Do New Jersey Devils have the most desirable coaching vacancy?

The New Jersey Devils fired Lindy Ruff this season, and now Tom Fitzgerald is doing a wide search for their next head coach. Is New Jersey home to the most desirable coaching location?
St Louis Blues v New Jersey Devils
St Louis Blues v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils fired Lindy Ruff on March 4th this past season. He couldn't get the most out of a roster devastated by injuries and inefficient play from the goaltender position (among other things). However, he didn't last long on the "free agent" market. The Buffalo Sabres hired Lindy Ruff for his second tour of duty.

The Sabres were the first team to fill their head coaching hole, not wasting any time replacing Don Granato. Then, the San Jose Sharks canned David Quinn, adding another opening to the list. That leaves five obvious openings, with the Sharks and Devils joining the St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, and Los Angeles Kings as teams playing under an interim head coach.

The Kings are obviously in the playoffs right now, so how this series with the Edmonton Oilers goes could determine Jim Hiller’s future. Patrick Roy was actually hired by the New York Islanders when Lane Lambert was let go, so he’s not going anywhere. It’s looking like this is the openings we’re working with (for now). 

When looking at who is available, the Devils look like the most intriguing option. They have two superstar centers in Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier; they have two young, future superstar defensemen in Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec; they have assisting stars in Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier, and Dougie Hamilton; and they have a motivated GM who is looking to upgrade the weaknesses on the roster. 

The Devils were hoping to take a step towards true contention this season. Many things didn’t go their way, which is only partially due to Ruff’s coaching style. We talked multiple times about the change in the defensive system that had the team focusing on poke checks and using the body less. That impacted how the Devils played on a nightly basis.

However, there is one thing that’s going to impact how others look at the Devils opening. Fitzgerald seems keen to have a say in day-to-day operations. Many GMs hold a role in how the coach’s process works, but many let them do their thing. It doesn’t sound like Fitzgerald is intent to let a coach have autonomy in their decision-making. 

There’s also the possibility of other openings. Mike Sullivan is not a sure thing to last in Pittsburgh. If he was getting fired, the Pittsburgh Penguins would have done that already. However, they could be looking to get something in a trade for Sullivan. Also, the Toronto Maple Leafs could be forced to let Sheldon Keefe go. That Maple Leafs team would immediately be the best job on the market, even with the crazy Toronto media attached.

There are some interesting jobs open this offseason, and it’s all in the eye of the beholder, but the Devils have to give pause to every great coaching option. Some right moves and a lot of luck mean this is a Stanley Cup winner. Other teams are much further away from winning than that.