The Devils are exhausting. For what is ostensibly supposed to be a hobby and a way to enjoyably pass the time for all of us who follow, they sure to know how to keep expectations just high enough to consistently deliver crushing disappointment to their fans. I wrote last week that the Devils had just about buried themselves in the standings and a pair of additional regulation losses over the weekend just solidified that fact.
That last month in particular has been a truly miserable march toward the bottom of the standings. The Devils have looked lost for wide stretches of games and have expectedly dropped most of those contests. Even on nights where they look competitive, though, they make just enough mistakes or have just leaky enough goaltending to get into the loss column anyway. The power play can barely manage a positive goal differential and the injuries and illnesses have piled up throughout the season. It's not great.
The Devils had their week of games in the lead-up to Christmas canceled in the wake of the Omicron wave of COVID-19 churning through the NHL. Not the most ideal of circumstances, to be sure, but an extended interruption for everyone in/around/following this team could not really be more well-timed. In the midst of their 15-losses-in-18-games freefall, the Devils have dropped from playoff contender to all-but-confirmed also-ran. Many of their best players have looked mediocre at times, their goalies have been poor and defensive coverage perhaps even worse.
This team needed a step back as much as any team ever could. The Devils have the talent on paper to be a considerably better hockey club than they are. I don't know if the team's potential is likely to be achieved with the coaching staff in place as constructed, but a break from their ongoing spiral can only be a good thing at this point.
The break allows everyone to take a welcome step back, fans included. Heading into this season, the Devils were a team with an eye toward the future. Even optimistic projections put them somewhere in the vicinity of the playoff bubble, a wild card team unlikely to go too deep into the postseason. That this season is now effectively lost by Christmas is not what anyone wanted and is a colossal disappointment, but this season was never supposed to be the endgame for this version of the Devils either. Perhaps the interruption will allow the opportunity for the Devils to refocus on what this season is supposed to be about: getting better as a team and positioning themselves for future success.
For the fans, or at least speaking for myself I suppose, a full week of not watching the Devils is more than welcome at this point. Perhaps after Christmas, or whenever they do actually return in the midst of this outbreak, it won't feel like quite as much of a chore to watch them. If they can refocus, regroup and start to look like a competitive outfit again once they return, they can still make this season a worthwhile stepping stone the rest of the way, even if they've already incinerated their playoff hopes.
And if they don't come back a sharper looking team, perhaps the management team will have used this time to understand that the current coaching staff is not preparing this team well enough and needs to be dispatched in short order. Either way, it's honestly been refreshing to not watch the Devils get steamrolled at all this week. And whether it's the players, coaches, or management, hopefully somebody in the organization will take the long layoff to consider a new approach. That would be a welcome Christmas gift to the fans.