Letting Go of Andrew Brunette is Tom Fitzgerald's Biggest Mistake

The New Jersey Devils announced on Monday evening that Lindy Ruff would no longer be their head coach. They had a head coach in waiting, but let him go to the Nashville Predators a mere nine months ago.
Dec 27, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators head coach Andrew Brunette talks with
Dec 27, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators head coach Andrew Brunette talks with / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The news we’ve been waiting for was announced officially on Monday: the Devils have fired Lindy Ruff. In a move that had to be done, Tom Fitzgerald finally gave the fans hope that things might turn around. However, Fitzgerald has managed very poorly in the 2023-24 season. If it’s not getting a goaltender while Nico Daws and Vitek Vanacek have been suffering, it’s him sitting around while the team was getting worse. While yes, Fitzgerald has done some good in his tenure as GM, perhaps his biggest mistake was letting Andrew Brunette go, now the Nashville Predators' coach.

Brunette was considered one of the reasons why the Devils made a huge turnaround last season. Sure, he was hired as an assistant coach with a focus on the power play, but when he did help on the bench, he made some excellent decisions. While the power play wasn’t the best in the NHL, Brunette brought a lot more to the table. He did his best to keep the offensive train running. While the Devils did play well and made it to the playoffs, they got beaten up by the Rangers (even though they won that series) and by the Hurricanes simply because they weren’t physical enough. Brunette was still on staff when the team got eliminated from the playoffs. Maybe Fitzgerald could've promoted him since he was there, and Brunette wanted a head coaching role.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Nashville was also looking for its new head coach. Brunette was one of the leading candidates, and last offseason, the Predators announced that Brunette would be their head coach. As for his first season as head coach, Brunette has done a decent job. The Predators are currently holding the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference thanks to an eight-game winning streak. They aren’t a top team, but look at the difference in the number of points between the Predators and the Devils. The Predators have 72 points, while the Devils have 64 points.

So, what’s next for Fitzgerald? If we see a system that works and everyone is thriving, Green could shed the label next year, depending on how Travis Green performs for the rest of the year. But right now, the Devils should be looking for a coach to help create a system that works more defensively and offensively. We will eventually find out which coach that will be. But know this: next time Fitzgerald finds a well-known coach in the league and shows he can lead them to great things, please do everyone a favor and keep him!