NEWARK, N.J. -- Peter DeBoer, in the eyes of many, was a surprise choice as the next coach of the New Jersey Devils. Fresh off the franchise's worst season in recent memory, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello last summer turned to DeBoer to rescue a team that was low on morale, lower on scoring punch and desperate for a new identity.
But why DeBoer? In three seasons with Florida, he could not push the Panthers into the postseason.
"You have to go through ups and downs," Lamoriello said on July 19, 2011, after introducing DeBoer. "I think what he went through (in Florida) just made him a better coach. And I felt that in the conversations we had -- because of the questions that were asked -- the answers that were given were open, down to earth and honest."
Some 10 months later, DeBoer has more than answers. He has results. After leading New Jersey to 102 points in the regular season and placing the Devils back in the playoffs after missing the tournament last year for the first time since 1996, DeBoer calmly quarterbacked the organization's fifth run to the Stanley Cup finals.
And the path taken is what will be a lasting memory not only within this proud organization, but for the fans as well. Win or lose against Los Angeles in the finals, DeBoer's first three playoff series victories will be etched in minds for a long time.
"These moments you enjoy," said DeBoer, whose team will have home-ice advantage for the firsttime this postseason against the Kings. "It doesn't matter whether it's your first year or your fifth year. So, you don't get picky when these opportunities come along.
"I mean, I was out of work last June. And July, I got a call from a Hall of Fame general manager who recognized some of the work I had done in Florida, and gave me a chance to work with a group of guys that have a great blend of veteran presence. They know how to win and they had a lot of great young players coming through.
"So I'm fortunate to be sitting here."