Former Rangers assistant coach Lindy Ruff was introduced by the Devils as their new head coach Thursday, in a Zoom teleconference in which the Devils also removed the interim tag from Tom Fitzgerald and named him their permanent general manager.
Devils co-owner David Blitzer said Fitzgerald, who took over as interim GM after Ray Shero was fired in January, performed well in that role and was allowed to take the lead in selecting the new coach to replace John Hynes, who had been fired in December. Fitzgerald said Ruff, an assistant since 2017 with the Rangers, was the choice because he was looking for someone who had NHL head coaching experience and would be a good teacher for a young Devils team.
“Someone who’s been there, done that, and could walk into a room and actually grab the attention of our young team,’’ Fitzgerald said.
Ruff, 60, coached the Buffalo Sabres for 15 years, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in his second season at the helm in the 1998-99 season. He won Coach of the Year honors in 2005-06.
He coached the Dallas Stars for four seasons before he was let go in 2017. After he was fired he joined Alain Vigneault’s staff with the Rangers as an assistant, and after Vigneault was fired a year later, he stayed on as an assistant for David Quinn the last two seasons.
Ruff thanked the Rangers for the opportunity to be part of the organization, and called his time with the team “a rebuild.’’ He said he enjoyed being able to work individually with the young Rangers defensemen in a way he couldn’t when he was a head coach. He said during his time as an assistant he learned better how to communicate with young players.
“I think when I went to New York, my first thought was, ‘This may be a year, and I’ll get back behind the bench’ [as a head coach],’’ he said. “I think sometimes you need a break. I looked at this as a break; I looked at this as an opportunity to get better; to challenge myself to communicate better with younger players . . . to really have fun as an assistant coach.’’
The Rangers, who open training camp Monday and will be among the 12 teams going to Toronto for the NHL’s 2019-20 restart, will bring up Hartford Wolf Pack assistant coach Gord Murphy to take over Ruff’s responsibilities.