This morning, the New Jersey Devils announced another change to their coaching staff. The team announced that Sergei Brylin will join the coaching staff in New Jersey as an assistant coach. The announcement on the team’s site makes it clear that this is the final addition to head coach Lindy Ruff’s staff. This means the group going into 2022-23 will be:
- Lindy Ruff, Head Coach
- Andrew Brunette, Associate Coach
- Ryan McGill, Assistant Coach
- Chris Taylor, Assistant Coach
- Sergei Brylin, Assistant Coach
- Dave Rogalski, Goaltending Coach
That part of the announcement means that Rogalski will be kept. Of all of the staff members, he may have the most to prove (maybe more than Ruff?) given how wretched the goaltending was last season.
However, that should not dampen the good feelings from this announcement. The man called “Sarge” is a fan favorite. Sergei Brylin is one of the five Devils to have won all three Cups with the organization. He was willing to do whatever he was asked to do and did a decent job of it. Top six, bottom six, center, wing, and, once, defense. It’s why our annual Versatility Award is named after him. Sarge was a role player and a quite a good one from 1995 through 2007-08 for the team.
He is effectively a lifer with the Devils in North America. Ever since he was drafted by the Devils in 1992, he has played almost exclusively for the old Albany River Rats and the New Jersey Devils on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. He is tenth all-time in games played with the Devils with 765; he is 18th all time in points with 308; and definitely became a fan favorite. So much so that a fraction of the People Who Matter may want to see or even advocate that his #18 be retired by the organization. If you did not a get chance to see him play, then check out this collection of old Brylin highlights. It opens with a goal in the 1995 Finals against Detroit, too.
After four seasons in the KHL after the 2007-08 season, Sarge retired as a player after the 2011-12 season. He went right into coaching for, who else, the Devils organization. He started as an a consultant for the Albany Devils for the 2012-13 season. He was promoted to and served as an assistant coach for the AHL team for the remainder of their time in Albany (2013 to 2017), Binghamton (2017 to 2021), and the Utica Comets last season. That’s 9 seasons as an assistant coach in the AHL. He definitely put the work in with the minor league teams. He could have moved on to another organization, perhaps one with other opportunities. But, no, he chose to stay loyal to New Jersey. Now, he is getting his shot in the NHL with the Devils - a decade after getting into the coaching side of the game. This is the kind of thing that fans and media people love to see. The reactions I have seen throughout the day have been quite positive. And why not? It’s Sarge.
It is also a positive sign for the organization. Similar to Kate Madigan’s promotion to assistant GM earlier this year, Brylin getting moved up is evidence that people can grow in the organization and be rewarded for it. (And that there are people in the organization worth promoting.) It can speak to others in the organization that if they put in the effort and do well, then they too can move on to bigger roles in the future. In Brylin’s case, it’s been a long time coming, but it has happened today.
As far as what Brylin will do, Amanda Stein of the Devils stated on Twitter that Brylin will be in the press box area during games, relaying to the rest of the staff what he is seeing. He will also work individually with players and help on the penalty kill strategies, presumably with McGill. Apparently, the “eye in the sky” was a role that Chris Taylor was serving. Stein stated that he will likely go behind the bench for this coming season as Brylin will be there instead.
Now that the Devils coaching staff is fully complete, the focus can turn more towards training camp, preseason, and preparing for the 2022-23 season. The pressure will certainly be on for improvement. All of the good feelings from a hire like this one among other moves made by Tom Fitzgerald and the front office this Summer will go away if there is a repeat of the last two seasons. But you probably know that and I would like to think Fitzgerald and Ruff absolutely know that.
To that end, what is your take on the Devils promoting Brylin to be an assistant coach with the Devils this season? Do you agree this was a long time coming? Do you think Brylin will do well in this role? Enough to move up in the future? Please leave your answers and other reactions to the Devils bringing up Sarge in the comments. Thank you for reading.