What the Hale? Julien fired

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

Had it been a day earlier, the firing could easily have passed as an April Fool's gag.

The fact his former coach Claude Julien was let go by the New Jersey Devils with three games to play before the end of the regular season definitely seemed like a joke to Calgary Flames defender David Hale.

"He was a good coach, that's why it surprises me," the former Devil said when asked his opinion on the sudden switch behind the bench.

"I don't know."

During his time in the swamp, Hale saw no signs of impending doom for Julien.

"I'm sure it wasn't anything he did personally or professionally -- I certainly hope not -- but like everyone else I don't know any details."

GM Lou Lamoriello is going back behind the bench.

The question is: Why?

"I did not feel that we were going in the right direction, both mentally and hockey(-wise), going into the playoffs, for a variety of reasons," Lamoriello said.

He understands why people around hockey were surprised, or even stunned, by the decision.

The Devils have won four of their last five games

"Without question," Lamoriello said.

"It's surprising to people but they only have the surface and not the knowledge. This was an easy decision not to make. It's certainly a decision that's more difficult to make."

Hale said he would be getting on the phone with some of his buddies back in New Jersey to see what he could find out.

"I don't know what the mindset was," said Hale.

"There's three games left in the regular season. Maybe they're looking for some sort of spark going into the playoffs, maybe they think they need a change. It's unfortunate it had to be him."

The Devils are currently atop the Atlantic Division.

But yesterday's move isn't the first late-season swap made by GM Lou Lamoriello.

He fired Robbie Ftorek with eight games left in the 1999-2000 schedule and replacement Larry Robinson led the Devils to a Stanley Cup.

"You could say they've gone through a few coaches in the past few years," Hale, the Devils' first-round pick in the 2000 draft, said with a laugh.

Told Lamoriello was going back behind the bench, Hale's surprise faded.

He was there when Lamoriello tried his hand at coaching just before Christmas last season when Robinson resigned because of health concerns.

"He was a different coach than I expected," Hale said of the GM-turned-bench boss.

"He learned some stuff being on the bench as far as what we go through during a game. And we saw a different side of him as a coach. He demands a lot out of you as a GM and also as a coach. I didn't see anything wrong with him as a coach. I thought he did pretty well. He certainly turned the team around when he took over last year."


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