The New Jersey Devils have hired Lindy Ruff as their new head coach and named Tom Fitzgerald as their general manager.
Ruff obviously has years of experience in the head coaching gig and took the job over candidates like Gerard Gallant, John Stevens, and Peter Laviolette. He also took the post over Alain Nasreddine, who’d been serving as interim head coach for the Devils.
Ruff will be embarking on his third head coaching job in the NHL. He was behind the bench for the Buffalo Sabres from 1997 to 2013, plus he coached the Dallas Stars from 2013 to 2017. Over the past three seasons, he worked as an assistant coach for the New York Rangers.
“The last couple of years have been rewarding,” Ruff said. “It was kind of a pause in my head coaching. You need a break. I look at this as a break. I look at this as an opportunity to get better, to challenge myself, to communicate better with younger players.”
Fitzgerald had been serving as interim general manager and he led the search for the new head coach.
“The group needs a teacher, someone who’s going to come in and teach and the message is going to be extremely clear,” said Fitzgerald. “As the process continued to move forward, Lindy just continued to step to the forefront. One, I was looking for experience: NHL head coaching experience. Two, presence: someone who has been there, done that and could walk into a room and actually grab the attention of our young team.”
With the Devils, Fitzgerald and Ruff have one of the youngest teams in the National Hockey League. That should give them the opportunity to shape the franchise for years to come.
This is, after all, a club that’s made the playoffs just once in the last eight years. The painful drought has led to mountains of salary cap room and a lot of opportunity, with youngsters like Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes waiting to emerge.
Fitzgerald took over the gig from Ray Shero after the latter was canned on January 12, so he hasn’t had his fingers in the dough that long. He did make some compelling moves around the trade deadline, but the COVID-19 pandemic put everything on hold after that.
With the Devils out of playoff contention, focus has turned to the future once again. Fitzgerald noted that Nasreddine may have a spot as an assistant coach under Ruff, as he’s still under contract to New Jersey and some doors may open.