The Fourth of July is celebrated in the United States as Independence Day and America’s birthday, all great things. It was also a day that British colonists decided to finally put an end to what they felt were some major injustices by signing a sternly worded document that would be sent to King George III and the English Parliament. In honor of that tradition, I would like to note an injustice that we Devils fans face, and why it may have gotten a little better for us recently.
Last week when the shocking yet amazing trade became public, and Ray Shero managed to trade Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall, I obviously wanted to read up on it as much as possible. I had my own feelings about the trade initially, which was 99% positive but 1% what if Larsson becomes even better, the Devils’ defense starts to suck, and Taylor Hall gets injured a lot. However, I wanted to know what the so called experts and analysts thought of the trade.
One of the first articles I read that day (which I cannot find anymore or else I would link it) was from CBS Sports, and it was grading the moves of the day for each of the 5 teams involved. It gave wins to the New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators for their acquisition of PK Subban, and Tampa Bay Lightning for their re-signing of Steven Stamkos, and it gave losses of course to Edmonton and Montreal. For the Devils, however, one of the first comments from the author was that the Devils play boring hockey, it was even boring when the team was winning cups, and this trade helps make the team more palatable to watch.
Now I also have to give props to the author, as at the end he did say that this trade, along with some possible shrewd moves in the upcoming free agency period, could make the Devils legitimate wild card contenders come this season. That was nice to hear indeed, and in fact I have read several articles that now have NJ as a dark horse to nab a playoff spot this upcoming season. For a team that has been bad for 4 seasons now, that has been welcoming to read. However, the one annoying injustice in my opinion is this seemingly continued idea that the Devils are boring.
First, let me state the obvious: over the last couple of seasons as the team has faltered and lost its winning ways, they have played some fairly boring hockey in comparison to other teams in the league. The most exciting player since that Russian forward left has been Jaromir Jagr, who was already into his 40’s. Yes there have been some sweet plays by the likes of Adam Henrique, Michael Cammalleri, Kyle Palmieri and others, but I get the boring argument when this team has largely performed badly over the past few seasons.
I also get the argument that Taylor Hall will make this team more fun to watch, and I 100% agree with that sentiment. Hall is a very exciting player on the ice, with his breakneck speed and soft hands. I cannot wait to have my jaw dropped this season when watching some of the plays that he makes. However, to say that the Devils are a perpetually boring team to watch on the ice is, in my opinion, an injustice. It goes all the way back to when the Devils ran the neutral zone trap back in the 1990s. Even in 2000, when the Devils won the Stanley Cup and had the second most goals for in the league, pundits still said they were boring, and obviously still remember them as a boring team. To me, automatically saying that the Devils are boring is like automatically saying the Chicago Cubs are going to be bad: it may very well be true, but have you watched the Cubbies this season? They are dynamite.
Even recently when that Minnesotan and that Russian were on this team, no one really wanted to say that the Devils were fun to watch. And in 2011-2012, I remember a very interesting and fun team out on that ice. Yes the Devils always played tough defense under Peter DeBoer and did very well with possession which could frustrate other teams, but they also had offense. This isn’t even mentioning that they also had a really exciting shootout where both of them got to showcase their skills, to the tune of a 12-4 shootout record that season.
So I personally hope that the acquisition of Taylor Hall begins a slow change of perception for the Devils. It gets tiring hearing that my team is perpetually boring, and how could I possibly even watch them? Even these past few seasons, I’ve still watched and enjoyed my team. If Hall and perhaps Pavel Zacha and others can change the perception around hockey that the Devils are a boring team, and more people begin to give our favorite team some more credibility, that would be absolutely wonderful. Of course that will not happen until they start to be more competitive and clinch some playoff berths, I have no misgivings about that. But when this rebuild is fully over and we have dominant hockey back in New Jersey, I hope this time around I don’t have to hear that annoying banter from other fans that my team is boring. Taylor Hall will be on this team for at least 4 seasons barring some unforeseen circumstances. I am hoping that is plenty of time to change some perceptions.