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The December 2022 Month in Review of the New Jersey Devils

After a marvelous November, the New Jersey Devils fell hard in December with a 4-7-2 record. They remain in second place in the division and in a playoff spot, though. Read on for a summary of a month defined by a slump and who is the Devil of the Month among much more analysis.

Nashville Predators v New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes was the provider of a few smiles during a mostly dismal December for the Devils.
Photo by Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images

November 2022 for the Devils could be described in many words. A popular one was a heater. With that in mind, December 2022 for the New Jersey Devils was a cooler. The New Jersey Devils banked a whole lot of points going into this past month, and ended up losing the lead and first place in the Metropolitan Division before Christmas. A six-game winless streak in a month where the team went just 4-7-2 plus all other teams near the Devils going on their own heaters would and did do that. It was a rough month for Ruff and his charges. The team earned 10 points, putting them in a tie with Philadelphia, Anaheim, Montreal, and Detroit for the 24th best record in December. Hardly what you want to see after an amazing November.

It was enough for previous concerns about the team to seep into the minds, mouths, and hands of the People Who Matter. It is enough for the People Who Matter to recognize that the team needs more than good performances denied by goaltenders and poor luck. They need actual results. And fast. They ended December on a good note but they need much more.

Fortunately, the end result of this fall has been the team dropping to second place behind a supremely hot Carolina team (10 wins in a row, 16 games with a point earned). January will provide plenty of opportunities for the Devils to get the results they need to avoid a collapse. They are even playing this afternoon. Unfortunately, the hockey never stops in the season and so if the New Jersey Devils need a break more than anything else, then they are not going to get it within the next four weeks. While it begins today, let us look back to December one more time before re-focusing our hopes for a more successful January month for the New Jersey Devils.

The Games of December 2022

The month began on December 1 with a home game against Nashville. The Devils were coming into this one with some heat. Three wins in a row, to be exact. A game against the John Hynes-coached Predators? Well, it would not go so well. They went down two goals in the first period. They came back to lead 3-2. They lost that lead with ten seconds to go and then proceeded to lose it entirely in overtime with one of the dumber sequences of Devils hockey in recent memory. They lost 3-4 in OT. On Saturday, they went to Philadelphia. The Devils surprisingly had a tough time against one of the definitive non-playoff teams in the division. They needed a Carter Hart error behind the net and one highlight off-the-head shot by Jack Hughes to go up 3-1 in the game. They conceded later in the third and held on for dear life to win 3-2. It was one of the uglier performances of the season. Things were seemingly set right on December 6 against Chicago. Vitek Vanecek was perfect in net. The Devils put up three goals. They cruised to a 3-0 win. Was the wagon back on the move? No. It would end up being their last win until December 21.

A six-game winless streak would follow that win over the Blackhawks. A run of futility that saw the Devils lose their lead in the Metropolitan Division and end up falling out of first place. I suspect you know it well, but this is a review and so here is a summary of each one of those non-wins.

  • December 9: Devils lost 4-6 to the Islanders. This is the game where the Devils pulled the goalie with over seven minutes left, scored a goal, and hit a crossbar twice. This is also the game where the Isles basically ran through the Devils from the final five minutes of the first period through the second period.
  • December 12: Devils lost 3-4 to Our Hated Rivals in overtime. The only point earned in this run and it was a game where the Devils let the lead slip away twice. The equalizer was an especially low point as it came from K’Andre Miller setting up Kaapo Kakko across the zone just seven seconds after Vincent Trocheck converted a power play to make it 3-3. Sure, there was an effort after that goal but the Devils would not solve Shesterkin a fourth time.
  • December 13: Devils lost 1-4 to Dallas. The score was much closer as two of those four goals were empty netters. The go-ahead goal was literally in the final seconds of the second period when Roope Hintz potted one in by the right post. The Devils had no additional answer for a hot Scott Wedgewood. They were goalie’d and it would happen again real soon.
  • December 15: Devils lost 1-2 to Philadelphia. Jack Hughes torched Carter Hart on a power play to score. Then he would stop 48 other shots. A back-breaking error by Damon Severson provided the difference maker. This would lead to Severson getting benched by Lindy Ruff for the next game.
  • December 17: Devils lost 2-4 to Florida. The main story out of this one was how Nico Hischier fell onto Aleksander Barkov’s leg after a faceoff, which led to Barkov leaving the game with an injury and Panthers players taking shots at the captain all game long. The story of the actual game featured Florida never looking back as Sam Reinhart styled and profiled with a brace. At least Erik Haula scored a rare goal to make it close late.
  • December 21: Devils lost 1-4 to Carolina. Can a team get goalie’d and decisively beaten? Yes. The Devils were just another victim to the inferno known as the Carolina Hurricanes as Pytor Kochetkov denied just about everything the Devils gave him. Mackenzie Blackwood made his return to action as he replaced Vanecek for the third period. Blackwood gave up a goal from Stefan Noesen putting a puck off his back and in. Also: defenseman John Marino left this game due to injury.

