Back in March, the National Hockey League put the 2019-20 season on pause. Last week, the NHL announced that the regular season is over as of March 12, 2020 and a 24-team format for a Return to Play to set up a playoff for the Stanley Cup. This format does not include the New Jersey Devils, who had the sixth worst points percentage in the NHL as of March 12, 2020. The announcement made it official; the Devils’ season is over.
In truth, the Devils’ season was done long before the coronavirus became a thing in America. Before CoVID-19 threw normalcy out the window, the Devils entered 2020 with a record of 14-19-6. They were among the worst teams in the NHL. A kind-of surge in February and March got them out of the bottom five but still nowhere near any realistic shot at the playoffs when the Worst Thing from Wuhan, China. Yes, had the Devils won one additional game, then they could be in Montreal’s skates right now. They could have been in the position to upset Pittsburgh for a playoff spot they would had no other way of earning under normal circumstances. Of course, such a situation was totally unknown back in March and it is not even a guarantee this Return to Play format will hit the ice. The larger point remains: the 2019-20 season was another Bad Season for the Devils.
Time will tell what it will be best remembered for it, but I would like to think it would be seen as a massive fall from hope to despair. The Devils had an astounding offseason in 2019. On paper, they made big moves that would lead one to think they would be more competitive. Then the team proceeded to fall flat on its face, starting with a massive choke job in their home opener, and the team fell apart. By the pandemic-driven pause, the Devils traded away their most talented player in Taylor Hall, a key forward in Blake Coleman, one of their free agent signings in Wayne Simmonds, a top-four defenseman in Sami Vatanen, and their team captain Andy Greene, who waived his no-trade clause to make it happen. John Hynes started the season as head coach and he was dumped in December. Assistant Alain Nasreddine became the interim head coach. The Devils are currently searching for a new head coach. And possibly a general manager too, as Ray Shero was fired in mid-January and assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald took over for the trade deadline. Fitzgerald is still serving as if he is the GM, such as in interviewing head coaching candidates, but he is still not the full-time GM as of this writing. Devils fans had every reason to be optimistic ahead of the 2019-20 season. I was one of them. I became much more pessimistic and fearful of the team being stuck in the depths of the league for much more time well before March. This is a team that needs a new direction and has yet to settle on what that could possibly be despite having no games to play since March 12. At least they have some more time to develop it.
That is, in a nutshell, how I regard the 2019-20 season as a whole. Now that it is official that the Devils will not take to the ice until the 2020-21 season (whenever that will be), I now feel comfortable with effectively eulogizing this past season. As much as I can go on (and on and on and on) about what went wrong, it was not without its stand out players and moments. They deserve recognition even if it comes more of a reminder of a season most fans may prefer to forget. In order to do this, I asked the writers of All About the Jersey to provide their choices for our annual end of season awards. Nine did so. As with past years, there are major awards for who was the best, there are minor awards for notable pluses and minuses, and there are some offbeat superlatives from some of the writers themselves. In retrospect, this could have been done a few months ago. But I wanted to wait until there was official confirmation that the Devils were done. We have that, so we can continue the site’s tradition.
Team MVP: Mackenzie Blackwood
Like a lot of the Devils, goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood did not have a good start to his 2019-20 season. Unlike a lot of Devils, Blackwood turned it around and gave the team some excellent goaltending. By the March 12 pause, Blackwood had one of the better 5-on-5 save percentages in the NHL at 92.6% and a Goals Saved Above Average of +8.42 (also top-ten in the NHL) per Natural Stat Trick. It was the kind of performance that helped the Devils go from being among the worst teams in the league to being at least better than the worst teams. His pads were big but his back must have been stronger to drag the Devils from the league’s fourth-worst team 5-on-5 save percentage of 90.45% as of December 31, 2019 to the team posting the league’s tenth-best 5-on-5 save percentage of 92.23% in the 2020 portion of the season. This turnaround helped the Devils salvage some respect in a lost season and it gave fans a lot of hope that Blackwood can be the main man in the net for years to come. Blackwood provided a lot of value to the Devils in this past season and arguably more than anyone else who was on the roster in 2019-20. Therefore, he is the team’s MVP.
Voting Commentary: This was not unanimous but it was definitive. Two writers chose the Pride of Montvale, New Jersey, Kyle Palmieri for this award. One writer selected Nico Hischier. Those were the only dissents for Blackwood.
