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Lack of coach doesn't faze Devils

Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 12:57 PM / 2011 Offseason News

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Lack of coach doesn't faze Devils
The handful of players with NHL experience at New Jersey's rookie camp say they're not worried about the fact that the Devils are the only team still without a coach.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The fact the New Jersey Devils are the only team without a coach hasn't really fazed those handful of players with NHL experience who are attending this week's rookie camp.

Nick Palmieri, who appeared in 43 games with the Devils last season and notched 9 goals and 17 points, admits his mindset heading into training camp won't change no matter who winds up getting the job.

"To be honest, it doesn't really change one way or another," Palmieri told NHL.com. "Whoever is the coach, you have to do what he wants you to do regardless of whether or not you agree with it. That's the way it is in all sports. The coach has the final say and it's up to the players to follow his system and you have to be able to trust your coach that he's going to put a system in place that will benefit the team. I think regardless of who they hire, it won't change my focus coming into camp or the way I'll play."

One thing's for sure, Palmieri said he did benefit from the teachings of Jacques Lemaire, who resigned as coach following the 2010-11 regular season. Lemaire has informed the local media that he will not go back behind the bench this season but will remain an adviser/special assignment coach for the organization.

"The coach has the final say and it's up to the players to follow his system and you have to be able to trust your coach that he's going to put a system in place that will benefit the team. I think regardless of who they hire, it won't change my focus coming into camp or the way I'll play." -- Nick Palmieri

Lemaire was convinced by general manager Lou Lamoriello to return behind the bench on Dec. 23 after John MacLean was fired. The Devils were 9-22-2 at that point and sitting in the last place in the Eastern Conference. After Lemaire took over, the club finished the season 29-17-3.

"His record speaks for itself," Palmieri said. "He's obviously one of the better coaches to ever coach in the League, so I thought having a guy like that as a rookie was really important and he taught me a lot of thing. Not that I didn't know going in, but just kind of fine-tuned everything to be done the way that he wanted it done -- he really paid close attention to detail. He didn't really let you get away with much so it's really helpful when you're a young guy because you don't get bad habits -- he wouldn't allow it."

Perhaps the biggest dilemma for Lamoriello in his search for the organization's seventh different coach in seven seasons is pinpointing an individual with Lemaire's desirable traits.

"Obviously, we're young and not as experienced as the older players, so there's a lot to learn and you can't learn if no one tells you what to do, so it's really good to have those coaches or older players to tell you and teach you stuff," forward Jacob Josefson told NHL.com.

Josefson admits the biggest thing Lemaire did for him was provide him with the playing time. The 20th overall pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, Josefson averaged 13:14 of ice time in 28 games with the Devils last season and produced 3 goals and 10 points. Maybe Lamoriello wants to make certain the next coach shows that same patience with Adam Larsson, the No. 4 pick in last month's Entry Draft.

"I think he taught me a lot, especially on the defensive side of the game," Josefson said of Lemaire. "I have to thank him because he gave me a lot of ice time and I played a lot so that meant a lot for my confidence."

After losing his first four games and starting 1-6-0, Lemaire helped the Devils turn their season around. The club was 27 points out of a playoff spot on Jan. 9, but eventually closed the gap to as few as six in the season's final month. Lemaire has a 276-166-67 record as Devils coach and his career mark stands 617-458-187. He won his 600th NHL game Feb. 10 at Toronto.

Devils defenseman Mark Fayne feels having a nurturing but demanding coach like Lemaire was a positive. Fayne, a pleasant surprise in 57 games for the Devils in 2010-11, feels it isn't solely the responsibility of the coach to get the best out of each player, whether they're young or old.

"I believe that's what assistant coaches do best," Fayne said. "You can't get somebody better than (Devils assistant) Larry (Robinson) as a defensive coach. He still has numerous ways he can teach me over my lifetime, but it's always good when a head coach comes over and kind of gets interactive and lets you know his other side … you just need to show him that you're willing to work and things like that."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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