What a difference a week can make; this time last week, we were celebrating the New Jersey Devils return to action and subsequent victory over Our Hated Rivals. Now after a win last Thursday over the Boston Bruins, the team has dropped three straight, and looked very poor at times while doing so. Should we be back to the doom and gloom of old? Is it time for us here at All About the Jersey to start guessing what value pending UFAs to be could have at the trade deadline?
I’m personally not willing to travel down that road just yet, due to some different factors that we will get to in a moment. I will say before I get to the factors that have affected the team recently that we didn’t think this Devils team was going to make much of an impact anyway. The recent losing streak is disappointing (especially after watching the way the team played in some of those games) but all teams hit a rough patch at some point. For the Devils, it’s coming early, which could be a good thing, as they may be able to figure it out sooner. To do that, and to get out of this slump, they will need to either figure out or adjust to a few different things going on.
The 2021 season wasn’t going to be an easy one to start with due to the contagiousness of Covid-19 to begin with, and the Devils had to deal with the illness spreading through their locker room early in the season. Differing recovery/quarantine time periods as well as players like Nico Hischier who was already injured, made it difficult for the team to know who was available.
The result has been players needing time to develop line chemistry when the season has already rolled into double digit games. A truncated training camp with no preseason games, (and for Nico, no preseason at all) has led to more trial by fire. Perhaps the Devils are not a playoff team anyway; maybe they still need a few more guys to grow into their roles, or to step up and contribute on the scoreboard. Even if you believe that to be the case, some of the recent struggles can still be attributed to just how many moving parts the Devils are still dealing with.
It doesn’t excuse the overall poor play, and certainly does not excuse two of the last three losses, but tempering the blame might help to keep us sane with this team this year. The team is finally at full strength, and hopefully if the team doesn’t juggle lines every game, the Devils can start to figure out roles, and teammates’ play styles, enabling some level of success to be found.
New Staff and System
With time will come some level of cohesion between new players, returning injured/ill players and the rest of the roster. While the NHL is playing a shortened season, there’s still a lot of it to be played. As we stand right now, the Devils have 42 games left to play, including tonight’s contest; we have to remember that the team has only played 14 games under a new coaching staff.
While the system has some warts showing (hello special teams!), some players have had stronger season starts than under previous regimes. On the opposite side, some guys have looked bad for all of their appearances. The coaching staff needs to continue maximizing what they have and developing the young players. Success this season would be nice, but long term success is even better. Getting players comfortable within a system they could be playing in for years should at least theoretically lead to extended success.
The Abysmal Penalty Kill
John wrote about this already this week; I don’t have anything else to say about it aside from:
- Go read John’s article about it
- It can’t stay this bad all season
- To the Devils’ coaching staff: FIX IT!
I know there’s a lot of knee jerk reactions after the recent string of terrible games, but I think the planning to sell at the deadline already is a bit premature. The Devils still need to see what they have with some of their personnel, so while the last week has been cause for nervousness, I don’t think it’s the time to start selling off parts of the team quite yet.
Do you think it’s time to resume the doom and gloom of past seasons due to the Devils play? Are you more on the side of optimism? How much patience do you have for adjustments to be made with this team? Do you have a penalty kill system that works better than the current one? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!