New Jersey Devils: Who Will Be Head Coach Next Season?

New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /
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New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils /

New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images)

The Other Simple Option: Promoting Andrew Brunette

The popular option among Devils fans and general media is simply promoting current Associate Coach Andrew Brunette to full-time head coach. On the surface, it makes a lot of sense. Brunette was hired after leading the Flordia Panthers to the President’s Trophy, becoming a Jack Adams Finalist in the process. The Panthers lead the NHL in Corsi % and were 3rd in xG%, playing as arguably the most dominant offensive team in the league. When signed to New Jersey, Brunette became the Associate Coach instead of an Assistant Coach, implying the trust and importance that Tom Fitzgerald has bestowed upon him. So, what’s the holdup?

The issue with Brunette is one simple question: how much of Florida’s success in the regular season and failure in the postseason was due to him specifically?

Florida’s original head coach for the 2021-22 season was John Quenneville. After the Kyle Beach case’s revelations in Chicago and the alleged cover up, he was fired and replaced by Brunette. JQ’s system was seemingly unchanged for large parts of the year. So the question arises when it comes to how much influence Brunette had. The failure in the playoffs, which started with an uncomfortable series win against the Capitals and a sweeping by the hands of the Lightning, does not help Brunette’s case.

Looking at Brunette’s impact on the Devils could be a fair way to judge his impact. His primary job is working on the power play. Looking at xG (maybe not the greatest way to measure the effectiveness of a PP, but alas) on the powerplay from the 2021-22 to 2022-23 season, the Devils jumped from 30th (35.53 xGF) to 18th (51.38 xGF). So, a sizeable increase, no? But based on the film and watching the team for the two years, how different is the powerplay truly? How much more effective has it been?

The Devils powerplay has largely been a static and often a head-scratching affair this season. They run three primary plays: a Jack Hughes pin-down snapshot play, a side-to-side pass leading to a Dougie Hamilton one-timer, and a cross-seam pass between Hughes and Jesper Bratt that leads to a one-timer.

If the Devils had their way, they would love to make that third option work but often settle for the first two. The simple lack of movement and creativity misuses Hughes’s main skillset: skating downhill. This isn’t all on Brunette, but it is telling that he cannot make substantial changes to this team in his sphere of influence.