In the 2010’s, the bloom came off the rose for the New Jersey Devils. After multiple decades of consistent success and sustaining a model as one of the most well-run organizations in the league, the roster and system finally collapsed under the weight of years of player departures, future mortgaging, and poor drafting. Since that collapse in the middle of the 2010’s the team has struggled to get back on its feet under a new management regime, making the playoffs just once in the past seven seasons. Since the 2010 offseason, the Devils have made the playoffs just twice, with the only playoff rounds won coming in the 2012 Cup Final run. Even if we include the 2010 playoffs at the very beginning of the decade, the Devils still only won more than one playoff game one time over the 2010’s. Put short, this was a bad decade for the New Jersey Devils. But exactly how bad was it? Lets see how it stacks up against the previous two decades of success (and the considerably less successful first decade in New Jersey).
2010s: 361 wins; NHL Rank T-23rd of 30
2000s: 415 wins; 2nd of 28
1990s: 393 wins; 3rd of 21
1980s (1982-89): 178 wins; 21st of 21
From the 2009-10 to 2018-19 season, the Devils finished 23rd in wins among the 30 teams that played the entire decade in the league. This is a very far cry from the previous two decades of Devils hockey, where the Devils were comfortably among the league’s best and finished top three in total wins. Only the Red Wings have a legitimate claim to being better than the Devils over the 1990s and 2000s. In the 2010s, uh, many, many teams do. If you’re looking for a positive spin on the 2010s, it might be that the organization was not nearly as bad as it was in the 1980s.
2010s: .524; 23rd of 31
2000s: .630; 2nd of 30
1990s: .571; 3rd of 27
1980s: .370; 21st of 21
This is actually a good illustration about why the modern NHL points system is somewhat silly. To a casual observer or any person not totally familiar with the NHL’s points system, a glance at the Devils’ points % from the 2010s might lead one to conclude that things were okay for the Devils. In reality, though, the team only won 46% of their games from 2009-10 to 2018-19. If we limit the search to just 2013 on and add in the dismal results from this year so far, things begin to reflect the considerably more bleak conditions over the past 7+ seasons. The percentages over that specific 2013-present timeframe? The Devils are below .500 in points percentage and have a real win percentage (wins/games played) of 41.5%. Without the last vestiges of the previous good era for the Devils, they are 28th out of 30 in the league in wins since 2013.
2010s: -182; 25th of 31
2000s: +337; 3rd of 30
1990s: +328; 2nd of 27
1980s: -503; 21st of 21
Of all the numbers, this one paints most starkly how bad things were, how good they became, and how bad they are once again. The -503 differential of the 1980s team is a sight to behold and a level of futility that any non-expansion team will have a tough time matching, particularly in the modern league. Still, the -182 for the 2010s puts the team squarely in some poor company, particularly when you consider that the team had two very solid seasons right at the start of the decade. This rough decade also has done an unfortunate thing, which is put the team back below even in goal differential since its arrival in New Jersey. The 1980s teams dug a big hole to start things out, but 20+ years of sustained excellence propelled the team well back into the green, finishing the 2009 season at +162 overall. Coming into this season, the team had fallen back to -20, though, and has slapped another -37 on that total in the opening 36 games of this year’s campaign.
Shots For and Against
2010s: SF: 21,994; 30th of 30 | SA: 22,410; 3rd of 30
2000s: SF: 22,590; 3rd of 28 | SA: 19,365: 3rd of 28
1990s: SF: 24,524; 3rd of 21 | SA: 21,443: 4th of 21
1980s: SF: 16,124; 20th of 21 | SA: 17,325; 13th of 21
Since the days of Jacques Lemaire’s first run in New Jersey, the Devils have been consistently slapped with the “boring” label as a team. The shot counts against partially illustrate the reason for that perception. The thing about the 90s and 2000s teams was that while they weren’t allowing other teams to generate much, they were often generating plenty of offense for their part. It may have been boring for opponents to get pummeled by the Devils night after night, but it was plenty of fun for us. In the 2010s, though, the Devils have truly lived up to their boring label. While they have continued to limit shots and chances (generally speaking), the 2010s Devils were not near the top of the league in generating offense. Instead, they were at the very bottom, with the fewest shots of any team in the decade. It used to be an easy retort when other fans claimed the Devils were boring, i.e. it certainly wasn’t boring for us to watch them pound other teams to dust. Now, though, there’s not much to say in response. The 2010s Devils bored everyone to tears; most of all, their own fans, unfortunately.
2010s: 16; T-17th of 31
2000s: 56; 2nd of 30
1990s: 46; 6th of 27
1980s: 11; 15th of 21
These numbers illustrate what a deep playoff run can do for a team. As mentioned above, the Devils only won more than one playoff game one season this decade. But that run in 2012 including series wins in three rounds puts them in a position of having as many postseason victories as nearly half the league. Of course, the lone playoff victory in the stretch since 2013 puts them ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres, who each have not made the playoffs at all over that time frame.
Overall, this decade was obviously not a success for the Devils. These were not the Mickey Mouse days, as the numbers reflect, but the Devils were find themselves pretty comfortably in the bottom third of the league in the 2010s and, particularly for the last seven years of this decade, there are only a handful of teams that have been arguably worse than the Devils. I stated at the beginning of this season that the Devils were hoping to emerge from a dark decade in this 2019-20 season. It has not worked out that way. Instead, we’ll enter the 2020s with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the team and with an unclear picture of exactly how far this team is away from contention. Here’s hoping the 2020s are something much closer to the 1990s or 2000s than the 2010s or the 1980s.
Stats for this piece retrieved from the Hockey Reference Play Index.