In the spirit of the day, I think we as readers, writers, fans etc. can all stop and take a moment to look at both what our New Jersey Devils are (probably) thankful for as well as some things that we here at AAtJ are thankful for. So here is this year’s list:
The Coaching Staff Should be Thankful for the First Line
Where oh where would this team be without Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri? The first line has accounted for 55 points through the first quarter of the season, and they’re showing no signs of letting up...though I am still a bit disappointed that Palmieri is no longer on pace for 164 goals this season.
In seriousness, they are the motor driving this team, and without them, there’s a good chance Jersey’s coaching staff (or at least one member of it) would be suffering the same fate as those who were in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago or Edmonton. While anyone and everyone involved with or following the team is appreciative of the top line, I think the coaching staff might be even more so than anyone else.
Pavel Zacha Should be Thankful for Finding His Game
Pavel Zacha of games 1-10 is definitely not the Pavel Zacha of games 11-15. The Devils were relying on Zacha to take a big next step forward this season, and for a player of his ilk to be held without a point for the first 10 games of the season was beyond disappointing. The team made the decision to send him to the AHL, and while injuries resulted in him returning possibly sooner than anticipated, the rejuvenated Pavel has been a completely different player.
On last night’s post-game, Ken Daneyko described Zacha as playing “with a purpose” and I think that hit the nail on the head. He now has 4 goals in 5 games, and perhaps that’s due to being reunited with Jesper Bratt...so maybe it’s Bratt that Zacha should be thankful for! Either way, let’s hope this Zacha is the one that sticks around for a good, long time.
Ray Shero Should be Thankful for Damon Severson and Mirco Mueller
More specifically, he should be thankful that these guys each have taken a step forward in their progression. The defense group as a collective was a huge question mark and one of the biggest fan criticisms of Shero over the summer was that outside of signing Egor Yakovlev, not much was done to improve the defense. Yak being unproven on North American ice didn’t do much to quell those voices either.
Severson was always seen as someone who could become a key piece of the team and this season he has been just that. His puck carrying is good, his decision making with the puck has been great for the most part, and he’s chipping in offensively as well. Does he still make mistakes? Yes, but name me one defenseman (or any player in the league for that matter) who doesn’t.
Mueller has stepped up his game as well to become a useful defender who has already eclipsed his career high in points for a season; not exactly a lofty mark to shoot for, but the fact that he’s become an every game defender, rather than being used as a fill-in speaks volumes to how far he’s come.
The Devils Should be Thankful for The Rock
The records say it all: 7-1-2 at home and 2-8-0 on the road. Having last change certainly helps, but there’s some sort of magic in the air when the Devils are in front of their fans this year. While the team is technically 6-1-2 in the Prudential Center, it’s safe to say home ice is benefiting the Devils. If they hope to continue having a successful campaign, they’re going to of course win some road games, but they’re also going to have to stay hot at home. The Rock needs to be a “tough building” for opposing teams.
We as Fans Should be Thankful for Keith Kinkaid
Goaltending was another question mark going into this season, and the consensus opinion was that one player needed to come forward and seize the starting role through strong player. To this point at least, Keith Kinkaid has been that player; with a save percentage of .916, the Blockade has given the Devils at worst serviceable goaltending, and at best he has outright stolen them a couple of games. Again, he certainly has had his warts this season, but he’s playing like a starting NHL goalie on most nights, which is what the Devils need to have a successful campaign. It’s also what we all as fans need to be able to not have an eternally pessimistic view of the team this season, so a big thumbs up emoji to Keith Kinkaid for that one!
We are AAtJ are Thankful for You Our Readers
Last but certainly not least, just as the coaching staff would be nothing without the top line, we as a site would be nothing without all of you coming here and reading all of our articles. So thank you all, as always feel free to leave any and all comments below and for all of those who celebrate have a Happy Thanksgiving!