The New Jersey Devils have struggled for about a month and continue to fall in the Metro Division. Obviously, there is frustration among the fans, the players, the coaching staff and the entire organization. The last few games have called into question the job security of head coach Lindy Ruff. A few of his assistant coaches, Mark Recchi and Alain Nasreddine, have also faced their fair share of backlash due to their special roles within the squad.
Recchi is in charge of the power play, while Nasreddine oversees defense and penalty kill. While both of these aspects contribute to the Devils being ranked very low in the power rankings, most of the blame is directed at Ruff. He is responsible, and it is he who must turn the tide.
Time seems to be running out for the Devils to make another coach change. As previously mentioned, Ruff hasn’t been the head coach for too long in New Jersey. Maybe he just wasn’t the right person to lead this young team. However, the hindsight is still 20/20. It also doesn’t help that a few of the other coaches Tom Fitzgerald was considering for the job are booming right now. The Washington Capitals are led by Peter Laviolette, while the New York Rangers have Gerard Gallant at the helm. These two coaches were Ruff’s main competitor during the hiring process in the summer of 2020.
When you compare the team’s overall success this season between the Devils, Capitals and Rangers, the difference is day and night. The Capitals and Rangers are currently competing for first place in the Metropolitan Division. While the Devils are barely standing still trying to stay relevant in the standings. When you look at the numbers, it looks like the Devils once again made a mistake in their hiring process. Gallant and Laviolette both demonstrated better development skills than Ruff.
Looking at Laviolette and his situation, you could argue that he had a very good team. Even though they struggle to come out of the first round of the playoffs, the Capitals are a veteran-led team who values victory over everything.
However, that doesn’t mean Laviolette’s skills need to be diminished. Laviolette himself is a proven winner. He was able to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup title in 2006. He was also able to bring two different organizations (the Philadelphia Flyers and the Nashville Predators) to the Stanley Cup final. He is also known to have a knack for loving young players as he has been given a lot of credit for goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky’s meteoric career in Philadelphia.
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As for Gallant, the Devils certainly missed another golden opportunity. Because the structure of the Rangers roster is very similar to that of the Devils, it seems to fit. When David Quinn led the Rangers for three seasons, they were still a playoff fringe, missing twice during his tenure. However, once Gallant took over, they are now a top team in the Metropolitan Division. Gallant was also able to take the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Finals a few years ago in their inaugural season. So given the success of both coaches in recent years, it certainly doesn’t make Ruff or the Devils organization look good. It looks like the Devils have missed out on a few opportunities to really change their organization.