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Lindy Ruff Looking Forward to Influx of Experience on Roster | FEATURE

There’s a saying that if leadership isn’t everywhere, it’s really nowhere.

And the Devils have certainly acquired an abundance of it over the summer.

The quote was used by Devils head coach Lindy Ruff, shared in an exclusive off-season interview after the transformation of his roster.

There will be an influx of experience into the Devils lineup when Ruff opens camp in just a few short weeks. Whether it’s the young Devils core one year older, or new additions acquired in the off-season, the 23-man roster will have a different feel to it this year.

Ondrej Palat, Brendan Smith and Erik Haulathree of the players who joined the group this off-season are going to provide just that by the experience of playing games alone.

Palat is a veteran of 628 games, Smith 571, and Haula 532. They each, along with their 500-plus games of experience, bring with them a wealth of qualities that should coalesce with the group already identified as the Devils. young core.

But they provide much more than that.

Palat, it is no secret, brings the championship pedigree.

“He’s going to be big-time for us,” Ruff was quick to note. “When you bring a guy that has championship pedigree into the dressing room, he knows what it takes to win, knows what it takes to win in a tight game. He was right there knocking on the door for a third championship. [H]is game elevates when he gets in the tougher games.

“His playoff numbers are better than his regular season numbers,” he continued, “So, you put a guy like that inside the dressing room and he knows the price he has to pay, he knows the selflessness that you have to play with at times to win a game.”

On the back-end, Ruff has first-hand experience working with Smith and knows the type of character that will be injected into the group.

“In Smith’s case,” shared Ruff, “you know, I knew him when I was up in New York, real good guy, he’ll be a great guy in the dressing room, really upbeat. He’s a guy that’s really honest with himself about how he plays. And, you know, he takes, he takes a lot of pride in trying to be better, and he knows when he plays bad and he understands that at times like that, then we need him to be better, but he’s a guy that inside the dressing room will be good for everybody.”

And Haula?

“A lot of determination, a lot of grit, plays with an edge,” Ruff described, “he makes us a harder team.”

Having some sandpaper around the edges could help bring this team to a new level. Haula, who plays a gritty style of game, will be an important cog in bringing the indomitable spirit to the team.

“I think the one thing we talked about is the level of skill we had [last season]and it’s just the level of pushback sometimes that you need, he will help elevate everybody else in that room.”

As will a healthy Miles Wood. The 26-year-old missed the majority of last season recovering from hip surgery, playing in just three games. He’s a player whose absence on multiple occasions during the 2021-22 season was identified as a hole that is difficult to fill, which left a void on the roster. Now, with a One-year contract agreed between the Devils and WoodRuff has high hopes.

“Oh, really looking forward to that,” he said, asked about Wood being healthy, “I think we saw, or I had a real good look at what, what he can do and a difference he can make inside of the game when he’s healthy, since two years ago.Miles can be a big part of our team.

“He plays the game the way you want to play it, we want to pressure the puck, we want to be fast,” continued Ruff, “and when he’s on his game, he’s one of our best net-front guys. So, there’s three great elements that Miles adds to our game. The physicality, the speed, and the fact that he gets to the net front.”

Defenseman John Marino and goaltender Vitek Vanecek Don’t have the same amount of experience in games played as the three other additions, but both players who joined the Devils through off-season trades, assist in rounding out a roster with further competitive balance. Marino comes from a defensive group with the Pittsburgh Penguins, plays the right side, and is highly competitive, Vanecek was in constant competition with Ilya Samsonov for the crease in Washington.

“Marino plays a solid two-way game. I think we’ve added experience. We’ve added two guys [in Smith and Marino] that away from the puck can defend well.”

In the case of Vanecek and goaltending, Ruff doesn’t shy away from communicating his expectations for the position this season. Vanecek and a healthy Mackenzie Blackwood could provide the necessary stability at the position, and the ability to pick up more points in the standings. No longer do we see the days of the No. 1 goaltender carrying the 70-game load but a one-two punch of Blackwood and Vanecek should be an area of ​​strength.

“We really need two guys,” Ruff said. He’s had conversations with Martin Brodeur about the position, and that has become the consensus. Long gone are the days of a Brodeur playing 78 games, the scheduling simply does not allow for it, and neither does the grueling nature of the current game. “We need two guys to step in and be ready to be consistent and make a difference for us.”

Because when a team has reliable goaltending, it resonates from the position on out.

The backbone to try and get anywhere for the most part in this league is you’ve got to have consistent goaltending,” he said, “And then you improve all the areas around it. You know what your strength is, our strength is our speed and some of our offensive creativity. But we want to play to that, but at the same time, we want to improve some of our play away from the puck, so these guys don’t face quite as many chances as they had in the past.”

The speed and creativity come from the core of captain Nico Hischierof Jack Hughes and Jesper Brattof Yegor Sharangovich. The group that surrounds them now is growing in experience and depth, which makes for a stronger all-around team.

It means as these players will continue to drive each other to be better, leadership is coming from everywhere.

“My expectation is to let the players play to their capabilities but understand there are times to put aside the personal goals and the team goals are coming first. And that team goal is to make sure that this team gets to the playoffs and that’s the biggest. goal I have.”

Additional Comments:

On a healthy Dougie Hamilton:

“I mean, we saw the pre-injury and the post-injury and it really speaks for itself. You know, we need a healthy Dougie. And I think you know being limited, breaking the jaw, having a mask on, trying to play catch up after that, I think he understands he felt like the pre and the post was a big difference. And he’s spending a lot of time getting ready for the season and wants to be that guy that we saw before the injury.”

On Dawson Mercer‘s upcoming second season:

“There’s lots of cases where players you know, come off a first year and maybe there’s a drop-off. But there’s lots of cases where the player maintains where he’s at, improves, knows where his games got to get to. And then the conversations I’ve had with Dawson, he totally understands. I think he understands that in some ways he was lucky to put in a full year in his first year, had ups and downs, but does play the game the right way. You know he thinks the game the right way, has incredible vision when he has the puck, not afraid to hang on to it. And his two-way game is good. So you know, he’s got a lot of good things going. Like any young player, needs to improve like needs to get stronger, needs more endurance in his game and that comes with you know, with getting a year older. I think you’ve seen that with Jack Hughes, you saw where Jack Hughes was in year one and where he went to in year three and I’d love to put the Dawson on that type of path where he just keeps on getting bett er.”

On new coaching staff:

Ryan McGill:

“Ryan’s got a big history of junior hockey and working with young players. [He] spent the last five years in Vegas and worked with [Zach] Whitecloud, [Shea] Theodore then some of the defensemen there that I think have made great strides. He’s got a lot of experience, he’s a guy that understands that you know, to grow, there’s gonna be mistakes but he’s been able to help a lot of the young defensemen that were in Vegas grow, he’s got great energy, real passionate about the game, just a real good hockey man.”

Andrew Brown:

“[When he] stepped in for Joel [Quenneville] down in Florida, did a great job. Their team and our team you know really played a similar style. I think if you look at the early when we had in our building, and then the late disappointing loss on the offensive side of it, you know, both teams, a lot of skill, a lot of speed, create a lot of opportunities. And you look at that Florida roster that he was handling like we said a real good roster, he was able to maintain that and get that team to win consistently on a nightly basis.

“I’m really excited about him coming in. In some ways, we were handed a guy who’s again, really passionate about the game, loves coaching, loves working with players, and now he’s got an opportunity to work with Nico, with Jack , to be a real good power play guy for us. So, it’s something that sort of fell into our hands.”