Best Goalie: Mackenzie Blackwood
The above really explains why Blackwood is the choice. The other goalies to suit up for New Jersey in 2019-20 were Cory Schneider, who was demoted and returned; Louis Domingue, who was acquired and dealt for a minor league goalie; and Gilles Senn for a hot minute. Those three were not good. Really, they were not good. Blackwood is the only real choice for this award. It is also his second such award in a row.
Voting Commentary: The writers agreed. This was unanimous.
Best Defenseman: Damon Severson
For the second straight season, Damon Severson is the team’s best defensemen. Some of this is because others really struggled like Will Butcher and P.K. Subban. Sami Vatanen struggled with injury up through his trade to Carolina. Other defensemen were just not good or good enough to stick around. This group would include Greene, Mirco Mueller, Connor Carrick, and an assorted group of call-ups and plus Fredrik Claesson. It could be argued by default it is Severson. The thing is that he really was the best of a not-so-good bunch. Per Natural Stat Trick, Severson had either the team’s best or close to it 5-on-5 stats when it came to rate stats like shot attempts against New Jersey, shots against New Jersey, and expected goals against New Jersey. The same goes for percent-for stats like shots, shooting attempts, and expected goals. Severson also led the blueline in scoring and only Subban had more shots on net than Severson. The latter is impressive as Severson did not initally start the season on the power play and had to earn that spot ahead of Subban, Butcher, and Vatanen prior to injury and later trade to the team. You may not like how Severson is not particularly physical, how he takes plenty of penalties, or how some of his mistakes are catastrophic. But he really was better than the other defensemen on the Devils this season.
Voting Commentary: This was nearly unanimous. One writer chose Vatanen. He was up there with Severson in the 5-on-5 rate stats. Had Vatanen stayed healthy, then he too could have had over 100 shots with New Jersey and perhaps surpassed Severson in points since Vatanen had a higher point per game rate. I can see the argument there.
Best Offensive Forward: Kyle Palmieri
Another second-straight season accolade for the Pride of Montvale, NJ. By the league’s pause, Palmieri was the Devils’ leader in goals (25), points (45), power play goals (11), and power play points (18). His nice points-per-game rate of 0.69 was the best of Devils still on the team. His 155 shots on net was third to Nikita Gusev (158) and Blake Coleman (185). After Hall was dealt, Palmieri became the team’s most talented winger by default and he showed why that was the case. His shot remained blistering and productive with a shooting percentage just above 16%. When he stepped on the ice, he had one of the highest expected goals rates on the team in 5-on-5 play with 2.36. Palmieri achieved this while only missing a few games and being frequently targeted by the team’s best opponents. As with the 2018-19 team, if you thought the 2019-20 Devils were lacking in offense - and they were - then imagine the team without Palmieri. The Pride of Montvale, NJ is a key part of the team as it stands because of what offense he brings to the table.
Voting Commentary: As with the MVP award, there were three dissenters. Two of them went with the Goose. Gusev out-shot Palmieri and he did finish just behind Palmieri in points, which is impressive given how poorly he started the season. When he stepped on the ice in 5-on-5, offense tended to happen - albeit for both teams. The third dissenter was for Blake Coleman. I know this well because I am the third dissenter. Coleman put up 21 goals in 57 games with New Jersey, led the team in shots by a wide margin, and also led the team in individual expected goals, scoring chances, and high-danger chances in 5-on-5 play. That stated, the majority ruled.
Best Defensive Forward: Blake Coleman
While Blake Coleman did not end the season as a Devil, he was a stand out player with respect to his off the puck play. The Devils in general were not good at preventing the other team from attacking. Yet, when Coleman was on the ice in 5-on-5 play, opposing teams shot the puck at lower rates than almost all other skaters. On a team that was routinely picked on in the run of play, Coleman finished his time in New Jersey as the one Devil closest to 50% CF%, the one Devil with a SF% above 50%, and one of the few Devils with a xGF% above 50%. Coleman was frequently on the primary penalty killing unit and he was quite effective at it throughout the season. (The PK was the one thing the 2019-20 Devils undoubtedly did well.) The Devils dealt Coleman to Tampa Bay ahead of the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline. He is missed and how he did in both ends of the rink this past season explain why.
