New Jersey Devils: Alain Nasreddine Deserves Credit For His Performance

New Jersey Devils assistant coach Alain Nasreddine. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
New Jersey Devils assistant coach Alain Nasreddine. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils announced that Lindy Ruff tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, and he’s been in protocols ever since. That left Alain Nasreddine as the acting head coach while Ruff recovered. Since then, the Devils have beaten two playoff teams in thrilling fashion. He’s made really good lineup decisions, and the team has responded in kind.

Nasreddine was the punching bag from the New Jersey Devils fanbase for about three years there. He was in charge of the penalty kill and the defense, and those were playing pretty terribly. The defense was probably as much the general manager’s fault as the players on the ice were not living up to their name. P.K. Subban proved he couldn’t be a superstar anymore, and the team was asking too much of Damon Severson.

This season has been somewhat of a redemption tour for Coach Nasreddine. The penalty kill went from historically bad last season to being in the top 15 in the penalty kill percentage this season. It felt like an automatic goal when the other team was on the power play last season. This season, the Devils penalty kill stopped some really good chances at crucial times. The only thing wrong with the PK this year is the goalie, and it’s not Nasreddine’s job to get the goalies to play as they should.

The defense has been much better this season, as well. Obviously, adding Ryan Graves, a full season of Jonas Siegenthaler, and the superstar in Dougie Hamilton helps more than anything, but it was up to Nasreddine to put in Lindy Ruff’s defensive system. The defensive system is complicated, and it especially could lead to too many goals against.

The Devils are playing well under Nasreddine. They haven’t fallen under the pressure of blown leads like they have all season. They blew leads against the Oilers and the Capitals in pretty dramatic fashion. Yet, both times, the Devils came back and won the game in overtime. Against the Oilers, they tied the game after going down on a goal on a bad call by the referees.

It’s been a long road to prosperity for Nasreddine. Who knows what the future holds for Nas, but if the Devils continue to play at the level they are playing now, and if Ruff doesn’t continue the momentum, Nasreddine could be the next head coach of the Devils. Honestly, it doesn’t sound as bad as it has before.