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It Takes A Big Fan To Admit They Were Wrong

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 08: Lindy Ruff of the New Jersey Devils looks on during the second period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Prudential Center on March 8, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images

I am a sports fan and I am always right. I know how to run a team better than any of those bums who do it for a living. I could easily construct a Stanley Cup-winning roster and also a Super Bowl champion and convince the Padres to trade Juan Soto for three 50 prospects, all while on hold with WFAN’s overnight call-in show. Every time I yell “shoot” while my team cycles on the power play, they would have scored if they had just listened to me. When I’m three beers deep, I’m even more right. And when I and 16,000 of my fellow amateur GMs decide to chant something? That’s the rightest we’ve ever been.

Thus things were not looking great for New Jersey Devils coach Lindy Ruff a month ago. Ruff had been brought in on a three-year deal to do what he does—start the turnaround for a team on the rise—but he had not done so. His first two seasons in Newark had been injury-wracked disappointments, even as the Devils kept stockpiling talent. This had to be the year, if only for his employment’s sake. But the Devs lost their first two, including a home opener at which Ruff was visibly surprised to hear himself booed during introductions.

At the end of that game, fans were chanting “Fire Lindy,” and they weren’t shy about it. Ruff, in the last year of his contract, was firmly on the hot seat. And then a funny thing happened: The Devils just stopped losing. After that 0-2-0 start, they now sit atop the Metropolitan with a 12-3-0 record. What if … could it be … is there even the slightest chance that the fans were wrong when they were calling for Ruff’s head, and that maybe he has some idea what he’s doing out there?

“I don’t need [an apology],” Ruff said on Friday, when asked if he wanted to hear one. “Sometimes you can get off to a little bit of a rocky start and you’re not comfortable with it, but you’ve got to take it one day at a time. To be honest, you don’t want to hear [the boos]. But I understood it. I did say, you’ve just got to start winning and that will change everything.”

Winning has indeed changed everything. In the second period of Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Coyotes, their ninth victory in a row, the fans let him hear it.

Yes, it’s all sunshine and roses in Newark right now. There were more apology chants later in the game, and afterward the coach was, naturally, asked about them. “I accept the apology,” Ruff said, “and maybe one day we can all sit down and have a beer and laugh about it.” That’s a lot of potential beers, but it would give me the chance to tell Ruff what his defensive pairings should look like.

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