According to NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes, the New Jersey Devils are expected to name Lindy Ruff head coach and remove the “interim” tag off of GM Tom Fitzgerald, who was the assistant to former GM Ray Shero before he was fired on January 12.
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) July 8, 2020
Ruff spent 15 years with the Buffalo Sabres organization from 1997-2013, going 571-432-78 (.560 points percentage), and four with the Dallas Stars from 2013-17, going 165-122-41 (.566 points percentage). He guided the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999, when they lost to the Stars.
He won the Jack Adams Award as the league’s head coach of the year in 2006. Ruff was also a finalist for the award again in 2016 when he guided the Stars to the best record in the Western Conference after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs a season prior.
Ruff has been an assistant coach with the New York Rangers for the past three seasons.
The Devils fired head coach John Hynes on December 3 after the team started the season 0-4-2 and 9-14-4. Assistant Alain Nassradine served as the interim head coach and the Devils improved slightly, finishing the season with a 19-16-8 record in 43 games under him. Despite adding defenseman P.K. Subban, forward Wayne Simmonds, forward Nikita Gusev, and center Jack Hughes last offseason, the Devils finished three points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the final qualifying round spot in the Eastern Conference. Though, they played two fewer games than the Canadiens.
Fitzgerald has done admirably since replacing Shero, dealing defenseman Sami Vatanen from Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for forward Janne Kuokkanen, defenseman Fredrik Claesson and conditional 2020 fourth-round pick on February 24; Simmonds to the Sabres in exchange for conditional 2021 fifth-round pick the same day; forward Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for forward prospect Nolan Foote and a first-round pick in the 2020 or 2021 NHL Draft on February 16; and defenseman Andy Greene to the New York Islanders in exchange for a 2021 second-round draft pick and defenseman prospect David Quenneville on the same day.
The Devils finished the season with an average of 2.68 goals-per-game (tied for 24th in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators), 3.25 goals-against per game (tied for 29th with the Florida Panthers), an 18% power-play efficiency (21st), and an 82.4% penalty-killing rate (seventh).
By Harrison Brown