Jeff OConnorNew Jersey Devils head coach Pete DeBoer very rarely gets any credit when he does things right. A fair amount of the Devils fanbase criticize him over many little things during the course of a day, nevermind a game. It’s time to put aside the little “annoying things he does” and get down to the facts.
Let’s start with the things that frustrate Devils fans: Is the Eric Gelinas benching/scratching/sitting annoying? Yes. Is the shunning of Adam Larsson frustrating? No question. Do people get on him about having optional skates/days off? They sure do.
But what is really important? The bottom line for an NHL coach is to win hockey games. He’s done exactly that since arriving a few years ago.
In his first season, he had two All-Star players, a very good goalie and took them to the Finals.
It’s tough to grade him last year given it was a 48-game season. There’s no question that when Brodeur and Ilya Kovalchuk went down last year, the team completely changed. Just to point this out, the Devils were on pace for 97 points last year, given their 48-game sample. Just sayin’.
On to this year… The Devils are right where they should be; a team that’s right in the hunt for the playoffs. There’s not much more he can be squeezing out of this team. They’re currently a top 10 team in the league in team defense, penalty killing and power play. He’s tinkered his system this season to keep most of the action in their own zone to the outside. In his first full year of coaching Travis Zajac, No. 19 is playing like the top-line center he can be. After a rocky start, Damien Brunner has bought into his system and is now a consistent scoring threat. Adam Henrique has returned to rookie form. Not to mention his handling of Cory Schneider and Martin Brodeur… that’s an easy situation to second guess from afar.
Unfortunately, DeBoer can’t control where the Devils shoot the puck. The lack of finish on this team can’t be pinned on him. This team has played very solid hockey for a few months now. They’ve been in mostly every game, while grabbing some victories along the way. All he can do is get the team motivated to play and make sure they’re executing his system.
So, while there are things Devils fans pick at with PDB, please go ahead and find me a perfect NHL coach. I’ll wait.
In his body of work, Pete DeBoer has consistently won during his tenure with the New Jersey Devils. It’s time to give him credit for that instead of grilling him for who is scratched and whether the team is, or is not, practicing for an hour on gameday mornings.