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Devils hire John MacLean as coach

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J. --  New Jersey Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello is hoping a former first-round draft pick can help bring a Stanley Cup back to the Garden State.

John MacLean, who spent 14 seasons with New Jersey as a player and eight more as a member of the Devils' coaching staff, was named the team's 19th coach by Lamoriello during a news conference at Prudential Center on Thursday. MacLean becomes the first former New Jersey player to serve as coach.

"It's a little bit surreal and, for me, it's almost like draft day again, being a rookie head coach with the organization that's been very good to me," MacLean said. "I'm looking forward to helping it along here and getting us back to winning another Stanley Cup."

MacLean, 45, will be the sixth coach to work the Devils bench in six seasons. He replaces Jacques Lemaire, who retired April 26 after one season in his second stint as the head man.

MacLean served one season as coach of the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Lowell, guiding the team to its only playoff appearance in four seasons in 2009-10 with a franchise best 39-31-4-6 mark.

The experience in Lowell was just what he needed.

Devils coaching history
Bill MacMillan 1982-83 through Nov. 22, 1983
Tom McVie Nov. 22, 1983 - May 31, 1984
Doug Carpenter May 31, 1984 - Jan. 26, 1988
Jim Schoenfeld Jan. 26, 1988 - Nov. 6, 1989
John Cunniff Nov. 6, 1989 - March 4, 1991
Tom McVie March 4, 1991 - June 5, 1992
Herb Brooks June 5, 1992 - May 31, 1993
Jacques Lemaire June 28, 1993 - May 8, 1998
Robbie Ftorek May 21, 1998 - March 23, 2000
Larry Robinson March 23, 2000 - Jan. 28, 2002
Kevin Constantine Jan. 28, 2002 - June 13, 2002
Pat Burns June 13, 2002 - July 8, 2005
Larry Robinson July 14, 2005 - Dec. 19, 2005
Lou Lamoriello Dec. 19, 2005 - May 14, 2006
Claude Julien June 13, 2006 - April 2, 2007
Lou Lamoriello April 2, 2007 - May 5, 2007
Brent Sutter July 13, 2007 - June 6, 2009
Jacques Lemaire July 13, 2009 - April 26, 2010

"You never think you need it until you go through it," he said of being the boss behind the bench. "I needed Lowell, it was a great and helpful year. It definitely is important and was a good buffer. You learn about yourself and how you handle situations. You could always think and anticipate what you're going to be like, but until you go through it, you just don't know."

Lamoriello felt MacLean has what it takes to lead a team behind the bench.

"I think he's going to be a combination of a lot of things (as a coach)," Lamoriello said. "He's going to be a complete coach. When he played for us, he worked the power play and had experience on the checking line and, as a coach, he changed defense and forwards so there's quite a bit of experience he's accumulated. The only experience he doesn't have was holding that responsibility of making that final decision (as an NHL coach), and that's a big responsible at any level, in any organization."

MacLean previously served as an assistant coach for seven seasons, earning a ring with the 2003 Stanley Cup-winning team to go with the one he earned as a player in 1995. He's the club's all-time leader in goals (347), power-play goals (92) and power-play points (197), is second to Patrik Elias on the team's all-time points list with 701, third in assists with 354 and fourth in games played (934).

"John played on our '95 Cup team and was an assistant for the '03 team that also won it, so he's experienced the positive things but also experienced the failure in '96 when we didn't even make the playoffs," Lamoriello said. "These are all positives and situations he's learned from; he knows what to expect."

The Devils won their ninth Atlantic Division championship in 2009-10 while reaching the 100-point mark for the 12th time in the last 15 full seasons, but fell far short of reaching their ultimate goal. The club earned the second seed in the Eastern Conference with 48 victories and 103 points before losing to the seventh-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in just five games in the conference quarterfinal round. The Flyers finished 15 points behind the Devils but were 9-2-0 in 11 meetings this season.

Even MacLean admitted disappointment watching the Devils falter in the first round for the third straight season.

"It's frustrating for everyone within the organization," he said. "I've been a part of this organization for a long time when we weren't in the playoffs or were expected to do things, and now with expectations for this team to do things, it's always disappointing when you don't go as far as you should. You want to win the Stanley Cup; that's always the goal here. I think with the team and the organization we have, that should be the goal every year, so not only for me was it disappointing but it was disappointing for the players and everyone involved with the organization."

Originally drafted No. 6 in the first round by the Devils in the 1983 Entry Draft, MacLean was also a member of the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship in 1995. His overtime goal in the final regular-season game of the 1987-88 season against Chicago helped clinch the first playoff berth in franchise history. He also scored the game-winning  goal in Game 7 of the '88 Patrick Division Finals at Washington.

MacLean reached the 20-goal mark a franchise-record 10 times, including a career-high 45 goals in 1990-91. Lamoriello, who informed MacLean of his promotion on Wednesday, never gave much thought into the fact he happens to be the first former player to coach the organization.

"It's a little bit surreal and, for me, it's almost like draft day again, being a rookie head coach with the organization that's been very good to me.  I'm looking forward to helping it along here and getting us back to winning another Stanley Cup." -- John MacLean

"I certainly felt that through the success we had and experiences we've had, that there was no question in my mind, there would be a time like this," Lamoriello said. "We've had a lot of former players get into coaching, whether assistants or in the minors, but no one I really thought about it in this position."

MacLean will retain assistant coach Larry Robinson and goalie coach Chris Terreri, a former teammate. The remainder of his staff will be announced at a later date, though he did say ex-Devil defenseman Scott Stevens would also play a role.

"This decision has nothing to do with John being a former player, though it certainly helps," Lamoriello said of MacLean’s hiring. "It has to do with his talents and experiences and knowledge of the game. There's a fine line between winning and losing, but the philosophy that we've had for many years and the structure we believe in, is something John certainly has been through and believes in and it's something we want to maintain."

Five current Devils were once MacLean's teammates -- Martin Brodeur, Elias, Jay Pandolfo and Brian Rolston in New Jersey and Jamie Langenbrunner in Dallas. MacLean retired as an active player on June 7, 2002, following a 19-year professional career that also included stints with San Jose, the New York Rangers and Dallas. He scored 413 goals and had 842 points in 1,194 career games.

MacLean assured the media present that Langenbrunner would resume his role as captain of the team.

"Jamie's a great leader," MacLean said. "I've played with him and coached him, and he's good for what we're trying to do here. He's tremendous with the young guys and, being a leader himself, will help with the transition."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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