Voting Commentary: This was a 5-4 decision only that the four was split up among other names. Two went with Travis Zajac, who was arguably more effective on the PK than Coleman, and had to carry many different combinations of wingers on a roster filled with flux. One writer chose Pavel Zacha, who was quite good on the PK although less so in 5-on-5. One writer selected Nico Hischier, who was not that bad when it came to the run of play or at least not as bad as several of his teammates in 5-on-5.
Best Rookie: Jack Hughes
I have to admit that I made a mistake of omission with this award. Last year, we named Blackwood as the best rookie. While he was still eligible for the Calder Trophy in the NHL in 2019-20, I did not think it would be appropriate to name Blackwood the best rookie twice in a row. However, I did not communicate that to the other writers.
As it turned out, the voting went in favor of The Big Deal, Jack Hughes. Did Jack Hughes have a good season compared with most first overall selections in recent memory? No. Not in terms in production. Not in terms of 5-on-5 on-ice stats. Not even the by eye test. Did he have a lot to adjust to including the pace of play in the NHL, the physical nature of the league, and a team with loads of turmoil that often stuck him with linemates who could not finish plays and left with him an interim GM, an interim head coach, and key leaders not on the team? Absolutely. I am confident Hughes will thrive in the near future. Was he better than the other rookies? Unless you classify Gusev as a rookie, then absolutely. Jesper Boqvist, Dakota Mermis, Michael McLeod, Nick Merkley, Janne Kuokkanen, Josh Jacobs, and Colton White combined for six goals, twelve points, and 82 shots across 70 total appearances. Hughes alone had seven goals, twenty-one points, and 123 in 61 games. The rookies of 2019-20 did not impress. Unless you go by the NHL definition to include Blackwood or the notion that all first-time NHLers are rookies to include Gusev.
Voting Commentary: Hughes won by a plurality. Four went for Hughes, three went for Blackwood, and two went for Gusev. Why? Partially because I just asked for the best rookie and did not clarify whether Blackwood even qualified or not. That’s on me. My bad.
The Sergei Brylin Award for Versatility: Nico Hischier
Nico Hischier’s growth with the New Jersey Devils saw him lifting a lot of loads in 2019-20. Especially after the significant trades that happened with the team. By season’s end, Hischier was a regular in all situations in addition to being the team’s top center. He received work on a secondary penalty killing unit, you would see him in overtime situations, and played in a bunch of different spots on the power play. Among all forwards, only Hall averaged more ice time than Hischier’s 18 minutes per game and he only played 30 games with New Jersey. Hischier did what he could given all of the changes within the season and he remains one of the players the future GM of the team should build around. At the least, they know the 21-year old can handle a lot of minutes among forwards and be used in a lot of different situations.
Voting Commentary: There were three different names brought up other than Hischier. One vote went to Damon Severson, who also played in a lot of different situations and led all of the Devils skaters in ice time per game. It is a fair argument to consider him. The other two went to Palmieri and Coleman.
Best Comeback: Nikita Gusev
When I sent out the request for the awards, I wrote to the writers to provide commentary to help break any ties. A good argument may tip the scales. This was utilized for this award, which goes to Nikita Gusev. To quote one of the writers who selected Gusev: “I’m going a little outside the box here since he was never out injured or anything like that, but his turnaround from ‘this guy might not belong in the league’ to ‘this guy might be the best player on the roster’ from October to January was pretty remarkable to watch.” I agree with this sentiment and it is essentially my argument for why I picked Gusev. Gusev was terrible to start the season and earned his early demotions and scratches by John Hynes. As it turned out, he really needed to acclimate to the NHL. When he did, he took to it like, well, a goose does to water and he played very well in the last two months of the season. I hope he is retained for a little longer than just the next season. That is a far cry from how I regarded him back in early November.
Voting Commentary: A tiebreaker was used because Gusev received three votes and Nobody received three votes. Yes, “no one” was a valid choice and three writers went with that as they could not identify a Devil who had a “best” comeback in this past season. I can see how they went with that. There was a vote for P.K. Subban; the writer explained that he was improving over his horrid start to the season so he went with him. In a similar sense, there was one vote each for Schnieder and Blackwood. For Blackwood, he turned his season around after a bad start and ended up being the Devils’ best player. For Schneider, he came back from being demoted in Binghamton and actually won a game upon his return. I do not think these were bad choices and I respect them all.
