The firing of Peter DeBoer just under three months ago now was supposed to be the proverbial spark that would ignite a fire under the New Jersey Devils; sadly the poor fire isn't getting enough oxygen to really ignite. The team has been stuck essentially in neutral; while they're picking up more wins than they did during the end of DeBoer's tenure, the fact remains that they are not gaining ground on the teams in front of them. As I type this, the team currently has the 6th worst recordin the league, and it would be 5th worst if the Toronto Maple Leafs hadn't fallen head first off of a cliff once the calender rolled over to 2015.
While some of the blame can certainly be placed on (some of) the players, the fact remains that they're not the ones who assembled this steaming pile of garbage before us. They are not the ones who should be held responsible for high profile free agents leaving town nor for the prospect pool having hardly any water in it so to speak. We knew that things would have to get worse before they got better, but we're stretching for a whole new level of worse here. Reports are going around now that Jaromir Jagr wouldn't mind a trade this season as opposed to his stance of being against it at the deadline last year. Scouts are supposedly frustrated that Michael Ryder has been scratched (which has to be hurting his trade value from multiple angles) and to top it all off Marek Zidlicky seems to be implying that he won't wave his no trade clause for the greater good of the team.
The trend we can see here is that most of the problems we are discussing have arisen due to bad management decisions with the exception of Jagr's change of heart which actually benefits the team in the long run. Ryder being scratched and Zidlicky having a full no trade in his contract are bad decisions that are almost in line with the Dainius Zubrus, Ryane Clowe and Bryce Salvador contracts.
The Devils need to start thinking about the future and maybe that can't be done with the current regime; perhaps they're perpetually stuck in "win now" mode, even with a roster that can't get a win against the Edmonton Oilers. The upcoming trade deadline and draft should be very important; if the Devils somehow manage to botch both, why should we keep Lou Lamoriello and his incompetent drafting crew around any longer?
Usually I think that firing people (and Lou particularly) is not the answer to a team's problems; management can't exactly make the players stop playing like shadows of their former selves. However the drafting of forwards has been an abomination; the only regulars in our lineup that have come from drafting since 2005 are Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson and the argument could be made that the latter is a fringe NHLer at best. It gets harder and harder every year to keep up with younger, faster teams; with the Devils not having forwards rising through the ranks the effects are starting to show, mainly in the loss column.
To be fair to the gentlemen currently employed to draft players year in and year out, I will say that it's very easy to sit here, look back and say, "Why did we draft Player A instead of Player B? A's been brutal for us while B is flourishing for his team!" At the same time, we've already seen a coach lose his job just for not having success with inferior pieces; why should we allow the men who gave him said pieces to get away with doing their job inadequately?
Perhaps it isn't the drafting; maybe it's just the way that we develop our players. I can't really say if Albany is helping our players develop or not; while they certainly had an excellent season last year, the two young contributors mentioned above spent no more than a full season's worth of games in Albany (I'm going to exclude the lockout season as they would have been with New Jersey had their been no lockout) so maybe the problem is in the pipeline. They haven't exactly produced anyone worth mentioning and our better prospects (Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau) don't exactly seem to be inproving by leaps and bounds while playing there.
The latest NHL mock draft has me concerned too; while the draft position is no longer relevant (again, thanks Toronto!), NHL.com managing editor Adam Kimelman has us choosing Lawson Crouse in the first round. While Crouse seems like a good player, there are better players on the board being taken after him; players with higher-end offensive talent. There are players projected below him such as Pavel Zacha and Mitchell Marner that seem to be more of what we need in terms of offensive skill; Crouse seems like he would just be another complimentary player. With David Conte still at the helm, and his track record with forwards, I'm scared that we could see that pick as a reality.
With all of these factors tossed together, you have to start wondering if the Devils need to clean house in terms of their management and perhaps even the minor league system. Our current struggles seem to stem from not drafting well in terms of forwards and players not being developed properly; not only does that put those two sections of the staff in trouble, but it should put Lou in trouble as well. He's the one who hires and appoints people to their positions in the organization, so if there are employees that are under-performing, he needs to do something about it, or perhaps it is time for Lou himself to be replaced.
Now comes that familiar time where I'd like to hear from you my fellow Devils fans; do you think the Devils should start from scratch? Will the trade deadline bring us needed assets? Will we botch (what is as of now) a very high draft pick? Will Conte draft Crouse? Should Lou be given his walking papers? Leave any and all comments below and as always thank you for reading!