Devils fire head coach Lindy Ruff, name Travis Green interim replacement

The Hockey Central panel discusses the seventh head coach firing of the season in Lindy Ruff, why the Devils regressed this season, and whether the underwhelming season is on Ruff.

The New Jersey Devils fired head coach Lindy Ruff amidst a disappointing season on Monday, general manager Tom Fitzgerald announced

Travis Green was named as interim head coach.

“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,” Fitzgerald said in the team’s statement. “Unfortunately, we are not currently at that level, and I needed to make this decision.

“This was an extremely difficult conversation to have with Lindy based on the relationship that he and I have. He was the right coach to develop our young players on the ice, and above all else, he is a tremendous person.”

Green, who was in his first year with the team as an associate coach on Ruff’s staff, takes over Tuesday at the morning skate ahead of the Devils’ next game, which is against Florida. A former teammate of Fitzgerald’s during their playing days, Green spent parts of five seasons as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks from 2017-21.

The 53-year-old played 970 career NHL games, spending time with the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks.

“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.”

After not only reaching the post-season last year but also advancing to the second round after a series victory against the rival New York Rangers, the Devils have fallen well short of expectations, sitting at a 30-27-4 record and eight points back of the final wild-card spot.

Ruff has been on the hot seat before when fans at the Prudential Centre chanted “Fire Lindy!” at the start of last season. Pressure eased as the Devils went on to make the playoffs for the first time in four years, but with the team in a crowded Metropolitan Division, the 26-year coaching veteran was feeling the heat once more. 

When asked about the Devils’ subpar season, Ruff told reporters that he takes “full responsibility.” 

“I take full responsibility, you want to win. We’ve dealt with a lot. Players want to win. I’m responsible for the wins and losses, who gets on the ice and who doesn’t get on the ice,” Ruff said after the team’s 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 26. 

Ruff took over head coaching duties in the 2020 off-season and was signed to a multi-year contract extension in October 2023. He finished his Devils tenure with a 128-125-28 record.

He was in his third head NHL job after coaching Buffalo to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999 as part of a long stint with the Sabres and four years with Dallas from 2013-17.

He’s the seventh NHL coach fired this season among the league’s 32 teams. All of Ruff’s other assistants will remain in place.

The Devils have two games left this week before the trade deadline Friday, when Fitzgerald has more decisions to make about the short- and long-term future of the organization. Leading goal-scorer Tyler Toffoli, acquired last summer from Calgary, is a pending free agent, along with veteran defensemen Colin Miller and Brendan Smith.

Part of Ruff’s downfall turned out to be New Jersey’s inability to keep the puck out of its own net. Goaltenders combined for a save percentage of .891, second-worst in the league, and the Devils have allowed the sixth-most goals per game.

— With files from The Associated Press

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