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Devils not ‘perennial playoff contender,’ fire Lindy Ruff as coach

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Chicago Blackhawks
Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Less than a year after being a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year, Lindy Ruff was fired by the New Jersey Devils on Monday.

“I hold our entire organization to the highest levels of accountability to focus on being a competitive team that expects to be a perennial playoff contender,” Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we are currently not at that level, and I needed to make this decision.”

The Devils are 30-27-4 in 61 games this season. They are sixth in the Metropolitan Division and eight points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Associate Coach Travis Green was named interim coach of the Devils.

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Lindy Ruff fired as coach after Devils fail to live up to last season’s success

NHL: NHL Awards Red Carpet
Jun 26, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff arrives on the red carpet before the 2023 NHL Awards at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a stunning fall from grace for the Devils, who established a franchise record with 52 wins and 112 points in 2022-23. They finished second in the Metro, one point behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes, and rallied from a 2-0 series deficit to defeat the New York Rangers in seven games in the first round of the playoffs. They lost to the Hurricanes in five games in the second round.

Many predicted even greater things for the Devils this season but they’ve fallen far short of expectations. They’ve lost five of their past seven games and have won consecutive games once since Jan. 5.  

New Jersey was 16-11-1 on Dec. 16 and 14-16-3 since. It has battled injuries, including to star defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who remains out, and poor team defense (3.49 goals-against per game; tied for 6th worst in the NHL).

Ruff was 128-125-28 in 281 games as Devils coach. He is fourth all-time in NHL history with 864 wins (864-679-153 and 78 ties) in 1,774 games with the Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars and Devils. He won the Jack Adams Award in 2006 with the Sabres.

Green, a former teammate of Fitzgerald’s with the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, was named interim coach. Green was coach of the Vancouver Canucks from 2017-22.

“Travis has key experience running benches at the junior, AHL and NHL levels and knows that there are no shortcuts to success,” Fitzgerald said. “He is a high-demanding individual who is familiar with the group and excited about working to get us back on track.”

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