The winless streak was rough to watch, frustrating as a whole, and the responses from the People Who Matter were varied. From older fans just wanting someone’s head to get bonked in or lacking the people to bonk heads to more hopeful fans just hoping the opposition goaltender would stop being so dominant to pessimists believing their prior concerns about the Devils have been confirmed to haters enjoying their now-acceptable time to gripe about whatever it is that they do not like. It was real bad.

It would also end on December 22 in Sunrise, Florida. The rematch had an auspicious start. An early goal by Eric Staal against Mackenzie Blackwood with apparent “energy” guys standing about and Ryan Graves leaving the game due to injury early after a collision with Zac Dalpe. But Blackwood emerged with a very good performance. The Devils managed to make a comeback thanks to Jesper Bratt scoring two goals - the first time scoring since the 3-0 win over Chicago; a tip by Yegor Sharangovich for his first goal in ten games; and Blackwood holding it down in the crease. The Devils ended their winless slide with a 4-2 win. Would it lead to more wins?

No. The Devils hosted Boston before and after the Christmas break in the schedule. The first game featured an excellent first period; an awful second period with four goals allowed with three helped out by the Devils themselves and a reminder of Blackwood’s inconsistency; and a near-completed comeback attempt in the third period. While winning two out of three periods against the Best Team in the NHL is generally good, it was still a 3-4 loss to Boston. Vitek Vanecek took to the net on December 28. While he performed better, so did Linus Ullmark. The Devils did get a third period equalizer from Nico Hischier but a deflection right in front by Patrice Bergeron within the final five minutes led to another loss. A sixth straight home loss, 1-3, which is bad in a month largely filled with home games.

December would end on a high note for the Devils. They went to Pittsburgh and essentially played for the right for second place in the division for today. The game was loaded with penalties, some legitimate, some non-legitimate, and some that were just plain touchy. Neither team really adapted but the Devils prevailed in a game of special teams. They scored a PPG, did not give up one out of eight penalties and nine penalty kills (one was a double-minor), and scored a game winning shorthanded goal. When Jack Hughes put home the empty net goal in the final seconds, the Devils ended 2022 with a 4-2 win. The month did not go well, but they enter a crucial January with a win.

By the Numbers

While the Devils won just four games, their on-ice stats for December are far better than what you would expect. Then again, hockey is very much a game where deserves got nothing to do with anything.

All stats come from Natural Stat Trick and where mentioned. Data was pulled on the day of December 31 so ranks may be off by a spot or two depending on Saturday’s results. It does not dramatically impact how the Devils performed in December since their last game was on Friday night.

5-on-5 Play: The Devils averaged just fewer than 48 minutes per game of 5-on-5 hockey in December, ranking 17th in the NHL. The good news is that the Devils still ranked well in the most common situation in hockey despite their record. The bad news is that they were not as dominant in some categories as they were last month and there were further signs of struggle in others.

