When demons open training camp tomorrowHead coach Lindy Raff will begin his third season behind the Devils bench. Arguably his time in the position is one of the biggest questions for the Devils this season. Raff, who is it Entering the last year From his 3-year contract, he was clearly in the hot seat by the end of last season, and although he did get a reprieve, his lieutenants weren’t so lucky, with Mark Rickey and Alan Nasreddin both Show the door in this off season. One of the men chosen to replace the aforementioned assistants just happened to walk out of a season where he was the interim coach Florida Panthers Cup Winner-You know, no pressure or anything. The consensus among the hockey media is definitely that writing is on the wall for Lindy. The athlete featured a piece last July that polled the NHL’s book of predictions for the 2022-23 season. In response to the question, who would be the first coach to be fired, Raff was the runaway winner with Almost 32% of the vote.
The team has been absolutely successful during Rove’s tenure 46-76-16 in 138 matches, good for a win ratio of 0.391. Thus, when the management chose to keep it, it surely led to some bewilderment among Demon Enthusiasts. In the eyes of GM Tom Fitzgerald and the rest of the front office, the reason for keeping the Braff likely came from a combination of several different factors.
In each of his first two seasons, Raff could point to some solid excuses for his team’s place in the standings. In his rookie season, COVID crushed them and dealt with injuries that derailed the season of their soon-to-be captain Nico Hescher. Last season, the team as a whole performed well but had a poor goalkeeper history, inexplicably poor play, and again suffered injuries to key players, including the two top goalkeepers, Hughes and Doji Hamilton. See the Devils’ rankings across the different categories.
There are only three categories where they are not an average team (50% middle of the league): goals against, power-to-play percentage, and goal. In a league where mediocre is enough to get you through the playoffs and in a team where expectations basically aren’t awkward, Ruff’s average performance was far from exceeding potential expectations.
Now, injuries are inevitable. Chances are, at least one important player will miss a handful of matches this year as well, but poor health has been the subject of the Devils during Rove’s tenure as head coach. With any luck, he’ll be able to show what he can do with a healthier slate this season, but regardless, if the results aren’t any better, it’s clear that Raff will pack his bags. In addition to health, there is the financial side of things. As I mentioned earlier, Ruff is in the final year of his contract and it is likely that the property simply does not want to pay Ruff to sit at home and pay someone else to do his work. It’s also possible that it helped the Raf case that the star of the team was a superstar Candid in his support of Raf’s return for another year. This is understandable. Whether or not Ruff had anything to do with it, Hughes has gone from a disappointing rookie season to a rising star over the past two seasons. As I mentioned last week, a handful of other players are also exiting career seasons. It’s hard not to think that training did not play at least some role in this.
As you can probably tell, I’m somewhat conflicted about Rove. I think he’s a serviceable coach, maybe even above average, and he’s taken the helm of a bad team that had bad luck. During his tenure, the young players of the team grew by leaps and bounds, perhaps he had a small role in this development. As frustrating as it was last year, I’m fine with him getting another chance. But while I think it has been dealt with in a difficult way, I admit that at some point he needs to really start winning a few games, even if it’s in less than ideal circumstances. This is not just about running out of opportunities. Part of the reason to keep his services is that you don’t want to make a change without having a backup plan. I feel so much better moving on from Ruff if things don’t go well this year knowing they have a clear and competent replacement in Andrew Brun.
One thing we don’t know the answer to is how quickly this trigger will be pulled if things go wrong. In the extreme it is the end of Peter Laviollette’s tenure with the Flyers. He was sent off after 0-3 initially in 2013. I doubt Fitzgerald would do that to Raff, but Brunette’s presence suggests the coach won’t be given half a season to figure things out. Especially since Fitzgerald will likely have his own job to worry about if the Devils can’t live up to the mediocre this season. Expectations and context will still factor into that decision, but if Fitzgerald starts to feel his seat overheating, it will start to become less and less important and I don’t think the .800 sub-target and Hughes’ leg amputation will save Ruff. Work if the team starts 5-10-5.
Hopefully we don’t have to think about any of this. Hopefully the Devils can turn things around this year and we won’t have to think about training changes until the end of the next season at the earliest. But the pressure is on and if the team is slow out of the gate, one of the first questions on everyone’s mind will be how much rope Lindy Raff has left.