The Devils fired John Hynes as their head coach finally hours before the Devils played the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night at Prudential Center.
Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine fared no better than his predecessor after coaching the team to a 4-3 loss to a third-year NHL team coming off a Stanley Cup Final in its first season and a first round playoff appearance last season.
Not that anyone expected Nasreddine to be the answer. Even the Devils administration and ownership did not think so or else he would have been the head coach last month when the team started off poorly.
Make no mistake. Devils owners mandated this firing, not Devils general manager Ray Shero, who has a history of being patient with coaches such as Dan Bylsma and Hynes. If Shero had his way, the deposed Devils head coach would still be coaching. Shero and Hynes have been attached together going back to their days with the Penguins organization.
The next coach should not be Shero’s decision to make since he likely will hire an up-and-coming head coach that takes his orders rather than an established head coach. In fact, Shero should have joined Hynes on the firing line since he hasn’t built a playoff team that was sustainable.
The Devils need to hire a coach that knows how to win. A head coach that will bring structure, discipline, accountability and credibility that departed since Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello left the organization.
You know what I am thinking, right? Mike Babcock should be the new Devils head coach as soon as possible.
I know, I know the disgraced head coach presents baggage. He verbally abuses players, and he likes playing mind games with them. He puts the fear of the Lord on the players. No matter. Babcock should be the way to go for the Devils.
Remember successful hockey coaches such as Darryl Sutter, Ken Hitchcock, John Tortorella, Jacques Lemaire, the late Pat Burns, Mike Keenan and Scotty Bowman weren’t exactly angels as coaches. They knew what made players tick, and they received results. Those coaches won the Stanley Cup.
Here’s the point: The Devils shouldn’t hire a nice guy that will hand out orange slices no matter the result of a game. They shouldn’t hire a buddy that players relate to. They shouldn’t hire a head coach who is too much of a nice guy that players take advantage of. The days of a country club atmosphere must end.
The Devils need to hire a head coach who will be a taskmaster and demand results. They should hire a guy who will make Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes into winners rather than just be good offensive players. They must hire a coach who will mean defense first. Babcock checks all the boxes here.
Babcock also won a Stanley Cup, and he made three Stanley Cup Finals appearances. He knows winning.
Critics will talk about his Maple Leafs teams underachieving in the playoffs. At least, he got them there. The Devils missed the playoffs for the seventh time in nine seasons last season. Remember when being in the Stanley Cup playoffs became a birthright for this once-proud Devils franchise? Those were the days. Who wouldn’t want to get back to that?
Babcock is just the right guy to get them there. Most importantly, he will light a fire to these underachieving players who are in need of a culture shock.
Hynes is a good man, and he may be a great hockey mind, but he wasn’t a leader of men. He did not have a clue what to do on game nights. He constantly got outcoached by his peers. He often seemed confused at games. He projected a poor look of a head coach.
The Devils can’t make another mistake of hiring a head coach that will be like Hynes. Right now, they are as irrelevant as Rutgers and Nets in town. They need to make a splash. Most importantly, they must convince Hughes and Hischier that they are in to win it rather than waste their careers. Hiring Babcock sends that message.
Babcock knows how to motivate. He will get them prepared for games. Most importantly, he knows what it takes to create a winning hockey team.
His strong attributes outweigh his baggage. Also, he can adapt with the times and clean up his act. He knows today’s players can’t handle old-school coaching, and he is smart enough to change his approach.
What do the Devils have to lose in hiring Babcock?