The Devils are bad. If you had any doubt on that, the fact that this blog has posted “Time To Sell” and “Trade Value Rankings” pieces in the last 5 days should be an indication of the situation we find ourselves in.
There are varying camps on the idea of “tanking” (valuing future over present in all transactions — the byproduct of which is losing to get a higher draft pick) and the lead writer of this blog let his stance on this issue be known about a month ago. John has written articles like this in the past when things have looked dire for the Devils and, for the most part, those ideas carry through to modern-day. I’ll refine my opinions on some of these ideas and enumerate then below. So without further ado ... this is how to be a fan of a team and hope they lose all at the same time!
1) Only cheer for us to be as bad as it is necessary to be.
Devils are already tied for the least points in the NHL and are bottom 5 in PTS% as well. This team is already pretty damn close to the basement. So it’s worth noting that there is no additional usefulness in being the worst team in the NHL by a lot. It’s not like you lose a lottery ball every time you win a game. What good does being the 2016-17 Avalanche do you? Nothing. You know why? The were the worst team in the NHL by over 20 points and didn’t get ANY of the first 3 picks. Instead the Devils, the 3rd worst team in the NHL, got the 1st overall pick used to select Nico Hischier. You don’t get additional probability for being spectacularly bad, so you shouldn’t root for that to happen.
For the tank fan, the ideal scenario is that the Devils play hockey as well as possible while still being the worst team in the standings. When we win, root for us to run up the score. When we lose, hope it was close. But not too close — can’t risk getting the loser point. And cheer for bad luck! Tough bounces mean losing games without players playing bad.
2) Cheer on the youngens and the trade bait
Which players do we want to do well when tanking?
Well let’s start here: there are 14 games between now and the NHL trade deadline. There are pieces the Devils are going to look to trade. We want them to go AWF. We want to see some great hockey from Drew Stafford, Marcus Johansson, Brian Boyle, hell even Ben Lovejoy. The better those guys play over the next month, the more they will fetch us in return and the better we’ll be set for the future.
The other crew to root for is the kids. They are the future of the franchise and we have no future if they suck. The only downside to this part is that if we root too hard, then they might do better and make themselves more expensive to keep. The analytics side of me would offer this as an antidote. We want our young guys to do great at things that don’t raise their prices as much. So start rooting for Nico and Jesper to rack up the Corsis and the GARs! ... I actually don’t think this is that big of a deal — we have cap space for days. I just want the kids to do well, personally.
The interesting area for this is goaltending. Kinkaid is trade bait, Blackwood is a rookie. We have interest in both of them playing well. But by virtue of being a goalie, them playing TOO well could cost us valuable losses. I am looking for Blackwood to continue to improve technically while up against the hardest competition of his life. He is the goalie of the future for a franchise that has no plan B and so his development is extremely important to the franchise. This is where the cost-benefit comes into play. For instance, I’d rather Mac play so well that he accidentally pulls us out of the bottom 10 teams. Him playing well is more important than a few slots in the draft and couple percentage points in the lottery.
3) Time to pick favorites!
Root for your favorite guys. If you haven’t become well acquainted with the players on the team, learn about them and figure out who you like. Did you like the mouthy John Quenneville from the Behind the Glass series? Cheer for him so he can stay up with the NJ club. Are hometown kinda guy/gal? Hope for NHL All-Star, Kyle Palmieri, to keep lighting the lamp. Did you purchase a Jesper Bratt jersey after the third game of the season last year? Pray for him to flesh out his game to become the complete player he is capable of being.
Personally, Blake Coleman has been my favorite Devil since the first couple games I saw him play last year. I liked him before it was cool. But he’s really started to come into his own this year. See my love letter about “Pickles” Coleman here. Also, since this article last year, I’ve kinda been on the Severson bandwagon as well and I’d like to see him continue to put it together. And, frankly, it doesn’t hurt that those guys both liked those articles on Twitter (Blake, Damon).
4) PROSPECTS PROSPECTS PROSPECTS
There is absolutely no downside to prospects doing well. Keep an eye out for Brian’s prospect reports and Jeff’s reporting from the Bing. If you’re looking for guys to pay attention to: Ty Smith (WHL), Michael McLeod (AHL), and Jesper Boqvist (SHL) are probably the biggest names of the crew — Aarne Talvitie(NCAA) would have been up there too after his great WJC, but an injury in the championship match ended his season.
If you want daily updates, give Devils Insiders a look on Twitter — they frequently post statlines with a couple blurbs and notes for the prospects that day.
5) Beat the rivals. Beat all the rivals.
I want to sweep the Rangers in embarrassing fashion. And the Flyers rivalry is almost more enticing to me now than the Rangers one. I was at the game against the Flyers a little over a week ago and the degree to which my petty nature was thrilled to see Nico put up two points against Nolan and our rookie goalie get a shutout to beat their rookie goalie cannot be overstated.
Also, we still have to play every one of our 4 games against the Rangers and I want all of them.
I may be weird, but I find it very easy to watch every game the Devils play even with the season in this state. I do not like watching us consistently go down 3-0 by the end of the first period, though. I want to see the Devils compete. I want to see the kids show promise. I want to see my favorites play well. And I want to give the Rangers fans PTSD from the whooping we give them.
Other than that, though. Tank away, boys!
Do you want the Devils to finish last? If so how do you want it to happen? Are you rooting for just wholesale ineptitude for simplicity? What’s the ideal scenario?
What players are you looking for good play from? Who are your favorite players or prospects/rookies of choice?
Thanks as always for reading, and leave your thoughts below!