Devil of a sacking

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

NEW YORK -- What the Devil did they do to Claude Julien?

That was the question being asked around the NHL yesterday after New Jersey president/GM Lou Lamoriello fired his coach with a just a week remaining in the regular season. Lamoriello will step back behind the bench tonight against the Senators and guide the team into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Sources say Lamoriello asked some veteran players if they thought they could win a Cup with Julien, an Orleans native, behind the bench and there were complaints about the club's style. That may have played a big role in Lamoriello's shocking move.

Lamoriello was tight-lipped during a hastily-called press conference.

"There's never only one reason, but in the position I'm in, I have knowledge that no one else should have," said Lamoriello. "It's my responsibility to make the best decision for the organization and to help the team win."

Lamoriello said the move had to be made.

"I don't think we're at a point of being ready both mentally and (physically) to play the way that is necessary going into the playoffs," said Lamoriello. "I am not saying that is going to change. But I think there has to be better focus going forward."

The move is odd with the Devils sitting at 47 wins and 102 points, and leading the race for top spot in the Atlantic Division. Lamoriello made a similar move in March 2000, when he fired Robbie Ftorek, brought in Larry Robinson and won the Stanley Cup.

"You can look at 102 points any way you want, but it's my responsibility to give us the best possible chance of winning," he said. "You don't always judge by wins and losses as far as where you are at. The way we put ourselves in this organization, you have to look at the big picture. To say that 102 points isn't an excellent accomplishment, it's extremely positive. But I have to look at a lot of factors."

Devils captain Patrik Elias, who has been with the team his whole career, said the players have to live with the decision and get ready for the playoffs.

"Our job is listen to what has been said and why the decision was made," said Elias. "Management said it gives us the best chance to accomplish what we want to accomplish and that is to win the Stanley Cup."

Lamoriello said Julien understood when informed yesterday morning the change was being made. A source said Julien was stunned by the firing and was told by Lamoriello that a change had to be made so the club could win a Stanley Cup.

"It was never my intention to ever possibly go back (behind the bench) again," said Lamoriello. "It's just (putting) somebody else in at this time with the number of games left wouldn't have been fair."


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