Best In-Season Move by the Devils: Trading Blake Coleman to Tampa Bay for Nolan Foote and Vancouver’s Conditional First Round Pick in 2020
Blake Coleman was one of the few bright spots in a very dim New Jersey Devils season in 2019-20. Ahead of the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald decided to turn one of the team’s best players into a prospect for the future and high draft pick. He sent Coleman to Tampa Bay for prospect Nolan Foote and Vancouver’s first round selection in 2020. Foote became one of Tampa Bay’s best prospects in their pool. From the trade, the Devils have another forward with legitimate NHL potential and a potential scorer at that too. Vancouver’s first rounder will either be in this year’s draft if Vancouver beats Minnesota in the Qualifying Round, or it will be an unprotected first rounder in 2021. I would prefer that the pick ends up being for 2020, but the return was still a first round pick that is not likely going to be at the end of the first round regardless of year. As much as I and many others were sad to see Coleman go, we understood it was very good business.
Voting Commentary: Six of the writers chose the Coleman trade. Two picked the Taylor Hall trade with Arizona. One selected John Hynes being fired.
Worst In-Season Move by the Devils: Not Firing John Hynes Until December
In last year’s awards, John Hynes’ contract extension won this award. Hynes did not even make it through the calendar year of 2019. The news that Hynes was fired came out hours before the Devils took to the ice against Las Vegas, a night after Buffalo pantsed the Devils in a 1-7 smackdown. When the news came out, I put the word “Finally” in the headline for the post here about the news. The Devils blew a whole bunch of leads to start the season and cratered in the Metropolitan Division by the end of the first month. They never really rebounded from that. After the team took its massive loss by six goals, they were 9-13-4 and buried in the standings. Hynes was then let go. In retrospect, this move could and should have been made earlier. It was entirely justifiable to move on from Hynes after that horrid 2-5-3 start where the Devils had their lunch eaten in the run of play more often than not. The team often looked out of place and minimized their potential offensive talents. It could be argued that letting Hynes stay on through November to see if things would work out did more harm than good. The team remained as a door mat in 5-on-5 play and the team had a chance if the bounces went their way and their performance was somehow as poor as New Jersey’s. By the time Hynes was fired, the Devils’ hopes for a playoff spot were all but shot and the delay may have contributed to Ray Shero getting fired in January. To that end, I can see how this was the worst move by the Devils in the 2019-20 season.
Voting Commentary: This won with just three writers voting for it. There can be arguments made for the others that did not win this award. One writer went for the Hall trade, citing that for a player of Hall’s skill, the return was quite lacking between not getting one of Arizona’s better prospects and conditional picks that may not help the Devils now. One writer went for the Coleman trade, which makes sense as dealing away who is arguably your best skater is not a good thing. One writer went for the Sami Vatanen trade, which yielded a very low return. Yes, he was (is?) injured but it is not likely to yield very much. Lastly, two writers (myself included) went with the general manager mess. If Ray Shero was on the hot seat, then why would he ever be allowed to make that Hall trade? If ownership trusted Tom Fitzgerald to make the moves he did at the trade deadline, then why have they not given him the position outright? Why was Shero fired without a clear plan of what to do in the meantime? It is an issue that impacts the Devils right now as they still do not have a GM named and there will be a draft lottery in less than a month from now. I am sure you can think of other worthy candidates for this. There are a lot of directions one can go with this one. That speaks to how bad this season was for New Jersey.
Best 2019 Offseason Move by the Devils: Trading for & Signing Nikita Gusev
Devils fans on social media willed it. All involved were happy when Shero made a move to get Gusev’s rights from Las Vegas and then sign him to a two-year contract worth $9 million. While Gusev really stunk to start the season, he was playing much more like the player as expected as the season went on after he got used to the NHL way of playing hockey. The cost in the trade was a third round pick in 2020, which is not that valuable, and a second round pick in 2021, which may not be that valuable either. It is not likely that either player selected by the Golden Knights with those picks will end up being as skilled as Nikita Gusev. It was a cost worth paying.
Voting Commentary: This was a unanimous choice.
