Devils Coaching Staff Continues to Take Shape

Catherine Bogart reported yesterday on the “Inside the Devils Blog” that Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald “spoke to the media ahead of the NHL Draft” and addressed the future of Lindy Ruff’s staff.

To begin, former Devils Interim Head Coach, Alain Nasreddine will be returning as an assistant coach next season.

Fitzgerald told Bogart: “He’s very excited about [returning] as are we. When you can keep a young talent like Alain, who did a good job with our group, tough situation, but he handled it well, learned a lot. [He] grew as a coach, young head coach. I think he’s very excited about the opportunity to work with Lindy Ruff. We’re excited about Alain coming back. He takes a lot of pride in growing our young [defense], he takes a lot of pride in working with the penalty kill, and we’re excited to have him.”

The coaching staff, according to Bogart, currently stands at Ruff, Nasreddine and Mark Recchi. She mentioned that the team is looking for a goaltending coach, leading us to believe that Rollie Melanson will not be returning. Likewise, they are looking for a third “eye in the sky” coach. This, added to Recchi’s hiring, would seem to indicate that the Devils have cut ties with Rick Kowalsky as well.

Bogart quoted Fitzgerald as saying: “We’re going through a goaltending coach search. We have to add a third coach, a ‘eye in the sky’ kind of guy. I think Lindy’s narrowed it down. I think he’s going to be comfortable with a person, I just like to sit down and talk with him and then go from there. There’s no rush especially with the draft and free agency coming up. But I don’t think the decision will take much longer.”

The “eye in the sky” coach would be replacing former assistant coach Mike Grier. Fitzgerald confirmed that Grier is not returning for next season.

Fitzgerald said to Bogart: “He was offered to come back, we would have loved to have him come back. He plans on staying home…he’s got young kids, he wants to be around and be a dad. If something comes up that gives him the opportunity to grow more with more responsibilities than we could have offered him then he’ll consider that. But he was offered a spot to come back.”

So, as it stands, the Devils’ coaching staff will consist of a familiar face along with a lot of overhaul. Once the team hires its goaltending coach and third assistant, we will have word for you here.

Devils Fire John Hynes

The Devils today made a huge change at the top, firing head coach John Hynes and elevating assistant coach Alain Nasreddine to Interim Head Coach. This information comes from the Devils themselves on their official site.

This move comes off of the heels of a 4-0 loss to the Rangers on Saturday and a 7-1 drubbing by the Sabres last night. Nasreddine will take over tonight as the Devils face the Vegas Golden Knights at Prudential Center.

In addition to this move, Peter Horachek will move from being a pro scout to an assistant with Nasreddine. Assistants Rick Kowalsky, Mike Grier and goalie coach Roland Melanson remain on the staff.

Nasreddine was hired as an assistant coach by New Jersey on June 17, 2015.

Ray Shero said this regarding the announcement of Hynes’ firing: “John played an integral role in the development of this team in establishing a foundation for our future and we are grateful for his commitment, passion and unmatched work ethic. John is a respected leader, developer of talent and friend which makes this decision difficult. We are a team that values and takes pride in accountability to the results we produce. We are collectively disappointed in our performance on the ice and believe changes were needed, starting with our head coach. I have been consistent in my desire to build something here in New Jersey that earns the respect of teams throughout the league and pride in our fans. That is not where we were heading and for me to tolerate anything less was not acceptable.”

On the subject of Nasreddine, Shero said: “Nas has a long history as a respected leader both as a player [he played 15-years in the Edmonton, Florida, Montreal, Islanders and Pittsburgh organizations] and a coach [he previously was an assistant with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL] in the respective roles he has served for his teams. His experience as a captain and alternate captain on the ice, in addition to his responsibilities behind the bench, will serve him well as he leads this team through necessary changes to alter our current trajectory.”

Horachek, according to the press release, was hired as a pro scout for the Devils in 2015. He previously served as an assistant for Nashville and was an interim head coach for the Florida Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Devils were 150-159-45 all-time under Hynes for a .487 winning percentage in 354 total games according to the press release. They appeared in one playoff series under him, in 2018 – where they lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The press release mentioned that he ranks second in Devils franchise history in games coached, wins and points, of which he accumulated 345.

The Devils were 9-13-4 with 22 points and a -31 goal differential this season under Hynes. Hopefully, the team turns things around. As NHL Network’s EJ Hradek put it on NHL Now this afternoon (paraphrasing), the team cost a coach his job, now it is time to begin to really take the next step forward for them.

How will they respond tonight to the firing? Will Nasreddine have them in a position to compete with the Golden Knights? Tune in tonight on MSG to find out. And afterwards, check back here and we will have a complete recap of tonight’s action.