This might be a case of oversimplification, but it seemed like a light switch went on when the New Jersey Devils changed coaches last season. The team went from cellar dwellers to a squad on a scary hot streak toward playoff relevance when John MacLean made way for Jacques Lemaire, even if they still fell short of the postseason.
The most dramatic improvement could be seen in the play of Ilya Kovalchuk. The $100 million winger scored 23 of his 31 goals and 42 of his 60 points once Lemaire took over after clearly clashing with MacLean, who even benched him for a game. (That decision might have been the hockey version of “When keeping it real goes wrong.”)
Naturally, the unavoidable question for new Devils coach Peter DeBoer is: can he reach Kovalchuk? It’s way, way too early to jump to any conclusions, but the first game didn’t go too well. The Philadelphia Flyers stomped the Devils 3-0 and Kovalchuk was on the ice for all three goals, giving him an ugly -3 rating.
As Kovalchuk told Dave D’Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger before the game, it might all come down to trust.
“When the coach trusts you, it changes everything. With Jacques, he had a style where you wanted to play hard for the guy. So that’s what happened. Jacques was one of those guys who would always say the right things at the right time, and he’d put every guy in this room in the right position to be the most successful. That’s why we were playing so well.”
DeBoer has a tough assignment ahead of him: get the most out of a top-heavy group of players who are used to success. DeBoer wasn’t working with much in his stint with the Florida Panthers, but hopefully he knows what to say and do with Kovalchuk and the Devils.
If he doesn’t, it might just cost him his job and keep the Devils out of the playoffs for a second season in a row.
The Arizona Coyotes have returned Dylan Strome to the Erie Otters of the OHL.
Strome, 18, was the third overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft.
The 6’3, 185 pounder was hoping to stick with the Coyotes this season, but the team decided to take the conservative approach with their top prospect.
Strome will look to build off an incredible junior season that saw him score 45 goals and 129 points in 68 games.
Strome seems to be taking the demotion in stride.
The team also announced that they’ve assigned goaltender Louis Domingue and forward Matthias Plachta to their AHL affiliate in Springfield.
Domingue, 23, had a 1-2-1 record with a 2.73 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage in seven games last season.
Plachta, a free agent signing, will begin his first pro season in North America. The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 35 points in the German League last season.
The Red Wings have placed Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm, Danny DeKeyser and Alexey Marchenko on injured reserve.
Placing these players on I.R. opens up four more roster spots for Detroit.
The Red Wings have suffered an incredibe amount of injuries heading into the season.
Datsyuk (ankle) is expected to be out until November.
DeKeyser (foot) is going to miss three-to-four weeks, while Helm (concussion) and Marchenko (lower-body) are considered day-to-day.
The team also announced that they have reduced their training camp roster to 27 players on Sunday.
Top prospect Dylan Larkin remains in camp for now.
Coach Jeff Blashill told reporters that the 19-year-old has looked good, but a final decision hasn’t been made on where he will play this year.
As for Larkin, he’s just fed up of living in a hotel.
“There’s been so much speculation and so many questions, and no one really knows,” said Larkin. “Maybe the coaches know, but just to find out where I’ll be living or what’s happening — I’m kind of sick of the hotel. It would be nice to know what’s going on.”