While we discussed the Columbus Blue Jackets hopes of landing AHL coach Guy Boucher, it looks like the New Jersey Devils have narrowed down their search to either former Penguins coach Michel Therrien or John MacLean, the coach of the Devils’ AHL Lowell affiliate. The New York Post reports that those two coaches are the strongest candidates while Mike Keenan and Craig MacTavish are out of the mix.
Therrien, the former Canadiens and Penguins coach, is the likely choice if general manager Lou Lamoriello goes outside the organization. MacLean, the coach of the Devils’ AHL Lowell affiliate, is the promote-from-within candidate. Other possible candidates have included Ken Hitchcock, Kirk Muller and AHL coach Guy Boucher.
Passing over MacLean would devalue organizational loyalty, particularly if it was for another AHL coach, and especially since MacLean went to the bushes to get head coaching experience and gave the Devils’ farm team its first playoff berth in ages.
Personally, I’d probably choose between either MacLean (because of the aforementioned “organizational loyalty”) or Hitchcock. Therrien helped bring the Pittsburgh Penguins from cellar dweller to contender, but was fired after he seemed to wear the young team down. Now, I know Hitchcock was canned for similar reasons, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Therrien was working with slightly better talent.
I’d take Hitchcock over Therrien because he’s proven himself in a variety of different coaching jobs. He’s won a Cup, made the playoffs with every team he coached and also helped the Columbus Blue Jackets make their only playoff appearance.
Of course, any New Jersey Devils head coach must realize that his job is far from safe. Venerable Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has pulled the “late season coaching change” more than a few times during his reign with the New Jersey team, so anyone taking over the job cannot rest on their laurels.
The Post mentions that Lamoriello prefers to make announcements after the playoffs are over, so we’ll stay tuned for official news. The newspaper mentioned that Therrien is the frontrunner, but which coach would be the best fit for a team that keeps winning the Atlantic division but can’t seem to make it happen in the playoffs?