Okay so the last 4 seasons have basically been a wash for our New Jersey Devils and for us as fans as well; having been a successful team for an extended period of time has given way to this new era of disappointment that we have had to endure. Even in losing years, however there are always aspects of the team/season to be excited for. For instance, last season we got to see how the acquisition of Kyle Palmieri would pan out; the season before we were able to watch as Cory Schneider assumed his first full season as the Devils net minder. Those weren’t the only things to be excited for but are certainly ones that readily come to mind.
This year, I think we have plenty to be excited about as New Jersey Devils fans; there were a lot of changes made to the team during the summer, and we will be witness to the moves either paying off, or setting us back another year. In order from least exciting to me to most exciting to me, here are my Top 5 Reasons I’m Excited for this Season:
Maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, but that also could be why this is so low on my list; while the Devils are probably at least a couple of seasons away from truly competing, there’s reason to believe that with good health and a bit of luck that New Jersey could make the postseason this year. When the Devils were at full strength last season, they held tight to one of the top 8 spots in the Eastern Conference; had there been no injuries to Michael Cammalleri and Cory Schneider, the Devils may have been back to the dance last season. The additions to the team as well as certain subtractions (mentioned in the next paragraph) should boost the Devils in the standings as well.
4.) Youth Infusion
We had to watch the Devils trot out the fossilized remains of many older players for years, but the Devils have done a good job under Ray Shero in clearing out most of those players; the final ghost of their former self (Tuomo Ruutu) is gone and with some other players who did not perform to expectations leaving as well, there are multiple roster spots available for young players to take.
Guys such as Reid Boucher and Joseph Blandisi will be able to show if they should be every night players; prospects such as Steve Santini, Miles Wood, John Quenneville, and Reece Scarlett (whom new management seems high on) will have a chance to make the team out of training camp while fighting for a limited number of spots. Not to mention the one guy that most of us (if not all) seem to believe is ready for full time NHL duty...
3.) The Arrival of Pavel Zacha
Pavel Zacha is one of our most prized prospects; as the 6th overall pick of the 2015 draft, he’s the highest draft choice we’ve had since Adam Larsson (#4 overall) in 2011; those two are also two of only three lottery draft choices (along with Michael McLeod) New Jersey has had since the 90s. Zacha was chosen for his high potential as a player and his debut game (which I feel like I’ve been writing about a lot) against the Toronto Maple Leafs showed that another year of development in Sarnia did him a lot of good.
I don’t think going back to juniors would benefit Pavel at all, and he never looked out of place during his debut game, so I think this is the season we see the talented Zacha break into the lineup. He may start in a spot where he does not necessarily put up the most points or generate the most offense, but by the end of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if his numbers rival those of our entire bottom 6 from this past season.
2.) The Possibility that Ray Shero Isn’t Done
I think the fact that there are still a lot of NHL teams with salary cap crunches and players to sign should be exciting as a Devils fan. Our team still has a good amount of space, and the signings/trades that Shero has made so far have been shrewd and calculated so as not to handcuff the team further down the road. A number of general managers unfortunately have left their teams strapped for cap space (or inherited the problem) and now must solve the issue.
The Anaheim Ducks in particular are a team that intrigues me, as they allegedly operate with an internal cap and still have some key pieces to re-sign. They also have a number of interesting defensemen that could help bolster New Jersey’s back end; in a perfect world we get one of the Ducks’ lefties and only have to ice one Jo(h)n per game.
1.) A Very Motivated Taylor Hall
After being traded to New Jersey from the Edmonton Oilers, Taylor Hall would speak to Fire and Ice, calling himself a “very motivated player.” Part of the reason for it is joining his new team, while the other part was based on the fact that he felt a connection to his old team and the growing pains they were going through. He felt the trade was in essence pointing to him as being part of, if not all of, the reason for Edmonton’s losing ways.
Now Hall has donned the red and black #9, and we Devils fans are hoping he can be a part of not only leading us back to the promised land, but also towards washing away the stigma of the last significant #9 for this team.
I’ve seen Taylor Hall play plenty; when you pay for Game Center due to being out of market, you want your money’s worth after all. While some Oilers fans have claimed him to be a lazy player, I don’t think that’s the case at all. There were times to me where he appeared tired on the ice, perhaps from having to try to create so much by himself. I think no matter which players he winds up with on the ice in New Jersey, it won’t be as bad as it was in Edmonton. Considering his emotional state as well, it would not surprise me one bit to see Hall come in and be on fire out of the gate. An energized Hall could enable New Jersey to open the season the right way.
Now I’d like to hear from you why you’re excited for the upcoming season; is it because of all of the young players who will have a chance to make the team? Is it a chance at a healthy season which could lead to the playoffs? Is it Pavel Zacha? Taylor Hall? Leave any and all comments below and as always thank you for reading!