Me, July 20, 2011:
Finally, the New Jersey Devils have a new head coach.
It's not the old, old coach, Jacques Lemaire. Nor is it another old coach, Larry Robinson. Or a recent old coach, John MacLean. It's... Peter DeBoer. WHO? At the risk of this turning into an Abbot & Costello routine, here goes: Peter DeBoer is 43 years old, and a native of Windsor, Ontario. He was a center who played 7 seasons in the minor leagues, never reaching the NHL. From 1995 to 2008, he coached in the minors, winning 5 Division titles and the 2003 Memorial Cup -- of course, that was in the system of his "hometown" team, the Detroit Red Wings. His one previous helm of an NHL team, the Florida Panthers, ran the past 3 seasons, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 -- and they did not make the Playoffs.
Not enough money? Bullshit. There's a salary cap now, the South Florida metropolitan area has 5.5 million people -- 10th-largest market in the NHL, 8th if you combine 3-team New York and 2-team Los Angeles into 1 each -- and with all the opportunities for merchandising and promotion, there's no such thing as a "small market" anymore; only management with small imagination.
For a moment, I thought Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello had hired one of the DeBoer twins, who had starred for the great Amsterdam-based soccer team Ajax in the 1990s. Frank de Boer is now Ajax's manager, having just led them to their country's league championship, and his brother Ronald has also retired as an active player. Both were better players in their sport than Peter DeBoer is in his, and Frank is already, by far, the more accomplished head coach.
Peter DeBoer? Seriously? Is this the best guy Lou Lam could get? Or was he the best guy that the notoriously cheap Lou was willing to pay for? Either way, Lou needs to have a visit from Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS, and get slapped on the back of his big bald head.
This is a major league bonehead hire, and all the good done in the last 2/3 of the 2010-11 season is going to evaporate.
If I turn out to be wrong, feel free to remind me. I will gladly eat that crow and humble pie, if I can wash it down with champagne from the Stanley Cup.
My mother taught me never to talk with my mouth full, but she never said anything about typing with it full. At this moment, I am eating my words, crow, and humble pie.
DeBoer has gotten the Devils into the Stanley Cup Finals in his first year as boss. He has beaten the Rangers in the Playoffs -- something the Devils have only done once before. He has beaten the Flyers in the Playoffs -- something the Devils have done twice before, but always good to do again. He has beaten both of the teams we truly hate, which the Devils have never done before.
He has done it with a group of players that has been forged into a genuine team. Great players? Sure: Martin Brodeur is going to the Hall of Fame, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise probably are, and others, such as Patrik Elias, could make it. But injuries and slumps have meant that some of these players couldn't be counted on. And yet, DeBoer got others to step up when the big men couldn't.
David Clarkson, Stephen Gionta, Anton Volchenkov, Marek Zidlicky, Dainius Zubrus, Bryce Salvador, Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter, Alexei Ponikarovsky and especially Adam Henrique have really come on this season.
A true team effort.
Coach DeBoer, I did not believe in you. For that, I apologize. Your players have believed in you, and for that, they need to apologize to no one.
UPDATE: Within a year, I would stop believing in DeBoer. It would take more time for the Devils to stop believing in him, firing him on the day after Christmas 2014. He would be hired by the San Jose Sharks, and get them as far as he got the Devils, to Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals.