After a successful season in 2017-18, the New Jersey Devils failed in 2018-19. Even if you firmly believe the Devils were lucky to make the playoffs last season, going from any postseason berth to a bottom-three finish and crossing our fingers for the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery is definitely a massive disappointment. However, we cannot un-spill the milk. We must look at what happened and reflect on it.
As bad as this season was, there players who stood out in some ways more than others. To recognize them or at least consider who did stand out for better or for worse, the writers of All About the Jersey got together and voted for our annual end of season awards. We have major awards for who was the best. We have minor awards for notable pluses and minuses. We even have some offbeat superlatives from some of the writers themselves. If nothing else, it is an entertaining diversion before we all cheer for a set of four numbers selected at random being called out in the Devils’ favor on Tuesday.
Note: All awards were voted on before the final game of the season on April 6, a 4-3 OT win by the Devils.
Team MVP: Nico Hischier
Among all of the bad things about the 2018-19 Devils, one of the consistently good ones was Nico Hischier. Hischier proved that he can be a contributor, he can command difficult matchups and even do relatively well in them, and he can be a creative force. Even without Taylor Hall or a definite offensive winger, Hischier can gain the zone, drive the play, win pucks, and draw calls. He finished tied with Kyle Palmieri in points per game on the team, 0.68, among Devils not named Taylor. Injuries largely kept him from breaking 50 points (47 in 69 games); Hischier was on pace to surpassing his rookie scoring and shooting totals. According to Natural Stat Trick, his 5-on-5 on-ice numbers are among the best among forwards, nearly finishing at breakeven in attempts, finishing positive in shots, scoring chances, and (especially) high-danger chances. The Devils have a first-line center and his name is Nico Hischier. Without him, this team could have made a running for dead last.
Voting Commentary: There was some dissent. Two out of the eight votes went to Kyle Palmieri. On a team that lacked offense at times, someone who provides it certainly has value. One vote went to Taylor Hall. I can see the argument for that in that Hall was the team’s best player before his injury. But between the injury and the team still getting owned most nights before that injury, I can see the argument against.
Best Goalie: Mackenzie Blackwood
Mackenzie Blackwood was not on the roster at the start of the season. By February, Blackwood’s performances essentially forced Ray Shero to move Keith Kinkaid for just about anything so he can play more. By the end of the season, Blackwood has made 23 appearances with an even strength save percentage of 91.8% and a power play save percentage of 89.3% - two percentages that lead the team. According to Natural Stat Trick, Blackwood finished 22nd overall in all situations Goals Saved Above Average with +5.16. These are numbers in a stark contrast to Kinkaid, who finished the season with the league’s third worst GSAA at -22. Blackwood’s rise was welcomed as it came as Kinkaid’s struggles became more than temporary and Schneider was absolutely terrible prior to his second injury recovery in 2018. Blackwood was at the very least NHL average in net (his 91.8% even strength save percentage was tied for 27th out of all goalies with a minimum of 20 games) and has given a lot of hope among the Devils fans that he is a real goaltender of the future. Even if that does not happen, he was easily better than Schneider and Kinkaid in 2018-19.
Voting Commentary: This was the only unanimous vote.
Best Defenseman: Damon Severson
Damon Severson gets a lot of criticism for being “soft in coverage” and prone to making mistakes on defense. There are absolutely moments where that is true, but that is true for virtually every defenseman. Even the very best get beaten or make an error. What makes Severson valuable is that he can hit back for whatever damage is taken. Severson put up 11 goals and 39 points to lead the defensemen in scoring, which put him tied for 31st among all defensemen in scoring in 2018-19. Despite not always being with the top power play unit, he finished just two power play points behind Will Butcher among Devils defensemen. In 5-on-5 play, Severson put up eight goals and 25 points; far ahead of the 14 points from Butcher and Severson’s most common partner, Andy Greene. While his on-ice rates were not the best in 5-on-5, the for-percentages for the Devils were notably better when Severson was on the ice compared Greene’s across the board. This suggests that Severson was the better of the big-minute duo. The coaching staff eventually moved him to the first power play unit by season’s end and realized that Severson on a penalty kill is not a bad thing. I do not think the criticism will go away simply because of how Severson plays the position. However, he has earned his 22 minutes per game. And if he can have a better partner than Greene, then we may see Severson shine much more often.
