The New Jersey Devils, as the fans and organization all know, are still a team in transition. Okay, maybe that’s putting it lightly with the season they’re currently having, but the team does have some bright spots. While there was concerns regarding pretty much every area of the Devils’ team last season, this season there seems to be some more positivity in some places.
Take for example the offense. Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt absolutely took off this year, and as long as they continue to produce at this rate (or better) the Devils have two players that will provide their primary offense. Dawson Mercer’s emergence as a legitimate NHL player at just 20 years old has been a large boost as well. Nico Hischier is looking more and more like the center he was in his rookie season and without the supporting cast that he had that year as well.
The defense also has taken a few steps forward, despite the bottom pair still having some question marks. Dougie Hamilton has been everything he was advertised to be for this team. Ryan Graves has been a steady minute eater as well, whether paired with Hamilton or someone else. Jonas Siegenthaler has been a revelation after many felt he would be nothing more than a bottom pair guy last season.
Well, there’s the problem.
Goaltending has been an absolute struggle for the Devils this season; we’ve spoken enough about the inconsistency, the injuries and the general disappointing play in the crease. Sure, there’s been bright moments, strong games from different players at times, but in general with the amount of goals that the netminders have allowed above expected, the team has suffered for it.
The players have seen their fair share of the blame, if not more this season. The defense hasn’t been perfect in preventing goals, and forwards have certainly blown assignments at time too, but the timely saves not coming has left the goalies at the mercy of criticism. but at what point do we simply blame them? At what point do we look at the fact that the Devils have seen six goalies in action this season with all of them having some of the same issues?
Dave Rogalski has been the team’s goaltending coach since last season; in that time period, no one would say that the goaltending has made marked improvements. Heck, Mackenzie Blackwood has noticeably regressed under Rogalski’s watch; injuries have certainly affected Blackwood’s play, but Rogalski isn’t helping him to improve or maximize his strengths either. I’m also concerned about Rogalski being around Nico Daws and Akira Schmid; while neither one is ready to consistently be in the NHL, they’re both looking a lot more sure of themselves in AHL action than anytime they’ve been in the NHL. You could argue that it’s because of a “lesser level of competition” but isn’t coaching a prospect up to playing at the pro level part of a coach’s job?
With the way the goaltending has been trending for two seasons now, Rogalski’s position should, at the very least, be reexamined at end of the season. Whereas the consensus opinion was that the Devils were losing games in 2019-20 despite good to great goaltending, the opposite is now essentially true in 2021-22. If the goaltending coach isn’t improving the goaltending, then what’s the point of having one? The only other option for the team would be to go out and sign a star goalie who has no need for a coach, but there’s no guarantee the Devils will be able to find one. If things don’t turn around soon, maybe this is the biggest area of need for a staffing change.
What are your thoughts on the Devils’ goaltending situation and their coaching? Do you think it’s time to move on from Rogalski? Do you think the issue is more the players themselves? Are there other struggles that concern you more than goaltending? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!