Jesper Bratt struggled to start the 2021-22 season; in the New Jersey Devils’ first five games this season, he contributed absolutely nothing in terms of points on the scoresheet. Sure, he was active on the ice, his feet were moving and he was trying to make plays happen. It just wasn’t coming together for him though and it seemed like maybe Bratt was going to top out as being a roughly 40 point per season guy after all. Not that being a 40 point per season guy would be so bad for a player the Devils found in round six of the 2016 NHL draft, but certainly disappointing nonetheless.
And then the past 39 contests that he has appeared in happened.
Either someone came and lit a fire under Jesper, or everything finally clicked and came together for him all at once. Bratt has been nothing short of spectacular this season, with 43 points in the 44 total contests he has appeared in, again with all 43 points coming in his last 39 appearances. Bratt and Jack Hughes are the only Devils to be at or anywhere near a point per game or better, and with Jack having missed roughly half of the games so far due to injury and illness, the greatness of what Bratt has achieved so far should not be understated.
This is, unfortunately for the Devils, not the 2017-18 season where one (in this case one and a half) ridiculous individual effort will be enough to get the team into the postseason. Heck, it won’t even be enough to get the team into the discussion for the postseason this year. The Devils are very much on the outside looking in, with the fourth worst record, and third worst points percentage in the Eastern Conference. Bratt has given them an All-Star season (despite his snub from the game) and the Devils are wasting it before our very eyes.
I firmly believe that Bratt will continue to perform at a high level for years to come. Even if his totals don’t exactly hit PPG pace again, I don’t think 60ish per season is out of the question for a player of his skill level. The worry here becomes the trend of the Devils wasting marquee seasons from players that are part of their young core. Maybe the hope is that everyone hits a stride of consistency and the team will find success once everyone is performing. Maybe the hope is that one player will have a career year while everyone else produces at a good pace and it will be enough to get the team over the top.
I can’t say for sure what the hope/plan is because with the inconsistencies from some of the current personnel, as well as some questionable decisions being made, it’s becoming difficult to “trust the process” as it may be. What I can say for sure is that if this winds up being the best season of Jesper Bratt’s career (I hope it isn’t), the Devils are wasting it with their ineptitude.
Of greater concern is that as a whole the Devils don’t seem to be moving the needle in the correct direction. How many other great seasons from individuals will they waste as a result? What happens when Jack Hughes doesn’t suffer a freak injury and scores at the same pace he’s on this season? Will the Devils finish sixth worst in the league then as well? The team needs to get the right supporting cast in place for their stars, and it needs to happen soon, because otherwise not only will the franchise continue to spin in neutral, but talented players are going to start wanting out if the team can’t put together the support to string together some winning seasons.
Do you think the Devils are wasting this season from Bratt, or is this a case of someone having an inflated total because someone has to be putting up the points? Are you concerned that wasting big/career seasons from players could become a trend for the Devils? what steps should the team be taking to alleviate this issue? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!