The most recent season that is comparable to the 2014-15 season for the New Jersey Devils is the 2010-11 season. They were wrecked by injuries and coaching by John MacLean to have only nine wins by Christmas. Under Jacques Lemaire, better health, and better percentages, the team would flirt with a playoff position before ultimately falling short of climbing out of the massive hole they dug for themselves. This season, the Devils had twelve wins by Christmas, made another coaching change around the holidays, and, well, won a bunch more games though they weren't playing all that well. The two seasons now share another commonality: making only one move on the day of the NHL Trade Deadline.
In fairness to the 2010-11 team, the Devils were playing much better at the time and such a way where if they had the health, luck, and Lemaire from the beginning, then perhaps they're a playoff team. Not a lot of pieces that fans wanted to move, nor outcries for a rebuild like we see today. Further, the one move the Devils made in 2011 was very good. Jason Arnott was traded for a second rounder and David Steckel. It was a good return: a player to fill in a center spot and an extra second rounder is a good thing to have. That second rounder would become part of the deal that brought Marek Zidlick to New Jersey for the 2012 playoff run. Today, three years later, Zidlicky would be the only Devil going elsewhere on the day of the NHL Trade Deadline. Zidlicky was moved to Detroit for a conditional third round pick in 2016; a deal I called underwhelming. I would like to think Lou could have and should have gotten more, especially with some salary retained. But he was moved instead of remaining on the roster.
To be fair, the Devils did make a move in each of those seasons prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. In 2010-11, the Devils shipped Mr. It's In The Room, Jamie Langenbrunner away not long after Lemaire returned to the bench. In 2014-15, the Devils moved Jaromir Jagr to Florida for a second rounder in this year's draft and a conditional third rounder in 2016. I think that deal was a good one considering Jagr is a 43-year old and hasn't been remotely as productive as he was last season.
Whereas the feeling in 2010-11 wasn't to blow up the team and start fresh, I can understand disappointment about the fact that only Jagr and Zidlicky were moved in this season. At the same time, it's just further evidence of what we already knew: this team is bad. Therefore, I don't fully agree with the disappointment of a lack of action beyond the two moves.
Pending unrestricted free agents on this team weren't playing well with the exceptions (in part) of Jagr and Zidlicky. Michael Ryder and Martin Havlat certainly have seen a lot of the press box, but as NHL veterans, the league as a whole knows what they can or cannot do. And they have determined that if they're not doing much good in New Jersey, then why would they be worth anything to obtain them. So as much as I wouldn't have minded someone taking either spare part, I cannot be surprised that no one wanted them. Likewise, teams are also familiar with Jordin Tootoo, Scott Gomez, and Steve Bernier so despite their improved play or evidence that they still have game, I cannot be surprised no one would take a flyer on either of them. Further, it doesn't help that there's any forward in Albany that should be getting a long look at (no, not Reid Boucher, let him become an AHL scorer first) to make those other players expendable. These all explain in part why the Devils are bad, and I don't think you can fault anyone for not wanting to give up a contributor to the badness..
The players with legitimate value beyond a few picks for rental purposes are the same players the Devils should actually keep for the future. Any fan who wanted a blockbuster or scoring help or some player that can help the Devils right now would have to be willing to give up somebody good. As bad as the team is, they're not going to get better by moving good players away. If those draft picks turn out well, then that will help a lot. However, this post by Travis Yost at TSN suggests that one shouldn't get their hopes up too high. That post also points out why demanding that Lou should've taken a fifth, sixth, or seventh rounder for anyone is a hollow demand as those picks rarely turn into actual players. Which is what the Devils need for the future. Stockpiling deep picks in the draft is not nearly as valuable as having an extra pick in the first three rounds. At least the Devils accomplished that this year. It may not be a broad, sweeping change; but it is preferable than trying to make a big deal under the hope that one or two guys can fix a lot of this. They can't; the Devils wouldn't be better off.
It can be said that the Devils did sell this season. I can understand the frustration that more wasn't sold, and I will agree the return for Zidlicky was lacking. Again, selling more would require buyers offering something worth the sale.
How is the team now? The Devils were thin at right wing with Jaromir Jagr, they're not going to be better off without him. Zidlicky, for all of his many flaws, did handle a 18-20 minute role and was the Devils' most prolific passer among defensemen. Now, we must hope Damon Severson can get back to form and it would be just swell if Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas can improve anything soon. This should be acceptable now for the fans that want the Devils to not play themselves out of a good drafting position. We'll see how it effects the long-term future, though July 1, 2015 will be a momentous day for that. Today was just another example of what we knew: this team is bad and filled with players who have been bad or lackluster this season. Surprisingly, not a lot of teams wanted those players.
I'd love to say that the Devils will be in a position to rebound like they did after the 2010-11 season; but that's not going to happen. Welcome to the transition. Or rebuild. Either way, this team is going to be bad for some time. Share your frustrations and other thoughts about this year's NHL trade deadline for the Devils in the comments. Thank you for reading.