New Jersey Devils 5v5 and Score & Venue Adjusted 5v5 Stats in December 2022
New Jersey Devils 5v5 and Score & Venue Adjusted 5v5 Stats in December 2022
Natural Stat Trick

In support of the idea that the Devils had Good Performances, Bad Results, look at all of the green. No, it is not as exceptional as it was in October or November. The Devils went from being one of the very best in 5-on-5 to being among or near them in December. Which is still really good! Being in the top ten of the NHL in these categories, even after adjustments, is what you want to see. The rise in scoring chances allowed, particularly high danger ones, can be seen as a spot of improvement. That would also explain a higher xGA/60 rate in 5-on-5 and overall compared with last month.

However, there were two big problems in 5-on-5. One you know as the “lack of finish,” or a very low team shooting percentage of 6.21%. The Devils were goalie’d several times in December and struggled to put the puck in the net as they did in some events over October and November. This led to a big drop in 5-on-5 scoring, going from a GF/60 of 3.64 in November to a GF/60 of 2.06 in December. The shooting slump was real as players like Jesper Bratt, Yegor Sharangovich, Tomas Tatar, Fabian Zetterlund, Miles Wood and Erik Haula spent most of the month not scoring goals in 5-on-5. Or much at all, really. In fact, only 12 skaters out of 22 even scored a 5-on-5 goal in December - not that many would expect Ryan Graves, Damon Severson, Jonas Siegenthaler, or Michael McLeod to do so. I would like to think some of this will correct itself in time. Ondrej Palat coming back can only help and some players getting out of slumps absolutely would. Hischier seems to have done so, maybe Bratt and others soon? If not, then it may be on GM Tom Fitzgerald to add another scoring winger to add to the attack. Possibly sooner rather than later.

I will point out that a low team shooting percentage in 5-on-5 alone can be overcome. Colorado had the worst in December by far at 4.4% and still went 7-5-2. Of course, they had something the Devils did not have in December: really good goaltending in 5-on-5 hockey.

That the Devils finished 30th in 5-on-5 team save percentage. was a surprise to me. Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid were awesome in November. Clearly less so in December. I was not aware of how big of a drop off it was, though. Vanecek went from being one of the league’s best goalies in November to putting up a Not Good 88.9% save percentage in 5-on-5 play. Vanecek did get deservedly pulled in the loss to Carolina and combined with some few goals allowed on nights where the Devils did not allow a lot of shots, his save percentage got kneecapped. He was expected to allow 12.08 goals and he actually allowed 15. Not good. Akira Schmid’s percentage also dropped compared with November, but a 92.7% in four appearances is far from bad or worthy of much criticism. He was expected to allow 8.09 goals and actually allowed six. Good work, young goalie. If it was not for Blackwood’s return, then he would have remained in New Jersey. If only to spell Vanecek better than Blackwood actually did. Blackwood’s return was auspicious. Despite his one really good game in Florida, Blackwood’s one replacement period and two starts - one that ended after two periods - yielded an 88% save percentage in 5-on-5 play. While he did not allow many more goals than expected (expected to allow 5.33, actually allowed 6), Blackwood was statistically a big downgrade from what Schmid was doing. Vanecek may have retaken the crease in the loss to Boston and the win in Pittsburgh. That is good as Blackwood has yet to show that he is the kind of quality goaltender the Devils need and a statistically superior Schmid is in the minors for him to continue to show it. Still, Vanecek needs to be a whole lot better going forward. An 88.9% for another month is going to be rough and undercut otherwise strong 5-on-5 games.

The 5-on-5 performances over the whole month have been quite good. Which does not matter a whole lot as they have been significantly undercut by either a lack of goals, too many goals allowed, or both. Beating Boston for four (five?) out of six periods is really good, but it rings hollow when both games ended with losses. Crushing Philly in the run of play is great, but it means little if Carter Hart stops just about everything - which he did. Putting up strong rates only to be undone from mistakes, goaltending not reliably making enough tough stops, and not scoring enough for themselves is a cause to not celebrate them. You may think the Devils basically won some games, but reality says otherwise. The deserves to win meters and such can be ignored. Again, hockey is a game where deserves got nothing to do with anything. The Devils proved that all month in 5-on-5.

