We’ve made it through the first 11 games of the 2011/2012 season and the question on everyone’s mind is: “Are the Devils better under DeBoer than they were under John MacLean?”
First thing to look at would be the records. Last season the Devils got off to a miserable 3-7-1 under Johnny Mac and were dead last in the Atlantic Division (and I believe dead last in the Eastern Conference where they would stay for a while). This season, the Devils are off to a 5-5-1 start which puts them in 4th place in the Atlantic Division and sitting in the 11th spot in the Eastern Conference. A .500 record is a big improvement.
The next thing to look at would be goal for and against columns. Last season our opponents seemed to score on us at will. I remember one game we lost 7-2 and another we lost 6-1 and there weren’t too many 1 goals games. In fact, the Devils only pumped in 19 goals in their first 11 games while they gave up 36 to their opponents. This season, the Devils are still giving up more than they score but it’s a much closer margin with the Devils scoring 24 and giving up 31.
After the first 11games, I believe we can actually answer “YES” to this question but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
The one major difference that I’ve seen this season that I didn’t see in the beginning of last season was “fight.” I’m certainly not talking fisticuffs because I’m not trying to bring attention to the fact the Clarkson gets his ass kicked every time he drops his gloves. I’m talking about how the Devils don’t pack it in and go home because they’ve either allowed their opponents to get a decent lead or keep allowing their opponents to find the equalizer. Need some examples?? Ok…
Game 2: Carolina – The Hurricanes were able to find the equalizer twice before Kovalchuk put the Devils on top for good. An empty net goal would seal the 4-2 victory.
Game 4: Nashville – The Predators find themselves up 2-0 after the first period and completely dominate the second but the Devils battle back in the third to tie the game at 2. The Devils would go on to win the game in a shootout.
Game 10: Toronto – Three times the Toronto Maple Leafs would take a one goal lead and watch the Devils come back to tie it. Eventually the Leafs took took the lead for good but the Devils had to believe that they had a chance all night long.
Game 11: Philadelphia – The Devils gave up two ugly goals early in the 2nd to find themselves in a 2-0 hole but battled back to tie the game. They gave up another goal in the 3rd, only to battle back again and finish off the Flyers in a shootout.
These things DIDN’T happen with MacLean behind the bench. This team is trying and that is a lot more than they were doing at this point in the season last year. Sure, there are issues with the defense and Marty didn’t look good in his comeback against the Leafs the other night but there is effort. That alone is enough to say that DeBoer was a much better decision than MacLean a year ago.