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Devils hire Stevens and Shaw to fill assistant coaching vacancies

Scott StevensNo matter what they do for an organization, it’s extremely difficult to replace a pair of Hall of Famers when they leave.  That’s exactly what Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello was faced with upon the departures of assistant coaches Adam Oates and Larry Robinson.  Oates moved on for an opportunity to be a head coach in the NHL with the Washington Capitals, while Larry Robinson moved to the west coast and the San Jose Sharks, where he can spend time with his grandchildren.

Both Oates and Robinson will be extremely difficult to replace.  Oates was hired by the Devils as an assistant coach, specifically to run the power play, for the 2010-11 season.  Unfortunately, the power play, like the entire team for much of the season’s first half, did not work well at all.  It ranked among the bottom three teams in the league for most of the season, and the Devils missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996, despite a surge in the second half.  Oates dramatically turned the power play around this past season, especially in the second half of the season.  The Devils finished 14th overall for the season, although it operated at over a 20% rate once the Devils acquired Kurtis Foster, and eventually Marek Zidlicky.

Larry Robinson, on the other hand, has been with the Devils for most of the past two decades.  He first came aboard in 1993 as an assistant coach, and was on the coaching staff for the Devils’ first Stanley Cup championship in 1995.  After the 1994-95 season, Robinson went to Los Angeles as a head coach, but returned to New Jersey as an assistant in 1999.  Between 1999 and 2012, Robinson was an assistant coach, head coach, back to assistant coach and continued to go back and forth several times, but he was a part of all three Stanley Cup championships, including winning in 2000 as the interim head coach.  More recently, Robinson worked with the Devils’ young defensemen, such as Mark Fayne and Adam Larsson.

Replacing Oates will be former San Jose assistant Matt Shaw.  This hiring by Lou Lamoriello surprised many, although there was not a lot of speculation as to who might replace Oates initially.  When Lou Lamoriello invited Sergei Brylin to be an assistant for development camp, which is going on right now, many figured he and Stevens would get the roles, but instead, Matt Shaw has been hired.  Shaw was the mastermind of San Jose’s second-ranked power play in the NHL last season.  Only the Flyers scored more power play goals in the NHL last season than the Sharks.  The Devils are hoping that Shaw can continue to get power play goal production out of Ilya Kovalchuk, who scored 10 such goals last season, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson, who scored eight each.

While Shaw will be running the power play, Scott Stevens will handle the defense.  The Hall of Fame defenseman, 13-time All-Star and captain of all three Stanley Cup championships with the Devils, Stevens will assume Robinson’s role and look to mentor the young defensemen the Devils have coming through the organization.  In addition to Fayne and Larsson, defensemen such as Eric Gelinas, Alexander Urbom, Jonathan Merrill, Brandon Burlon, Damon Severson and others figure to be NHL ready within the next few seasons.  Stevens will hope to improve upon the Devils’ ninth best team goals against average in the NHL from last season.

So with Shaw and Stevens added, the Devils have completed their coaching staff for the 2012-13 season.  Peter DeBoer will enter his second season as head coach of the team, while Dave Barr, who ran the NHL’s best penalty kill in the modern era last season, will also return for his second season and Chris Terreri will continue to coach the goaltenders.  Hopefully, with Barr’s expertise on the penalty kill and Shaw’s brilliance with the San Jose power play last season, special teams will be a strength of the Devils moving forward, and with Scott Stevens working with the defensemen, it figures to be quite difficult to score goals against the Devils next season.

Is it October yet?

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