Devils head coach John MacLean has already had his first season as a coach with enough drama and intrigue to fill a career and a lot of that is thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk. From waiting it out to get Kovalchuk officially re-signed in New Jersey to making him a healthy scratch on Saturday night, MacLean’s had enough attention brought to him. Throw in the Devils shaky start to the season and you’ve got a potential recipe for employment disaster.
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has a bit of a dubious history for changing coaches if he sees fit whether or not the team is winning or losing and with the Devils in seeming disarray to start the year, fans are wondering if, perhaps, John MacLean might have something to worry about. Depending on what you think of a GM’s vote of confidence, you might think he’s got a lot to worry about as Lamoriello threw his support behind MacLean. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun finds out whether or not Lamoriello was even tempted to make a coaching change.
“There’s no thought whatsoever,” Lamoriello told ESPN.com Monday. “John has done an exceptional job. I have no issue with him. Our record certainly isn’t what any of us like, but it has nothing to do with coaching.”
Kovalchuk, who signed a 15-year, $100 million contract in the offseason, had tongues wagging around the league Saturday night when he was made a healthy scratch before a 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. While no one involved would explain why exactly the decision was made, reports suggest he was late for a team meeting Saturday morning.
Either way, Lamoriello backed the decision.
“I am totally supportive,” Lamoriello said. “Without question I was aware of it … and without question I was supportive. So enough said.”
It would be awfully early in the season, not to mention MacLean’s NHL coaching career, to decide to send him packing so it’s worthwhile to see how MacLean adjusts and can right the ship in New Jersey. Of course, if the team continues to play inconsistently and the team stays mired in mediocrity, Lamoriello’s hand may be forced to make a change. After all, one of MacLean’s assistant coaches is former multiple-time head coach Larry Robinson so if things do stay sour, there’s someone that Lamoriello is comfortable with right there on the bench already.
For MacLean, getting Lamoriello’s support is a good thing to have as he makes for a pretty tough boss. Then again, if it’s the stereotypical “vote of confidence” and it serves more as a public warning to get it together, it’s doubtful that that would surprise too many people.