Power Play Situations: The power play has not been as hideous and wasteful as they were under Mark Recchi. That said, Andrew Brunette, something needs to change because the man advantage play is still not that great.

New Jersey Devils Power Play Stats in December 2022
New Jersey Devils Power Play Stats in December 2022 and Natural Stat Trick

Despite a lack of finishing from the Devils in general this month, the Devils’ power play converted their shots at a top-ten rate. Yet, their power play success rate and underlying numbers were far from it. Part of it was a lack of power plays at all. Prior to the win in Pittsburgh, the Devils were right behind Chicago for the fewest power play opportunities in the month and had the third lowest power play ice time in December. Part of it was with the power plays themselves. Getting into the zone has not been as much of an issue. But once there, things were not exactly offensive.

This is indicated by the on-ice rates. For December alone, the Devils ranked poorly relative to the league in every category but actual goals and shooting percentage. Compared with last month, it is a downturn in attempts, shots, chances, high danger chances, and expected goals. The team remains reliant on their first unit, which meant that drops in form for Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, etc. did hurt. It also hurt that opposing penalty killers know to be as aggressive as possible to win pucks, deny passes, and make breakouts harder than needed. This was an issue of the last two seasons and it remains an issue today, which does not speak well of Brunette’s coaching of the man advantage.

It is not good that Jack Hughes goes from a dynamic driver in 5-on-5 to someone just stuck with limited options with an extra skater on the ice. It is not good that since Nathan Bastian has been injured, the power play units still insist on a net-front player despite not having anyone really suited for it - turning 5-on-4s into 4-on-4s at times. It is not good that the second unit gets so little time either because the first unit has zone time but few shots or the second unit is just poorly performing. If there is a part of the Devils’ game that should require more significant changes, then I would start with the power play. The power play was not the very worst in the NHL in December. For a team that saw their goal scoring drop like a rock in water in 5-on-5 hockey, going 8-for-40 did not help very much. Sort it out, Brunette.

Penalty Kill Situations: The penalty kill was better in December. The nine-for-nine effort against Pittsburgh turned an 80% success rate into an 84.6% rate and moved the Devils further inside the top ten in the NHL. As the numbers show, the improvement was not just in terms of getting successes.

New Jersey Devils Penalty Kill Stats for December 2022
New Jersey Devils Penalty Kill Stats for December 2022 and Natural Stat Trick

First, the goaltending play was much better in shorthanded situations. Going from 83.33% to 89.09% in save percentage was a big help in keeping the Devils from giving up goals. Second, the Devils were well disciplined for most of the month. They had just 30 shorthanded situations prior to the infamous nine in Pittsburgh on December 30. That knocked the Devils from being a top ten team in shorthanded situations and shorthanded ice time to being around the league median. They killed all nine of those situations, which boosted their overall success rate by 4.6% in just one game. The underlying numbers point to some potential improvements needed in terms of keeping opportunities out of the slot and at the crease. They gave up higher rates attempts, shots, and chances than they did in November, but the Devils still did quite well relative to the league in those categories outside of HDCA. Which is why I single that out as something to focus on. On the other hand, it also speaks to how incredibly stingy the PK units were in November and so a rise in these rates in December is not that concerning.

The penalty kill conceded just six goals all month and were far from the problem in the Devils’ not-good December. Their discipline was much better for the month aside from the referee-special in Pittsburgh. If anything needs to keep doing what they were doing going into January, then this is it. That they put in good results after Marino and Graves were lost to injury - 13 kills out of 14 situations, none to Boston or Pittsburgh - speaks well of the other players on the unit, the coaching, and, of course, the goaltending in shorthanded situations for the month.

