent comfortable with any of them, they would not have been brought back.”

For those keeping track at home, the Devils bench is going to be as crowded as a New York taxi cab on New Year’s Eve. Barr joins assistant coaches Larry Robinson and Adam Oates behind the bench, in addition to goaltending coach and former Devil Chris Terreri. Mix in newly-minted head coach Peter DeBoer and there will be no shortage of opinions or perspectives on this year’s coaching staff. Judging by Lamoriello’s comments, that’s exactly what he’s looking for.

The 50-year-old Barr brings a wealth of management experience to the table in his new role. Since retiring as a player in 1997, Barr has served as a general manager for Guelph in the OHL and Houston of the AHL. He’s also had experience as a head coach while leading Guelph and Houston in the IHL. He’ll bring all of that experience with him as the Devils look to put together all of the pieces on their coaching staff to lead next year’s squad.

Does it really take this many people to replace Jacques Lemaire?

Next year the Devils will look to build upon their strong second-half from last season. After Lemaire took over, New Jersey was a very respectable 28-17-3—a record that included a 20-2-2 stretch that started in January. Unfortunately, with the Devils horrendous record to start the season (9-22-2 under MacLean), they dug too deep of a hole to recover and make the playoffs. If they can put together 82 games like they did under Lemaire, the Devils will be a playoff team that could resemble the 103-point team from 2009-10. If they Devils perform like they did for MacLean, well, the playoffs won’t be a concern.

Hey, if things go sideways in New Jersey, there won’t be any shortage of scapegoats, right?

Willie Desjardins to coach Team Canada at Olympics

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The past two Winter Olympics, Team Canada has been coached to gold by Mike Babcock, currently the NHL’s highest-paid bench boss.

But the 2018 Olympics in South Korea will be a very different animal. The NHL is not sending its players this time. When the Games are on, Babcock will be busy with his Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, today, Hockey Canada announced that Willie Desjardins, recently fired by the Vancouver Canucks, will be the head coach of the two-time defending gold medalists. Desjardins will be assisted by former Team Canada head coach Dave King, as well as Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Sean Burke, who rose to prominence as a goalie in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics — which didn’t feature NHLers, either — will be Canada’s general manager. Burke will be aided by Martin Brodeur.

“This is an exciting time for Hockey Canada and for our National Men’s Team program, and it will be an exciting season for Canadian hockey fans,” said Tom Renney, Hockey Canada’s CEO. “The goal is always to field the best possible team in all upcoming competitions, including this February when we hit the world’s biggest sporting stage in Pyeonchang. The faces on our Team Canada rosters may be different than in previous years, but the expectations will be the same; with the addition of Sean, Martin, Willie, Dave, Scott, and Craig, we have assembled some of the best hockey minds out there to help us meet those expectations of on-ice success.”

Today’s announcement is yet more evidence, if you still required it, that the NHL isn’t bluffing about not sending its players to South Korea.

In an email to The Hockey News, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly refuted a report out of Russia that suggested the league had a backup schedule with an Olympic break in it.

“There is not an alternative schedule,” Daly wrote. “Having NHL Players participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is not an available option. All of the international federations are planning appropriately for constructing teams that will not include NHL players. I anticipate there will be federation announcements in the coming days that should eliminate any and all continuing doubt or skepticism about the issue.”

The NHL released the 2017-18 schedule a month ago.

Related: Tampa awarded the 2018 All-Star Game, further dampening Olympic hopes

Preds expect answer from Fisher next week

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We should find out next week if Mike Fisher is going to retire or keep playing for the Predators.

Fisher, Nashville’s 37-year-old captain, is an unrestricted free agent. He confirmed last month that he was considering retirement. But first, he needed some time to think.

Yesterday, Preds GM David Poile said he expected an answer soon.

“I’m hoping to talk to him later this week to see where he’s at,” Poile said, per The Tennessean. “I’d say by next week, we should have an update.”

Fisher had 18 goals and 24 assists in 72 games last season, but then had just four assists in 20 playoff games as the Preds reached their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

If Fisher re-signs, he’ll likely be in the bottom six next season, with Ryan Johansen and newly signed Nick Bonino expected to center the top two lines. Fisher could even be the fourth-line center or a winger, allowing the likes of Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, and Frederick Gaudreau to take on bigger roles.

But for Fisher, hockey isn’t everything, and after more than 1,000 games in the NHL, he may simply opt to hang up the skates.

“Everyone wants to win in this game, no one probably more than me,” Fisher said. “But there’s other things. At the end of the day, this is a game. It’s an important part of my life, but it’s not everything.”

Related: Predators take Stanley Cup loss with grace and optimism

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.