Voting Commentary: Three did not vote for Severson. Two chose Will Butcher. Butcher saw an increase in role, he still produced 30 points, and his 5-on-5 on-ice rates were the best or near to it among Devils defensemen. Goofy as it can be and despite my increasing misgivings with it, the GAR model loved Butcher last season. This is all to say, don’t sleep on #8. One chose Andy Greene, crediting him for being an astoundingly effective penalty killer and a block machine.
Best Offensive Forward: Kyle Palmieri
Kyle Palmieri was the team leader in many basic offensive categories. The Pride of Montvale, New Jersey ended up leading the Devils in goals (27), points (50), shots (224), power play goals (11), and power play points (18). While Travis Zajac ended up leading the team in 5-on-5 points, Palmieri led in 5-on-5 goals on the team with 16 and 5-on-5 primary points (goals and primary assists) with 21. He did this while managing to get 74 games on a team that struggled to stay healthy, which meant he did not always have the most talented supporting cast. Palmieri also managed some positive relative on-ice percentages in 5-on-5 too. That points to Palmieri providing an impact beyond just lighting the lamp or helping others do so. Sure, his finishing would run hot and cold at times in a season. Seeing that only one other Devil even topped twenty goals, that Palmieri managed to produce as much as he did points to it being enough. If you thought the Devils were lacking in offense, then imagine if Palmieri was not around in 2018-19. I shudder to think of it.
Voting Commentary: There were three other names brought up. Two brought up Hall. Which I can totally respect. Hall may have only appeared in 33 games but he put up 37 points (a 1.12 point per game rate, far higher than Palmieri’s and Hischier’s 0.68) and his 5-on-5 numbers are still among the best among skaters. Which is not a surprise as Hall would often lead the Devils attack and keep plays going forward while making opposing defenses sweat a whole lot. There is an argument there. One brought up Hischier, who nearly matched Palmieri in points while also having better on-ice rate and relative rate stats. There is an argument there too. One brought up Jesper Bratt on the basis of his displays of skills on the puck. That was admittedly an off-the-board pick according to the voter.
Best Defensive Forward: Blake Coleman
Blake Coleman was a man who earned a lot more love after breaking out last season. While the on-ice rates suggest others were more stingy in the run of play in 5-on-5 and penalty kill situations, Coleman was often called to be the one to take tough match-ups, forecheck like a monster, and be on the primary penalty killing unit. And even if more was allowed with him in shorthanded situations, he was primarily responsible for being the one to provide offense in those same situations. For a second straight season, Coleman was among league leaders in shots, attempts, and scoring chances in shorthanded situations as per Natural Stat Trick. Coleman was called upon to play above his level out of necessity and he would do his best to make it work. That all endeared him to the fans - and the writers who voted for him for this award.
Voting Commentary: Travis Zajac was close behind Coleman in voting. Zajac was given a lot of really undesirable situations - which is common for him - and tried to make the best of it. He was a standout penalty killer even if he did not have the flash that comes from creating offensive situations like Coleman did. His faceoff prowess was also a plus. The one remainder vote was for Pavel Zacha - who flew under the radar for his penalty killing and his general run of play. I think it was a stretch but it was not the worst vote ever. One voter wanted me to mention Kevin Rooney as an honorable mension, so there you go.