Additions and Subtractions

The New Jersey Devils went into December without Ondrej Palat, Mackenzie Blackwood, and Nathan Bastian. The team has remained free from additional injuries until the week before Christmas. In the loss at Carolina on December 20, John Marino suffered an upper body injury. He was announced as being “week to week” and was placed on injured reserve on December 28. In the win at Florida on December 21, a collision between Zac Dalpe and Ryan Graves resulted in Graves being unable to get up to go to the bench. He did not return for the game, which meant the Devils played nearly the whole game with five defensemen, and was ruled out with a lower body injury. Like Marino, he is out “week to week” and was placed on IR on December 28.

In response to the Devils losing two defensemen, they did have Kevin Bahl as a spare to fill in for Marino in the Florida game. After Graves’ injury, Nikita Okhotiuk was called up to fill in his spot. Both have been playing but were cut short in terms of minutes as Ruff, particularly in the game against Pittsburgh. Bahl taking four minor penalties in the last five games did not help his cause.

The move of both Graves and Marino to IR allowed the team to call up forward Tyce Thompson and defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon. Thompson is a bottom-six player at best and given Lindy Ruff’s dissatisfaction with some of his forwards such that he has shortened the bench frequently in December, the team figured on bringing up someone he could use there instead of a hot scoring Graeme Clarke. Wotherspoon is a journeyman AHL defenseman who is basically a spare in case there is another injury on the Devils blueline. He was called up briefly as a spare body in November. So he is doing so again. Why not Simon Nemec? Simon Nemec captained Slovakia at the 2023 World Junior Championships; he can be made available once that tourney ends in early January. We will know soon enough if he gets his first taste of the NHL in this month.

There were some positive news for the three injured Devils at the start of this section. Blackwood was cleared to play. He played two games on a conditioning assignment and then returned to backup Vitek Vanecek in the Carolina game. Vanecek was pulled from that game so Blackwood did play in the third period, which was basically consolation time for the Devils in that 1-4 loss. Blackwood started the game in Florida and did quite well in a game where the Devils snapped a six-game winless slide. from injury. Blackwood got the start against Boston and helped the B’s in a four-goal second period and was yanked for Vanecek. Blackwood’s consistent inconsistency is back. His return sent down Akira Schmid to Utica, who was providing excellent goaltending while Blackwood was out hurt. I cannot see it as anything else but a downgrade. This will continue unless Blackwood plays more like he did in Florida than against Boston. Blackwood’s history as a Devil instills little confidence in that happening.

As for Palat and Bastian, Palat returned to practice in the final week of the month. He was placed on long term injured reserve to allow enough cap space for the call ups of Thompson and Wotherspoon. It is retroactive to October so once Palat is ready to play, he can be activated at anytime. Bastian has been skating on his own, which is a positive development although he is not (yet) practicing with the team.

While that covers all of the injuries, there has been some internal movements. Alexander Holtz has just fallen out of favor with Ruff and the coaching staff. Whether he has earned it or not, his minutes have been limited to very few in some games. Ruff has opted to shorten the bench often at the expense of Holtz, Jesper Boqvist, and whoever Ruff chose to play with those players. It has got to a point where Andreas Johnsson was recalled to replace Holtz in a few games. Only for Johnsson to play so little that it begs the question why such a move was made at all. After weeks of playing mostly three lines in games, a decision was made to bring up Thompson to fill out the bottom six and hopefully give Ruff more of a reason to play more of the lineup he chose. Fittingly, Thompson immediately came in the lineup for Holtz on December 28. On the same day, Johnsson was placed on waivers. He cleared and demoted back to Utica on December 29. So ended another chance for Johnsson in New Jersey.

Additionally, there have been a heap of lineup changes at forward in response to the lack of scoring during the six-game slide. I do not think I could name them all but there has been a heap of them. Curiously, not much in the way of defensemen. The games where they went down to five defensemen forced some changes and some big minutes for guys who have not received them this season, such as Damon Severson in the second Florida game. Those pairings have remained the same. At least there was some stability in December in the lineup.

Devil of the Month

In a month where the performances were acceptable but the results were missing, there is a sense that the players that stood out were, more or less, the men with one eye in the valley of the blind. Plenty of Devils that were cooking in November went cold and did not cook all that much in December. Two were exceptions as they provided sustenance for a team that needed it in a four-win month.

