On September 9, 2014, Scott Stevens stepped down from the position of New Jersey Devils assistant coach. The former Devils captain and defenseman, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, stood beside head coach Peter DeBoer for two seasons. Albany Devils assistant coach, Tommy Albelin, another former Devils blue liner who played in 539 regular season and 77 postseason games for Jersey’s Team, was called upon to be the replacement for the departed Stevens.
Albelin was previously an assistant coach with New Jersey from 2007-08 through 2009-10. Albelin was named an assistant coach for New Jersey’s top AHL affiliate on August 10, 2010. An assistant coach for four seasons with the A-Devils, who returned to play in New York’s capital in 2010 after they called Lowell, Massachusetts, home since the 2006-07 season, Albelin was responsible for helping cultivate the young defensemen in the organization. One of his many students happened to be Adam Larsson, the Devils first pick, drafted 4th overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Tommy Albelin (left) speaks with former Devils head coach Brent Sutter in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 3, 2009.
Adam Larsson “Really Happy” That Tommy Albelin is Back in Newark
Entering his fourth season in the NHL, Larsson already knew this upcoming season was going to be critical for him.
“Like every year I think it’s a big season for me and I really feel prepared for this,” Larsson acknowledged. “I worked hard and I think I am in better shape than I have been. My head is in a better place this year so I feel ready for the season.”
When Larsson was asked about his reaction to the news that Albelin was being promoted from Albany to Newark, his face lit up.
“I got really happy. He meant a lot for me down in Albany. He helped me a lot and he is such a great person too. He is real easy to work with. I think everybody here is really enjoying that he is in the locker room walking around.”
In 33 games with Albany in 2012-13 during the NHL lockout, Larsson notched four goals and 15 assists. Last season, after suffering a knee injury on November 23 at the San Jose Sharks, Larsson was sent to Albany after he recovered. He scored three goals and added 16 assists in 33 games. His confidence started to show and he fired 64 shots on goal. He also appeared in four playoff games and considered his time with Albelin and in Albany beneficial.
“First of all I got to play a lot of minutes and I think that helped me a lot. I played a lot of power-play and penalty kill and to have a big role on the team was very important for me.”
Larsson was paired with rookie Eric Gelinas during their time in New Jersey early last season as well as in Albany towards the end. Larsson acknowledged that he and Gelinas “are kind of similar” but that “maybe Eric is more offensive than (me and Jon Merrill) and he has a really good shot too.” Larsson’s play got noticeably better when he was partnered with Gelinas and attributed that to knowing he has “to cover him a little bit” and to “stay safe.” His responsible play enabled Gelinas to light up the score sheet.
Eric Gelinas Ready to Learn from the Former “Solid Defensive Defenseman”
Gelinas finished his first NHL season with 7 goals, 22 assists, and 29 points. Five of his seven goals were scored on the power-play. He ended up tied for third among rookie defensemen in the entire NHL in points. His 5 power-play goals and 17 power-play points were second among rookie defensemen behind only Torey Krug of the Bruins. After showing he is capable of putting up points, Gelinas is focused on fixing up his defensive game entering 2014-15.
“My main focus this year is to really be responsible defensively and be reliable, just make smart plays and be strong defensively.” Gelinas continued, “Those are the things that I’ve been working on in preseason and I think so far I’ve been better and I am looking forward to work in that direction.”
With the A-Devils in 2013-14, Gelinas compiled five points, a goal with four assists, in 15 games. He tallied an assist, playing in four postseason games. He also got a head start with the coaching staff in Albany when it came to working on the defensive side of the puck.
“That is what they tell me too. They aren’t worried about my offense. I am a big guy so I need to be strong in the battles.”
Overall in 145 games with Albany dating back to 2011-12, all with Albelin standing beside head coach Rick Kowalsky, Gelinas buried 23 goals with 41 assists for 64 points. He had a +/- of +7. When asked about the transition from Stevens to Albelin so far in camp, Gelinas noted the success of each of them from their playing days.
“Stevens is in the Hall of Fame but Albelin played for (18) years and he is great at what he did. He is one solid defensive defenseman and you can learn so much from these guys and I think they have the same mindset and they try to teach the same things. It wasn’t that big of a transition to go from one to the other.”
Tommy Albelin: Two-Time Cup Winner and a “Great Person”
Tommy Albelin won two Cups with the Devils. He is seen here following the Devils 3-0 Game 7 victory in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals.
Stevens is one of five players, along with Martin Brodeur, Ken Daneyko, Scott Niedermayer, and Sergei Brylin, to win all three Stanley Cups with New Jersey. Albelin, meanwhile, is the only Devils player to win both the 1995 and 2003 Cups without being a member of the 2000 championship team. He also played in the faster paced “new” NHL following the 2004-05 lockout, suiting up for 36 games in 2005-06 as well as two playoff contets, unlike Stevens.
With the Devils set to ride a young defense in 2014-15, Albelin will be counted upon to steer the inexperienced crew. He has already passed the first test in helping guide two former Albany standouts from the farm to the NHL. Now, after already boosting the team’s confidence level with his mere presence at the Prudential Center, he will look to help push their NHL careers to the next level.
Leo is in his second year with THW. He covers the 3-Time Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils and the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League. You can follow Leo on Twitter, @LeoScaglioneJr.