With eleven games left in a disappointing, frustrating season, the New Jersey Devils are still the walking wounded. Rather than seeing names coming off of IR, there appears to be more going on by the day, as Egor Yakovlev was added to that list yesterday according to Amanda Stein. The Devils at this point aside from playing spoiler, essentially have nothing left to play for. Two more points earned in any fashion by Columbus will mathematically eliminate the Devils by virtue of the current wild card teams (the Jackets and Hurricanes as of this writing) have more ROWs than the Devils could earn even if they somehow miraculously won out.
As the Devils have no chance to appear in the postseason, the focus shifts to development and the status of injured players. While some like Miles Wood seem ready to return imminently, there are others like Jesper Bratt and Taylor Hall where very little is known about the status of their recovery. So would the Devils best be served by simply shutting down everyone who is currently on the injured list?
It seems a bit strange just how little has leaked out regarding some of the injuries that were deemed to not be so serious; when was the last time we had on update on Pavel Zacha or Nico Hischier? What about Mirco Mueller, who said he wanted to be back soon? Even if he needs more time than initially anticipated, surely there would be an update. But no, instead there’s radio silence and uncertainty around a lot of these players.
Realistically speaking, the Devils can’t shut down everyone, because if they suffer anymore injuries, it would be a full AHL squad playing in Jersey. However, I think it would be best to shut down the highest qualities assets to have them best prepared for next season. I would keep Hall, Bratt, Hischier and Sami Vatanen sidelined; while many of the others have some value to the team, these are four pieces that you want ready to go at 100% next season, and with nothing to play for (and fewer and fewer games to play by the time they may be ready) it just makes sense to keep them out of action.
This would also be beneficial to the young players in the lineup to see who should be playing in New Jersey next season. For this to truly be successful, some of the injured (again guys like Wood) need to return to the lineup; having three full lines of players who started the year in the AHL doesn’t allow for good evaluation, as opposing teams in road games will send out their top line to pick on those players. If the Devils can get a few more healthy bodies, it will allow them to role at least two lines of NHl caliber guys, and give the kids some easier minutes against competition that is closer to their current level.
Maybe this is already the Devils’ plan and why we’re getting little information; maybe it’s not and the players really are day-to-day/week-to week. It still provides a good evaluation period for players such as Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian (who is also currently sitting in the injured pile), Kevin Rooney and Colton White at the highest level. While early returns have not been great on some of these guys (though Rooney has looked as though he could be a capable fourth liner) they still have time down the stretch to prove they have an NHL future?
Do you think the Devils should keep their injured stars sidelined, or bring them back if they become available? Is it a disservice to the fans to not bring the players back if they’re able to play? What have you thought of the young players who have been plugged in so far? Leave your thoughts and comments down below and thanks as always for reading!