Pete DeBoer, who coached the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals in his first season, 2011-12, was fired Friday, with his aging and diminished team in danger of missing the playoffs for a third straight season.
Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello would not say who will be the next coach until he speaks Saturday with the players, who are on a three-day Christmas break. The Devils will have a pregame skate at the Prudential Center on Saturday morning before playing the Rangers in New York that night.
There are a number of potential candidates, including Adam Oates, a former Devils assistant; Dallas Eakins, who was fired earlier this month by Edmonton; and former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.
Lamoriello has hired a couple of former Montreal Canadiens coaches to lead New Jersey, and Jacques Martin has been in the press box to watch the Devils in their last three home games. He was an assistant under Bylsma last season and was promoted to senior adviser of hockey operations.
New Jersey has been hit with injuries and illness in a 12-17-7 season. It has not won consecutive games since early last month, going 3-8-5 in its last 16.
The Devils were missing six regulars to either injury or illness Tuesday night when they lost, 2-1, in a shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes, the NHL's second-worst team.
"I know that no one wants to hear excuses and I am not going to make any, but I am definitely not going to throw our guys under the bus," DeBoer said Tuesday. "Guys are trying."
The problem is the guys are not as talented as they used to be.
DeBoer is the third NHL coach to be fired this season, following Paul MacLean in Ottawa and Eakins.
Add Penguins forward Steve Downie and goaltender Thomas Greiss and Devils forward Patrik Elias to the list of NHL players dealing with the mumps.
Pittsburgh said that Downie and Greiss tested positive for the virus and would remain in isolation. Forward Brandon Sutter tested negative. All three players missed Pittsburgh's two-game road swing through Florida after coming down with symptoms suggesting mumps.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, forward Beau Bennett, and defensemen Olli Maatta had previously come down with the virus that has hit several NHL teams. Crosby missed a week but has returned to play. Bennett and Maatta remain out with unrelated injuries.
Sutter could be available Saturday when the Penguins host Washington.
Fighting child abuse
Sheldon Kennedy hopes receiving one of Canada's top honors will help draw attention to child abuse. The 45-year-old former NHL player, sexually abused by his junior hockey coach in the 1980s, was one of 95 admissions and promotions to the Order of Canada announced Friday.
"I'm not doing this work to win awards for Sheldon Kennedy," Kennedy said. "I'm doing this work because I understand the damage that this crime has on our kids. And it's killing our kids."
Kennedy has opened an advocacy center in Calgary, Alberta, and has become a leading voice for sexual abuse victims following his experience with former major junior coach Graham James.
"For these issues to represented and understood and to be recognized at this level, to me, is absolutely huge," Kennedy
- Associated Press