As you may or may not know, I suffered the flu last week. That was why there was no post last Monday. This is not to say I did not have any content. Oh, no. I received a letter from Alpine, New Jersey. I was too sick to do anything with it then. So he sent me something after yesterday’s “experience.” It still makes me queasy to look at it now. Yet, I cannot deny the point after the Devils suffered a catastrophic 1-8 loss in Boston, catastrophically choked to Florida to lose 6-7 in overtime in Newark, and got dropped by a Cory Schneider-backed New York Islanders team on the strength of a Kyle Palmieri insurance goal that held up in a 3-4 game. The point: The Devils said yes to Sherman Abrams - the personification of losing for (presumably) better odds for draft picks. I do not know exactly when, but at some point, they have followed his direction of futility.
Way back on January 24, 2022, I pleaded that the Devils should say no to tanking. Since that post, the Devils have went 9-19-1. Only Detroit has earned a mere 19 points since then, and even their point percentage was better than New Jersey’s. It is hard to say that they are not resigned to losing when they have lost 20 out of their last 29 games. Therefore and with much regret, I am going to let Mr. Abrams have his say. Here’s the letter.
Dear John and the People Who Matter,
Cute post in January. You forgot one thing: I am endless.
Sure, property taxes in Alpine are not fun. But I am entrenched in the New Jersey Devils organization. How else to explain this season? You had this lovely idea that the Devils should not tank because the draft class was not so good. That there were too many players playing for contracts beyond this season. That the Devils could not catch the bottom teams in the NHL. Look at the standings now. The Devils went from being six points ahead of 29th place to being just behind the Flyers for 29th. The Devils went from being 11 points ahead of then 32nd place Montreal to just five points ahead of them - who are now in 30th. Ottawa passed the Devils, Chicago remains ahead of them, and even Detroit with their wonderful collapse are still well ahead of New Jersey. The Devils are among the bottom five teams again. I have two words for that: You’re welcome!
Of course, I cannot take all of the credit. I have to thank the wonderfully smart people behind the bench. A terrible power play that has yielded the most shorthanded goals? Thank you, Mr. Recchi, for doing your part. A defense that gets picked on despite their overloading ways? Making the least out of Dougie Hamilton and turning former CHL defenseman of the year Ty Smith into someone playing like Colton White? Mr. Nasreddine, the honors are yours. I am sure you got great plans in mind for Luke Hughes. Mr. Taylor, well, I don’t know what you do. But you’re a part of the staff so I’ll include you. The goaltending has been a dumpster fire and Mr. Rogalski has helped ensure the flames would keep burning. Thank you, young man.
Then there’s the top man. Mr. Lindy Ruff. Take a bow, sir! With over 700 wins, I was afraid he would help the Devils learn how to win. Then I realized that you also have over 600 losses. He demonstrated some brilliant ways to keep the L’s coming. Playing a hurt Mackenzie Blackwood as he gets lit up? Changing the penalty kill but none of the other areas despite getting wrecked on them? Throwing Michael McLeod for draws while ignoring that the game is played afterwards? Calling timeouts for a team clearly not hearing what you had to say at intermission? Running Nico Daws back-to-back, and then keeping him on the bench when Jon Gillies or Andrew Hammond are getting pounded to secure some losses? Getting run over in road games such that the team went a month without winning one away from the Rock? Dressing Mason Geertsen for 24 games and counting? I love it! LOVE IT. There is so much I am probably missing. But the last week or so has been tanking as an artform. Calling the Boston game a playoff game and then losing by 7? Seeing the team flounder in the third period against Florida and letting it all fall apart, calling them “a young, scared team?” Coming back from 1-3 to lose 3-4 against the Isles and calling the team he prepares of having a “pity party” from the first period? This is how you lose seasons! Ruff gets the Abrams seal of approval.
Of course, I cannot ignore the good work of Tom Fitzgerald. Given how active he was at moving marginal players for marginal gains at previous deadlines, I was afraid he’d replace some of these do-little players with some minutes-hungry players from the AHL. Thankfully, all Fitzgerald did was trade for an injured Hammond. Who proceeded to get blasted by Florida as Ruff & Co. stood by and just let him stay in the net. Magnificent. Goaltending has been a major flaw since December. Fitzgerald could have made a big move to address it. Thankfully, all he did was trade nothing for Jon Gillies, have the Utica guys get called up, and then trade a minor leaguer for a minor league goaltender. Addressing the position of need with just surface-level moves? That is GMing that helps get lottery balls in June instead of empty wins from February to April. Saying he liked this team after the deadline warmed my heart. I knew this man would follow in his former bosses’ shoes to keep up the losing tradition in Newark.
