The offseason is in full swing, and the New Jersey Devils lack one thing every other team has - a head coach. And that vacancy doesn't seem to have an end in sight.
With just three days left before the 2011 NHL free agency period begins, Lou Lamoriello has yet to hire a coach. The Devils haven't made any news public, including whether or not they've interviewed candidates.
Several names were linked to the vacancy. University of Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves denied newspaper reports that he's a candidate for the position. Former Thrashers head coach Craig Ramsey and Ken Hitchcock both were named candidates by the media for the position, but no one from the organization confirmed either of them.
Lamoriello is trying to avoid the embarrassment of last season. John MacLean took the job after spending several years as an assistant. He came from a successful season as the team's AHL coach, leading them into the playoffs. But he fumbled away his chance and, in the process, the team's consecutive postseason streak. He led the Devils to a 9-22-2 record before Lamoriello fired him in December. The fact that interim coach Jacques Lemaire almost led them into the playoffs spoke to the failure of his choice.
The longer Lamoriello waits, the further he complicates future decisions. Free agents take the system and coach they'll play for into consideration. A vacancy can, and might, hurt the Devils standings with those players.
Despite the vacancy, some players feel comfortable signing in New Jersey.
"If I would go back to the Devils, I feel very good about that situation," Johan Hedberg told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "There's a lot of things that I feel good about. I think the team would be really good. That's one thing. And I know what I'd come back to, how things work. That's always nice to have that comfort level of knowing the people around the team and everything."
That opinion, however, comes from a former Devil. How will players who don't know the organization react to the vacancy?
The Devils need to find a coach. It shouldn't be a rushed decision, but they have had more than two months. If the team can't find a head coach, it could carry some serious repercussions.