NHL Rumors: The Coaching Hot Seat with New Jersey Devils Lindy Ruff

Sportsnet: Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek on the 32 Thoughts: The Podcast – Red Hot Behind the Bench talking about coaches who may be on the hot seat.

** NHLRumors.com transcription

Marek: “So today, I want to start off the show with this. So, last week I texted an NHL coach and I just said, I want to ask you one question and this is the question, ‘what is the biggest issue facing coaches today?’

Here’s the response: “I think the question of what really measures job security. We see winning coaches let go. We see losing coaches let go when their team wasn’t built to win. I think teams that exercise patience with players and coaches get rewarded one way or another. Trotz in Nashville. Bednar in Colorado. Cooper in Tampa. Sadly we live in a world where the first finger that is pointed is always at the coach, no matter if it’s at the pro level or your kids games. We choose our jobs. It is our reality that we accept.”

“And right now Elliotte, even a couple games in, there are coaches that are feeling it. It’s hot seat time already.”

Friedman: “First of all, I can tell that note came from a coach because it’s a coach who wants tenure contract. Like Trotz got or Cooper got or Jared Bednar’s going to get too.

Holy self-serving Batman, although I totally understand. I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong. I really don’t necessarily think it’s wrong but I think it’s a very self-serving note. That would be like me saying, ‘how do you evaluate a broadcaster? Well, you give them a 40-year contract and see at the end if it gets better. That person, he or she, they got better. Great value.”

Marek: “But it is hot seats as bizarre as it is. Here we are recording this podcast on a Sunday evening, 6:27 Eastern , and there are a couple coaches, the turtle neck is a little tight around the neck.”

Friedman: “That was tough to watch in New Jersey on Saturday night. It really was. I would say first of all, I don’t get mad at the fans for this . Fans are fans. They pay their money and the Devils have some very loyal fans who want to see wins.

It’s like you kind of said there, we know the rules going in. If you don’t win, that’s eventually going to happen at some point. Whether they target a coach or an executive or a player, that’s going to happen.

I still found it tough to watch. Here’s my thing with Lindy Ruff. Lindy Ruff became a head coach in the NHL in Buffalo around the time my TV career started. I was in radio before he became a head coach but I started in television at Headline Sports, now theScore, about the same time he was hired by the Buffalo Sabres.

So I’ve dealt with Lindy Ruff a lot over the last 25 years, and yeah, he can be crusty sometimes, like who isn’t, but generally, he’s been very blunt, very honest. If you ask him a question, you’re getting a very honest answer whether you like it or not. And from a professional standpoint, I’ve always enjoyed my time dealing with him. So, it’s kind of like I have a soft spot for Ruff because my career in TV mirrors his time as an NHL coach, I kind of have that thing.

I understand this. When you’re getting the results you’re getting, that can happen, and what did we both say in our preview pod? That the expectations were on in Jersey this year. I don’t know if they really believe they were going to make up 30 points and get to the playoffs but I do think they looked at it as, this is a year where they battle and are in the race. They’re 0-2. It’s way too early, however, you can sense how tense it is there. You really can.

This was a year where New Jersey was supposed to take a jump. And the other thing that happened is, they brought in Andrew Brunette. Now, it may be innocent. Andrew Brunette did a really nice job in a difficult circumstance last year. There are some people who felt he wasn’t treated properly. Whatever the case is, you bring him into New Jersey. You think you’re making yourself better. You hope you’re making yourself better. But it’s impossible to not look at it and say, ‘alright, you got a coach in waiting, who already was in a tough spot, you’ve got a coach who’s in a tough spot, because if the Devils lose, the pressure is going to be on.’

It’s a situation that you knew could ignite. It took us three days basically and it ignited.

Marek: “But hang on, I think part of this too is, last season, what was it, early-to-mid May, both Mark Recchi and Alaine Nessradine were removed from the bench as well.”

Friedman: “Yes, that’s true.”

Marek: “So, I don’t want to say that, that’s chumming the waters but when, we’ve seen this before, when a head coach has his assistants taken away, generally it’s a prelude to something else.”

Friedman: “Yes. At the end of the day, there’s one thing that matters here. The expectations were high, and again, it’s early but we say this. We all looked and said, if New Jersey doesn’t have a good year, there could be consequences. And this is a really tough spot for an organization to be in because you want to give your coach time to find his way and the teams way, and if you make a change, people are going to look at you and say, ‘why didn’t you just do it last year? You didn’t give him a chance, two games for example.’

But if this doesn’t turn around fast, You can see it coming.”

Marek: “Here’s the thing. When the fans turn on the coach. I know you shouldn’t let fans make your decision for you. I understand that. Brian Burke made this point about Ron Wilson, at a certain point, it becomes cruel. An unusual punishment. You can’t put your coach through that.

Like, look, I’m hoping the New Jersey Devils turn this thing around fast. I like the New Jersey Devils. I want this team to do really well. I’ve been saying to watch New Jersey for a few years now. Eventually, I’m going to be right. There’s a lot of players I like on this team. I really hope that they turn it around. I just know when fans have one thing in their mind and sometimes to you’re point, they’ll pick. Like in Toronto traditionally it’s always, the fans will pick a defenseman to get on, and then that’s it.”

Friedman: “That’s never happened.”

Marek: “The Leafs fans will pick a defenseman and that will be representative of everything that’s wrong with your organization. When fans get a hold of a coach, it’s almost as if, unless you just keep ripping off wins, there’s not a hole lot you can do.

Friedman: “And the thing should be mentioned is, asked about it, Ruff ate it. He ate it.

  •  Ruff when asked about the crowds chants, calling for his job: “You know what, that’s part of the business. We’ve got passionate fans here. They’re used to winning. That’s part of my business. That’s part of my job. That’s, I take full responsibility for when this team loses. Great history here. The fans want “W’s” up on the board. It’s as simple as that.”

You can’t lash out. If you lash out, it’s the end. You have no more wiggle room.”

** NHLRumors.com transcription