Oates, Stevens, and Lou, New Jersey’s Three-Pronged Attack!

On Saturday morning, New Jersey Devils President and General Manger Lou Lamoriello announced the hiring of former Devil associate coaches Adam Oates and Scott Stevens. Lamoriello also announced that he would be going back behind the bench for the third time in his career with brief stints back in the 2005, and 2007 seasons.

The news comes a day after the firing of ex-head coach Pete DeBoer, and the morning of a game against top rival, the New York Rangers. Associate coach, Dave Barr has also been released from the organization.

There was rampant discussion late last night pointing to Paul Maclean taking over as Devils head coach. However a number of things would have needed to happen seemingly overnight; Lou would have needed to gain permission from the Ottawa Senators to speak with Maclean because he’s still on the Senators payroll. Consequently, getting the permission, and then conducting a formal interview would have been very time-consuming, which made bringing in Adam Oates and Scott Steven a much easier choice for Lamoriello.

The MacT Look

The initial reaction I received to the move was it was underwhelming.

Technically there still isn’t an official head coach as Lou didn’t feel it was fair for someone to take over with the team playing like it is. Lou felt that there needed to be a combine effort from the now six, count them, six coaches consisting of the latter Oates, Stevens, and Lou, to go along with Tommy Albelin, Mike Foligno, and goaltending coach Chris Terreri.

If anything, it almost looks like a football coaching staff. Lou stated that Adam Oates would be running the forwards kind of like an offensive coordinator, and Scott Steven will handle the defense like a defensive coordinator. Then there’s all the special teams work in which Mike Foligno should get a bigger hand in along with Tommy Albelin.

Lou has said in the past that he has absolutely no interest in coaching full-time, and this is no different. The move to the bench feels a lot like what Craig MacTavish is doing with the even worse off Edmonton Oilers; as after MacTavish fired ex-head coach Dallas Eakins, MacTavish took to the bench alongside new official interim head coach Todd Nelson. MacTavish said almost identical wording to what Lou said in which they will be behind the bench for as long as needed to grasp the situation from a closer standpoint.

The song remains the same in Edmonton. (James Guillory-USPRESSWIRE)
The song remains the same in Edmonton. (James Guillory-USPRESSWIRE)

Adam Oates’s Impact and Forward Development

In a sense we know what Adam Oates can bring to a lineup from a coaching standpoint, and nobody should be happier about the change than Adam Henrique. Henrique is in the mist of a solid season for New Jersey, as in 29 games, Henrique has posted nine goals and 20 points. The reason I’m referring to Henrique is because he blossomed under Adam Oates’ tutelage during his rookie season where he was a finalist for the Calder Trophy. Henrique was forced to move to a number one center spot between, then, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. Oates helped Henrique drastically adjust to his new role, and help turn him into the player we see today.

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One of DeBoer’s criticisms which I will whole-heartedly agree with is his inability to develop young forwards. Now obviously a part of that comes from poor drafting over the past several years coming from chief head scout David Conte and Lou himself. However, the fact that the only first round pick to have any significant impact with the team is Travis Zajac (20th overall in 2004) isn’t good of the overall health of the organization.

Strictly in the DeBoer era; aside from Adam Henrique, who went through the pipe-line and succeeded, Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby, Reid Boucher, and Stefan Matteau are all closing in on ‘bust’ territory, with Tedenby hitting that status last season. One of DeBoer’s sayings is that there was a lot of opportunity given, but anyone who watched with a closer eye saw these players glued to the bench for the majority of games, and rolling with fourth-line minutes, even sometimes less.

Scott Stevens Philosophical Ideals

What’s more interesting is the addition of Scott Stevens back on the coaching staff. There were multiple reports which surfaced after Stevens resigned from his associate position at the end of last season that there were many philosophical differences between himself, and that of Pete DeBoer. There was also an apparent concern with hard travel schedule, but considering Stevens willingness to retake his position with a DeBoer-less bench, I doubt that was a main reason.

With DeBoer officially out of the picture, Stevens can come back in and truly teach the Devils plethora of young defensemen his style of how to play hockey. Naturally there have been some growing pains; Damon Severson has had the burden of filling a vast amount of ice-time averaging over 23 minutes per-game, and simply learning by playing. Now while he’s played very well, don’t get me wrong, however, there’s are also natural deficiencies to his game in which Stevens can help him hammer out.

