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Thursday was a big day for the New Jersey Devils.
They named Lindy Ruff the new head coach. They removed the interim tag from Tom Fitzgerald and made him the full-time general manager.
Ruff spoke to the media. Fitzgerald spoke to the media. Ownership spoke to the media. It was a busy afternoon with lots of interesting quotes and tidbits shared throughout.
I want to comment on some of the notables.
The Devils have played a low-event, defense-first style for more than a decade with little to no success. I know they haven’t been overflowing with talent but, at times, the pieces they did have went to complete waste because the system neutered their abilities. That won’t be the case with Ruff. His teams usually play fast paced and he gives his stars rope to be creative with the puck. The key here is making sure that doesn’t come at the complete expense of defensive play. New Jersey tried to play low-event hockey all these years to mask their lack of talent and they still couldn’t do it. They simply don’t have the personnel to play quality defense if they’re consistently out of structure so, again, it’s important that Ruff finds a happy medium. He wasn’t able to do so in Dallas or New York so there’s reason to be concerned he can do it here.
If not anything else it’s exciting to know, should the Devils suck again, they’ll suck playing entertaining hockey. I don’t know about anybody else but I’ve had my fill of 3-2 losses where the Devils muster up 22 shots and six scoring chances. There’s no better way to spend a Saturday night than watching that.
This is more or less echoing the sentiments above. Ruff wants the Devils’ skill guys to, well, use their skills. Again, it is refreshing to hear. I don’t think putting Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, and co. on leashes is going to maximize what they bring to the table. They need some freedom and, within reason, it sounds like they’ll get it.
What I’d like to know is who exactly has been criticizing Ruff for coaching too defensive. His Dallas Stars teams traded goals and chances like nothing. A 5-2 lead was never safe regardless of who was holding it.
He followed that up by coaching New York’s defense to three last place finishes in four years in terms of giving up Expected Goals. I wouldn’t exactly call that too defensive.
At any rate, Ruff very clearly has to do a better job implementing a solid defensive structure with the Devils or we’re going to be heading for another messy season.
Tom Fitzgerald really likes Nasreddine. The players really like Nasreddine. I could definitely envision a scenario where he sticks around and continues running the PK, as he has done over the last few years.
If Nasreddine does feel slighted – or Ruff wants to pick his own guys – and moves on as a result, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reunite with a certain someone in Nashville (when the season concludes). Nasreddine and John Hynes are very, very close. I don’t think the latter would have much trouble finding a role for him.
I agree that giving Fitzgerald a chance as GM was a perfectly reasonable decision, especially following several quality deadline deals.
My question is this: what took so long? If it was clear his familiarity with the organization – and his work as the interim GM – made him the right man for the job, why was he hired full-time in July?
The Devils haven’t played a hockey game since early March and we’ve known for a long time they wouldn’t be playing another anytime soon. Did ownership really need to drag the decision out this long?
They could have put an end to a lot of questions, and bad PR from the apparent uncertainty within the organization, months ago.
Some thoughts on the hiring of Lindy Ruff
Three potential targets for the Devils with the 7th pick
Most underrated player on the Devils?
Trading season is open for the Devils
The Devils should *not* draft Askarov with one of their 1st round picks
Ranking the Devils’ contracts: part 2
Ranking the Devils’ contracts: part 1
Three platoon targets for the Devils
We should probably temper expectations for Nolan Foote in 2020-21