Pete DeBoer hasn't been an assistant coach in a long time. When I went to visit him in Kitchener, Ont., back when he first got the Panthers head coaching job, he told me he had his chances to be an NHL assistant coach.
He never took those jobs. He was waiting for a head gig, and he got that chance when Jacques Martin offered him the Panthers job in 2008.
(Photo courtesy Francis Micklow/The Star-Ledger)
With a young family, DeBoer didn't think it would be right to move them year after year. As little job security a head coach has, an assistant has even less.
There were reports today that DeBoer was offered jobs as an assistant coach with both the Flames and Red Wings. When I asked him about the Detroit job a few weeks ago, DeBoer was non-committal. "Don't worry,'' he said, "I'll be fine.''
A few people at the draft told me not to expect DeBoer to take any of the assistant jobs that may open.
"He's waiting for a head job to open up,'' one told me. "He'll sit out the year if he has to. Let the Panthers pay him what they owe him. He'll get something next year.''
Turns out the Panthers are most likely off the hook for the estimated $1 million they owe DeBoer for the final year of his contract.
DeBoer's patience -- well, he was only fired in April -- paid off Tuesday as he was introduced as the new coach of the New Jersey Devils.
Lou Lamoriello hired a good man for his coaching position, a guy who learned a lot during his days in Florida. There's little doubt DeBoer clashed with veteran players and front office personnel in Florida. When he saw a guy loafing, he let them know. When he didn't think he had a team that could win, he let Dale Tallon or Mike Santos know about it.
It rubbed some the wrong way and DeBoer was fired by the Panthers.
Again, he'll be better for it. DeBoer is no longer a "junior" coach as some players never stopped thinking of him as. In New Jersey, DeBoer is now known as the guy who coached a crummy Panthers team that got rave reviews from scouts and opponents alike for its grit and competitiveness.
In his presser today, DeBoer said he "did it my way in Florida" and there's no doubt about that. He made mistakes along the way, but he did more good here than bad. And he learned a ton -- and now knows the league much better -- while here.
DeBoer should do fine in New Jersey as he inherits a team with a defensive, team-first mentality. It's also an organization that expects to win. DeBoer knows that.
DeBoer knows Lamoriello's impatient nature, although Lou was very patient with this coaching search. DeBoer said the two talked soon after the season ended and only spoke a few times before Lamoriello called Tuesday morning with the good news.
It looks like he's going to be dining there a lot from now on.
-- FYI: DeBoer and the Devils make their first trip to Sunrise as the opener to Thanksgiving Week on Monday, Nov. 21. The Panthers visit Newark on Jan. 6 and Feb. 11. Looking forward to both of those games in Newark. Really? Jan. 6 and Feb. 11? Come on!