New Jersey Devils’ Adam Larsson Has Excelled In Post-DeBoer Era


Adam Larsson was an enigma for the New Jersey Devils during his first several seasons in the National Hockey League. Larsson went from being a full-time player in his 2011-12 rookie season, as a 19-year-old, no less, to being anything but that in the two-plus seasons that followed.

Then, on December 26, 2014, halfway through Larsson’s fourth NHL season, Devils’ coach Peter DeBoer was fired. And for the 22-year-old Swede, it seemingly made a world of change.

Rewind to last season, Larsson suffered from an injury that kept him out for the better part of the year. But when finally healthy, he seemingly lost his spot at the NHL level, spending the majority of the season’s remaining games in Albany.

Heading into this campaign, Larsson was hardly guaranteed a roster spot, having to compete with other young guns such as Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas, as well as others who, quite frankly, shouldn’t have been considered for a roster spot, such as Bryce Salvador. Larsson ultimately made the final roster, but as the seventh defenseman, and spent time as a healthy scratch early on. He eventually got his chance, but it seemed as if he didn’t really get his chance, as Larsson only totaled 20 minutes of ice time twice in 17 games prior to contracting the mumps in early December.

He returned on December 23, which would also prove to be Peter DeBoer’s final game behind the Devils’ bench.

Enter Adam Oates & Scott Stevens

While nobody truly knows who the Devils’ head coach actually is, the duo of Oates and Stevens seem to have brought out Larsson’s potential as a former fourth-overall draft pick. Our co-editor David Berger hit on Larsson’s resurgence a few weeks ago and the Swedish defenseman has done nothing but continue to grow.

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Since December 31, New Jersey’s third game under the new coaching regime, Larsson has totaled more than 20 minutes of ice time in every single game, exceeding 23 minutes in six of those ten games.

Not only has Larsson’s ice time increased, but the level of his play has also increased. He has become a fixture on the Devils’ penalty kill unit, which continues to increase its level of success with Larsson being a part of it.

Larsson has also been contributing on the offensive side of the puck as well. He tallied a mere four points and a -3 plus/minus rating in 17 games prior to the coaching switch. In 12 games since, Larsson has a +2 rating and six points, including a game-tying goal late in the third period last night.

His play has gotten the attention of attending media as well, as Larsson has been named a star of the game three times this month, including being named first star of the game last night.

With Larsson finally playing at a high level, it’s no surprise that the Devils are 5-3-1 this month, the best stretch of hockey they’ve played (arguably) all season, as the blue line has been solidified of late.

Did DeBoer’s Departure Really Affect Larsson’s Play?

No one may ever publically know whether or not Larsson and DeBoer didn’t see eye to eye on certain things, but it at times seemed that DeBoer had a personal vendetta against the 22-year-old, evidenced by the former coach’s random benching/scratching of Larsson. If you recall, he did reportedly threaten to return to Sweden to play this past summer, which may or may not have been related to DeBoer’s coaching style.

Following the Devils’ 2-1 shootout win over Toronto last night, Larsson may have been insinuating that DeBoer didn’t trust him, as he said “[The coaching staff] trusts me and I think that’s all I needed,” according to NBC Sports’ Jason Brough. “I needed guys that showed they trusted me, and then it’s up to yourself if you want to be out there.”

Of course, this is all hypothetical. But it cannot be a coincidence that Larsson has been very good in the time since DeBoer was removed as head coach. He’s finally been given a chance to play a lot of minutes, and meaningful minutes at that, and he’s run with the opportunity.

At the ripe age of 22, it’s very possible that we are seeing the 2011 first round pick blossom into a very good NHL defenseman before our very eyes.

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Next: Larsson Scores Late As Devils Defeat Toronto In A Shootout