I feel like the negativity train is pulling into the station every Thursday right now, but with the state of the New Jersey Devils, it feels merited. There is an extremely large disconnect between the expectations for this team and the results they are getting on the ice. After going out and landing the prized free agent of this year’s class, making a couple of other moves and the anticipation of growth from young players, there was hope for this team. So far in 2021-22, however, it’s been much of what we’ve seen for almost a decade now.
And it’s easy to want to give these Devils a pass; they’re a young team, they’re still trying to find an identity, they’re lacking a true veteran presence. I’ve seen all of those in various forms of print, be it this season or in one of recent past. Then we got to Lindy Ruff discussing his decision to put MacKenzie Blackwood in net the other night while he was apparently battling an illness. Ruff said many on the team were dealing with this same issue, although Blackwood had it the worst. Reading and listening to this, after that awful outing only made one question pop into my head: “When do the excuses stop?”
If this were an isolated 6-1 loss with illness spreading through the locker room, I think it would be easy to write off. Even if the Devils were only a few points out of a playoff spot, I think we could still chalk it up as a tough, damaging loss where the team would need to fight back and go on a winning streak. Then you see a statistic like this...
Devils have 3 power play goals on their last 36 opportunities…4 SHG allowed in that span— NM (@nealmchale) December 15, 2021
...and you realize that we just keep letting this team make excuses for mediocrity or worse. Management and coaching just keeps making excuses for trotting a bad product out on the ice night in and night out, and we the fans continue to suffer as a result.
Now granted, we’re not exactly a team that has gone a half-century without a cup, or a team that has only won it once in the past 82 years, but for a franchise that was a competitor not even a full decade ago, watching this team hurts right now. And I think what’s really mind-numbing is that while we fans do not agree on everything that should be changed, I think a lot of us who watch the games have identified what needs fixing while management/coaching continues to not address the problems.
When do we stop with excuses and find some accountability? Should this be on Ruff? Maybe Mark Recchi and Alain Nasreddine finally answer for the sins of their power play and penalty kill/overall defensive structure respectively? Perhaps one of the players finally grows a voice powerful enough to shake this team out of its funk; or perhaps personnel is moved to acquire that needed voice. Maybe personnel is moved because the team decides the players they are running with are just not good enough as a group to cut it in this league. I don’t know all of the answers, but I can certainly sit here and throw out possible solutions that can help to avoid making excuses going forward.
The New Jersey Devils need change. The New Jersey Devils should be better than they are. And the New Jersey Devils need to stop making excuses.
What are your thoughts on the Devils and their recent play; do you think the team is making excuses now, or are you more sympathetic to their recent circumstances? If anyone goes, do you feel it should be a coach or a player? Should it be both? What do you think the team needs to do first and foremost to see some progress? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!