Best Rookie: Mackenzie Blackwood
Between all of the injuries in the 2019 portion of the season and the team having nothing to really play for in 2019, there were twelve Devils who had rookie status this season. The best among them was easy: goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. Part of it is because most of the eleven skaters really did not do so well to command a roster spot for a long time. A transaction was made to make sure Blackwood would be in New Jersey. Brett Seney (51), Kevin Rooney (41), and Joey Anderson (34) all saw their eligibility end this past season and none of the three have guaranteed a spot for next season. Blackwood did. None of the rookies did so well that they took a prime spot. All except the two defensemen averaged less than 13 minutes per game, and those two defensemen averaged less than 15. Blackwood started 21 of those 23 appearances last season and he was not out of necessity - he earned starts. Blackwood was named the Best Goaltender. The other twelve, nothing. It is fitting that Blackwood is, therefore, the Best Rookie.
Voting Commentary: This was not unanimous, but it almost was. Someone tossed a vote to Rooney for his PK work. So there was that.
The Sergei Brylin Award for Versatility: Tie: Blake Coleman / Travis Zajac
Technically, Egor Yakovlev was the sole skater who both lined up at two different positions. He was mostly a defenseman, but he did line up at left wing for a few games. So that is versatile - but he was not really good enough at either to be a regular last season. Brylin was good however and wherever he played. Therefore, Blake Coleman would fit in that regard. Coleman started the season in a bottom-six role where he would receive prime PK minutes. As injuries mounted and poor performances of others countinued, Coleman started receiving more and more opportunities. Before one knew it, Coleman had games where he played well over 20 minutes. Coleman received power play shifts. Coleman would line up next to Travis Zajac, Miles Wood, and a menagerie of others. And Coleman was pretty good from it all. In addition to being a shorthanded offensive machine, he scored 22 goals, he topped 200 shots (213), and his average ice time finished above 17 minutes. All the while his 5-on-5 on-ice rates were among the better ones among Devils skaters. Again, it is not enough to play in a bunch of different spots - it is about doing it well. Coleman achieved that in 2018-19.
Of course, there was a tie among the votes and the other man was Coleman’s most common forward: Travis Zajac. Zajac has long been the do-everything-and-do-it-somewhat-well center for the Devils. 2018-19 was no different. While Coleman had the shorthanded offense, Zajac was stinger on the PK. While Coleman played up in a top-six role as needed, Zajac has done it precisely because he has done it before. While Coleman got power play shifts when the forward group was decimated with injury, Zajac has been a mainstay in the middle of the 1-3-1 formation that the Devils stick to for better or worse. Personally, I think Coleman had the better season, but the arguments for Coleman for the Brylin mostly apply to Zajac as well. To that end, I’m fine with a tie for this one.
Voting Commentary: So the tie was 3-3 for these two. The others: One for Damon Severson, who earned his way up a power play unit, received some non-significant penalty kill time, and dealt with a lot next to Andy Greene. One for Nico Hischier, who had to play with several different forwards. Per Natural Stat Trick, the only forward he played over 400 minutes with in 5-on-5 hockey this season was Kyle Palmieri. Everyone else was at 323 minutes or less. I personally favor Coleman but it’s Coleman-Zajac this season.
Best Comeback: Cory Schneider
In the 2018 part of this season, Cory Schneider returned from rehab an injury at the end of October, played in nine games, and posted an overall save percentage of 85.3%. That is a save percentage that can be best described as abysmal. Schneider was not getting beaten by great shots; he was giving up soft ones left and right. Schneider went back on IR with an abdominal strain in mid-December. It looked like he was done.
Schneider returned to the rink in February and it was like his nightmare of 2018 never happened. Schneider did not just win a game, he was Actually Good. From his first game back on February 7 until the end of the season, Schneider posted an overall save percentage of 92.1%. The bad goals dried up. Schneider was moving excellently post to post, making stops on shots that would beat most goalies. After months of jeers, deserved criticism, and wishes he would be gone someway somehow, Schneider was getting cheered, praised, and his name chanted. He actually finished this season above 90% in overall (90.3%) and even strength save percentage (90.5%), which is an astounding achievement given how low it was. Schneider came back through a lot to finish the season with respectability and hope that maybe, just maybe, the Devils have two legitimately good goaltenders for next season. The reporters nominated Schneider for the Masterton Trophy. This should be no surprise.
