I read some of the other SB Nation sites, mostly for the Yankees and Giants since I'm fans of those teams as well, and I wanted to borrow an idea from one of the recurring articles that appears on Big Blue View where Ed Valentine writes about "Things I Think", except I wanted to write about some big picture stuff that I don't think necessarily fits in a game preview or recap. So if you'll indulge me.....
I THINK.....the fans have had enough of losing
Devils fans are spoiled from the unprecedented run of success this team enjoyed under Lou Lamoriello, but those days are long gone at this point and not coming back. We're far enough removed from the Lamoriello era, as well as the last Cup Final appearance by this team, where fans expect this process to be further along than it is. And I get it.
I understand that the roster and prospect pipeline was in terrible shape under the final years of Lamoriello and throughout most of the Ray Shero era, but the Devils have made enough draft picks, made enough trades, and signed enough players where they really should be better than what we've seen regardless of how inept the coaches might be. And while I think there are still some fans who continue to be patient with this process, I think the majority of fans are starting to turn against management and demand better. The fans I interact with on social media are not happy about the prospect of another lost season. There's only so many times they'll put up with talking about future picks and prospects and Sherman Abrams before they get fed up with the incompetence and annoyed that the team isn't better than they are. They're going to demand accountability, as they should as paying customers.
I don't know how much patience this fanbase will have left if Hughes and Hischier don't lead this team to the promised land and they have to start this whole process again at some point.
I THINK.....Tom Fitzgerald's seat is starting to heat up and at the very least, he should be looking over his shoulder
I wrote in my recap of the Flyers 6-1 win over the Devils that I believe that Lindy Ruff is well on his way to being the ex-head coach of the New Jersey Devils, and really, its just a question of whether or not that move is made in season or at the end of the year.
However, I also think Tom Fitzgerald has mostly gotten a pass for his role in this mess and I don't believe he should.
Say what you will about the Devils head coaching search in 2020, but the bottom line is that Fitzgerald picked Ruff to lead this group because the Devils couldn't get anyone better. I don't know if Ruff wanted to keep Nasreddine and hire Mark Recchi or if those moves were influenced by Fitz, the analytics group and/or ownership, but I also know Josh Harris and David Blitzer aren't going to fire themselves if and when this doesn't work out. Fitz is the one who's job will be on the line. Anyways, Ruff isn't working out and neither are his assistants, which is a reflection on Fitzgerald, and I don't know if he's going to get an opportunity to hire a second coach if he has to fire Ruff and his staff after a year plus. Nor should he if Lindy Ruff was the best he was able to do last time.
I also think that this roster is mostly Fitz's now, not Shero's. And while he didn't directly decide to do certain things with this roster, such as the PK Subban trade for example, he's had enough time now where this roster mostly has his personal stamp on it. What exactly does he have to show for his efforts aside from maybe the worst bottom six in the league? Or a blueline that continues to allow goals at an alarming rate?
I get that nobody asked for Miles Wood, Jonathan Bernier, or Jack Hughes to miss significant chunks of this season. But we have a pretty healthy sample size of bad hockey now over the last fifteen games. The Devils might not be good, but they should be better than this. This is Fitz's team now, for better or worse. He needs to take a hit for it.
I THINK....having the youngest team in the league isn't such a great thing after all
The Devils were the oldest team in the league from 2013-15. They flat out had to get younger and faster when those last few teams under Lamoriello and Peter DeBoer had nothing left to give, and they did. However, they've now leaned too much in the other direction and don't have enough veterans in place to show these guys how to get through stretches like this.
That's not to say the Devils don't have veterans because they obviously do. Dougie Hamilton, PK Subban, Damon Severson, and Tomas Tatar have played a lot of games in this league. But I do think Fitz did this team a disservice by not doing more to address the bottom six, and in particular the fourth line. By waiting until training camp to sign some PTOs, they passed on some veteran options who could've either played a role on specials, or simply been a good influence in the room. The Devils certainly have plenty of cap space where they could've afforded to pay a couple fourth liners 2M each to be a glorified babysitter and show the young guys how to do things 'the right way'. That certainly seems like a better use of a roster spot at the moment than Mason Geertsen or Jimmy Vesey or even Nathan Bastian.
I THINK.....Blackwood isn't the answer
I've hit on this theme before in the comments of some threads and postgame recaps so I don't want to harp too much on it, and I don't want to rip him too much since he was put in a rough position tonight in Philly playing sick, but I think I've seen enough of Mackenzie Blackwood where I don't think this is a guy you can win four rounds of the playoffs with, assuming he can even get you there. The stats over his first two seasons are fine. The stats over his last two seasons aren't great, even before tonight's debacle.
I think a lot of Devils fans want to lump Blackwood in with the 'core guys'. He's a homegrown talent and has a track record of some success in this league. But he's too inconsistent for my liking and he lets in enough bad goals where he leaves you scratching your head.
Anyways, that's all I have for now. What do you think about the Devils? Please feel free to leave a comment and thanks for reading my rambling thoughts. Goodbye for now.