Dec 23, 2010, 8:45 PM EDT
(Need to get up to speed on the New Jersey Devils’ decision to fire John MacLean and make Jacques Lemaire their interim head coach one again? Read these posts first.
It’s tough to say that I was surprised to hear that Devils GM Lou Lamoriello decided to fire overwhelmed coach John MacLean, even if I think the true fault falls at the feet of the seemingly bullet-proof “Loophole Lou.” After all, MacLean didn’t err profoundly by giving Ilya Kovalchuk a $100 million nor did he lean toward nostalgia with questionable acquisitions of Jason Arnott and Brian Rolston over the last few years.
But ultimately the coach’s head was lopped off, as is often the case with sports teams. You may know the cliche that “you cannot trade the whole team” after all.
So the Devils once again took a trip down memory lane by bringing back Jacques Lemaire for the third time in franchise history. So, the question is: how are some of the biggest figures in the organization reacting to the changes? We’re so glad you asked, because Tom Gulitti of the Fire & Ice blog found answers from high-priced sniper Kovalchuk, team captain Jamie Langenbrunner and team owner Jeff Vanderbeek.
- While Ilya Kovalchuk must not have been pleased when he was scratched from a game in October, he says that he didn’t call for MacLean’s head.
Kovalchuk insisted he had no problems with MacLean, though he was scratched for an Oct. 23 game against Buffalo because he was late for a mandatory meeting the morning of the game.
“I’m not the reason (why MacLean was fired). Don’t worry,” Kovalchuk said. “Everybody has their own opinion, but in the situation that we are, (a coach gets fired). It’s unfortunate, but we have to live with it and move forward.”
- One New Jersey Devils player who might be the most upset regarding the return of Lemaire is captain Langenbrunner. As you may remember, the coach and player had quite the argument toward the end of the 2009-10 season. For his part, Langenbrunner seems to be saying the right things.
When asked to describe his relationship with Lemaire, Langenbrunner said,“We’ll see. Right? You guys obviously wrote a lot about what that was like last year – some truth, some not. I respect him as a coach. I think he’s a very smart hockey man. We’ll do what’s best for the team. He’s a very good hockey guy.”
We’ll see? That’s an interesting way to start off an otherwise PR-soaked answer, isn’t it?
- Finally, Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek was saddened that the team needed to fire MacLean but also admitted that change was needed. Of course, many will question whether this was the right type of change. But as Langenbrunner would say, “we’ll see.”
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