It’s rare that you lose your coaching job with one team and then face them in the first round with your new squad less than a year later. That’s what happened to Peter DeBoer though, who was dismissed by the Florida Panthers only to be hired by the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils were coming off a disappointing 2010-11 campaign where their strong finish couldn’t make up for their poor start under former head coach John MacLean. So DeBoer does deserve credit for guiding the Devils back to the playoffs.
That being said, New Jersey is one game away from elimination and the obvious question is how much of the blame DeBoer deserves.
NJ.com blogger Steve Chernoski argues that DeBoer is struggling to adapt on the fly and his attempts to do so have resulted in futile line shuffling. Chernoski’s “biggest criticism is that once the Panthers get a lead, they go into a shell and DeBoer cannot concoct a plan to beat it.”
It’s worth noting that DeBoer shuffled the top line several times with the Devils trailing in Game 5 to no effect.
DeBoer’s biggest accomplishment in this series was probably his decision to stick with Martin Brodeur in Game 4 despite his struggles in the previous contest. Brodeur responded by earning his record-breaking 24th shutout, but even a relatively solid game from Brodeur wasn’t enough to save them in Saturday’s 3-0 loss.
Now DeBoer has some big decisions to make and he’ll need to coach a good game on Tuesday to force a Game 7.