PETE DEBOER, who coached the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup finals in his first season in 2011-12, was fired yesterday, 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 today with the players, who are on a 3-day Christmas break. The Devils play the Rangers in New York tonight.
New Jersey has been hit with injuries 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."
DeBoer is the third NHL coach to be fired this season, following Paul MacLean in Ottawa and Dallas Eakins in Edmonton.
DeBeor was 114-93-41 in his three-plus seasons with the Devils. Before coming to New Jersey, he coached the Florida Panthers for three seasons, never making the playoffs.
The 46-year-old DeBoer was hired in 2011-12 and immediately took the Devils to the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings.
The Devils, however, lost Zach Parise to free agency after the season. They took an unexpected blow after the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk left to play in Russia. They were the team's two best players and their losses were keenly felt, especially in shootouts.
The Devils were 0-13 in shootouts last season and 2-6 this season, their first since not resigning goaltender Martin Brodeur, the long-time face of the three-time Stanley Cup champions.
* 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 yesterday.
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.
* Jack Eichel and Chase DeLeo scored in a shootout to help the United States beat defending champion Finland, 2-1, in their round-robin opener in the World Junior Championship in Montreal. In the other Group A game last night, Canada blanked Slovakia, 8-0.