Scott Stevens hasn’t stepped behind an NHL bench since the end of the 2014-15 season and spent the past campaign as an analyst for the NHL Network, but the longtime New Jersey Devils defenseman is ready to get back into coaching with the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild announced Tuesday that Stevens, 52, has joined Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau’s staff as the first member of two assistant coaches that will need to be brought aboard. Stevens’ last coaching job was as a co-coach alongside Lou Lamoriello and Adam Oates, but this will be another foray into the assistant coaching world, something Stevens hasn’t done since the 2013-14 season.
Stevens told the Wild’s Evan Sporer that there were “some opportunities” to get back into the league, but he was intrigued most by his chance with Boudreau in Minnesota. A big part of that is a roster that Stevens feels he can really work with and teach.
“(The Wild) has a lot of potential in it," Stevens told Sporer. "I really have admired watching Ryan Suter his whole career, and this year was one of his better years as an all-around defenseman. That's what I like about Ryan. He can play big minutes. I'm very excited to have him.”
And working with Suter will be one of Stevens’ top duties as Boudreau’s assistant. Stevens will be tasked with running the defense and penalty kill as Boudreau’s “first assistant,” according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo. And beyond working with Suter, Stevens sees a number of blueliners in the organization, including youngsters Matt Dumba and Mike Reilly, he believes he can help take the next step in their careers.
"Just to bring in (Stevens’) expertise and history, I think that's a real bonus for us," Boudreau told Russo. "He is one of the greatest defensemen. I think he'll have instant respect. Any team would have loved to have him, but until now, he wasn't ready to leave New Jersey."
Beyond working with the defense, Stevens said he’s also excited for a reunion with one young player who has turned into a skilled veteran over the years: Zach Parise. Parise worked with Stevens in New Jersey during the coach’s three years pulling developmental duty, and Stevens said the Devils missed Parise “dearly” when he headed for Minnesota.
“I believe it's so important to lead by example, and Zach does that with his play,” Stevens told Sporer. “That’s how you become the best leader, is by leading my example…The core leadership group is pretty strong there, and I'm excited to work with (Parise, Suter and Mikko Koivu).”
The respect Stevens has for Parise’s game isn’t a one-way street, though, and the Wild winger seems just as excited to be working with Stevens as the coach does to be reunited with a former pupil.
"He's the quietest and humblest Hall of Famer you'll ever meet," Parise told Russo. "He's going to be so good for us and our D and PK."