It is a tradition at this point. Look at this puff piece about the analytics department at The Athletic. The Devils are so happy in their expected goals, yet no one over there (Athletic included) seemingly knows about the flaws in such a model. Or that actual goals shows that the team has lots of other issues; and the Devils not doing anything serious about that suggests they may not want to fix it. You may hate that, but I think that’s neat! The Devils-related happiness over making the cover of The Hockey News’ Future Watch also made me gleeful. I know full well that all potential is not always realized. But it is so tantalizing that fans will accept losing causes to get more 18 year old guys. I also found delight in people recognizing that The Hockey News still exists in 2022. Anyway, as long as there are enough fans who buy into that the future is bright and it will definitely, absolutely, 100% happen, I will continue to be in the heads of the decision-makers at the Prudential Center. Shout out to all of the fans who want the Devils to be bigger and meaner and grittier instead of doing things that may help them score and prevent goals. I’m not saying you’re right, but I, Sherman Abrams, appreciate you.
And I will continue to hang out in New Jersey for this season. Believe me, the losing will likely continue this month. You think the Devils will beat the Rangers 7-4 again tomorrow? They coughed up a last-minute to equalizer to Montreal, who is coming on Thursday. Then there’s a five-game road trip: at Dallas, Arizona, Colorado, Seattle, and Las Vegas. Three of those teams have something to play for; and the Devils have not won a road game since February 24. After that is a six-game stretch to the end against Buffalo, Ottawa, Detroit (x2), and Carolina (x2). All teams ahead of the Devils in the standings. All teams that could help lock down a bottom five (or four! or three! do I hear two?) finish. Sure, the Devils can win some of these games. But with a 9-19-1 record since January 24, they are likely not going to win very many more. Which is what I want. I want it all! I want a Gillies-Hammond pairing! I want McLeod getting almost as much ice time in 5-on-5 as Hischier on some nights! I want more Geertsen! More lottery balls! More chances at the Shane Wright sweepstakes! What’s that? Winning the 2022 lottery would keep the Devils out of the 2023 lottery? I don’t care. (JF Aside: This isn’t true, the rule is no more than 2 wins in a 5 year period, so a 2022 lottery win wouldn’t block them from the Bedard Sweepstakes in 2023. SA Aside: I still don’t care.) That’s future Sherman’s problem. Just keep on losing for high level prospects and BAM a Stanley Cup will come one day. Just ask Edmonton. I am sure they have at least one by now, right?
So write your posts about how the Devils need to move on from me. Write your comments about how the Devils need to take a step towards mediocrity before taking a step towards being Actually Good. Go on about how the Devils need to improve in a whole lot of positions, if only to not waste what Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, and Nico Hischier are doing. State how the Devils need to change their coaching staff and a whole lot of other positions. Let me hit you with a spoiler: nothing is going to change.
There were enough injuries, bad luck, and other excuses that Lindy Ruff and Tom Fitzgerald are going to give to the media that does not cover this team and therefore not challenge them. Get ready for Recchi’s 1-3-1 in 2022-23. Get ready for Alain Nasreddine apologists going on about the PK in the face of a 5-on-5 defense that is great at giving up a low rate of chances except that what they do give up were entirely avoidable. Get ready for wondering what Chris Taylor actually does. Get ready for Dave Rogalski coaching a platoon of goalies down. Get ready for Tom Fitzgerald talking a good game about next season’s expectations, doing something that you like in the offseason, and then staring into space when the season begins and reality strikes. Get ready for more Pavel Zacha possibly turning a corner, Miles Wood skating hard to crash into one, and some other moves. Get ready for another season where you’re looking up Adam Fantilli, Brayden Yager, and Will Smith in December 2022. Get ready for more of me, Sherman Abrams, influencing the Devils organization. Never forget that I am endless.
P.S. I know you don’t like them, but I am happy to say my ways are working hard in Philadelphia and I am starting to get some gains in Detroit after two young guys decided to not listen to me. My ways are global.
Thanks, I hate it, Mr. Abrams. Almost as much as I hated the last three Devils games.
Anyway. What do you think of Mr. Abrams’ proclamations? Even if you write in that the Devils are not technically tanking, it is hard to argue with the results of their play. Are the Devils seemingly destined to keep on losing? Will the Devils lose most of their remaining games this season? Do you trust Fitzgerald to make the right step forward after this season? When will the Abrams cycle break? Please leave your answers and other thoughts related to tanking, Abrams, and the seemingly constant losing culture the Devils have developed? Thank you for reading.