A critical summer for Lou

Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record postulates that the Devils’ new coach could be a big factor in signing Zach Parise to a long-term deal.

Which leads me to wonder: Is Lou Lamoriello’s legacy at stake here?

Yes, Lou is a god-like figure in the Devils’ organization, and has delivered three Stanley Cups while turning the franchise into one of the model organizations in sports.

However, the Devils have failed to advance beyond the first round since 2006-07 and last year bottomed out so badly early on that a near-historic second-half run couldn’t even sneak them into the playoffs. There have also been six different coaches -- including Lou himself twice -- since the team’s last Cup in 2003.

If the postseason woes and coaching carousel were the first strike, the Ilya Kovalchuk contract is the second. The Russian sniper floundered at times last year under the pressure of his massive 15-year, $100-plus million deal -- a deal that could very well kill the team’s cap space as the winger ages into his late 30s and early 40s. Oh, and don’t forget the loss of a first- and third-round pick -- key for a franchise that relies so heavily on its own system.

So what if Lou picks the wrong coach -- again? What if Parise doesn’t like the next coach and bolts in unrestricted free agency? Parise is not a Bobby Holik or Scott Gomez who can be easily replaced. He is the franchise -- more so than Kovalchuk will ever be. His departure would be crippling to the franchise.

Lou may very well lock up Parise for a decade or more and find the next Jacques Lemaire as well, but his time is running out. This coach and a new deal for Parise are crucial for the future -- making this summer perhaps Lou’s most important in a decade, for the Devils and for himself.