Voting Commentary: There were two dissenters. One voted for Zajac, who opened some eyes this season in light of a not-really-deserved reputation of not being effective. One voted for Mirco Mueller, who came back to play late in the season after suffering a very scary looking shoulder injury after careening seemingly neck first into the endboards. All else went with Schneider.
Best In-Season Move by the Devils: Brian Boyle for Nashville’s Second Round Pick in 2019
Brian Boyle became a fan favorite. He was a bottom-six center who did a bit of everything whilst battling Leukemia. When he was dealt to Nashville in early February, it was a sign that the Devils were sellers and it was time to move on. In Nashville, Boyle will go to the playoffs and he could be a part of a successful run. The return was great. Ray Shero was able to get a second round pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Given Boyle’s role, that he’s 34, and a pending unrestricted free agent, I do not think most expected a significant return like a second round selection. Shero did not do a lot before February, but his selling of assets by the trade deadline were quite good. This deal started it and it stands up as the best.
Voting Commentary: It stood up the best by a thin margin. Three voters chose this. Two voters chose the Ben Lovejoy trade that brought back Dallas’ third round pick and Connor Carrick. Two voters chose picking up Kenny Agostino off of waivers; he has been a contributor since then. One voter chose Blackwood being called up to play - which absolutely worked out. All were good moves. I would not begrudge you if you chose any of those over who won out.
Worst In-Season Move by the Devils: The John Hynes Extension
On January 3, the New Jersey Devils announced a two-year contract extension for head coach John Hynes. On January 3, the Devils had a 15-17-7 record with 37 points earned for the 24th best record in the NHL. Prior to that date, the Devils have slipped to dead last - 31st place Ottawa had 35 points then too. Hynes’ charges responded to the news by, well, stinking it up. The injuries did not help but even before they really ramped up, the Devils were in 28th with a 24-28-8 record on February 22. The Devils finished this season with one of the worst road records in hockey and 29th place at 31-41-10. Beyond the record the Devils were one of the worst performing teams in 5-on-5 play outside of high-danger chances - which certainly did not keep them from bleeding goals and not creating enough of them. Sure, Hynes could not control the goaltending being terrible and he does not provide the talent, he could control how they are coached up, how they are organized and utilized, and what the general tactics are. He talks intelligently after games about what went well or not. I appreciate that, but I would rather have the performances improve instead of being explained. Despite 2017-18, I am not convinced that Hynes has achieved enough to make me think he will take the Devils to where they want to be in the future. I am not sure why he needed to be locked up for two more years, much less in the first week of January amid a season already set for crumminess.
Voting Commentary: This one won by virtue of having two people vote for it. Two voters abstained. The other four was split between Kurtis Gabriel’s call up and usage for 22 games, the Marcus Johansson trade, the secrecy of Hall’s injury where the team did not announce his knee surgery until a national reporter revealed it days after it happened, and the Keith Kinkaid trade that negatively impacted the tank.
Best 2018 Offseason Move by the Devils: Blake Coleman’s New Contract
Blake Coleman was a relatively bright spot in a dim, dark, and dismal 2018-19 season. What makes it look a little brighter is his contract. Shero re-signed Coleman to a three-year contract for a total of $5.4 million last July. Yes, the 22-goal scoring, forecheck beasting, pickle juice ingesting shorthanded offensive machine has a cap hit of less than $2 million as per CapFriendly. That was a very good signing then and it looks great now.
Voting Commentary: There were two dissenters among voters. The first was letting John Moore walk. I mean, that is a clever answer but I am not a John Moore fan. The second was bringing Martin Brodeur back in the organization. The voter struggled to have an answer given the relative inaction by Shero last summer, but that was their guess.
