Okay, so I think some of us saw this rough start coming for our New Jersey Devils; maybe we expected to have at least one win, or a point in an overtime/shootout loss by now. We knew as fans coming in to this season that it was going to be a rough time, but I think the team is still adjusting at this point. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for a system to click; sometimes some parts need to be shuffled around before everything clicks. Right now, I think that John Hynes has some experimenting to do and we started to see it at the end of the Nashville game. In addition, there are some teams that experts and non-experts alike picked to be way better than us (Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Los Angeles) have either the same or a worse record at the moment.
The Start So Far
In my opinion, the team really needs to experiment with some different line combinations; I absolutely 100% agree with John when he wrote the other day that Mike Cammalleri and Travis Zajac need to be separated. While Zajac hasn't been amazing by any stretch of the imagination, he has had some strong shifts and generated some chances. While Cam has gotten on the score sheet, I really feel he's been terribly sloppy; it really showed during the Nashville game, as he fumbled multiple passes, including one that led to an empty net goal. I was actually screaming at him from my couch, openly questioning his sobriety.
I do feel John is right as well that Jordin Tootoo is in over his head on a scoring line; he's fine as a bottom 6 guy with limited power play time in front of the net, but as a top 6 forward, I think he's just playing against competition that are a clear cut better than he is. In addition, Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieiri haven't exactly been lightning arenas on fire while paired together, and Jacob Josefson seems to be relegated to being a third line guy again. Why not maybe pair Cam with Henrique and see what happens? How about Palmieri and Zajac? Maybe bring Reid Boucher back and give him and Jacob Josefson some extended minutes? The worst thing that could happen by experimenting with different combinations at this point is that we lose again, and at that point, we would just be winding up back where we already are.
Another interesting facet is Brian O'Neill; did we really bring in last year's AHL MVP to simply play in a bottom 6 role? That's where he is yet again, according to today's practice lines from Tom Gulitti; these lines seem a bit more ambitious, but it looks like Zajac will return (he's missed the last two practices) to center Cam and Tootoo. A lot of fans are clamoring for the youth to have their chance, and I this point, I don't see the harm in trying something like Boucher/Josefson/Palmieri and praying it works.
I'm also a bit skeptical of what has been done with the defense so far; Damon Severson had a bad first game, but last night (and in general to me) he looked better than David Schlemko, so I have to question why Severson goes back to the press box with John Moore returning. Eric Gelinas hasn't been the best, but I honestly feel Schlemko has even been worse than Gelly; David has had some solid moments, but he's had some awful giveaways too, and I really don't see how Damon gets yanked over him.
Why We Shouldn't Panic
First I have to say the Devils haven't exactly faced the easiest competition to start the year; they played the Winnipeg Jets who have been very good so far (even knocking off Our Hated Rivals), a Washington Capitals team that many are picking to win the Stanley Cup this year, and a very strong, currently undefeated Nashville team that could make a lot of noise out west. The San Jose Sharks don't appear to be any easier of an opponent, and I'll attribute that to their players rather than their coach.
We all predicted before the season started that we were looking at a team that wouldn't be very good, but it's also been only 3 games. I don't want us to wind up like other fan bases who appear to be panicking because their team is underperforming. We knew this would be a year of transition; as long as John Hynes keeps trying different things (and breaks up that damned Zajac/Cam/Tootoo line), I think the team will start to find its footing, as well as figuring out who should stick around.
I'd like to hear what you, our fellow Devils fans think? What are your general thoughts on the first three games? Do you think there's anything the Devils could change? Is there anything that you think is working well? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!