NHL

LeBrun: Devils coach Lindy Ruff on ‘Sorry Lindy’ chants, his future, texts to players, more

LeBrun: Devils coach Lindy Ruff on ‘Sorry Lindy’ chants, his future, texts to players, more

TORONTO – “Fire Lindy,” they chanted two games into the season.

“Sorry Lindy,” they chanted last Saturday, just three weeks later.

Chants like the first one are common around sports. The second? Players at devils The bench couldn’t clear up what the fans were saying until after the game, but they loved it once they found out.

“During the game, everyone looks at each other and says, ‘What are they yelling?’ We didn’t get it,” Blueliner Devils Damon Severson he said Thursday. “And after the game, we realized it and we talked about it in the room. It’s pretty funny. Obviously, we started 0-2 and then we’ve been hot ever since. They wanted blood, I guess, to start the season and now they’re apologizing. So at least they’re being honest.”

They apologized to the coach, to be exact.

And it seemed a little early, with only two games, that the fan base was turning on Ruff, but to be fair, expectations are higher for this season and the Devils have a fan base that has been waiting patiently this change – the moment of the corner of this reconstruction.

“We have very passionate fans. Their expectations are high for obvious reasons,” Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said Thursday. “They grew up with the Marty Brodeurs, Scott Stevenses and Scott Niedermayers of the world, and winners.

“But more importantly, the fans recognized, ‘Maybe we were wrong.’ Often.

“But Lindy, take away all the numbers and all the years and all the experience, she’s a great person.”

Ruff, 62, has developed a pretty thick skin after all these years behind the bench in a career that has him first among assets. NHL coaches in wins and fifth all-time.

He’s been hired and fired and won a Jack Adams Award in between. Been there, done that, put that on.

Still, hearing fans chant “Fire Lindy” just two games into the season was hard to ignore.

“I’d actually like to put it behind me and move on,” Ruff said The Athletic Thursday. “You know, it bothers your kids. But I told them, ‘There are things in all these years that have bothered you.’ Put on that tough skin.”

He also managed to frustrate the fans with the 0-2. “I really did. We’ve had a really good preseason. We’ve signed some players. Our expectations went up.”

That Devils fans turned around and said “sorry” three weeks later? However. And it’s not something you see often.

“I think that part is fascinating, yes,” Ruff said with a laugh. “But I think that to be able to do that, we’ve been on such an incredible run, I don’t know if in other situations where they’ve been booing the coach they’ve been able to turn around and run. of this magnitude”.

Well, there’s that. An 11-game winning streak will silence many critics.

What’s also intriguing about all of this is that Ruff has an expiring deal. Who knows what the future holds after the season?

Not that the fact that he’s a pending unrestricted free agent worries him.

“No, I’m very comfortable with it,” Ruff said. “I have a great relationship with Tom. When we went into this, I knew exactly where I was going to be. No, that’s the furthest thing from my mind. By far.”

Fitzgerald said having his coach on an expiring deal shouldn’t be a big deal for anyone. And it’s certainly not something the general manager and coach have spent much time talking about.

“We haven’t talked about it, to be honest with you,” Fitzgerald said. “The way I see contracts, I mean, I’ve been on one-year contracts as a player. It’s part of your job. It’s part of the sport.

“For me, I have the right to continue to evaluate where we are. I have very good people, things are going very well, but in my opinion there is no rush. These things are taken care of anyway.”

There are people in the hockey world who wondered what it meant for Ruff’s future when Andrew Brunette, a Jack Adams finalist last season with the panthers, was hired as an associate coach last summer after his surprising exit at South Florida. The obvious narrative reading between the lines was that Brunette could be part of a succession plan.

On the other hand, as my TSN colleague Darren Dreger tweeted earlier this week, Brunette has an opt-out clause in his deal that allows him to leave for a head coaching job elsewhere if this offer materializes this season.

One thing I was interested in, because of his age and because coaching in the NHL has never been more difficult, is whether Ruff thinks he’ll still have the burning desire to continue as a head coach after this season.

Ruff answered without a second’s hesitation.

“I want to continue,” he said. “I’m healthy, I feel good, so just try to keep at it. I love the game too much. I think that’s why I’m still here.”

So who really knows where this is headed?

All we know for now is that Ruff is coaching one of the most exciting teams in the NHL. It’s a team that reminds me a bit of those fast and fun ones you will know teams that Ruff coached after the 2005 lockout.

“Yeah, I think there’s a lot of similarities,” Ruff said. “And I think to be able to play that way, you have to have the manpower.”

Devils come at you in waves. The team has four lines deep.

It’s also a young team. One thing I always wonder about in today’s NHL is how the older coaches relate to these young players.

It’s a weird thing to ask, I know, but I was curious as to how Ruff communicates with them.

“I have a good time with them, whether it’s texting, or if we’re talking about Instagram or Snapchat or something,” Ruff said with a laugh. “They say, ‘Do you have these things?’ I say, “Of course I have these things.” Gotta keep an eye on you guys.”

Seriously, you can’t leave a voicemail anymore.

“If you tag a player now, there’s a good chance you’ll get a voicemail that’s not set up,” Ruff said. “So you know. The best way to get them is to text them. I’ll text a player after the game, the odd time, about what he did well. The best way to getting a response is the text. Making a phone call is almost obsolete now.”

The main reason Fitzgerald brought in Ruff is his ability to develop young players. And this is clearly happening in front of everyone’s eyes.

The key to this for Ruff is relationships.

“You can know the X’s and the O’s very well, but you really have to know your players,” Ruff said. “That’s more important than anything. Shut down the computer, get to know your players. I take a lot of pride in trying to get to most of the guys every day or every other day. Just skate and talk to them about the game, talk about where they play, talk about why we’re changing lines, what we’re looking at, what they can do better.

“I think if you’re approachable and honest with them, sometimes they don’t like to hear what you’re telling them, but most of the time they accept it.

“More importantly, when they talk to you, make sure you listen to them, that you understand that their point of view can count for something, too.”

(Photo: Ed Mulholland / USA Today)





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