The New York Rangers made a different kind splash on day two of the NHL Entry Draft by reportedly hiring Lindy Ruff.
As rumored a few weeks ago, Lindy Ruff reportedly will be joining Alain Vigneault’s coaching staff. He will replace Jeff Beukeboom as the New York Rangers’ defense coach.
Ruff was the main man at the helm for the Buffalo Sabres for 14 years before being let go during the 2013 NHL season. Ruff then took his talents to the Dallas Stars for the last four seasons. As a player, Ruff skated for both the Sabres and the Rangers.
After the conclusion of last season where the Stars missed the playoffs, Dallas opted not to re-sign Ruff.
As a head coach in Buffalo and Dallas, Ruff’s teams made the playoffs in 10 of his 18 full seasons. Like Vigneault, Ruff has never held Lord Stanley’s mug but has a Finals appearance on his resume, albeit all the way back in 1999.
With Ruff behind the bench, he joins Scott Arniel as another former head coach on the Rangers coaching staff. The two also reunite after their time in Buffalo, where Arniel was an assistant.
The Rangers’ front office clearly thought that Beukeboom wasn’t an adequate replacement for the departed Ulf Samuelsson. However, this is not the end of the line for Beukeboom, as per Larry Brooks.
What does Ruff bring?
Ruff brings a lot of experience to the Rangers’ coaching staff. His 1493 regular season games coached and 736 wins rank fourth and fifth in NHL history, respectively.
For a coach that will be responsible for the defense, PK and potentially more, the move is a little confusing. In his last four seasons in Dallas, Ruff’s teams have let in the third most goals over that time-frame, behind only Edmonton and Toronto. The Stars also ranked 28th on the penalty kill over that span. (Stats courtesy of NHL.com)
Granted, Dallas’ defensive woes can’t be mentioned without noting their notoriously shaky goaltending. Additionally, Dallas has been known as an offensive powerhouse, scoring the second-most goals in the league over the past four seasons.
Furthermore, this seemed to be the cause of his exit in Dallas, per Mike Heika of SportsDay:
"And to be fair in the criticism, Ruff always wanted more goals. It was a consistent part of his daily message, and a reason the team seemed to always be chasing more offense.[…]Jim Nill said the search for a new coach will begin immediately, and Dallas probably will land a bench boss with a more defensive history"
This only makes the Rangers decision of hiring Ruff to be their defense coach more confusing.
What this means for the Rangers
The Rangers’ need to shakeup their defense after last season. Their numerous meltdowns late in games in the playoffs directly led to their early exit. The penalty kill, which started off strong last season, unraveled down the stretch, ending at 19th in the league at 79.8%.
The Rangers already signaled changes by buying out Dan Girardi and trading for Anthony DeAngelo. The hiring of Ruff is the next domino to fall, indicating that the front office clearly recognized that the status quo could not be maintained.
At the surface, it might seem that the Rangers’ front office could look to have Ruff replace Vigneault. However, given Vigneault’s extension last season, this is likely not the case.
It is unknown how much control Beukeboom had over the team’s defensive deployment or how much was Vigneault’s doing. Either way, the Rangers must hope that with Ruff, the teams’ defensemen will be deployed more optimally next season.