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Lindy Ruff Takes Responsibility for Devils Poor Play This Season

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New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

NEWARK — The “Fire Lindy!” chants last season died quickly when the New Jersey Devils turned things around for their season-long heater collecting 112 points. In fact, those chants evolved into “Sorry Lindy!” after the Devils established themselves as a powerhouse.

Unfortunately, that was then, this is now. The chants calling for Ruff’s job have resurfaced as a result of a poor 2023-24 season in New Jersey and Devils fans want to see head coach Lindy Ruff be the sacrificial lamb as a result. Pointing blame at the media didn’t help, however, he modified that criticism.

The Devils dropped a crucial two points to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Their record in the second leg of back-to-back games is not great, now 2-9-1 this season.

Even worse, the Devils have given up the first goal of the game 42 times in 58 games. The Devils have now fallen to 18-22-2 when trailing first in a game for the 2023-24 campaign.

As soon as the Devils found themselves down 1-0 in the second period on Sunday, the “Fire Lindy!” chants started again.

In a season with such high expectations for the Devils, the results have been the polar opposite of their expectations.

“I take full responsibility,” Ruff explained to the media Sunday afternoon. “I take full responsibility. You want to win. We’ve dealt with a lot. (The) players want to win. I’m responsible for the wins and losses and who gets on the ice and who doesn’t get on the ice. I’ve said this before, we’ve got a very passionate fan base. They want to see wins. I think, again, in a back-to-back (situation) and if you look at our home record, that part hurts. So I feel fully responsible.”

Winning hasn’t come as easily as it did for the Devils last season. There’s a stark difference in the team that dominated play night in and night out in 2022-23 versus the one we’re watching today who is seemingly always trying to claw their way back into a game.

Injuries have certainly played a factor in this season. All of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Timo Meier, Dougie Hamilton, and even more of the Devils’ significant players on the roster have missed time due to injury. That doesn’t include some role players such as Erik Haula, Nathan Bastian, and Curtis Lazar who have all fallen victim to injury as well.

However, at this point of the season, the majority of the aforementioned have returned to the ice. The only significant injury the Devils are dealing with that’s forcing them to miss time is Hamilton. So how come the Devils can’t find their former selves?

Perhaps it has to do with roster construction. The Devils’ blue line is clearly weaker than it was in 2022-23. Losing Damon Severson and Ryan Graves has proven to be even more detrimental to New Jersey than perhaps general manager Tom Fitzgerald imagined. And to boot, the Devils’ goaltending is weaker. Or, it’s the same and they just received better support last season.

Even further, maybe that’s why Ruff doesn’t feel the weight of pressure for the security of his job. In a way, maybe Fitzgerald owes  Ruff some reinforcements.

“It doesn’t,” Ruff responded when asked if the weight of his job security creeps into his mind at all. “It doesn’t. I’m in a business where job security is what it is.”

Ruff is the fourth-most winningest coach in NHL history with 863 wins in his pocket and sits first of all active coaches. The Devils clearly need a change whether that’s on the roster or behind the bench. But a look around the NHL will tell you that a coaching change doesn’t always provide what Devils fans are longing for. Just look to Long Island, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.

For now, Ruff remains behind the Devils’ bench. He very well may not be going anywhere, especially given the fact that he just signed an extension with the team earlier this year. Right now, he and the Devils are just focused on the next game.

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