It's summer time in New Jersey - that means that the New Jersey Devils are probably conducting their almost-annual coaching search!
Some interesting names have been floating around: Ken Hitchcock, Craig Ramsay, Marc Crawford, Mike Keenan, Mike Haviland, Michel Therrien, Bob Hartley, and Mike Eaves to name a few. But one thing we know for sure from past experience - the Devils organization is extremely tight-lipped when it comes to player and coaching moves, so nobody except GM Lou Lams really knows who the real candidates are!
One guy that we know will NOT be coming to Newark to coach the team this year is former Montreal Assistant Coach (and former NJ Devil) Kirk Muller as he just signed a contract to coach an AHL team. Muller is said to be highly regarded around the league, but after the John MacLean fiasco it would have been a big surprise to see LL go with another candidate that had no previous NHL head coaching experience.
Of the names I listed above, the one name getting a lot of buzz seems to be Craig Ramsay, the former Atlanta Thrashers coach. I find this rumor a bit puzzling, as Ramsay has a very thin Head Coaching resume - with only 2 full seasons as a Head Coach, and he is already 60 years old. He doesn't exactly fit the mold of a long-term solution.
Another name getting a lot of buzz is University of Wisconsin Head Coach Mike Eaves, although has denied being contacted by or interested in the Devils.
It appears as though guys like Ken Hitchcock and Bob Hartley are not in the mix. Hitchcock seemed to be a good fit with his defense-first system, and he would certainly command respect from the locker room. And Hartley would seem to be a good choice given his history as Head Coach of The Atlanta Thrashers - where he coached a gentleman named Ilya Kovalchuk. But neither have been contacted.
One name I failed to mention who might be a good choice is former Florida coach Peter DeBoer. DeBoer did a decent job with an extremely thin Florida roster, and was the OHA coach of the year twice - including winning the OHA Championship with the Kitchener Rangers in 2007-08. He in only 43 years old.
One final long shot worth mentioning is current Devils Assistant Coach Larry Robinson. Robinson coached the Devils to the 2000-2001 Stanley Cup Championship, and to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2001-02 where they lost to Colorado. He would certainly command the respect of the team, and would certainly have a similar style to Jacques Lemaire, who stepped in after 33 games and coached the team to a 29-17-7 record. But does he even want the job? As you may recall, Robinson resigned as Devils Head Coach in 2005, citing stress and health problems as the reason.
One thing we DO know - picking the next head Coach of the Devils is a huge decision, as this person will be tasked not only with restoring the team to it's lofty annual perch among the elite teams of the NHL (last year was the first time in 16 years they missed the playoffs) but this person will also be tasked with Managing the inevitable transition from the old guard (Brodeur, Elias, White) to the new guard (Kovy, Tedenby, Josefson, Merrill, Larsson). While many good teams eventually slip and are forced to rebuild - that word is not in the Devils vocabulary. Perhaps re-tool is a better description. There is certainly plenty of young talent coming!
Being how I correctly predicted that the Devils would draft Adam Larsson (I know - that was a no brainer!) let me see if I can go two for two. My instinct tells me that since they have not hired any of the "name" candidates yet - that LL must have a plan already. So therefore, my prediction for the next Head Coach of the NJ Devils is........Larry Robinson.