There is an old adage in sports that there is no off-season and for the New Jersey Devils that seems to be the case.
Even though the Devils are out of the 24 team tournament that will decide the 2020 Stanley Cup, there are plenty of tasks at hand to make sure that this organization is competitive next season.
One of the most talked-about possible changes to the Devils organization has been whether or not to keep interim head coach Alain Nasreddine on at the helm next season as the permanent head coach.
Interim GM Tom Fitzgerald, who personally was brought in to replace fired GM Ray Shero last January, has confirmed that the Devils have been in talks with numerous candidates including former Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant who was interviewed in April by the Devils management. Other available coaching candidates have no doubt been contacted or interviewed and at this time there have been no changes to the current team coaching leadership.
In an interesting twist, Alain Nasreddine finds himself in the thick of candidates being considered. Despite having essentially a rough introduction to the NHL’s head coaching fraternity, Nasreddine took a dismal Devils team over in December from fired coach (and mentor) John Hynes and led the Devils to a 19-16-8 record until the league suspension on March 12th. During Nasreddine’s tenure, the Devils lead the NHL on the penalty kill (86%) and remained somewhat competitive for the remainder of the season.
Alain Nasreddine has received praise from the Devils management including Tom Fitzgerald, who stated:
“I think the players appreciated assistant coach Nasreddine who became a head coach,” Fitzgerald said. “He was different than [Hynes], no different than [Shero] and I being different, but were good complements. I think ‘Nas’ has grown in a lot of areas and he’s put himself in a good situation to continue to talk to our people, talk to the owners and myself about continuing on as the head coach.” Tom Fitzgerald, NHL.com. 6/11/20.
Resurging goaltender Cory Schneider also reiterated his support for Nasreddine remaining as head coach:
“I enjoy playing under him and we had a great relationship,” Schneider said Wednesday. “It’s a tough business, so who knows what direction [the Devils are] going to go, but I really hope that ‘Nas’ will be here. If not as head coach, still part of the coaching staff, because he’s a valuable asset.
“I think he’ll get an opportunity whether it’s here or somewhere else to be a head coach because I think he’s got a lot of characteristics you’re looking for in today’s game.” Cory Schneider, NHL.com, 6/11/20.
Regardless of whether the Devils elect to keep Alain Nasreddine as their permanent head coach, a member of the coaching staff under a new head, or release him altogether, the Devils need to use this “downtime” to prepare for the upcoming season.
The team needs to start putting the pieces together in the front office, and on the coaching side to on the ice, to help ensure that they’re competitive enough to make another playoff run in 2020-21.
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