New Jersey Devils: Three Players Who Will Benefit Most From Lindy Ruff

Lindy Ruff New Jersey Devils head coach (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Lindy Ruff New Jersey Devils head coach (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils hired Lindy Ruff as their next head coach. We can debate back and forth regarding the merits of the hire all day. What is indisputable is that, while the results have not been there for Ruff in quite some time, there have always been individual players who have developed and learned to shine under Ruff’s guidance.

The Rangers defense was nothing to write home about this past season, however, he did help players such as Adam Fox and Tony DeAngelo develop into very nice players. He was able to help players such as John Klingberg and Tyler Seguin with the Stars and Chris Drury and Daniel Brière with the Sabres. While Ruff may not have been the ideal choice to coach this team, there are players who will benefit from his presence.

Nico Hischier

First and foremost is Nico Hischier. Hischier is one of the two young centers that GM Tom Fitzgerald will build around for the foreseeable future. Drafted first overall in 2017, Hischier has developed into a solid two-way center, capable of playing on the first line for a contender.

There are analysts who believe he would be better suited in a second-line role, but that is an entirely separate conversation. While Hischier has developed into a solid two-way center, he has not yet taken that next step forward offensively that many people thought and hoped that he would.

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Hischier’s underlying statistics remain positive, but his point totals have dropped annually. He did show growth once Taylor Hall was traded, but he has yet to be that 70-80 point player the team is hoping he will become. Lindy Ruff has been known to do his best work with offensive players, and Hischier should soak up every bit of information that Ruff has to offer.

Jack Hughes

Along with Hischier, Hughes is the second young center around which the organization is building. Hughes entered the league as the first-overall pick in 2019 with tremendous hype, deservedly so. While he was not considered to be on the same level as players like Connor McDavid, he was considered to be in the tier immediately below that. All that hype came to a screeching halt once the 2019-20 season began.

In addition to missing time with a couple of injuries, Hughes suffered through a tough rookie season, putting up only 7 goals and 14 assists. While his shooting percentage was laughably low, indicating that he was unlucky, most of his underlying statistics were poor. However, other than a few occasions where he was put on the top line with top skill players, Hughes often found himself playing with grinders such as Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha.

That’s hardly an ideal way to develop a top offensive talent. This is where Ruff can help. Ruff has a reputation of giving his skill players a long leash to make mistakes and to allow them the space to be creative. This is exactly what Hughes needs. Hughes needs consistent linemates who will enable him to use his creativity to its fullest. If history is any indication, Ruff will provide this freedom to Hughes and will accelerate his development.

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P.K. Subban

The P.K. Subban trade last offseason was met with praise from analysts and fans alike. The Devils took on a lot of money in absorbing his entire cap hit, but no one had any doubt that Subban’s presence would significantly enhance the defense.

Unfortunately, things went sour right from day one. Subban never seemed to get his legs underneath him and finished the season having put up his lowest point total in a decade. Subban was below average defensively as well. Ruff may not be the ideal coach for Subban defensively, but for many of the same reasons as Hughes, he might be just what the doctor ordered for Subban offensively.

The Devils often seemed to sell out offensively last year in order to be safe in the defensive zone. Ruff should be able to change that philosophy and will allow Subban the freedom to do what he does best, which is to create offensively. If the team could pair Subban with a more defensive minded defenseman, it would allow Subban to take more chances in the offensive zone. This is what Ruff is going to hope to accomplish.