Now he is coach of the New Jersey Devils and facing the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup.
"Like most unemployed guys, you're sitting at home wondering where you're going to work next," DeBoer recalled with a laugh in his pre-game news conference before Game 1 Wednesday. "Thinking about your future, talking about selling your house. It seems humorous now, but when you go through something like that it's not.
"I have a rock-solid wife who really I thought kept me in a good place through that time. It wasn't that long ago."
Fired by the Florida Panthers in April 2011, he was hired by the Devils last July.
Veteran backup goalie Johan Hedberg says he was impressed by DeBoer from the get-go.
"I think from Day 1 you could tell he's an intelligent man and I think he learned from whatever happened in Florida that didn't go right and probably took his coaching to the next level just as players have to do," said Hedberg.
"Our whole coaching staff's been phenomenal. I'm very impressed with how they prepare themselves and how they prepare us and how they stay composed at all times. I can't see it being any better than how they are already doing it. They have certainly been a big part of this team having success this year."
It's hard to miss the Devils' heritage.
In their dressing room, there is a ring of honour celebrating award winners and other Devils of note. The door that leads to the training room and the players' inner sanctum opens to a hallway with photos of past Devils teams.
"That's something that I think everybody feels when they come to this organization, because you're surrounded by it, that it's extremely professional," said the 39-year-old Hedberg, who previously played for Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Dallas and Atlanta.
"There is nothing around here that could be any better. There are no excuses for us not to succeed. Everything we need is provided from the great coaches to great facilities to equipment managers to trainers. Everything is there. ... I felt that from Day 1 and it hasn't changed a bit."
The Devils planned no changes to their lineup for Game 1.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said forward Simon Gagne has recovered from his concussion but offered nothing else. The 32-year-old Gagne, a seven-time 20-goal scorer, has not played since Dec. 26.
"It's what we said two weeks ago. There was zero chance and now there's a chance, right?" Sutter said.
"I'm not answering that question again about Simon. Cleared for contact, cleared for practice, travelling with the team. So there won't be any further update on that one because, quite honestly, the answer is the same and I don't know how to answer it, right?
"You tell the truth or don't say nothing."