After firing head coach John Hynes, the Devils will now turn their attention to the process of finding his permanent replacement.
Devils GM Ray Shero didn’t give a firm timeline for finding that person, but the most likely path will involve allowing interim head coach Alain Nasreddine to finish the season before conducting a full-fledged coaching search in the spring.
“We’ll have a list that we’ll compile and that will be wide ranging, and it’s no different than I usually have a list anyway, for whether it’s assistant coaches, or head coach of the minors or scouts or trainers,” Shero said. “We’ll see. We know that at the end of the year there’s more possibilities and opportunities, but I think for the short term for sure, I really want to see where this goes and get a better feel for it and get a better feel of what Alain Nasreddine thinks of our team and our players.”
So when Shero starts his search, there will be plenty of names on his radar, going well beyond the five below. But here are five logical candidates who could come into consideration.
Résumé: Current Devils interim head coach, former assistant coach
NHL head coaching record: 0-1-0
Nasreddine can work his way into the conversation of becoming the full-time coach with a strong showing during the rest of the season, if the coaching search does indeed last into the offseason. Shero pointed to that as a possibility, acknowledging that Dan Bylsma shed his interim tag under Shero with the Penguins, and Craig Berube did so with the St. Louis Blues last season. Both those coaches won Stanley Cups as interim coaches, so those decisions were easy, but the bar certainly won’t be that high for Nasreddine.
“If Tom Fitzgerald got a GM job somewhere tomorrow, he’s different. He’s been with me a long time, but he’s different than me,” Shero said. “And I was with David Poile for eight years, and I’m different than him. Nas is different than (Hynes) in his own way. And if I was a GM of another team and I was looking for a list of assistant coaches, he would be on it as a potential head coach, and I think opportunity is knocking for him as well.
“I think he has respect with our dressing room. And when you make a change, whether it’s internal or you go outside your organization on a coach or sometimes as a free agent, bringing in guys, you think, but you’re not exactly sure till you know. So we’re going to see where it goes.”
Résumé: Current Detroit Red Wings assistant coach; former Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres head coach
NHL head coaching record: 320-190-55 (43-35 in postseason)
If you’re looking for a coach with Shero ties, Bylsma checks that box in the biggest way. Shero promoted from his AHL coaching position to coach the Penguins in the middle of 2008-09, and he led the team to the Stanley Cup that season. Bylsma ended up outlasting Shero in Pittsburgh before being let go following the 2013-14 season. Bylsma had two forgettable years coaching the Buffalo Sabres, and he’s now in his second season as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings.
The one caveat with Bylsma is his current situation with the Red Wings. Detroit is the only team in the Eastern Conference with less points than the Devils, and the rebuilding Red Wings could be making their own coaching change. Bylsma would be a logical successor to step into that role, so it’s possible the Devils never get a crack at him.
Résumé: Former Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators head coach
NHL head coaching record: 191-187-46 (22-15 in postseason)
Boucher is currently out of a job after being fired by the Ottawa Senators on March 1, 2019, toward the end of a lost season at the start of the team’s rebuild. Given how far the Senators fell, it’s easy to forget Boucher had the Senators within one goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final before an Eastern Conference final loss the Penguins. He had a similar track record with the Lightning, reaching the Eastern Conference final in 2011, missing the playoffs one season later, then getting fired midseason on year later.
If Shero didn’t want to wait until the offseason to name a permanent replacement, Boucher would be a coach he could find right now.
Résumé: Current University of Wisconsin coach; former Penguins and Red Wings assistant
NHL head coaching record: 104-78-17-16 (9-9 postseason record)
Granato also checks the box of having a relationship with Shero after serving as a Penguins assistant under Bylsma for five seasons. He was also briefly head coach of the Colorado Avalanche in 2002-03 and 2003-04, then again in 2008-09, but he hasn’t had another NHL head coaching gig. Instead, he moved to the college ranks, where he’s built a strong program at Wisconsin. Given his success there, plus his experience in the NHL, Granato is a name to watch if the Devils find a full-time coach in the offseason.
Scott Alan Sandelin
Résumé: Minnesota Duluth coach; USA World Junior head coach
NHL head coaching record: 0-0-0
Sandelin’s name has been floated for NHL head coaching jobs in the past two years after winning back-to-back NCAA championships at Minnesota Duluth. The 55-year-old has been head coach there since 2000, so he may not necessarily be looking to make the NHL jump. He is also currently the coach of the USA U20 World Junior team, so he worked with Jack Hughes during the 2018-19 tournament.
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