One former New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup winner, Scott Stevens, has decided to step away from the coaching ranks in the National Hockey League, while another one, Scott Gomez, jumps behind the bench on Tuesday.
Stevens has resigned from the Minnesota Wild letting the organization know that he wants to spend more time with his family back home in New Jersey. Prior to the start of the 2016-2017 NHL season, Stevens relocated to Minnesota to become an Assistant Coach with the Wild on Bruce Boudreau’s staff, while his wife Donna stayed in the Garden State and his two of children resided in New York City.
Stevens said on the Wild’s website, “I just want to be close to them. That is the toughest part of job, moving away from your house and being away from your family. I need them and that is what it comes down to.”
He continued, “When you have been in one spot for a long time, and you raise your kids, it is a lot tougher than you think. I had nothing but a great experience in Minnesota. I met a lot of people and have a lot of new friends that I will keep forever.”
This past season, Stevens’ main duties dealt with helping shore up the defense for the Wild, as he also helped with the penalty kill. The Wild put up a franchise best in wins and points as they went 49-25-8 on the season.
Under the former Devils captain’s tutelage, the Wild gave up the seventh fewest goals (2.51 goals against/game) in the NHL last season and were the eight best penalty killers at 82.9 percent. The Wild fell to the St. Louis Blues in the opening round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Chuck Fletcher, General Manager of the Wild said, “We thank Scott for the hard work and dedication he provided our team this past season. We respect his decision to spend more time with his family and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Stevens added, “It was difficult. The hockey part is kind of the easy part; that is what you know, that is what you love. It is the other parts that are tough. I had a wonderful experience; I learned a lot from Bruce. The coaching staff was outstanding; we got along great. I will miss that part but I will be cheering for the Wild and I will be staying in touch with Bruce.”
Wild young defensemen, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin all set career highs in points this past season under Stevens. Spurgeon scored 38 (10 goals & 28 assist), Dumba had 34 (11 G & 23 A) and Brodin put up 25 (3 G & 22 A).
Stevens said, “I had a lot of fun working with the players. It was one of the draws in coming to Minnesota. They are a great group of guys, very responsive and they are quite young yet. It takes a while for defensemen, and I think they made progress. I think there is a lot more to come for some of these younger defensemen moving forward.”
Stevens had a 22-year career in the NHL with the Devils, Blues and Washington Capitals. In his 13 years in New Jersey, he captained the Devils to four Stanley Cup Finals, hoisting the silver chalice three times. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
Boudreau told the Star-Tribune, “You can see why he is a Hall of Famer and Stanley Cup Champion. I learned so much about what it takes to be a champion just by watching him work. All of those little things, it is going to be hard to replace.”
After serving as an assistant coach with the Devils from 2012-2014, Stevens was named as a co-coach of the team, on December 27, 2014. He served in that role with fellow assistant coach, Adam Oates and general manager, Lou Lamoriello until the end of the 2014-2015 season.
Stevens added, “At this point, I am just going to take a step back. I really have no plans. I just want to get back home and get settled and we will see where it goes.”
Gomez, was named an assistant coach on New York Islanders head coach, Doug Weight’s staff on Tuesday. The former Devils Stanley Cup winner, becomes the second assistant coach named to Weight’s staff in the past two weeks. Luke Richardson joined the Islanders bench on May 18th.
Towards the end of Gomez’s playing career, if things were not going like he wanted it to, he would keep in touch with Weight for some guidance. Gomez said, “He always had time and words of encouragement. It is funny how the hockey world works.”
Gomez played 16 years in the NHL, before retiring before the start of the 2016-2017 season. He said, “A couple of months ago, Doug texted me and said he wanted to talk. We got on the phone and he asked me what my plans were, what I wanted to do. We ended up talking hockey for few hours. I met him for a couple of interviews and got offered the job.”
Selected by the Devils with the 27th overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Gomez won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year after putting up 70 points (19 G & 51 A) in 82 games during the 1999-2000 season. He also helped the Devils and head coach Larry Robinson, raise the Stanley Cup in his rookie season. In 2003, while playing for the late Pat Burns, he and the Devils won the Stanley Cup again.
In 1,079 games between the Devils, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers, Blues and Ottawa Senators, he put up 756 points (181 G & 575 A). In 149 Stanley Cup Playoff games, he scored 101 points (29 G & 72 A).
Weight said, “Scott brings an immense amount of hockey knowledge to our coaching staff. His offensive instincts, expertise on the powerplay, and the way that he could control the game with his skating and smarts are all key elements that we want implemented in our group. He played in the league as recently as 2015-2016 season, so he can relate to today’s NHL player to bring out the best in each member of the team.”
After putting up one assist in 13 games for the Senators during the 2015-2016 season, he decided to announce his retirement on September 1, 2016. The Senators were his fifth team in four seasons. He added that those trying times could be beneficial to him as he begins his coaching career.
Gomez said, “I knew playing for all of those teams at the end, I got to see a lot of stuff and I took a lot of notes. I was a student of the game the whole time. I got an Ivy League education right when I got in, a hockey education from some of the greats. There are still guys that I count on and learn from, but it is not just something that we are friends and he is giving me a chance; we did the interview process and hopefully I can bring something to the table. It does not matter how old you are, it is whether you can produce.”
This past season, his first in retirement, Gomez served as an analyst for NHL Network. While he said he enjoyed that time in front of the camera, he sensed something was still missing.
He said, “NHL Network was great to me, but this was my life’s goal, my life’s work. This is what I know and this is what I want to be a part of. Nothing will ever match playing in the NHL, but all the older guys I have spoken to say this is the closest thing. To be able to give back and work with the guys and see it on the ice, that is just as gratifying. I am definitely excited about that.”
In his new role with the Islanders, Gomez is expected to help fix a power play that was ranked 28th in the NHL, at 14.9 percent. Nothing has been determined though of what will be required of him as he begins his new position.
Weight and general manager, Garth Snow, may still add to the coaching staff before the beginning of the 2017-2018 season. Assistant coaches, Bob Corkum, will not return to the team and Greg Cronin’s status is still undetermined. Sportsnet has also reported that the Islanders may bring, Weight’s, Edmonton Oilers teammate, Kelly Buchberger in to join the staff.
Gomez added, “I just got in the door. Whatever Doug tells me. You have got to know all the aspects of the game. I am not just going in there saying, ‘Hey, I know the powerplay.’ No, you have got to learn from the goalie, defense — you have got to learn everything.”
He added that he has not forgotten how helpful Weight was when he needed him most, as he said, “It is my turn to give back to Doug Weight. He got me in the door. It is exciting.”