Worst 2018 Offseason Move by the Devils: Kurtis Gabriel Signing
Ray Shero did not sign a lot of players in the offseason. Kurtis Gabriel was one of them. As with many AHL veterans available on the open market, it took a NHL contract to bring Gabriel to the organization. This allowed him to be called up and used for 22 games whereupon he was just a guy on the ice most nights. It was not a big signing. It was just a one-year contract at the NHL minimum. But it did not need to be made then and it was not a good one a season later.
Voting Commentary: There were four other votes. One was for “none” because Shero did not do much of anything. One was for Shero’s general in action. OK, I guess that’s two for that. Anyway, one vote went to Eric Gryba being signed. Gryba was definitely on the Gabriel level of ineffectiveness. One voter went with Steve Santini being re-signed to a three-year contract. Given how poor he has been, I do not think I can say that voter was entirely wrong.
Best Surprise: Mackenzie Blackwood
Mackenzie Blackwood was not exactly dominating the AHL in his two seasons since becoming professional. However, he was given his opportunity in New Jersey and he took full advantage. He is now set to be in New Jersey next season and he could very well take the #1/#1A spot in 2019-20. I never would have guessed he would Best Goaltender by this season’s end back in September 2018. He has fully earned it. Blackwood’s emergence has been the best surprise.
Voting Commentary: Coleman’s season garnered two votes in this category. Kevin Rooney and Brett Seney each earned a vote, presumably for sticking around for more than a little bit in the NHL. Rooney did a whole lot of nothing last season and so he did something. Seney jumped into the NHL shortly after ending his college career last year and played in 50 games. I see it, although I think Blackwood is the correct answer here.
Most Disappointing: Keith Kinkaid
As Schneider was terrible in 2018, Kinkaid showed that he was not that much better. And his slide continued into 2019. Kinkaid was hot - for the first four games of the season. Then the goals against just kept on coming. His overall save percentage month-by-month: 91%, 91%, 87.6%, 89%, and 84%. Kinkaid played his last game in a Devils uniform on February 19, he gave up four goals on 28 shots, and he would be idle until the NHL Trade Deadline. He was traded to Columbus for a fifth round pick - in 2022. Yes, a prospect that is not even eligible to play junior hockey yet. That almost says it all. So does the fact that Kinkaid has not even made his debut with Columbus. His 2018-19 season ends with a GSAA of -22 in all situations (third worst in the NHL), an overall save percentage of 89.1%, an even strength save percentage of 89.7%, and being inactive since mid-February. Disappointing is an understatement to describe Kinkaid’s 2018-19 season.
Voting Commentary: This was not unanimous. Three selected Kinkaid to take this one. John Quenneville failing to take advantage of actual opportunities to stick in the NHL were stated by two voters. One voter felt Miles Wood taking a big step back after last season was the most disappointing. One voter said that Stefan Noesen going from decent bottom-six winger to a guy was rather disappointing. One voter said the whole season was the most diappointing. That voter was not wrong.
Best Binghamton Devil: John Quenneville
While Quenneville may have not done much of anything at the NHL level, he has done quite a bit with Binghamton. According to Prospect-Stats, Quenneville put up an impressive 0.47 goals per game, 1.03 points per game, and 0.97 primary points per game. Even though he has only had 36 games in Binghamton, he provided some badly needed offense down in Bingo. It is disappointing that the former first round draft pick appears to be a tweener; someone who can produce and create at the AHL level but cannot do so at the NHL level. But as Binghamton has had their own struggles, he has been a bright spot for them in 2018-19.
Voting Commentary: There was variety here too. One voter chose Binghamton’s current leading scorer, Blake Pietila. Yes, he has 18 goals and 26 assists in 48 games. That’s impressive. One voter chose AHL rookie Marian Studenic and one voter has appreciated what Brett Seney has done in limited action. However, I think those were more from a prospect perspective. I think Pietila and Quenneville are the better choices myself; but I do not decide all of the votes - just my own.
