So here we stand, in the twilight of the 2006/07 NHL season. Many teams are happy with their performance, eager to start the playoffs, and prove themselves worthy contenders for Lord Stanley's cup. Other teams see that they have work to do. Some off-season conditioning, perhaps the addition of some key players or personnel to make their team a contender next year (like bringing Smyth back to Edmonton). One team, however, has combined both of those elements into one bass-ackwards attempt at spurring their team to the cup finals.
After an exceptional season (thanks in no small part to Martin Brodeur's career performance between the pipes), New Jersey Devils' GM Lou Lamoriello has decided to fire Claude Julien. The Devils currently sit 1st in their division, and 2nd overall in the east with 102 points (5 back of 1st place Buffalo). What could possibly be the reason for this move?
Forbes is reporting that Lamoriello didn't feel the team was ready to make a competitive run for the cup, and that there needed to be "better focus going forward". Lamoriello also lamented "you don't always judge by wins and losses as far as where you are at". Apparently.
This is not the first time Lou has decided that he'd be a better choice behind the bench going into the playoffs. He also fired, and replaced Larry Robinson in December of the 2005/06 season, and Robbie Ftorek with 8 games remaining in the 1999/00 season.
My personal feeling is that Lamoriello is making a huge gamble. You have a team that's playing exceptionally well, and has a solid chance at making a run for the cup. Their scorers are just starting to get into full swing, and put the puck into the net, and everybody knows how good the defense/goaltending of the Devils can be. I think it's probably difficult to watch from the press box every night, and have a clear understanding of how "focused" the team is "going forward". Maybe if you hit the playoffs, and lose your 1st 3 games straight, you make a change. But not after a season of building chemistry, and putting your heart and soul into a team. Nonsense.
I hope this move comes back and bites Lamoriello in the ass. I'm not sure who the Devils will be playing first round, but I know who I'll be cheering against ... Lou.