Tonight is finally the night; the New Jersey Devils open their 2022-23 season on the road against the Second Rate (Third Rate with their current roster?) Rivals. After another disappointing campaign in 2021-22, the Devils come in with a renewed purpose, as well as some roster upgrades from last season. The lingering question is did they do enough to be able to make an impact?
Skeptics will say no, the Devils are still a young team with a couple of large question marks surrounding them that didn’t fix their outlying issues from last season. Even as a writer/fan trying to take the optimistic approach this season, I’ll be honest in saying that the goaltending still worries the heck out of me. I wanted the team to go out sign a more proven goalie; to me, that would have been a sign that the Devils are serious about opening their window of contention. Instead, the acquisition of Vitek Vanacek to pair with incumbent Mackenzie Blackwood feels like the Devils are trying to find their own diamond in the rough.
The team did improve in other areas, bringing in Ondrej Palat to round out the offense while adding veteran leadership and John Marino to help keep pucks moving away from the Devils’ net. Alexander Holtz and Kevin Bahl are with the big club to start the season, showing that the team’s investment in talented young players should continue to pay off as more prospects join the core. Speaking of the core, Nico Hischier (hopefully healthy) Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt should all be expected to produce big seasons for the club. Dougie Hamilton, Jonas Siegenthaler and Damon Severson will all be expected to contribute as well, even though the latter of those three might not be on the team next year, or even after the trade deadline.
We’ve talked about it for a few season now that the Devils need to take that next step in their evolution. Outside of the question marks in net, I don’t think they have had a group as strong as this one where they legitimately could look like a good team on a nightly basis. The Devils certainly don’t have the depth of a Colorado, or even a Toronto despite their lack of postseason success, but this team is deep enough at this point that the rest of the league should be on notice when they see New Jersey on their upcoming schedule.
So what should we expect tonight? Well judging by the offseason that they had, as well as a 1-5 preseason, I want the Devils to trounce the Flyers. Dominate the pace, dominate the scoresheet, and just overall leave no shadow of doubt that the Devils are a team that want to be taken seriously. They won’t be a perfect team, and there’s going to be growing pains and rough nights, but if the Devils don’t take the step now, then when? Or what do they change about what they have?
Forget the pessimism though; let’s cheer on our team as they hopefully rock the Flyers badly tonight. This is the season for growth and improvement; the Devils rise back to prominence and dominance begins with 2022-23. The early 90s were the start of a good era for the team, maybe the early 2020s will be as well.
Now I’d like to know what’s on your mind as we are roughly eight hours away from the frist regular season Devils game of 2022-23. Are you encouraged by the team, or do the perceived gaps still have you worried? Who do you expect to lead the way statistically for the team? Do the Devils dismantle the Flyers on opening night in Philly? Leave any and all thoughts below and thanks as always for reading!