In a surprise announcement, now-former New Jersey Devils Associate Coach Andrew Brunette is leaving the New Jersey Devils to join the Nashville Predators. The Preds had former Devils head coach John Hynes behind the bench, but new general manager Barry Trotz informed Hynes he was moving in a different direction.
Brunette has a long history with the Predators. He scored the team’s first goal back in 1998, although some might say it shouldn’t have counted. 1998-99 was the only season Brunette played for the Predators. He ended up going to the Atlanta Thrashers the next season. Still, the history Brunette brings to the franchise has to be a nice sweetener.
On top of his history, Brunette is a good offensive coach. His impact was absolutely felt by the Devils this season. He isn’t the only reason the Devils put together a historic turnaround, but he did make a massive impact on how they play offense. The tweaks to Lindy Ruff’s system led to the Devils leading the league in 5v5 high-danger chances.
Despite our bold predictions, it was likely Brunette would find a job that suited him. He was interviewing for open jobs like the one in New York, Calgary, and Anaheim, among other places. Just about everyone made it clear Brunette was on their list. However, the winner of Brunette’s services didn’t even have an opening.
Hynes is a complicated coach. He definitely underachieved in New Jersey, and it appears the same happened in Nashville. He’s a defense-first coach who needs a very specific roster to succeed. Brunette will bring a driving system that Nashville could use with the talent on the roster.
This is a loss for the Devils, but not a huge one. The impact he had will ripple to next season and beyond. It would have been nice if he stuck around for another year, seeing if Lindy Ruff is looking at the future at his advanced age. We’ve seen too many times that windows for head coaches can close if they make the wrong decision. So, good for Brunette for finding this opportunity.
The Devils will replace Brunette, probably from the outside. Sergei Brylin might take his spot, but it’s more likely Ruff will find someone who can fix this power play. The man advantage in the playoff was embarrassing, so they need to figure out how to turn this level of offensive talent into constant scoring.
We talked about targeting Sheldon Keefe, but as of now, he’s still the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach. There are options, something we will go over in a future article.