Ruffian hockey in NJ and learning from the downfall in Dallas
Things are fun and exciting in New Jersey, can it stay that way
I was feeling nostalgic on Tuesday morning.
It was 5:15 am, my 2-year-old son had gotten us up early, and we were watching the World Cup — he had pushed for “Mickey Mouse,” but I won control of the television.
Saudi Arabia upset Argentina 2-1. For me, Saudi Arabia in the World Cup brings back memories of the 1994 World Cup in the United States. I was 5, my dad and grandparents took me to the game at Giants Stadium where Saudi Arabia beat Morocco 2-1. It’s one of my earliest, maybe the earliest, in-person sports memories.
Life has a weird way of connecting past and present.
On a similar theme, nostalgia and connections, the New Jersey Devils defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 last night to win their 13th straight game, and improving to 16-3 in their first 19 games.
Devils coach Lindy Ruff was harshly the recipient of “Fire Lindy” chants in the first three games of the season, and has since received the appropriate, “Sorry Lindy,” response from the Devils crowd.
For me it’s impossible to look at the 2022-23 Devils without thinking about the 2015-16 Dallas Stars.
To take it further than a Tweet, the Devils are living and thriving in a prime post-Buffalo Ruffian system.
Ruff likes things to be exciting. He likes pressuring and putting defenses in awkward situations. When Ruff watches football, he likes watching teams that snap the ball quickly and run the spread, he was a big fan of Big 12 offensive ideologies when he was in Dallas.
Ruff’s 2015-16 Stars were exciting, fun, and a complete wildcard. They were must-watch hockey, because even while they were winning games, there was always the threat that defensively they’d be exposed at any moment.
The Stars goaltending that year left things to be desired. It was most notable in the playoffs, when the duo of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi first struggled against the Minnesota Wild and then eventually cracked in the second-round loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Dallas was flash and flair that ended with a Game 7 implosion. It laid the first seeds of doubt for a franchise that eventually took a hard 180-degree and abandoned Ruffian hockey for Hitchcockian teachings.
I love Ruffian hockey. It’s fun, and if Dallas had gotten past St. Louis in Game 7, it’s fair to question whether or not they would have lifted the Stanley Cup later that spring.
But Ruffian hockey, in Dallas, was fragile.
It’s given me an instinctive worry about New Jersey, instead of living in the present with the Devils young, fun team, I’m already worrying about the downfall.
Is that fair?
So let’s look at the downfall of Ruffian hockey in Dallas and try to apply those lessons or warnings to the Devils.
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