It was a busy offseason thus far for the 2021-22 New Jersey Devils. The goal for general manager Tom Fitzgerald besides looking to improve his team was to play meaningful games towards the end of the season. Things got off to a fantastic start for the Devils. They survived without Jack Hughes in the lineup as well as Mackenzie Blackwood. Rookie Dawson Mercer was stepping up in the role Hughes would normally play. Defensively the Devils were better as additions Ryan Graves and Dougie Hamilton made a great pair.
However, the New Jersey Devils have hit some hard times struggling to put wins together. They are still the youngest team in the league and going through growing pains. But that is something the coaching staff and management do not want to talk about anymore. Devils management believes this team can take the next step, however, New Jersey is still a few years away from contending for a playoff spot.
The New Jersey Devils entering the season had long odds to make the playoffs, those odds have become even greater with one win in their last six games. If the Devils want to compete and play meaningful games going forward they will need consistency in their game.
New Jersey Devils Still A Years Away From Making Playoffs
The New Jersey Devils have only made the playoffs twice since 2010. For a storied franchise that won three Stanley Cups in five Stanley Cup Final appearances, that is not good. Over the last couple of seasons, the Devils have gotten the number one pick twice. First, they landed Nico Hischier in 2017 and then Jack Hughes in 2019. Both are signed to long-term contracts with the Devils.
Hischier is finally coming into his own with Taylor Hall out of town. Hughes on the other hand still needs another season to really hit his stride in the NHL. Hughes is still very injury prone, but started to show signs at the beginning of the 2021-22 season he could be an elite player in the league. He just needs to stay healthy. And while Hischier’s production may be down this season, especially goals-wise, he has stepped his game up with Hughes out of the lineup. Hischier willed his team to get points when they should not have.
Management believes they are the future of the team. Therefore, they need to build around them. There are pieces in place with Andreas Johnsson, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, and Mercer. However, they are all still very young and coming into their own as we have seen with Bratt and Zacha this season. New Jersey has to go through some growing pains to out better on the other side.
General manager Tom Fitzgerald wants the Devils to start playing meaningful games again. He is tired of watching his team miss out on the playoffs. Now the last two seasons the Devils were in the rebuild. And in fact, they still are. But things got accelerated some with the addition of Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton improves the defence right away. He will anchor the top unit and the power play as well. In addition, Hamilton is playing with Ryan Graves, giving the Devils a solid top pair. Something they have been missing for a long time. Not only that, this pairing allows the rest of the defence to slot into their proper positions. But the key will be playing good defensive hockey. It does not matter who you have back there, the team must play a better defensive structure to start playing meaningful games. And lately, that is not happening.
Not to mention, the team’s poor starts have contributed to the Devils not playing well. Always playing from behind is not a receipt for success. That is on the players, but also on the coaching staff. The Devils power play and penalty kill are horrible. That has contributed to the fact the Devils are not winning a lot of games either. Something has to give because even though there is not a lot of games left in the season, time is running out on playing meaningful games.
Goaltending Matters… But Will It Help
Having the right goaltending duo will help, as we have seen will teams that make the playoffs. The Devils could not go into the 2021-22 season with the same duo. It was unfortunate that Corey Crawford left prior to the start of last season leaving a big hole behind Mackenzie Blackwood. So this year, Fitzgerald brought in Jonathan Bernier. Bernier put up a solid save percentage on a bad Detroit Red Wings. He will certainly be able to take the load off, Blackwood, this season. But will it be enough to propel the Devils into the postseason? Unfortunately no. Even with this duo, they are a long shot to make the playoffs. If they made the playoffs it would be a surprise like it was during the 2017-18 season. And with Bernier injured potentially for the year, the Devils will have to rely on Akira Schmid or Nico Daws to backup with Blackwood. That is not a receipt for success.
You can have all the goaltending in the world, but if you can’t put the puck into the net you will not win games. Again, the compete and fight have been there for the Devils. Gaining points when they should not have deserved to get any. But consistently they have not been able to put games together all season. It is great to see this team continuing to build on each game, but eventually, the excuse of this team being a young team has to go by the wayside.
Continue To Play The Waiting Game
The New Jersey Devils are still years away from making the playoffs despite what they want you to believe. Just watch the games and you can see that. The pieces are there, the Devils just need something to put them over the top. Playing in such a tough division like the Metro with so many good teams will make life challenging for any team behind the eight-ball. With the New York Rangers taking the next step, the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Carolina Hurricanes remaining so consistent, the Philadelphia Flyers a potential threat, the Columbus Blue Jackets always a problem, and the New York Islanders finally turning things around, the Devils are in an uphill climb.
The Devils have some issues they need to fix. So things will not be easy for the New Jersey Devils. However, eventually, things have to turn around. The foundation is being laid for the Devils to make the playoffs in a couple of years’ time.
Ep 35: Avalanche Win Stanley Cup; Hockey Hall of Fame; NHL Offseason Predictionsby Full Press Coverage on June 29, 2022 at 2:06 pm
Jim and Chris react to the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup, the 2022 […]
Ep 34: NHL Coaching Retreads; Stanley Cup Final Talkby Full Press Coverage on June 22, 2022 at 3:30 pm
Mike, Jim, and Chris discuss the never-ending NHL coaching retreads and […]
NHL Offseason: Matthew Tkachuk Traded To Florida, Patrik Laine Staying in Columbus and Moreby Full Press Coverage on July 24, 2022 at 6:15 pm
Jim is back once again joined by C.C. Hawkley of Full Press Hockey to […]
Ep 76: They're Back! David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron Return To The Bruinsby Full Press Coverage on August 11, 2022 at 8:51 pm
Ian and Chris discuss and react to the re-signing of captain Patrice […]
Ep 75: Bergeron Undecided? David Krejci and NHL Free Agency Primerby Full Press Coverage on July 13, 2022 at 3:57 pm
Ian and Chris discuss the latest on Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and […]
8/19 - Deshaun Watson Suspension; Concern About Tom Brady's Absenceby Full Press Coverage on August 19, 2022 at 1:46 pm
Ian and John discuss the Deshaun Watson suspension and whether or not […]
Aaron Rodgers Addresses Early Camp Struggles for WRsby Full Press Coverage on August 18, 2022 at 5:12 pm
Ian and John discuss some bumps in the road at Packers camp as Aaron […]
8/17 - Packers Camp Struggles, Top 10 QB/Pass Catching Combos, Malcolm Go... To Injured Reserveby Full Press Coverage on August 17, 2022 at 5:04 pm
Ian and John discuss Aaron Rodgers comments about the young wide receiver […]
8/15 - Zach Wilson, Deshaun Watson, NFL Top 100 Listby Full Press Coverage on August 15, 2022 at 1:15 pm
Ian and John discuss the Zach Wilson injury scare, Deshaun Watson's debut […]