There are also the other young defensemen such as Eric Gelinas, Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill, and Seth Helgeson who will benefit greatly from having only Steven’s influence instead of what he’s trying to say being downplayed by DeBoer. Specifically Helgeson because he looks and plays so similarly to Stevens himself apart from the superstar skill Stevens obviously possessed.

Overall, when put this way, everything may seem hunky-dory, but for the here and now, New Jersey still has a squad averaging 31 years old. Players are underachieving, and the team is grasping at any loose straws for a chance at a wild-card spot. Hockey’s Future ranks New Jersey with the 27th position of all teams in the NHL in terms of prospects, and you can bet that if New Jersey can grab either Jack Eichel, or Connor McDavid in the 2015 Entry Draft, they move up at least 10-15 spots on that list.

Like/Dislike? Leave a comment on what you think of New Jersey’s three-pronged attack!

3 thoughts on “Oates, Stevens, and Lou, New Jersey’s Three-Pronged Attack!”

  1. How exactly do you figure that Deboer stunted player development?

    The two players most people point to in Josefson and Larsson as who Deboer ruined just did not do enough to earn a spot up until recently. Even now Josefson still hasn’t managed to provide any offense on his own, though he at least is a decent passer and creates space for his linemates who provide some offense. Then with Larsson, he finally earned a regular spot on the roster this season after never having a stretch of games where he looked like he belonged outside the stretch he played on a pairing with Gelinas prior to being injured last season.

    With Boucher and Matteau it’s far too early to be throwing the “B” word around. Matteau hasn’t done anything in Albany to show that he deserves a call up, but he will get an extended look by the start of next season at the latest since he played several games as an 18 year old which started the clock on his waiver eligibility which kicks in next year. Boucher has also struggled this year, but has 9 points in his last 10 games after only putting up 6 in the previous 15 games. He may be getting a longer look soon with an eye towards next season as we don’t have a single RW signed through next year.

    Aside from the forwards, Deboer has had no problem playing 5 different under 25 defenseman this year. You have Severson and Merril who both earned spots, never lost them and have played significant minutes from the start.

    Even a guy like Helgeson, who has limited upside and almost no offensive skill is getting regular minutes with the big club this year. Although your claim that he plays like Stevens is totally ridiculous as the guy is much more in the mold of a Salvador or a Daneyko if you insist on comparing him to an all-time Devil. He has none of the offensive skill that Stevens had and seems to only be able to make simple plays like chipping the puck off the boards or glass instead of making a pass that might actually start a rush.

    With all this in mind, I just don’t see how it can be argued that Deboer was biased against young players and hampered their development.

    One last note: Tedenby was clearly a bust long before last season. He never looked like anything except for a short time under Lemaire. He couldn’t even put up good shot totals, much less points in the AHL, so he was hopeless as an NHLer.

    • Appreciate the comment, I have always been in DeBoer’s corner and I also said that its partly because poor drafting from Dave Conte and Lou. I mean look I totally understand what you saying, but even aside from DeBoer, New Jersey simply hasn’t developed enough core young, home-grown forwards that have had a significant impact on the team. And with Helgeson I know he obviously doesn’t have the star talent but we can at least look at the upside and say that yes he is built a lot like Stevens, doesn’t have the skill is the thing and your right, maybe Salvador and Daneyko are more realistic comparisons but Stevens can for sure teach him a lot about how to be a shut-down type of a defensemen. Also just quickly on Boucher, I’m not saying he’s a bust at all because he’s not, but at somepoint here, he’s gotta show he belongs in this league and maybe his recent hot-streak in the AHL helps him out in the future.

      It’s a bad situation in general, I understand the frustration, and thanks again for the comment.

      • It’s all on the drafting imo. Whether that’s due to our draft position always being so low or Conte just plainly failing to find quality forwards, it’s on the drafting in the 1st round. DeBoer didn’t prevent player growth, the players just weren’t good enough except those that were, like Henrique, the defense and now Kinkaid.

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