Sniffing around

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

General manager Lou Lamoriello of the New Jersey Devils is behind the bench these days.

But assistant coach Jacques Laperriere changes the defence and assistant coach John MacLean changes the forwards.

What's Lamoriello doing? Basically, he's trying to get a handle on the team's personnel problems. He's trying to find out who is his type of player and who isn't.

In an earlier era, people like Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Martin Brodeur followed the party line -- drank the Kool-Aid, as the saying goes.

They took less money than they were worth on the open market. They allowed themselves to be treated like immature adolescents. They shrugged off the snooping and spying that is part of life as a Devil. And they came down hard on anyone who had the temerity to suggest that life in hockey's gulag was anything less than perfect.

But Stevens and Daneyko retired, and Brodeur matured. As a result, there are no "trusties" Lamoriello can use to supervise the inmates.

The view from the bench might provide some insights, but it won't be easy to find a coach to work under those conditions.

A purely personal off-the-wall pick? What about Mario Tremblay? He has improved dramatically during his tenure as an assistant to Jacques Lemaire in Minnesota.

And Lemaire is one of Lamoriello's favorite coaches.

Eruption

On Long Island, another eruption of Mount Milbury, an explosion that is never distant, may be imminent.

The New York Islanders started well, but have been slipping lately, and when that happens, Mad Mike starts to get antsy.

The first rumblings were heard this week when he said, "I'm not happy with our team. I'm not happy with our commitment to team defence. If we don't turn things around soon, and I mean very soon, I'm going to have to do something."

It could be pointed out that if the team defence is suspect, perhaps the GM who gave away so many top-flight defenders over the years could be to blame.

Then again, if Milbury doesn't like what he sees, perhaps he could fire the coach and put his own posterior on the line, as Lamoriello has done in New Jersey.

Milbury scoffed at that concept. "Better him than me," he said.

Al Strachan is a Sun Media columnist.


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