Devils drinking Lou's Kool-Aid?

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The firing of New Jersey Devils coach Claude Julien on Monday sent shockwaves around the hockey world.

Even the Devils players didn't see it coming, at least that's what they're saying on the record. It's being whispered that the players, who make their home in the locker room controlled by president/GM and, now, coach Lou Lamoriello, were behind the firing. But nobody is willing to admit it.

"As far as (Julien's) on-ice approach, it's not much different than what we've been doing. I never talked to (Lamoriello) about (Julien) at all," said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, the longest-serving veteran in Lamoriello's Army.

"I had lots of different conversations with (Julien) about coaching or whatever. You always turn around to look at yourself when these things happen. That's tough to do here because we gave him 102 points. It's hard for us to feel bad. When coaches are fired, it's because the players aren't responding. Well, we've done our share, I think."

No kidding. Maybe in more ways than one where Julien is concerned. The story making the rounds is the players were asked by Lamoriello if they could win a Stanley Cup with Julien behind the bench.

Sources say the players responded negatively.

The pressure is on Lamoriello to have this team go deep in the playoffs. Next season, the Devils will move into the newly built Prudential Center in nearby Newark, N.J.

There's a strong belief a long post-season run might help sell tickets.

But Lamoriello, who didn't put on skates for his first day on the job, said he didn't consult the players.

"I didn't solicit the opinion of players for anything of this nature," said Lamoriello. "That's the last thing I would ever think (about)."

Julien will remain in the organization, likely as a scout.

"Nothing of this magnitude is ever decided overnight," said Lamoriello. "Whenever you make this decision, you make it for the reasons you have at hand and you hope for a positive result. You do what you have to do."

"You can make no decisions at times and just go forward. I feel you have to do what is right."

There's a strange atmosphere in the Devils' organization, which is difficult to describe or believe.

NO FACIAL HAIR

The players aren't just players here. They're disciples of the system. They live by Lamoriello's strict rules of no facial hair and mandatory shirt and tie on the road -- and the players seem to enjoy it.

Senators coach Bryan Murray, who is facing an uncertain future with no contract for next year and no discussions held or planned with GM John Muckler, said he wouldn't blame any coach who tought twice about replacing Julien.

"It's just tough because even if you have 102 points, people just think you can go out and get somebody else to do the job," said Murray.

Lamoriello, who has been grooming assistant John MacLean, has had seven coaches in seven years.

"This is (Lamoriello's) decision, he runs the organization and he's the boss," said Devils centre John Madden.

There are suggestions that some of the veteran players didn't like the way Julien was handling the bench or the dressing room.

There were the usual complaints about ice time, but there was also concern that some players were getting away with not performing.

"In defence of (Julien), it's hard to be the coach you want with the four best players out of the lineup. He had to play the guys he had," said Brodeur. "He was in a tough situation. The only thing was maybe the accountability to the players, and that's why (Lamoriello) stepped in, maybe that's what he feels we need is maybe more of a strong hand on us."

Lamoriello has been proving for years that he deals with an iron fist.


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