The Devils should prioritize Brunette for a coaching role
The 2021-22 Jack Adams finalist has a good track record running a power play and developing young players.
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By Alex Chauvancy (@AlexC_THW)
Much has been made about the New Jersey Devils' coaching staff after another disappointing season in 2021-22.
With the coaching carousel beginning to wind down, it appears Lindy Ruff will at least start next season as head coach. He will need new assistants, however, after the Devils parted ways with Alain Nasreddine and Mark Recchi.
In a surprising move earlier this week, the Florida Panthers decided to hire Paul Maurice to replace Andrew Brunette, a Jack Adams finalist in 2021-22.
Before taking over for Joel Quenneville just seven games into the season after he had to resign following the Kyle Beach report, Brunette was the assistant in charge of the Panthers' power play and forwards, the position Recchi held in New Jersey.
Brunette finished with a 51-18-6 record as the Panthers' interim coach. They had a pretty potent power play with him overseeing it for three years.
With the Devils needing to get their power play on the right track next season, Brunette is an ideal candidate to consider replacing Recchi; but the power play isn't the only reason general manager Tom Fitzgerald should bring him aboard.
Brunette's impressive résumé in Florida
The Devils' power play the past two seasons has been nothing short of a disaster. Not only could they not score, but they had some of the worst shot and chance generation numbers in the league under Recchi.
Their puck movement was too slow and they gave up too many shorthanded chances. Their man advantage even made Dougie Hamilton look like he had no idea how to quarterback a power play.
The Devils need to get their man advantage to at least league average, which it hasn't even been close to over the last two seasons. Enter Brunette, who should help in that regard.
Since the start of the 2019-20 season, Brunette's first in Florida as an assistant, the Panthers have averaged 96.35 shot attempts and 6.79 expected goals per 60 minutes, ranked 16th and 14th in the league, respectively.
Here's the year-by-year breakdown:
Even though the Panthers generated fewer shot attempts from year-to-year, they found more ways to generate quality looks under Brunette (for what it's worth, the Devils generated 5.38 xGF/60 under Recchi).
Whatever Brunette could provide would be an upgrade, and he'd have talent to work with in Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier. That doesn’t even include any potential off-season additions, such as a Johnny Gaudreau or Kevin Fiala.
The Panthers' power play never produced at a clip below 20 percent under Brunette and finished with a 24.4 percent success rate in 2021-22. Hiring him isn't just about the power play, though. Let's look at how some Panthers forwards took big leaps under Brunette.
Jonathan Huberdeau had a 92-point season before Brunette's arrival, but he kept it up in three seasons under Brunette by averaging 102 points per 82 games. Aleksander Barkov maintained his stout two-way presence and is now firmly entrenched as one of the top centers in the league.
Maybe those aren't great examples because they were already established stars before Brunette's arrival. But look at some of the other Panthers' breakout starts under his watch. Mason Marchment was a career AHLer until a season ago. This past season, he was one of the best power forwards in the league after producing at a 27-goal and 71-point pace. Time will tell if he can maintain it, but his development is certainly eye-opening.
If Marchment isn't convincing enough, how about the development of Carter Verhaeghe? In his first season with the Panthers, which happened to be Brunette's first in Florida, Verhaeghe finished with nine goals and 13 points in 52 games. He just finished this past season with 24 goals and 55 points in 78 games and will now be making over $4 million a year after signing an extension with the Panthers.
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