The Devils announced via their official website today (June 17) that they have hired Geoff Ward and Alain Nasreddine as new assistant coaches under head coach John Hynes.
The move further restructures the coaching staff and adds a new element behind the bench. According to the Devils’ press release, Ward spent last season with the Adler Mannheim Eagles of the German Ice Hockey League and Nasreddine was an assistant under Hynes with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.
Ward, at 53 years-old is the better traveled of the two. He has been coaching for 22 years, including seven years as an assistant with the Boston Bruins. During his time there, the Bruins won a Stanley Cup (2011) and reached a Stanley Cup Final (2013). Prior to his time with the B’s, he was a member of the Edmonton Oilers organization. He coached their AHL affiliate at the time, the Hamilton Bulldogs, for more than two seasons, being named co-winner of the Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial Award as AHL coach of the year in 2003 along with former Devils coach and current Bruins bench boss Claude Julien, who was also coaching with the Bulldogs at that time. He also coached Hamilton to the Calder Cup Finals in 2003, losing to the Houston Aeros. He was promoted to Edmonton’s development coach in 2005-06.
His coaching career began in 1992-93 when he was named an assistant coach with the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara Falls Thunder. He was then named head coach of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL in 1994-95 and served in that position until 1997-98. He then moved on to the Guelph Storm of the OHL in 1998-99. In 1999-2000, he spent time with the Arkansas Riverblades of the ECHL. In addition to last season’s stint in Germany, he also coached in the German League in 2000-01 and 2006-07.
Nasreddine is the younger of the two assistants at age 39. The Montreal native’s coaching career includes five seasons with Hynes in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. A former defenseman, the Baby Pens allowed the fewest goals in the AHL four times under his watch. They also won the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as AHL regular season champions in 2010-11 while he was on staff.
He played his junior hockey with the Drummondville Voltigeurs and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and played 74 games in the NHL (with Chicago, Montreal, the Islanders and Pittsburgh). His pro playing career spanned fifteen years from 1995-96 to 2009-10. He was drafted by the Florida Panthers 135th overall in the sixth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Playing in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he made appearances in the 2004 and 2008 Calder Cup Finals and was the team’s captain in 2004-05 and 2005-06. As a player he won a QMJHL President’s Cup with Chicoutimi as league champions in 1993-94 and advanced to the Memorial Cup.
Although it is kind of disappointing that the team could not find a role for Scott Stevens on the staff (he was a coach who got the most out of his defense, in particular helping Adam Larsson develop into a full-time NHL-caliber defenseman), many fans can understand that both Hynes and new General Manager Ray Shero wanted to go with their own guys behind the bench. Stevens is a three-time Stanley Cup champ with the Devils and was a highly respected player during his playing days and took that into his coaching career. The former Devils captain could have been a good asset to the new coaching staff. Despite that, there is a decent amount of experience between the two men who will be behind the bench next season when it comes to winning, including Ward capturing a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011.
It is now clear that this is Hynes and Shero’s team and the Devils’ future development will hinge on their moves. Patience by ownership and management will also be a key, as the coaching staff is very young and will need time to grow with their players. The team will certainly have a new look this coming season, something that was to be expected after the last few seasons.