Worst 2019 Offseason Move by the Devils: The P.K. Subban Trade
The main reason why the P.K. Subban blockbuster deal at the 2019 NHL Draft won this award can be explained a little later in this post. I will state that I was pleased with the deal as it went down. The package New Jersey sent to Nashville was Steve Santini, Jeremy Davies, 34th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, and a second rounder in the 2020 NHL Draft. Santini has not featured for Nashville. It is not clear whether Davies will. The 34th overall pick was flipped to Philadelphia, who used it on Bobby Brink. Brink could have (should have?) been a first rounder in 2019. The 2020 second rounder will be early in the round and there could be some solid talent available as there is a lot of fluidity in the range of 25 through 60 in this year’s draft class. The picks may end up being the most costly parts of the deal in the long-term. In the short-term, the most costly part has been Subban’s humongous contract, of which he has not come anywhere close to living up to in New Jersey. The Devils did not make a lot of bad moves in the 2019 offseason, but this one ended up being voted as the worst in conjunction with another award in this post.
Voting Commentary: This was also a unanimous choice.
Best Surprise: Jesper Bratt
In Jesper Bratt’s third season in the NHL, he set a season high with 16 goals and he was on pace for setting a new high in points as he had 32 in 60 games. He put up 13 goals and 35 points in his rookie season. Short of a terrible slump or a significant injury, he was going to break that mark. Bratt was a more consistent player compared to his rookie season. Bratt was also one of the few Devils who were not bad in the run of play based on his 5-on-5 numbers. While they were not great on their own, they were superior to many of his teammates. Bratt flew under the radar amid this miserable season but he showed signs of progress. As he will be just 22 next season, Bratt is arguably someone worth building around along with Hischier, Hughes, and Blackwood. That is a pleasant surprise even if it is not so obvious on the surface.
Voting Commentary: This one did go in a bunch of different directions. Two writers went with Coleman, including myself as I was surprised he ended up being the Devils’ best skater instead of, say, Hall. One writer went with Blackwood, which is a fair choice since he did turn his season around and ended up actually good in net for the Devils as well as the team’s MVP. One writer went with Joey Anderson, noting that he thinks he has a real future after a not-so-impressive rookie season in 2018-19. One writer went with Merkley, noting that he was great for Binghamton as their season turned around in a positive way. One writer explained that Our Hated Rivals sucking was a pleasant surprise.
Most Disappointing: P.K. Subban
Was P.K. Subban the worst player on the Devils in 2019-20? No. Was Subban the worst defenseman on the Devils? No. Subban alone was not responsible for the terrible coaching, the mess in management, and a lot of players just getting caved in the run of play. But it is undeniable that Subban had a bad season. I do think most understood we were not going to see the man who won the Norris, but the expectation was a right-sided defenseman who could help a lot on the power play, take on a lot of minutes, and be a face of the franchise. Subban was a turnover machine on the power play and lost his spot on the regular power play units. As such, he provided just two power play goals and six power play points all season. Subban did play a lot and did not do well. The Devils were often out-performed on the ice when he was out there and he posted an expected goals against rate that was only better than Mueller, Carrick, and six games of Colton White. What about 5-on-5 offense? What about it? Subban generated eleven points as he was significantly outproduced by Butcher and Severson despite being the only defender on the team to shoot the puck over a hundred times. Subban did led the team in penalty minutes with 79; featuring sixteen minors taken in 5-on-5 (nine drawn) and one major, which did not help a team already beleaguered in other areas. Subban is still very much a celebrity; but no amount of celebrity can get a team interested in a losing cause like 2019-20 Devils so that did not provide any ancillary help. The Devils made a big deal to acquire Subban and this is what they got. It is undoubtedly true that there were Devils who played worse than Subban. But none of those Devils were making ten million dollars last season. Big money comes with big expectations and Subban did not even come close to that. That puts Subban far ahead of many others in the Most Disappointing category. And this award is also why the trade for Subban ended up being the Worst 2019 Offseason Move for the Devils.
Voting Commentary: This won out 7-2. One vote went to Taylor Hall, which is an interesting choice. One other vote went to Cory Schneider, which would probably take this one if Subban did not play so below his contract since Schneider cleared waivers and was exiled to Binghamton for a stretch last season.
Best Binghamton Devil: Tie - Brett Seney & Joey Anderson
Jeff and The Panel for Binghamton had their own awards post up earlier this morning. I recommend checking their take on who stood out on the Binghamton squad in 2019-20. They would also disagree with who we chose.
