The 2016-17 New Jersey Devils season is starting to look more and more like a lost cause with each passing day. I started out the season fairly optimistic; I was one of the few writers here to predict a return to the playoffs, and the team’s 9-3-3 start had them trending in that direction. Since that time, the team has suffered a number of injuries, seen there record plummet, and seemingly lost their identity on the ice as well.
Never mind the latter two points, but let’s focus on injuries right now, as the team is currently missing Andy Greene, Yohann Auvitu, John Moore, Vernon Fiddler and Jacob Josefson all for varying reasons. In need of bodies, the Devils recalled Blake Coleman and Karl Stollery from Albany; while I’m a fan of giving Coleman a shot at the NHL level, the Stollery call-up was a puzzling move. While Stollery hasn’t had much of a chance at the NHL level (he’s only appeared in 12 games up until this point), and even if the move was made simply to keep a 7th defender on the roster, it just didn’t make much sense. Here we have what is essentially a 29 year old journeyman who has not shown any sign of belonging in the NHL; I ask what is the point?
While our pipeline isn’t overflowing with talent, I honestly think calling up someone like Stollery is a mistake; with the way our defense has been playing, we should be experimenting with defensemen who might actually be able to contribute at the NHL level. I honestly believe that if Karl were NHL caliber, he would have found more sustained AHL success in the past and would have appeared in more NHL games at this point in his career.
Maybe I’m nitpicking; maybe I’m over-analyzing a meaningless roster move. I just don’t understand why we’re not calling Vojtech Mozik up instead; Ray Shero and company also opted to re-sign Reece Scarlett so why not give him a chance? Whereas Stollery is 29 and not NHL material, Scarlett is only 23 and has never been given a chance to show what he is capable of in the NHL. I understand as I mentioned above that this may be just a “7th D” call-up, but all it takes is one player tweaking something during warm-ups for the healthy scratch to find their way into the lineup. Why not give someone who still has potential a shot? Why not try to ice the best possible team?
Lineup decisions have been baffling at times this season to say the least, as have the call ups. I was initially wondering why Joseph Blandisi was not recalled, but saw in Brian’s prospect update that he’s hurt at the moment. With the way Coleman has been playing this season, he was the right call, but that doesn’t explain other moves this season.
One of those “other moves” is the fact that Luke Gazdic was brought up to the main team and continues to be here; even more mind-bottling is the fact that he somehow continues to be given any amount of playing time! We are a rebuilding team with players down in Albany who could use a taste of NHL experience and instead we get Luke “face puncher extraordinaire” Gazdic. We have NHL players who at least contribute to possession, but they get scratched in favor of Luke Freaking Gazdic! I feel like this has to somehow be a move simply to placate Taylor Hall, as it is well-known that he and Gazdic were housemates in Edmonton; if it’s not, there’s simply no excuse for this level of incompetence.
I have no experience in the NHL nor do I pretend to; I’m not a general manager, coach, assistant, trainer, or scout nor have I ever held any of those jobs. I am plain and simple the same as you or readers: a fan of this team. I think it represents a major problem however that fans can recognize when a player is in a spot they don’t deserve (Gazdic) or should not be in for one reason or another (Stollery with seemingly better options available) while management and others being paid to present a competitive, enjoyable product do not.
Even if the team is a nightmare on the ice (and after December we’ve seen what that looks like) I would rather see players who actually have a chance to be NHL contributors in New Jersey; give me the Scarletts, Moziks, Quennevills, Blandisis, and Woods of the team. Leave the Campers, Stollerys, MacWilliams, Gormleys and expecially the Gazdics of the team to fill out spots in the minors.
Now I’d like to hear what you think about the New Jersey Devils’ call-ups this season; are there players that have received call-ups that you didn’t want to see? Are there any who have yet to be called up that you want in New Jersey? Is there anyone who had a cup of coffee that you would like to see given another shot? Leave any and all comments below and thank you as always for reading!