If there’s one thing that has been in common for the last two seasons it’s that the New Jersey Devils are in a rebuild. In a rebuild, pieces that don’t work are removed and replaced. This is now the case with the position of head coach.
If the New Jersey Devils are to succeed, the team needs to head in a new direction. With not much between them and the league bottom, the direction needs to be up.
Head Coach John Hynes has been at the helm for two unsuccessful seasons and he needs to be handed the pink slip. GM Ray Shero will need to let go of the soft spot he has for former Pittsburgh guys and find a new coach.
That being said, there are several options for the Devils to go, even with Ken Hitchcock off the board.
Ruff is a coach, who when his teams are good, they are good. Ruff spent almost 14 years coach in Buffalo, which saw them make the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999. He most recently spent the past five seasons as coach of the Dallas Stars, making the playoffs on an inconsistent basis. Ruff was beloved in Buffalo and getting the Devils back on track would help him similarly in New Jersey. He could be a good fit for the Devils.
Lindy Ruff’s coaching style could play to the Devils benefit. Ruff puts focus on playing two-way hockey. While that might be seen by some as foolish, especially in a time where offensive prowess is important, it’s what the Devils need. Offense and defense are where the team needs work. This style wouldn’t put too much focus on one, forgetting the other. It would bring a good balance to the team. Especially when lots of new faces are expected in Newark.
This name stings a bit. He was the coach of the Kings who beat the Devils in the Cup Finals in their most recent playoff appearance. But the man has hockey in his name. While the Devils don’t have the best history with someone named Sutter behind the bench, it couldn’t hurt to try again.
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In his 18-year coaching career, only four times has he missed the playoffs. Twice in the past three seasons cost him his job in Los Angles, but no one is expecting the Devils in the playoffs. There comes a price with Sutter though. His out of touch coaching style.
Sutter firmly believes in a dump and chase style of hockey. The Devils do not possess the speed in order to execute this style of play. The team must carry the puck in. If speed is added to the roster then there isn’t an issue with the dump and chase style of Sutter. Until then the Devils should think wisely before hiring Sutter.
Ok ok, this one isn’t going to happen. However, with recently rumblings that poster child Jack Eichel is unhappy with Bylsma, could a reunion with Shero in New Jersey happen? When Shero was first announced as the new Devils GM, a coach was needed and Bylsma’s name was mentioned. Obviously, they didn’t go that route, but why not now?
There is the connection to Pittsburgh, which is something Shero likes. There is also the championship pedigree with Bylsma, having the 2009 Cup on his resume. Bylsma already has experience working with a team in a rebuilding phase, having spent past two season with the lowly Sabres.
So Why Now?
What makes now different from earlier in the year? The Devils season. That’s what is different. Earlier in the year, people were more willing to work with coach Hynes and give him time to work things out. However, that was when the rebuild was only supposed to be on the horizon for the next year or two not three to four.
However, since two different teams with different players have stunk, there is one position that can change. While Hynes brought a more offensive mindset to the Devils, which they needed, it apparently stayed in the 2015-16 season. With new players most likely headed for Newark, it’s not a bad idea to give everyone a fresh start with a new coach. Not the same one who has kept the losing culture around.
It’s likely that Hynes will remain with the team next season, no doubt due to his connection to GM Shero. There are lots of potential replacements out there for the Devils to consider. If they are going to make a move, they best not waste any more time. Dallas already brought back Ken Hitchcock and the first round of the playoffs isn’t over yet.