Hartnett: Devils' Interest in Lindy Ruff Would Be More Beneficial for Rangers

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By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York
News emerged on Tuesday that Lindy Ruff is among candidates for the New Jersey Devils’ vacant head coaching position.

It has previously been reported the NJ coaching candidates were Alain Nasreddine (incumbent), Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette, John Stevens and a "mystery candidate." Hearing that is NYR assistant Lindy Ruff, head coach in BUF (1997-2013) and DAL (2013-17).

— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 23, 2020

Sportnet’s Elliotte Freidman reported that Ruff has joined Alain Nasreddine, Gerard Gallant, John Stevens and Peter Laviolette in the running to take over the Devils’ bench. Ruff has served as an assistant coach for the Rangers since 2017, in charge of defense and penalty killing.

Notably, Ruff is the sixth-most winning coach in NHL history with 736 regular season victories. Across 15 seasons guiding the Buffalo Sabres, he qualified for the playoffs eight times and reached the 1999 Stanley Cup Final. He later coached the Dallas Stars for four seasons and reached the playoffs twice.

Despite his accomplishments, Ruff has struggled in each of his most recent positions. The Stars finished fifth or lower in the Central Division in three of the four seasons Ruff served as head coach. Between 2013-14 and 2016-17, the Stars ranked 28th of 30 NHL teams with a 79.6 penalty kill percentage and 27th with 2.95 goals against per game.

Since Ruff arrived in New York in 2017, the Rangers rank 27th of 31 NHL teams with a 3.21 goals against per game and 23rd overall with a 79.0 penalty kill percentage. Over this period, no team has surrendered more shots against per game than the Blueshirts’ 34.4.

The following graph provided by Adam Herman of Blueshirt Banter illustrates just how poorly the Rangers’ defense has lagged behind the pack in defensive metrics since Ruff joined the coaching staff.

Lindy Ruff, in a chart. pic.twitter.com/2jxEEQO6DW

— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) June 23, 2020  

Among the candidates vying for the Devils’ head coaching gig, Gallant is the most logical choice. Gallant led the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to consecutive playoff appearances and one Stanley Cup Final appearance in the franchise's inaugural year. In his previous coaching stint with the Florida Panthers, Gallant overachieved with two winning seasons, including a first-place finish in the Atlantic Division during the 2015-16 season. 

If the Devils were to turn to Ruff for either their head coaching position or an assistant coach role, New Jersey would be placing trust in an archaic coaching mind. Ruff has struggled to adapt to the new NHL, which emphasizes speed and is fueled by puck-moving defensemen.

The Rangers have paid the price for continuing to retain Ruff in the face of clear statistical evidence that points to his failings. Few NHL teams spend more time pinned in their own end than the Rangers and no team subjects its goaltenders to a greater workload.

Ruff has proven to be a relic of the past. If the Devils or any other team would seek his services, it would be a mistake on their part and a benefit to the Rangers.