New Jersey Devils Coaching Search Is At The Finish Line

The New Jersey Devils have been steeped in a coaching search for weeks, going on months. However, we could be days or even hours away from an announcement if everything is lining up as it seems.
2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round 2-7
2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round 2-7 / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils are going big-game hunting this offseason. Whether that’s for a goalie or for a head coach, they are looking at big names only. There will be no more interviews with the “new guy” or the “up-and-comer.” The New Jersey Devils want to make an acquisition or a hire that gets fans excited. 

Of course, we believe that the head coaching search is going to happen before the goalie acquisition. That’s just simple math. Most GMs, even those eliminated from the playoffs, refuse to make trades before the playoffs end. A head coaching hire usually happens with relative quickness. 

After weeks of rumors and interviews, it really feels like the Devils decision is imminent. They circled a few candidates from the beginning. Craig Berube, Jay Woodcroft, and Todd McClellan were confirmed to have interviewed for the job early. Berube seemed like a frontrunner until the Toronto Maple Leafs job opened up. He chose to go north. However, for the Maple Leafs job to be open, that means Sheldon Keefe is looking for his next gig.

The reports have said the Devils are interested in Keefe, but a new report by Darren Dreger says that Sheldon Keefe is “not the front runner” for the Devils job. The language used by Dreger, who has shown in the past he knows what he’s talking about, feels very pointed. He went out of his way to say that the relationship between Keefe and the Devils isn’t dead, but he made it a point to say he wasn’t the number one option.

That sounds like Keefe gave the Devils his answer about whether or not he’s coaching this season. The Devils likely put some type of deadline on Keefe to make a decision, as Woodcroft is sitting in the shadows waiting to see what happens. He’s currently an assistant coach on Team Canada under Utah head coach (that was weird to say) Andre Tourigny. While he’s busy, that doesn’t mean he’s willing to wait for the Devils on another candidate. He may be a candidate for jobs in Seattle and LA, and they need a decision.

You may remember it took Tom Fitzgerald a long time to announce a new head coach in 2020. That was a little more complicated since he was also interviewing for the role of GM, but there has always been a process for the Devils under Fitzgerald. However, the Keefe addition to this process likely forced the Devils to speed up their decision. 

One thing is clear: this feels like a two-dog race. Yes, we said that a few days ago when Berube was still available, but it might come down to the Devils missing out on their first two options. Berube picked Toronto and Keefe might be keen on taking the year off as the Maple Leafs pay his salary. 

Either way, the Devils are getting a quality coach. It seems like there is no room for a surprise, whether that’s Mike Sullivan in Pittsburgh or a first-time coach who might be willing to grow with the roster. The Devils are getting someone with experience, and they are prioritizing experience coaching superstars. We expect to hear a confirmation by the end of the week barring something pushing this back.