Best Prospect: Ty Smith
Fans were very happy to see that Jeremy Davies was signed to an entry level contract last week. Fans are hopeful that Reilly Walsh will receive an ELC of his own soon. But it is telling that the defenseman prospect that stood out in the voting was the 2018 first round selection, Ty Smith. Smith finished fourth among all WHL defensemen in points with 69 and tied for first in assists with 62. Smith received a somewhat extended look in last season’s training camp. There was some thought that he was ready for the NHL then. After crushing the WHL from the back for Portland, there will only be increased hopes that he could do it next season. Does he have more to prove at the major junior level? I am not sure, but Smith was definitely one of the best performing prospects in the Devils’ system.
Voting Commentary: Most picked Smith. Two voters selected Jesper Boqvist. That was it. No Davies, no Walsh, and no one else. I’ve been intentionally keeping the people’s votes secret, but one of the Boqvist voters was Brian, who writes regularly about the team’s prospects. I think what he had to say is worth sharing:
I was a bit torn when picking this one - which is a great thing. You can easily make a case for Ty Smith who dominated the WHL. You can make a case for Jeremy Davies who developed into a great two-way threat from the blue line at the collegiate level. The main reason I went with Boqvist is because of the season he put up as a 20 year old player competing against grown men in a professional environment. While Brynäs IF didn’t have the season they expected, Boqvist was a bright light as the team’s second leading scorer. Boqvist proved himself to be one of the top U21 talents in the SHL which is a top league in the world of hockey. Perhaps equally impressive is he did this after losing much of his age 19 season in 2017-18 due to injury. This kid’s skill is the real deal and I fully expect him to compete and earn a spot on the Devils next season as a 21 year old.
These are offbeat awards by the individual writers, identified by their initials. They’re not binding. They are for fun. It is how these award posts are closed out.
Best Goal Sequence (JV): The Vatanen stick-save to Palmieri hand-pass-to-himself to Taylor Hall goal against Ottawa on Dec. 21st. The plays, the commentary, the goal, it’s all awesome.
The Fifth Annual Ilya Bryzgalov “Why You Have To Be Mad” Award (GL): Coach John Hynes. The original criteria for this award saw it go to a Devil who got mad about the team not using him, even though he had been playing poorly with our first three winners being Michael Ryder, Eric Gelinas, and Michael Cammalleri. Last year’s winner was Travis Zajac for getting mad and beating down Radko Gudas. This year we’ve tweaked the criteria again, and the award goes to Coach Hynes for how many times he had to angrily answer post-game questions after the team got shelled.
Best Moment (MS): Brian Boyle’s hat trick on Hockey Fights Cancer night in Pittsburgh. Boyle has not been shy about really laying aggressive beatdowns on cancer left and right, but short of the news that he was in remission, this night was hard to top.
Moment Most Likely to Make You Wonder If It’s a Little Dusty in Here or That Maybe Someone is Chopping Some Onions Nearby (NP): Brian Boyle dropping a natural hat trick – his first career hat trick – on the Penguins on Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
The Hüsker Dü Prize (JF): Ryan Murphy. The Devils traded Michael Kapla for him, he had one great primary assist in one game, and that was it for him in New Jersey. Even with all of the injuries and players getting chances, Murphy was forgettable. Runners up: Eric Tangradi and Colton White.
The Ken Daneyko Award for Most PIMs (AP): Miles Wood. 77 PIMs in 61 games played. Way to go!
Worst Comeback (MS): Cory Schneider’s first comeback. Yes, he managed both the best and worst comeback in the same season. In his first attempt to come back from injury, Schneider was probably the worst goaltender in the league by a decent margin. His first extremely unsuccessful comeback, coupled with Keith Kinkaid’s disintegration, went a long way toward the Devils tanking this season in the first half of 2018-19.
Most Missed (JF): Taylor Hall. Clearly.
Most Likely to Run into the Goalie (JV): Miles Wood. The goalie, the post, the boards behind the net, you name it, he’ll skate into it... and somehow still score.
Physicality Award (AP): Blake Coleman. Only one Devils’ player had over 100 hits. Blake Coleman had 218. Only one word for that discrepancy: wow.
