After months of speculation, the only team in the NHL without a coach received one, as the New Jersey Devils hired ex-Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer on Tuesday.
When asked why the decision took so long to reach, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello responded, “When time is on your side, you use it.”
In DeBoer’s three seasons in Florida, he put up a record of 103-107-36, which, considering the caliber of the Panthers team he was working with, is impressive.
DeBoer hopes to make the playoffs for the first time in his NHL coaching career, having missed the mark his past three seasons in Florida. His Panthers finished with 93 points in 2009, 77 points in 2010, and 72 points in 2011.
DeBoer made his intentions clear: “We want to be back in the playoffs. I don’t think when you talk to Lou or anyone else, no one was happy not making the playoffs last season. Having seen them a few times over the second half, I thought they played very well.”
He has also coached several Devils players in the past, including David Clarkson, Mark Fraser, and Travis Zajac.
It will be DeBoer’s job to revitalize the team’s offense, which is the weak point of a Devils team with a lot of goal-scoring potential, especially with the return of scorer Zach Parise and a 50-goal scorer in Ilya Kovalchuk.
The Devils were last in both goals scored (171) and goals per game (2.09). Kovalchuk is absolutely vital to the team’s offense and did not get along with coach John MacLean, who was replaced by Lemaire last season.
If DeBoer can succeed where MacLean failed, then it looks very good for the Devils, who missed the playoffs for the first time in 14 years last season. He has a great team to work with, and he has a big chance to put the Devils back where they’ve always been: in the playoffs.