On Saturday, October 15th, the New Jersey Devils lost their second game in a row to start the season. The fanbase had seen enough already, with the Devils losing the first game of the season 5-2 against the Philadelphia Flyers. They started chanting “Fire Lindy,” targeting the Devils’ head coach Lindy Ruff.
It was understandable at the time. Ruff was expected to lose his job before this after two disappointing Devils seasons in a row. The Devils decided to keep Ruff while letting go of close to his entire assistant coaching staff. Mark Recchi and Alain Nasreddine were no longer on the bench. Instead, the Devils added Andrew Brunette, a reigning Jack Adams Award nominee. They also added Ryan McGill and Sergei Brylin.
Despite all the changes on the staff, the results were the same. The Devils were losing, and they were losing badly. The goaltending looked awful. Power play opportunities were better for the other team. It looked like the Devils just hit rewind on the VHS tape and decided to replay the 2021-22 season.
Then, the Devils got their first win of the season. On October 18th, the Devils came back from 2-0 down to beat the Anaheim Ducks. Overall, it was a dominating effort that saw all the top names contribute significantly. There was a little luck (Adam Henrique hit the post on a breakaway), but the Devils deserved to win this one.
Two days later, the Devils put up one of the best efforts we’ve seen in the Lindy Ruff era. The Devils held the New York Islanders to three total chances in the first period at even strength. Even when adding the power play, the Isles only had seven total chances to the Devils 26. The Devils kept their foot on the gas, finishing the game with 77 total chances and 20 high-danger chances. (All stats according to Natural Stat Trick.)
Two days after that, the Devils took care of the San Jose Sharks (although it got a little scarier than it needed to be). Two days after that, the Devils were destroyed by the Washington Capitals, and it looked like they could only beat the powder puffs.
Just one day after that, ten days after the Devils lost their second game of the season to the Detroit Red Wings on October 15th, they faced those same Red Wings in the second half of a back-to-back. They were likely tired and probably very mad. That anger drove them to a 6-2 win, one of the most dominant in a long time. Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Dawson Mercer all scored at 5v5. That is exactly who you want taking over a game.
In 10 days, Lindy Ruff went from public enemy number one to people actually praising his suffocating style of hockey. Since then, the Devils ground out a 1-0 win against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche. Then, they beat the Columbus Blue Jackets so badly that Johnny Gaudreau was likely second-guessing his offseason decision.
A few days later, the Devils made huge strides showing they could still win handedly despite not putting their best effort forward. They beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-2, even though they were outshot for most of the game, and the Canucks seemed to have their legs.
The Devils face some pretty steep tests on the rest of their Western Canada road trip. They still have to face the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. Even if those games go terribly bad, the Devils are keeping Lindy Ruff. He found a way to show his worth without changing his philosophy.
This isn’t to say that Lindy Ruff is the perfect coach for the Devils or that he avoided the hot seat. Ruff’s seat is still very warm, and things could change in the next ten days. However, right now, Ruff looks like the right coach for right now.