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Devils coach John MacLean chews shorthanded team out in practice

Oct 13, 2010, 3:11 PM EDT

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John MacLean

The life of a head coach in the NHL isn’t all cliche answers to a reporter’s questions and looking dapper in a suit behind the bench. Sometimes cracking a few heads in practice is part of the job, just that that part of the job doesn’t always happen three games into the season. Welcome to the life of Devils coach John MacLean who went off on his shorthanded team in practice today and then ended things earlier than expected in an effort to keep the Devils focused after starting the season winless. Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice shares this note from practice.

Devils coach John MacLean halted the team’s morning skate today at HSBC Arena and ripped into his players for being listless and sloppy during one of the drills.

MacLean stopped the drill, called the players over to him at center ice and then began yelling with several profanities mixed in. Then, he made them restart the drill they had been doing. MacLean apparently spotted one player shaking his head after he yelled at the team because I heard him say, “Don’t shake your head.”

“I thought it was a little too laissez faire for a team that hasn’t won a game yet,” MacLean explained afterward.

Harsh and accurate from MacLean, but is it right of him to be as hard on the team when they’re playing without the right number of players for a full lineup? Perhaps. Everyone on the ice for the Devils is top player and if you’re not getting optimum performance out of all those guys, then that’s a huge issue.

Starting the season out poorly when expectations are sky high doesn’t leave anyone feeling good and being a head coach in New Jersey means that whether or not things are going well, your job is on the line. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello hasn’t been afraid to pull the plug on a coach at any time if he feels it’s not working out.

That’s not to say that MacLean is in any imminent danger, that’d be crazy, it’s just a commentary on the way the Devils do things. That said, the pressure in New Jersey is sky high, especially with how much the spotlight got turned onto the team thanks to the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes and subsequent contract ordeal. If the Devils come out on fire tonight against Buffalo, you’ll know that MacLean’s gruff handling of things today got through to them.

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