While the New Jersey Devils have only played 45 of their 82 games in the 2021-22 season as of this writing, missing the playoffs appears to be all but a certainty at this point. While the team had a good start out of the gate, injuries, inconsistency and general ineptitude have led to another lost season. In the past decade now, the Devils have qualified for the playoff just once, and that was a very brief run, with the team bowing out to the Tampa Bay Lightning in just five games.
And now, the signs of it wearing on the fan base are showing.
Having some seats unoccupied in the arena of a rebuilding team is natural; fans decide where they want to spend their hard-earned money, and it’s usually not on a product that is producing sub-par results. As the team improves, which in the NHL is usually through a combination of drafting, development and free agency signings, the fans return, and the ebbs and flows come and go with performance.
Unless the team is perpetually bad.
The New Jersey Devils will always have the die-hard fans who will follow them, and watch the game no matter the result; this writer self-admittedly is one of said die-hards, however games are starting to be passed over if something else of more interest is on. The bigger problem now is that fans who spend their money on the team in different ways than a writer who lives in Connecticut and can’t get to as many games as he’d like, are starting to voice their frustration. More concerning still is that not only are they withdrawing their moral support, they’re voicing their desire to withdraw their financial support as well.
On multiple Devils websites and forums, more and more fans seem to be stating that they’re canceling their season tickets, or that they’re done attending games until the on-ice product improves. Looking at and listening to the Prudential Center during games is a quiet disappointment, a far cry from the electric environment of May 26, 2012. Add in the organization raising ticket prices while fans have less disposable income at their disposal (both due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other forces that to be fair are outside of the team’s control), and it’s just simple mathematics as to why The Rock seems quieter and quieter every game.
Put all of these factors together, and it seems as though the New Jersey Devils and their fans have two separate agendas right now; the team seems more concerned about profit (as many large organizations are) while the fans are concerned about icing a competitive team. More likely than not, the organization is interested in what the fans are too, but it’s hard to feel that way with the sub-par products that have been put out for parts of the past decade. The current roster appears to be trending in the right direction, but there are still some large gaps that need to be filled.
If the Devils start to fill said gaps, it will go a long way towards bridging the gap between what each side seemingly wants the most; success after all, leads to spending in the sports business. If the team does not improve (and soon), then the Devils fan base might begin to feel even more alienated than they already do. Continuing to tread water (if it can be called that) isn’t good enough for a franchise that once won three cups in nine seasons while always managing to at least look like a threat even if they were not favorites to win it all. Devils fans expect, and at this point quite frankly deserve, better than the results they’re seeing right now. The players and management want to be successful too.
Maybe a change behind the bench is needed again, or maybe the team needs to rethink some of its personnel. Perhaps it’s a combination of the two, but no matter how you look at it, the Devils need to figure it out by this offseason at the latest. Otherwise, they may see a lot of their fans drift away, and alienated to the point of not wanting to return even when the club eventually does turn everything around.
What are your thoughts on the Devils play over the past decade; have you started to feel less inclined to tune in or attend every game? is there blame that you think should lie with management, coaching, the players, or some combination of the three? If the team becomes a successful playoff contender again, would you be more inclined to attend/watch more games? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!