The No-Prize for Own Goal Failures (JF): The three own goals in the Anaheim game on December 9, 2018. Imagine if you will: a game in 2018 where Cory Schneider actually played well and the team scored five goals in the game. But this game went beyond regulation because Stefan Noesen, Andy Greene, and Ben Lovejoy all scored goals against Schneider! This one went to a shootout and the Devils lost and Schneider was left holding the L because his own teammates scored more goals against their goalie than Anaheim did. The season is over and I’m still ticked by it. Greene’s was a special kind of nonsense. Let’s move on.
Best Pickle-Themed Lifestyle Brand Launch (MS): Blake Coleman. Packed category this year but its gotta be Coleman. Grab an ice cold bottle of pickle juice, my man, you’ve earned it.
Please Come Back in 2019-20 (GL): Kenny Agostino. He’s played well in limited action; I’d like to give him a full season as a Devil.
Snakebitten Shooter (AP): Miles Wood. Others had worse shooting percentages, but with 154 shots on net, the fourth most on the team, Wood produced a measly 6.49% shooting percentage. Some more of those shots fall his way next year and his production could jump.
Best Goal by the Team’s Leading Scorer (JF): Kyle Palmieri against Buffalo on February 17, 2019. Palmieri posterized Lawrence Pilut on this play. And then scored through an incredibly tight window on Carter Hutton. It was fantastic to watch.
Most Likely to Start a Fight in an Empty Room (JV): Kurtis Gabriel
The “New York Mets Training Staff” Award for Best Two-Week Injury That Ended Up Being Four Months (MS): Taylor Hall and the Devils training staff.
I’ll Take That (AP): Travis Zajac. Zajac led the team with 63 takeaways according to Natural Stat Trick, and it was not all that close. The next best, Coleman, had 48. The Devils need some better pickpockets; Zajac should give some lessons.
Please Don’t Come Back in 2019-20 (GL): Blake Pietila. A bit of a stretch on this year’s version of this “award” but while Pietila has been good at the AHL level, he’s a liability at the NHL level, and hasn’t made an impact offensively when he’s been called up. I wouldn’t be mad if he stuck around in Binghamton next season, but I think both he and the Devils should move on.
Favorite Game to Attend (JF): October 11, 2018 - Devils vs. Washington. This was the home opener and it was glorious. The Devils drop-kicked the defending Stanley Cup champions in a 6-0 rout. It was a game I enjoyed so much, I wrote a separate post to put it into historical context days after I already recapped it. I loved that game.
Dikembe Mutombo Award (AP): Andy Greene. Only one Devils’ player had over 100 shots blocked. Andy Greene had 203. Is “wow” the defining word again, like with the Physicality Award?
The Parting Shot (JF): Pavel Zacha. For all of the talk about wanting to fail, he recognized that shining when it did not matter much would help his cause for securing a role of some time for next season. Lottery balls will not do that. Thanks to an eight-point run in his last eight games, he set a season high in goals (13), matched his point total from last season (25), and put up some fantastic on-ice rates in shorthanded situations.
While it didn’t win the game but he made Aaron Ekblad and Roberto Luongo look real stupid for arguably the final highlight-reel worthy goal of the season. Now that’s a parting shot.
Faceoff King (AP): Travis Zajac. Underrated part of his game, and the game in general. Zajac won 822 draws, and lost only 588, for 58.3%. That is incredibly good. He really needs to teach Hischier (44.81% over 944 draws)
The Best Readers (JF): You.
Thanks to Jenna, CJ, Alex, Gerard, Mike, Brian, and Nate for their contributions to these awards. I thank all of the writers for contributing to this site all season long. As ever, hockey never stops at All About the Jersey. The NHL Draft Lottery is tomorrow. There will be open posts for the playoffs and the World Championships. There will be a ton of analysis, offseason-based posts, and prospect profiles.
Once again, thanks to you for reading all season long and/or all of this way through this post. Please have your say about the awards in the comments.