Alexander Holtz Can Benefit Most from Lindy Ruff’s Departure

The New Jersey Devils have fired head coach Lindy Ruff. Alexander Holtz’s development suffered under Ruff’s coaching, and now he should have a new opportunity to grow.

New Jersey Devils v San Jose Sharks
New Jersey Devils v San Jose Sharks / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

It took too long for the New Jersey Devils to fire Lindy Ruff. The Devils were never going to part ways in the 2023 offseason with a Jack Adams nominee who significantly contributed to the 2022-23 Devils’ success, but it became clear throughout the 2023-24 season that he was not the coach to take them to the next level. Among many other issues, he notoriously mismanaged the development of 2020 seventh-overall draft pick Alexander Holtz. Now, Holtz stands to gain the most from Ruff’s departure.

Ruff consistently buried Holtz on the fourth line and limited his ice time. In the 2023-24 season, he's averaging 11:35 of ice time per game. Notably, Holtz played just 5:53 in the Stadium Series. Holtz deserves better. Despite the lack of opportunities, the winger has 13 goals and 11 assists in 61 games.

When Tom Fitzgerald addressed the media on Tuesday, he mentioned how young players were treated specifically, and everyone put two and two together and came to the conclusion he was talking about Holtz.

No matter what Holtz has done on the ice, Ruff refused to provide the 22-year-old opportunities. Any mistake landed him in the doghouse, while successful plays were not rewarded. Other young players have not been held accountable for mistakes the way Holtz has been. Accountability is important, but it's gone too far with Holtz. Every little thing shouldn't land him on the bench.

Playing alongside fourth line forwards has made it more challenging for Holtz to play to his strengths and generate offense. A top-six role or even a top-nine role would afford Holtz the opportunities that a goal scorer needs in order to thrive. He is ready for a bigger role.

Holtz has been in a rut for the past month. He’s been kept off the scoresheet in fourteen of the last fifteen games. Perhaps being utilized differently could provide the spark he needs to get going again. We’ll see how interim head coach Travis Green handles Holtz’s development for the rest of the season.

There will not be a new voice in the room for the rest of the season, and it's up to Green and the rest of the coaching staff to improve the team’s output. With just 21 games remaining in the 2023-24 season, Green will need to decide what changes he’s going to make to try and pull something different out of this team. An important move would be to give Holtz more opportunities to grow. Whomever is hired as the head coach for the 2024-25 season will be tasked with utilizing Holtz better as he gains more experience in the NHL.

Lindy Ruff failed to help Holtz develop. It might be too late for the Devils to save the 2023-24 season, but Holtz’s development can still get back on track.