New Jersey Devils Next Coach Should Follow Principles of A Very Famous Book

One of the important keys for the New Jersey Devils to have success is to hire a veteran coach before the 2024 NHL Draft. It is not an opinion, but more so a philosophy that should be followed before NHL Draft Combine even takes place. How can one of the greatest books of all time help Tom Fitzgerald make his decision?
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils most important move this offseason is finding a new head coach. Tom Fitzgerald would be smart to consult ancient Chinese military treatise The Art of War for who they should target in a new coach.

The next New Jersey Devils head coach must have several key attributes to be successful. The first one is to be a "seasoned" veteran coach who has spent a lot of time in the NHL and has a proven track record of winning in the regular season. This helps coaches relate to every player, from role players to rookies and franchise/superstar players. Having a coach who doesn't properly handle the ice time of every player can ruin the chemistry, especially with top-drafted forwards like Alexander Holtz.

Discipline is the next attribute because early in the year, Lindy Ruff didn't bother letting Alexander Holtz learn from his mistakes and gain enough ice time. The other factor is not getting the defensemen to box out incoming forwards going in for tip-in chances or open-ice areas to score high-danger goals.

Obey The Art of War. To those of you who read in the past, this book holds a lot of wisdom. One of the best quotes talks about fear.

"“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”"

Sun Tzu

To summarize that quote, the next New Jersey Devils Coach needs to understand all 31 NHL teams and their weaknesses. Knowing yourself truly means understanding your team's system structure, including playing offense, defense, and special teams, and how well you can play in front of your goalie. The other sentence relates to the failures of Ruff to know and understand his own team. The win-to-loss ratio was a complete wash, and the last part half relates to what the coaching did this season but was a downfall of the 82 games.

"“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected .”"

Sun Tzu via The Art of War

Tom Fitzgerald needs to find a coach who is really good at getting his rostered players to make teams feel uncomfortable when the opponents think they can win their own game. That means getting a Timo Meier on the top of the slot and tick off the opposing defenseman and goaltender. Getting someone like Kurtis MacDermid to add that grit and sandpaper that distracts and upsets opponents in their defensive end. The new and revamped Devils team must attack where opponents least expect this team next season, improving not only in net and defense but also in scoring shorthanded goals, shot-blocking, and hitting as many opponents as possible, even on the forecheck and back-checks.

"“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”"

Sun Tzu via The Art of War

To whom the next head coach will be is not to be a tough man and upset your own players but to have someone who has respect of every player, from your rookies to your superstars, needs to be respected and treated with dignity. If there is true respect and a genuine connection with your players on and off the ice, the motivation will be what makes a Devils team come back to succeed in every game possible.

Tom Fitzgerald should look into getting a coach who is not soft on players but not so tough that the players turn on him. If Mike Sullivan or Craig Berube do become head coach in New Jersey, it is integral to see some structure on offense and defense be made. There needs to be more Sasquatch-styled players who forecheck really hard, fight, hit, and block shots that can upset the fabric of opposing players. The softness of certain players needs to be removed from the Devils roster, and they need to add that grit and sandpaper to play well on the 2024-2025 team.