Devils Hiring Andrew Brunette Is a Solid Move

The New Jersey Devils made a good hire in Andrew Brunette, signing him to a three-year contract on July 13 to be an associate coach. He assumed the role of interim head coach with the Florida Panthers early last season and went 51-18-6, leading them to win the Atlantic Division and Presidents’ Trophy before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite his success last season, they named Paul Maurice their head coach on June 22.

The Panthers’ loss may end up being the Devils’ gain as Brunette will bring his recent head coaching experience to a franchise looking to break its postseason drought in 2022-23. He was a finalist for the 2022 Jack Adams Award due to his success as an interim head coach and has the opportunity to make an impact behind the bench for the Devils. Let’s take a look at why adding him was such a solid move for Tom Fitzgerald and company.

Brunette Has Previous Coaching & Front Office Experience

Brunette was an assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild before his stint with the Panthers. He coached with them for two seasons beginning in 2014-15 before becoming the assistant general manager (GM) until the end of 2018-19. They qualified for the postseason in four of the five seasons when he was with the club.

Related: Panthers’ Brunette Should Win Jack Adams Award Despite Playoff Struggles

The Panthers were successful during the regular season with Brunette, as they won their first postseason series since the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs when he was the interim head coach. He commented on last year’s success, “I learned a lot. I think I will take it with me and grow as a coach. I love this group and I believe in it. I believe in them and am really proud of what they have accomplished. I think there is more.”

Andrew Brunette Florida Panthers
Andrew Brunette, New Jersey Devils associate coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brunette commented further about the learning process of being a head coach, “There’s all kinds of little things you learn. I was very fortunate that we had such a great year. And when things don’t go right, I think I would learn to trust my instincts, and maybe shut the noise down from everybody else. And I’m a little disappointed in myself for a few little things there. And I’ll be better wherever, whenever as a coach overall for it. But I think you learn so much and more how to manage situations in the actual game itself. I felt game management, I felt good. I just think there’s other things that I need to manage a little better.”

Brunette May Be a Candidate To Succeed Ruff As Devils Head Coach

Lindy Ruff has not turned around a franchise that has missed the postseason in nine of the last ten seasons, including the previous two years in which he has been behind the bench as the Devils’ head coach. The organization has been inconsistent to this point led by its core of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Dougie Hamilton. If they get off to a slow start next year, there may be speculation that they may benefit from another voice to lead them and Brunette could be in a position to be an interim head coach again.

Brunette presents a fresh perspective for the Devils and will learn from working with Ruff to become more experienced as a coach. He will be dealing with a younger group of players than he did with the Panthers and will look to help them take the next step to compete for a playoff spot next year. He has also been a part of successful teams previously in his coaching career and will look to repeat that next season.

The Devils are looking to snap their long skid of missing the postseason by starting to qualify regularly beginning in 2022-23. The hiring of Brunette will give them a coach coming off of a successful run as an interim head coach that included a Presidents’ Trophy-winning regular season and a playoff series win last year. He will learn from his mistakes in his previous coaching role and aim to make a difference on their coaching staff. If he makes a good impression next season, he could increase his chances of becoming a head coach of a franchise within the next few seasons. Whether that is with the Devils remains uncertain given Ruff’s position as the current head coach, but they nonetheless made a coaching addition that will benefit them in the short term.


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