With the New Jersey Devils looking ahead to next year, their first off-season decision was to bring back Lindy Ruff. Though a contract has not been agreed upon, GM Tom Fitzgerald has made it very clear that Ruff will be back behind the bench for the 2023-2034 season.
There was speculation for some time that Ruff would move into a front office role and hand the reins over to assistant head coach Andrew Brunette. However, this never came to fruition considering Ruff coached the Devils to a 55-22-8 record.
Once Fitzgerald made it clear in the Devils end of season media availability that Ruff would be back as head coach, Brunette decided to part ways and take on a head coaching role with the Nashville Predators.
Today we’re going to explain why Fitzgerald is making the right move in bringing Ruff back into a head coaching role.
Bringing Back Lindy Ruff: New Jersey Devils
Jack Adams Award Finalist
For the fourth time in his career, after already winning the award in 2006 with the Buffalo Sabers, Ruff has been named a Jack Adams Award finalist after making the biggest turnaround in NHL history. Though he didn’t win the award, it’d be very hard to let go of a coach who was in the running considering you almost never see Jack Adams finalists available looking for a new job.
After coaching the Devils to their 55-22-8 record and finishing second to only the Carolina Hurricanes in a tight race for the Metro, the Devils didn’t stop there.
They went on to win a round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against their rival New York Rangers. Though Akira Schmid stole the show, the Devils certainly wouldn’t have won that series without Ruff’s adjustments to the Rangers.
There’s no question Ruff is highly respected in the locker room by players. Superstar Jack Hughes has made it very clear in post-game interviews that Ruff has been a big part of the identity and culture the Devils have developed in the 3 years he’s been behind the bench.
Ruff has a knack for trusting young players with a lot of ice time and allowing them to develop in ways most coaches would never give an inexperienced player.
For example, look at how he handled Luke Hughes towards the end of the Devils’ season. Ruff put his trust in Luke and he delivered, eventually getting rewarded with the second most ice-time in the last two games of the playoffs by a Devils defenseman.
According to team reporter Amanda Stein, in Fitzgerald’s end-of-season media presser, he mentioned “I’ve always said that Lindy Ruff was the right coach for this team. So here we are today. He’s still the right coach for this group, he’s earned that right. He deserved that; we deserve him to be quite honest…those kids love him.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to admit Ruff makes some head-scratching lineup decisions from time to time. He catches plenty of criticism when, for example, he takes Kevin Bahl out of the lineup for Brendan Smith.
Ruff, at 63 years of age, has coached in 1,713 games with an overall record of 834-652-78-149. He is currently the fifth-most-winning coach in NHL history, as he was previously the coach of the Buffalo Sabers and Dallas Stars before he took over the New Jersey Devils.
Experience is certainly not an issue with Ruff behind the bench for this young team and more importantly, he has plenty of playoff history as he’s coached in 120 games with a record of 66-54.
Bringing back Lindy Ruff as the go-to guy behind the bench may not seem like an absolute slam dunk but it certainly is the right move. The positives immensely outweigh the negatives and if the players are happy then it’s a good sign we will even see him past the 2023-2034 season.
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