Hockey TacticsIrresponsible Rumormongering

The Devils hiring Lindy Ruff doesn’t solve the Rangers defense issues

In case you missed it, Lindy Ruff –despite his documented issues as a defense coachis a front runner for the head coaching job with the New Jersey Devils. Believe it or not, he has a legitimate shot at the job, per Elliotte Friedman.

Ruff came to the Rangers at the end of the Alain Vigneault era, and has had terrible results as the coach in charge of the defense. He deserves a lot of blame for the defense issues that have plagued the Rangers. Or does he?

Ok yes he does, but not all of it.

Miscast In His Role

That is something to be very wary of. While Ruff has never been a good defensive coach, his weaknesses were exacerbated in New York. It’s pretty clear that Ruff is miscast as an assistant coach in charge of defense. I made a crack that it is comparable to putting me in charge of jersey colors.

AV never had strong defenses, relying almost entirely on elite goaltending with the Rangers and Vancouver. It’s a little bit tougher to gauge David Quinn due to a number of factors (team quality, tenure), but he hasn’t had good results either. In both of those situations, a strong defensive coach is needed to, at the very least, get the most out of his players.

It Wasn’t His System (primer)

This one we should know – the head coach runs the system he wants. AV ran a hybrid overload/man coverage in the defensive zone. This system was great at pressuring the go-zone between the top of the circle and the blue line, but was extraordinarily susceptible to sustained pressure.

DQ gives up the blue line by design. That is something AV didn’t do, so it’s clear the system changed despite the defensive coach staying the same. Assistant coaches operate within the system of the head coach. It’s an important point to understand.

The Team Had Flaws

Let’s be real, Ruff didn’t get here when the Rangers were at their peak. Marc Staal aged beyond usefulness. Kevin Shattenkirk tore his meniscus and never recovered. The Rangers went into a rebuild halfway through his first season.

The best defensemen Ruff had for more than half a season were Brady Skjei and Tony DeAngelo. It wasn’t until this year that the Blueshirts actually built a somewhat competent base around them. It’s no surprise that with better personnel –and some time to adjust– the Rangers started turning it around in December.

Yet He Still Had Issues

The point of a coach is to get the most out of his players. That was something Ruff could not do. We got a solid game and a half of McDonagh-Shattenkirk. We got Staal-Holden rammed down our throats. Rob O’Gara got a better shot than Ryan Graves. This list goes on, but it’s not everything.

If the Devils hire Ruff, it is certainly addition by subtraction for the Rangers. They need a coach that can get the best out of a defense core that is still learning at the NHL level. But Lindy Ruff going to New Jersey won’t magically solve all that ails the Rangers defense. The funny thing here is the timing of his rumored departure. The Rangers are on the upswing, and it’s entirely possible they become contenders sooner rather than later.

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  • I would rather have a shot for new head coach. I love Gallant, I wouldn’t mind Peter L. I would bring MSL or Jag as assistants b/c their experience of the game and being so long mentors to youth. As for Ruff, I don’t real care b/c he isn’t the guy making decisions, especially under DQ.

    • You’re going to have a hc who wants his type of players regardless of a coach change. This team isn’t built for vet coaches like Peter L. The Rangers aren’t built for his style of play that consist of 4 lines and run and gun. I much rather have AV back than those other names… DQ is a good coach, his system doesn’t hold back elite talent, the zone D should help give Shesty another layer of protection for the future. The team plays hard for him, any shortcoming is due to talent and leadership which he can’t fix.

  • We don’t know how good or bad Lindy Ruff has been. I don’t believe the defensive shortcomings can be blamed on him. As stated, he sure didn’t have the players. I’ve always thought that if Ruff wasn’t doing a damn good job, DQ, JD and JG most certainly would have shown him the door. In my mind, Mr Ruff is an ultimate professional and has been nothing but classy since he has been with the Rangers…

    • Who was Ruff suppose to put out after Zib and Fast got done with a pk shift? Lias Andersson? Howden? Chytil? Lol

      This rebuild would have looked really poor if Panarin didn’t show up… They drafted two center’s in the 1st rd and grabbing Tampa’s center prospect all within one summer almost 5 years ago. It’s 2020 and as of today Chytil can’t pk or cement a place on the PP2, Howden can’t PP or cement a place on the PK2 and Andersson still can hardly look good on the 4th line.

  • it’s a good time to replace parts that can be replaced.

    I wonder who is out there that could be a good addition and coach the D

  • IMHO, it’s simply that sports fans in general (maybe even people in general) want to have someone to blame if their team (or their job, or their relationships, whatever) doesn’t meet their expectations, and once a finger gets pointed at a likely suspect, there’s a rush to jump on the bandwagon. From that point on, momentum builds until the anointed scapegoat just has to go, voluntarily or otherwise. I’m not saying that Ruff’s a great defensive coach, but, like Dave says, there were a number of other factors at play, and probably even more than he mentioned, things that for one reason or another never surfaced publicly.

  • I have not been pleased with Ruff, but the Rangers’ defensive woes were not all of his making. AV’s system worked pretty well when the Rangers were a bit younger on defense, but markedly less well as they aged.

    With Quinn, Ruff had a few youngsters thrown in there along with an injured Shatty and an even older Staal. So it is not like he had a great deal to work with there either.

    Hey, what happened in December is that the defensive corps jelled a bit. They have much better talent on defense now even though Staal isn’t getting any better. But with guys like Tony D, Trouba and Fox, who can all move the puck, and Lindgren too, Staal is called upon to do less and is better at doing the things he is responsible for.

    I expect that the Rangers’ defense will be better, more like it was after last December, even if Ruff remains. If I were the Rangers I’d probably put Brendan Smith with Trouba for now unless they try Tony on the left side. All will not be lost if Ruff continues to coach defense. Of course, if they could get a better coach in who can work with the type of puck movers they have it would be better.

  • “The Devils hiring Lindy Ruff doesn’t solve the Rangers defense issues”

    Let’s try it and see.

  • Again, I think this D will continue to improve regardless of who “runs” the defense … maturation (Tony D, Fox, Lindgren) , familiarity (Trouba) and the better play overall from the younger forwards (Chytil, Howden, Gauthier, etc.), but for it to make real strides at some point they need to replace Staal and Smith —- and that isn’t to suggest they haven’t played adequately well at times this season, but we’re just about the point where the older, less mobile, d’men need to step aside for some younger, quicker, blood. It may not be next season — unless Miller and/or Robertson surprises us, unless Hajek takes a step forward, but it’s coming.

    There will be hiccups along the way, but in time this will be formidable d’ corp no matter who is controlling them. That said, Ruff has never been a defense-oriented coach. He’ll never quite get the most of out them. I have my issues with DQ, but if we’re really going to give him a chance then it’s important that he goes out and gets “his guy”. It should be his call, one way or another — then we’ll find out if he’s a SC wannabe coach or a SC coach.

  • Actually Ruff was a capable defensive mind as HC of Buffalo. It was his offensive limitations as coach that sunk some good teams.

    • Or was that mostly a function of great goaltending, first by Hasek and then by Ryan Miller in his prime?

  • Lindy rough leaving can’t her defense either hopefully Quinn can bring one of his young defensive gurus in here to work with guys

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