Devils GM starts coaching search; interim Travis Green in mix

NEWARK, N.J. -- General manager Tom Fitzgerald is looking for a new coach for the New Jersey Devils and interim skipper Travis Green remains in the running for the job.

Speaking three days after the Devils ended a disappointing season by missing the playoffs, Fitzgerald said he hopes to have a full-time coach in place for the NHL draft in late June.

"Travis is well aware of my intentions," Fitzgerald said Thursday. "I owe it to the organization to make sure I was following the coaching world with who I believe would be the perfect coach for this group moving forward for what's available out there."

Fitzgerald wants his coach to be a person who can communicate with his players while holding them accountable.

Green checks many of those boxes, including being a no-nonsense coach, Fitzgerald said. He said there are other coaches to be considered and others might become available, possibly after the first round of the postseason.

A year after posting a franchise-record 112 points and winning a first-round playoff series with the Rangers, the young Devils took a major step back this season, finishing seventh in the Metropolitan Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference. They went 38-39-5 for 81 points. Their goals against went from 226 in 2022-23 to 283. Their goals for, goals-against differential went from plus-65 to minus-19.

They didn't win more than three games in a row.

It led to the firing of Lindy Ruff in March and the promotion of Green from associate head coach to interim coach. New Jersey was 30-27-4 when Ruff was relieved. Green went 8-12-1, losing eight times by a goal if open-net scores were not counted, he said.

Green said he has talked with Fitzgerald briefly since the season ended and the two will talk more in the coming weeks.

"I want to be the head coach of the New Jersey Devils," said Green, who previously was the head coach in Vancouver from 2017 through the early part of the 2021-22 season.

Green said he learned a lot during his 21-game stint and he thinks he will be able to do more if he can take the team through a training camp in September.

"It's an exciting, exciting group and I think the future is bright," Green said.

The Devils are young and they are loaded with skilled players up front with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Dawson Mercer, Timo Meier and Alexander Holtz. The back end missed star defenseman Dougie Hamilton most of the season with a pectoral injury, forcing prospects Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec to play more than expected.

Fitzgerald said owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer have given him the autonomy to make the necessary changes.

"I know exactly what this team needs," Fitzgerald said. "I know exactly what these individuals need. I know what they want and they crave. They've been craving."

What's obvious was that the Devils missed the mark this season, maybe because opponents learned how to deal with their speed. Struggling on defense and in goal didn't help.

"We expected more," defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler said. "We had big goals at the start of the year, especially after last year. But in sports you win or lose and this year we didn't reach our expectations. We have a lot to learn, but I think we have a big future in front of us."