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Opinion: Pain of Losses Dulled by Predictability

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The Devils are in a slump, but it’s not particularly surprising given early indicators and a bad roster. This someone eases the pain that could have been caused by such a drought. I explain below.

Montreal Canadiens v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Devils are in free-fall. We haven’t won a game since February 18th, and we haven’t won a game by more than one goal since February 4th. During this most recent bout with ineptitude, the Devils have the worst GF% (goals for/against ratio) in the league. Throwing salt on the wound is the fact that our most recent two losses have been against the Avalanche and the Coyotes — the only two teams below us in the standings. And yet, I’m not sad. I’ve gone through the full 5 stages of grief.

Five Stages of Grief

1. Denial — We just made the Stanley Cup, and Kovy might come back. We’ll right the ship.

2. Anger—Why is it taking so long? We are never bad several years in a row

3. Bargaining—Okay, take away Marty and Lou and let’s start fresh. We’ve been spoiled and we need to revamp.

4. Depression—We are so hard to watch. I don’t even recognize us. Who are we? Why does it have to be this way?

And I’m on to the 5th and final stage —acceptance. Few franchises can appreciate the sustained level of success the Devils had had over the previous two decades. The Devils had a run of 13 straight postseason appearances is very unusual. Only two other teams have carried a longer streak into the new millenium (Blues, 25 seasons ending in ‘04; Red Wings, actice 25 season streak). Only 3 NBA teams have carried a longer into the 2000s. Only 1 MLB team has ever had that many. No NFL team has ever done it.

The Devils were good for a long time. And aging superstars combined with tha crippling Ilya Kovalchuk retirement conspired to enforce karma upon us. The Kovalchuk trade knocked us down 20 spots in a draft over which course Dylan Larkin, Robby Fabbri, and David Pastrnak were selected. Also gave up an immediate pick that would become Kevin Hayes for him in the first place, along with Johnny Oduya and two guys that ended up busting. Not to mention the fine and the fact that Lou probably sat out free agency for forwards while Ilya was on the team. It was a truly crippling development that, in retrospect, feels as though it was inevitable after such sustained success.

But even just within this year, I’m not tragically depressed about the most recent skid. There are 3 reasons for this reaction. The Devils are not constructed to win right now, we’re not playing much worse than we were before, and we thought we’d be bad heading into the season.

Three Reasons Not to be Depressed by Slump

First, the Devils are not constructed to win games. In my article last week, I called it “tanking” for which I received the typical reactions. “No team tries to lose,” “The coach and players are trying,” “I always want my team to be competitive,” etc. Some of this stems from a silly semantic debate about the use of the word “tank.” This strikes me as a silly distinction. This team sold players for cents on the dollar on the off chance that it might help them down the road. To sum up the biggest reasons - Dalton Prout is garbage. and Parenteau is worth way more than a 6th rounder. Call it a tank, call it preparing for the future, call it whatever. The Devils are not designed to win games anymore this season. So why be sad?

That’s mostly intra-season reasoning though. There’s another reason not to be sad and it is the preseason projections. Most of us here at AAtJ had the Devils as 6th in the Metropolitan. We’ll underachieve that goal only slightly. Furthermore, your’s truly even offered some explanation as to why we may fail:

“I have one massive problem with this Devils team and it is the blueline. If Andy Greene gets injured, we have the worst group of 6 defenders in the league. I've mentioned how much Adam Larsson and Greene were able to mask last year in so many different articles that I can't even list all the links here. Greene and Damon Severson worked great together before Larsson came along so hopefully that plugs the whole somewhat”

This was always going to be rough and it’s not even particularly surprising that it trickled down to Schneider. This wasn’t surprising. So why be sad?

And that brings us to our final reason. The Devils are bad right now. The last time the Devils lost more than 10 games in a row was the 1990-91 season. That being said, this isn’t even the worst they’ve been this season.

Our current 10-game plus/minus is -14, or 9 goals better than our 10-game total as of December 27th. Anyone who looked closely at the Devils stats from earlier in the season knows that we have always been a bottom 5 team.

It was clear immediately that the Devils would not be able to score goals again this year. And it was clear by December that this motley crew of defenders would not be able to keep their heads above water for long. This is been clear for at least 3 months. So why be sad?

I’ve said that a few times. And I get why. John talks about how he goes to every game and how giving him something to root for every night is a very important thing to him. I wish for them to be competitive too, but they are not designed to have sustained success. And so I refuse to be heartbroken when the Devils lose and move an inch closer to having their choice of premier player in this draft. My ideal scenario is that the Devils are competitive in every game for the rest of the season, and lose just enough to get into that 2nd slot above Vegas. I get the fans impulse to want the team to win, but from an analytic point of view, overachieving and missing the playoffs is the worst thing you can do. You don’t get postseason experience for the team, you don’t get postseason enjoyment as a fan, and your rebuild is being slowed due to the fact that your not drafting from a slot that is representative of how bad you are.

Seeing the greater picture, I am not saddened or even frustrated by the recent slump. We are still set up to lose nothing in expansion, draft enough players to fill a small ark, and sign the best free agent available for the next 3 seasons. My sadness exists in the moment they lose the game, and almost immediately dissipates afterwards as I return to rationality. And I suggest you view it the same.

Your Thoughts

So? Give it to me. Why am I an idiot? Am I being disrespectful to the organization and it’s fans by not being sad at losses? Or are you in the other camp and you’re lobbying for all out tank? Whatever your thoughts are, leave them below and thanks for reading!