Welcome to the big show Johnny Mac! The Devils all-time leader in goals (347) was named to the teams head coaching position today. MacLean was an assistant coach with New Jersey for seven seasons before leaving Jersey last year to coach the Devils AHL affiliate, the Lowell Devils (now Albany Devils). The move to become a head coach of the team was thought to be a move in the right direction in order to get him to the place he needed to be to one day take this team over. Just one year as a head coach—at any level, MacLean lead Lowell to a 39-31-4-6 record for 88 points and the teams first AHL post-season appearance in ten years.
MacLean will now be coaching players on the New Jersey roster that he was once teammates with in Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, Brian Rolston, Jay Pandolfo and Captain Jamie Langenbrunner. As a player MacLean spent 14 of his 19 seasons as a New Jersey Devil. He compiled 413 goals and 429 assists in 1,194 games played. He is also the man responsible for sending this franchise to it’s first ever playoff berth when he scored an overtime goal in Chicago in 1992, who could forget that.
John MacLean deserves this position. He spent seven years behind the bench in Jersey watching coach after coach come in, leave, get fired—what have you, he saw it all back there. He still remained strong with the team though which shows his dedication to the organization, something that I think the Devils have been lacking in the head coaching department for quite some time now. The difference between MacLean and the slew of other recent coaches that have been in New Jersey is that he wants to be the head coach. I’m not saying the man he is replacing, Jacques Lemaire, didn’t want to be here because he wouldn’t have accepted the position if that were the case. However, wanting to be here and being committed to the Devils in order to re-build that success we once had are completely different things. I feel that MacLean is committed to being the coach of this team for years to come, so long as his team performs accordingly to keep him here.
What kind of coach can we expect to see in Johnny Mac?
“I’m whatever is called for that day,” MacLean said last season when asked about his coaching style. “If it calls for teaching and being nice or if it calls for breaking a stick and yelling and screaming, then that’s what it calls for that day.”
There is a little snippet from devils.nhl.com to give you an idea of what he is capable of. I have seen him as an assistant on the bench hootin’ and hollerin’ before at the Devils when they need to kick it into another gear, so I know he has that side to him. The players are also going to have a new found respect for this particular coach because some have played with him before. At the time guys like Brodeur and Elias were youngsters who looked up to guys that had been around before like MacLean was at the time. Now, he is going to be their coach and I think that respect and admiration toward him as a player will come back in the form of their coach. Even the players that are young today that never had the opportunity to play with him before will only come to appreciate him that much more because the locker room will be talking him up and these kids know what he means to the organization. This would all be ideal, however, it is also a lot easier to get heated with a coach you once played with when things aren’t going so well. If the Devils go on a stretch where they struggle for an extended period of time, I’m not so sure how hot heads like Langenbrunner will react when MacLean tries to light a fire under them. But, from what Devils beat writer and owner of the Fire and Ice blog, Tom Gulitti talked about with the Devils captain, Langenbrunner has the utmost respect for MacLean as of right now.
“They’ve had John around for a while and it’s well deserved,” Langenbrunner told me. He’s a good coach.”
Gulitti also went on to ask Jamie his feelings on the overall team philosophy and whether it could change with MacLean as coach.
“He’s coached in this organization for eight years. Every coach has their own thoughts on things, but I would expect that the general philosophy is going to be the same.”
Without getting into the if’s and’s or but’s about MacLean as a coach—because we could get into that about any coach the Devils could have potentially named– I am confident that MacLean was among the better choices for the job. He has put in his time with the Devils as both a player and a coach as well as proving his worth at the head coaching position this year in Lowell. He will be the face behind the bench for years to come, I am sure of it.