Were it not for a certain captain taking his talents to Minneapolis, the losses of Larry Robinson and Adam Oates from New Jersey Devils Coach Pete DeBoer’s bench might have been the franchise’s most devastating defections this summer.
Robinson, a master at orchestrating the defense and administering player-friendly accountability, left for the San Jose Sharks’ bench. Oates, who was responsible for the Devils’ special teams and helped develop young players like Adam Henrique, is the new head coach of the Washington Capitals.
To soften the blow, the Devils turned to someone who doesn’t know how to soften blows: Former captain and Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens.
From Tom Gulitti of Fire and Ice, Stevens and Matt Shaw were named assistants to DeBoer on Tuesday:
Stevens, 48, worked the last two seasons as a special assignment coach for the Devils, spending some time in Albany working with the defensemen there and attending all of the Devils’ home games. He spent the 2009-10 season as a part-time assistant under Jacques Lemaire and did not travel to most of the team’s road games or go behind the bench. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said Stevens will be a full-time assistant now and DeBoer plans to have him on the bench to run the team’s defense.
Emphasis on “run,” considering how Stevens used to defend.
Lamoriello has been trying to get Stevens as a full-time assistant since he was brought on as a “roving instructor” about three years ago. From the Star Ledger in Aug. 2009:
“Winning breeds winning,” Lamoriello said. “Commitment breeds commitment. He brings intensity. Scotty was a leader by example. It’s great to be able to tap his knowledge. And he has a charisma.”
Stevens joins former Devil Dave Barr on the bench while Matt Shaw, also hired on Tuesday, will be an eye in the sky coach. Shaw was an assistant coach for the San Jose Sharks, where his dismissal after last season’s first-round failure was framed by some as “taking the fall” for the disappointment.
“Within the things that were my responsibility, I stand by them. I don’t have regrets — I’d be the first to admit if I thought I hadn’t done a very good job or was lacking in an area. I think I’m my firmest critic and I’m not absolving myself that we didn’t get past the first round. But I think there was a lot of successes too and the achievements outweighed the not meeting expectations.”
Shaw takes over a power play that loses Parise and Oates. Stevens takes over for Robinson, who used to coach him during the Devils’ Cup victories. It’s an awkward transition for the Eastern Conference champions, but these hires inspire some confidence.