There are still 79 games to go in the 2019-20 NHL season, but for our New Jersey Devils, things are already looking grim. The team is off to a terrible 0-2-1 start, made even worse by the way a 4-0 lead slipped away and only one point was salvaged on opening night. While the team certainly looked promising in preseason, the regular season has seen the squad look slow, uncoordinated and generally...well...a mess. So what changed in one week from preseason’s end to the Winnipeg Disaster?
To be honest, personnel-wise, not much had changed since the preseason; the Devils sent Matt Tennyson, Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian down to Binghamton and returned Ty Smith to his junior team for one more season. None of these moves were unexpected, however, with the possible exception of Smith; with his preseason performance though, him being sent back was for the best. Still, the Devils were left with a roster that was much improved from last season, as P.K. Subban, Nikita Gusev, Jesper Boqvist, Jack Hughes and a healthy Taylor Hall made the Devils much better on paper.
Yet, it’s not manifesting in the results on the ice, particularly in the team’s own end where they’ve allowed 16 goals (“good” for third worst in the entire league right now) while only putting six in for themselves. The team’s scoring leader? Blake Coleman with three points in three games. While Coleman has been pretty good, the rest of this “improved” team has been for the most part putrid. Only four players (including Coleman) have recorded multiple points through three games. The goaltending has been downright atrocious, with both ‘tenders owning a save percentage below .900. So is it time to panic?
Maybe “panic switch” is the wrong term, but something needs to be done and sooner rather than later. The Devils outside of the first two periods against Winnipeg have seemed listless and lifeless. Advanced stats paint a grim picture as well, but after watching the team play, those aren’t even necessary in this discussion. The scary part is the issues revealed by the “eye test” aren’t anything new; they’re similar to problems that have manifested in years past. Players are running into each other rather than being spaced out on the ice. Assignments are being missed due to poor on-ice positioning. Goalies are being screened by their own players, and opposing teams are scoring as a result of each of these items listed.
There are a number of fans already calling for the heads of John Hynes and his coaching staff, and I think at this point, if the results do not start coming soon, that should be the “panic switch” that Ray Shero pushes. With all of the changes that have been made, there’s no reason the team should be blowing four goal leads, nor should they be getting embarrassed in two straight blow-out losses. As mentioned in the above paragraph, there are issues that have been recurring for the Hynes Years now that haven’t fixed themselves, and it keeps happening with different players, suggesting the issue is the system, not the talent.
I’m not sure exactly who would be available should the Devils dismiss Hynes and his assistants (at the very least Alain Nasreddine has one foot out the door in my opinion), but sub-par results with this influx of talent is inexcusable. We’ve seen talented Devils rosters flounder with poor coaching before (hello John MacLean season) only to turn it around once a change was made. If the Devils tank tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers (which I truly hope isn’t the result) then I assume Shero gets a little bit closer to making some change; whether that’s the coaches or not remains to be seen.
To answer the question posed in the title as succinctly as possible, I don’t believe the time to panic is at hand just yet, but if things don’t turn around within the next week or so, then change must be made.
Do you think the Devils should be panicked already at this early juncture of the season? Where do you find fault with how poorly the team has performed through its first three contests? What moves do you think could be made to help right the ship? Leave any and all comments below and thank you as always for reading!