The New Jersey Devils sacked rookie coach John MacLean on Thursday and brought back Jacques Lemaire to guide the NHL team.
The Devils, who have not missed the Stanley Cup playoffs since 1997, have been a disappointment this season and are tied with the New York Islanders for the fewest points in the league with 20 in 33 games. Their 59 goals also are the fewest.
Lemaire was expected to coach the team on Thursday night against the Islanders.
“It’s a decision that certainly is not one that’s pleasant or we feel good about, but it’s a decision that, in my opinion, had to be made,” Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said.
Lamoriello made the move two days after the Devils fell 5-1 to Washington for their third straight defeat and eight in nine games so far this month.
“I take responsibility for waiting and trying to get it to where it should have been,” Lamoriello said. “Under no set of circumstances should all of this responsibility be placed on [MacLean].”
“The responsibility lies on the players and myself for what couldn’t be done. Unfortunately, we just weren’t getting it done,” Lamoriello said
New Jersey were expected to be among the Eastern Conference leaders again this season after re-signing All-Star forward Ilya Kovalchuk to a controversial 15-year, US$100 million contract in the offseason.
Kovalchuk, however, has been a disappointment with eight goals in 32 games. He was even benched a game by MacLean for undisclosed reasons.
The Devils have also been hit by injuries to high-scoring left wing Zach Parise, goaltender Martin Brodeur (elbow) and others in the supporting cast. Brodeur has returned after recovering from an elbow injury, but Parise’s knee injury is expected to keep him out until February.