First and foremost today, I'd like to wish everyone who is celebrating a very Happy Thanksgiving! To say the 2014-2015 season hasn't gotten off on the right foot for our New Jersey Devils would be an understatement; this season like the past few can only be described as "status quo" up until this point. There's still plenty of time for things to change, but if the Devils stay on their current course, the playoffs are looking like nothing but a dream.
So rather than write another article analyzing a player, or looking at a team statistic in specific today, I thought I would set aside some time to look at some things the Devils should be thankful for, be it as a team, or something an individual member of the organization should be thankful for. So without any further ado, I give you a list of things they (and we as fans) should be thankful for:
Team: The Emergence of Damon Severson
While he has struggled with some growing pains recently (no points in his last 11 games), I don't think anyone can argue that Damon Severson has been a pleasant surprise for our Devils this year. He started off the season on fire, with 4 goals, and 7 of his 8 points in the first 8 games of the season. He's struggled to produce lately, but he continues to fire the puck on net and leads the team with 57 shots on goal. He continues to play big minutes in all situations, averaging 22:45 of ice time, second on the team behind his defense partner Andy Greene. When Mark Fayne departed for Edmonton over the summer, many wondered how his minutes would be replaced; Severson has been an upgrade over Fayne (and I was a big Fayne fan) to this point, and he will only continue to improve in the future.
Cory Schneider: Martin Brodeur Isn't Around
In his first year as the Devils unquestioned #1, Cory Schneider has had his fair share of struggles, including a number of "softie" goals eerily reminiscent of both Brodeur and Johan Hedburg in their last few seasons with the organization. Considering that Cory is in his prime rather than his twilight, this could be seen as alarming. Two things of note with this are first that his teammates haven't really helped him out; he played excellently against Vancouver, but still lost due to the team's inability to generate chances and score. The other thing of note is that his backups seemingly haven't earned the trust of the coaching staff (Scott Clemmensen for good reason; Keith Kinkaid looked good so who knows why they didn't give him a start) to the point that Schneider can sit for a game or two. Since there's no goalie to challenge Cory for playing time the way Marty did last season, Cory gets to work out his struggles in the net; hopefully this will lead to long-term success for him and the team.
Team: Defensive Depth
To be successful this season, the Devils knew they would have to avoid the injury bug; in the opening quarter of the season, that did not happen. MIke Cammalleri, Ryane Clowe, Adam Henrique, Martin Havlat, Jordin Tootoo, Bryce Salvador, and Jon Merrill have all missed some amount of time due to injury. While the forward corp struggled through the injuries, the organization's defensive depth shone; Seth Helgeson was called up to substitute for Salvador, Adam Larsson began to flourish, and the penalty kill began to climb out of the league's basement. Even without Merrill, who many considered a key cog of the defense, the blue line began to shore up. If only the offense could have surfaced at the same time.
Jacob Josefson: Shootout/Face-Off Ability
We all saw Josefson fake out Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec to finally break The Streak; since then he has played in every game except for one (ironically enough, against Winnipeg) and while he hasn't been putting up very many points, he has exuded energy shift after shift. Jake always seems to be working and skating hard; if nothing else his superior face-off percentage and moves in the
skills competition shootout should guarantee him a nightly spot in the lineup over say Stephen Gionta.
Peter DeBoer: Still Having a Job
As I always like to bring up when the topic of DeBoer comes up, Lou Lamoriello has fired coaches on this team while they were winning; DeBoer at this point is becoming a perennial loser, and 2012 is looking more and more like an anomaly. I think his system allows the team to keep games close, but at the same time with the lack of skilled snipers on the team in inhibits the Devils' success. Devils teams under DeBoer have also had a bad penchant for blowing leads, which is a concern among the fan base, and should be a concern among the team. One has to wonder just how much longer Lou will allow the team to stew in mediocrity on Pete's watch.
Team: Not Being the Edmonton Oilers
Sorry to any Oilers fans reading this; we could be a team that has had numerous first overall and high first round draft picks in recent years that is still struggling. We may be a team in transition, but at least we aren't a team that should be performing much better than it actually is.
We could go on with this list all day finding one item (at least) for every member of this organization to be thankful for, but if I were to write everything down (considering all that has gone wrong for this team) I might be here until Christmas. While some of these things may not seem like consolation (DeBoer still being employed, Schneider being the only goalie the team trusts) we as fans have had the pleasure of a franchise that has been successful for so longer. We should be thankful as fans for the success we have had and knowing that the team is in a transition period right now that will lead to future success; after all, In Lou We Trust.
Happy Thanksgiving again everybody and thank you as always for reading!