Among the NJ writers, this ended up being a tie between two B-Devils who have spent time in New Jersey over the last two seasons. Brett Seney was a force in Binghamton this season. He played on a top line and he showed he was worthy of significant minutes. Seney ended up leading the team in goals (19), points (44), and shots (154) as the AHL season. He was rated very well in by the Panel in their three evaluations with Jeff having this comment from the third quarter evaluation:
Most likely the MVP of the team as you cannot miss one shift with his involvement in the play on both ends. Likes to draw penalties and is the center of attention in most scrums. Excellent puck awareness and hasn’t disappointed with his consistent game. @Ski931
That is a good reason as any to consider him to be the best among the B-Devils. That said, Joey Anderson received just as many votes. I think this is due to his call-up as well as his performance in the AHL this season. Anderson put up four goals, two assists, and 21 assists during limited minutes in 18 games. There is a reason to think he could stick in the NHL in the future. Anderson was also rated highly by The Panel, with Dave Rogan thinking he may not return to Binghamton in the future per this recent post by Jeff:
“We’ve probably seen the last of him in the 607 unless we make the playoffs. Continued his strong play in Q3 albeit short, 4G in 7 GP. Will finish the AHL campaign with 15G 19A in 44GP. Played in every situation, and should bring that versatility to Newark in the future. Can see him consistently scoring 10-15 at the NHL level, with potential for more if he’s given the ice time & special teams time he earned at the AHL level.”
At the least, there is a future brewing in upstate New York.
Voting Commentary: This was split among the writers. Three for Seney. Three for Anderson. Two for Ben Street, who was Binghamton’s AHL All-Star representative and a veteran who really helped out in big minutes. New Jersey rewarded him with a few games in a call-up. One vote went to Merkley, who really popped for Binghamton as he had eight goals and eleven assists in 28 games with the team. Nobody picked who the Panel chose as the B-Devils MVP, who was Nathan Bastian.
Best Prospect: Ty Smith
Once again, it is Ty Smith. Due to the CHL-NHL agreement, Smith’s options for 2019-20 were either to make the New Jersey roster or go back to Spokane in the WHL. As he won the WHL Defenseman of the Year and the CHL Defenseman of the Year award in 2019, there were a lot of fans hoping he could take a spot last Fall. He did not. Whether it was due to an injury or just poor performance, Smith did not earn a job out of camp. He was sent back to Spokane. Given how badly the Devils’ season went, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise for Smith. He dominated for Spokane, took gold as part of Canada’s World Junior Championship team, and won WHL Defenseman of the Year for a second straight season. As of this writing, Smith is under consideration for being the CHL Defenseman of the Year for a second straight season. Smith will definitely go pro next season and he is undoubtedly the best player in the prospect pool outside of the AHL players. And perhaps even with considering the AHL players.
Voting Commentary: This was unanimous. No other Devils prospect accomplished as much as Smith did. Again.
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.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It Award (DR): Jesper Bratt’s deke to his left. He used one on shootouts in past seasons. This season, he used it on breakaways. Example:
Ken Daneyko Award for Most PIMs (AP): P.K. Subban - 79 PIMs in 68 games played. Way to go!
Moment Killer (JF): Damon Severson. The hockey world was waiting with bated breath for Alex Ovechkin to score his 700th goal on February 22, 2020. He did so. Late in the game, Michael Kempny lost his cool to take a penalty during a Devils power play and Severson scored off Samsonov’s glove to make it 3-2. Congrats to Ovy, you got a milestone in a big fat regulation loss to the worst team in the division.
Worst Collection of Backup Goalies (MS): All of the non-Blackwood goalies. Six wins in the twenty-five starts (52-point pace) made by Schneider, Domingue, and — in a one game cameo — Senn. Woof.
The Hüsker Dü Prize (JF): Colton White. Not only did Colton White get a call up, but he appeared in six games. That is four more than Josh Jacobs. Why? Runners up: Fredrik Claesson, Nick Merkley, Brett Seney.
I’ll Take That (AP): Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes - Our two #1 overalls tied for the team lead in takeaways in all strengths with 42 (tied with Blake Coleman too). No one else was over 40.
Best Harbinger of Doom (MS): Cory Schneider’s injury in the third period of the opening night loss/blown 4-0 lead to Winnipeg.
Best Goal by the Team’s Leading Scorer (JF): Kyle Palmieri roofed a perfect shot to convert a power play against Our Hated Rivals on October 17, 2019. The goal made it 2-1 in what would be a 5-2 win. This video is a compilation of all of the goals Palmieri scored in 2019-20, this one in particular is 38 seconds in.
Physicality Award (AP): Blake Coleman - Before being traded, Coleman had 166 hits in 57 games played. Next highest was Wayne Simmonds with 128.
Favorite Game to Attend (JF): The Devils’ first win over Our Hated Rivals on October 17, 2019 was absolutely wonderful to experience live. I also got to witness a rare event. Blake Coleman fired a high shot at Alexandr Georgiev, the puck somehow bounced off his mask, went down, and then trickled through his own legs for a goal. Hilarious.
Best Incineration of Fan Goodwill (MS): Taylor Hall complaining about fans frustratedly booting a team that had blown roughly 12,000 goals worth of leads in the opening several weeks of the season.
Dikembe Mutombo Award (AP): Andy Greene - Only one Devils’ player had over 100 shots blocked. Andy Greene had 136.
Favorite Game to Watch on TV (JF): Tie - Devils at Chicago on December 23, 2019 and Devils at Philadelphia on February 6, 2020. I could not decide between the two. The game in Chicago was a ton of fun. The second period of that game was arguably among the best all season featuring goals from Hughes, Subban, Severson, Zajac (shorthanded!), and a legit scorcher by John Hayden. They chased Corey Crawford and continued to make it rain on Robin Lehner. Blake Coleman turned the Madhouse on Madison into a chorus of disapproval when he scored 18 seconds into the third just in case any Chicago fans thought there would be a game. The 5-0 smacking of the Second Rate Rivals was loaded with attempts and shots by Philly and the Devils scored five out of nineteen while Blackwood was perfect. Was it a good performance by the Devils? No. Not at all. Did I have a huge grin on my face as I saw it? Absolutely. Runner up: March 7, 2020 against Our Hated Rivals, 6-4.
Best Goal Into the Incorrect Net (MS): Severson’s wicked backhander to win it in OT for the Leafs in late December.
Shootout Cheers and Jeers (JF): Cheers to Nikita Gusev for going a very nice six for nine all season. Only Bratt can claim a better success rate as he went 1-for-1. Jeers to the decision to keep throwing Kyle Palmieri out on shootouts. He went 0-for-7. That was worse than Hall (0 for 4).
Faceoff King (AP): Travis Zajac - The Devils still turn to Zajac for draws. Led the team with just under a 53% win percentage at the dot. However, Hischier has significantly improved his game here, and could take the mantle if he keeps improving.
The ‘Wait, What?’ Certificate for Most Surprising Results (JF): The weekend of January 11 and 12, 2020. The Devils, who were very bad, were set to face Washington and Tampa Bay, who were both very good, back-to-back. Shero was fired before the Tampa Bay game, and the Bolts were on an epic winning streak. As absolutely nobody predicted, the Devils pounded Washington 5-1 and then Louis Domingue sparkled in a 3-1 win to end Tampa Bay’s losing streak.
Most Superficial Turning of a Corner (MS): Pavel Zacha. Zacha came within a stone’s throw of putting up a half point per game this year, but whew were some of the underlying 5v5 numbers brutal.
The Finally! Medal (JF): Tie - February 16, 2020 versus Columbus and March 6, 2020 versus St. Louis. The Devils have not beaten either team in years. They finally got wins over both on those dates. A 4-3 shootout win over the Jackets and a 4-2 win against the Blues.
Snakebitten Rookie (AP): Jack Hughes - The rookie had 123 shots on net in all strengths, but managed only a 5.69% shooting percentage. To compare, 5 skaters played at least 50 games for NJ and had shooting percentages at about or more than double Jack’s number. If you double that shooting percentage, what are we saying about his rookie year now?
The Best Readers (JF): You. Henceforth, you are the People Who Matter.
Thanks to Alex, Jenna, CJ, Mike, Brian, Chris, Nate, and Dan for their contributions to these awards. I thank all of the writers for contributing to this site throughout this season and in what will be an extended offseason. As ever, hockey never stops at All About the Jersey - even if we have to be creative.
Once again, thanks to you for reading this site throughout the 2019-20 season and I hope you continue to visit All About the Jersey in months to come as await word of when there will be some Devils hockey happening. Please have your say about the awards in the comments. Thank you for reading this post.