As a runner up, defenseman Dougie Hamilton did his best to provide for the squad. His importance as a big-minute defenseman was easier to see after Marino and Graves went down to injury. He averaged 22:36 in the month, faced a lot of tough competition next to Jonas Siegenthaler, and still came out with providing more for the Devils than he suffered. Did he make some mistakes? Sure. Everyone in hockey makes mistakes. Not everyone puts up an xGF% of 56.76%, a SF% of 58.44%, a SCF% of 58.61%, and a HDCF% of 59.18% in 5-on-5 play while doing as much as Hamilton did in December. Not everyone puts up those numbers while providing two goals, including an equalizer in Pittsburgh, and twelve assists. Hamilton was held pointless in only five games as much of the production the Devils put up in December involved #7. For that, I name Dougie Hamilton as the honorable mention for Devil of the Month of December 2022.

As for the actual best player of the month, who else could it be but The Big Deal? He is a Goal Scorer. In a month where the Devils struggled to score at times, he put up eight goals in thirteen games. In a month where you may have yelled at your TV for a Devil to shoot the dang puck, he did it 53 times. In a month where you wanted a top tier player on the team to, well, do some top tier things, Hughes did it many times for 15 points in thirteen games. In a month where the team’s production was consistently lacking, Hughes produced in every game but two in December. All to lead the team in this past month. All keeping Hughes among the top scorers in the NHL by New Year’s Day. All while giving the Devils a 62.08% CF%, 61.43% SF%, 62.07% xGF%, 61.64% SCF%, 64.44% HDCF%, and 57.89% actual GF% when he took a shift in 5-on-5. Ridiculous numbers only bested by Jesper Bratt but unlike Bratt, Hughes provided the points on the scoreboard. From blocking empty net tries against the Islanders while scoring one during an epic near-seven minute shift to even taking down Pavel Zacha in an attempt to deny him an ENG on December 28 to sealing up the win in Pittsburgh after trying to give Erik Haula some love to providing Igor Shesterkin the sauce to eight goals and fifteen points, Hughes did a whole lot and even more in December. He was the best player for the Devils in a crummy month. If only more Devils followed his lead in December. Jack Hughes is the All About the Jersey Devil of the Month for December 2022. Acknowledge him.

Concluding Thoughts & Your Take

The over-arching theme of this month was Good Performances, Bad Results. Which is a real frustration and a symptom of a larger problem. The frustration is obvious. No fan wants to read about how a team basically played well in a losing effort as the team suffered a bunch of losses and is starting to enter a risky spot where the team could drop out of a playoff spot. Sure, it may be premature to worry with over half of season left, but teams that crater after winning thirteen straight will lead to those kinds of feelings. And no matter what the expected goals model says or what we know about teams that tend to out-attempt or out-shoot their opponents in 5-on-5, the lack of actual results. After all, feelings do not care about facts.

The larger problem is that when good performances do not lead to wins, then it makes it easier to get away from what was done to get those performances. After all, if a team is losing, then something is likely not working well. Something needs to change. Will the change actually lead to better results? Maybe. Or maybe they get the win despite the changes. Does this mean they should do nothing? Unintuitive as it is, sometimes that is the best way. Good performances tend to lead to good results. Getting goalie’d or not getting the bounces your way is just a fact of hockey for any team. Even last season’s Stanley Cup Champions had an awful seven-game stretch before rolling through the postseason. Of course, staying the course is easier said than done. The risk is that the team sticks to what they have been doing, still do not get wins, and that leads to issues in the locker room between an increasingly frustrated set of players and a head coaching staff still trying to preach to the team to trust the (game) plan. Without wins, it is hard to continue to buy into a system or an approach by the coach that is just not successful. You can see from there how things can fall apart beyond just a few losses in a row.

This is why slumps are so contentious to deal with and why some changes by coaching staffs focus more on moving players around as opposed to looking at how the team plays. Not to mention that in an 82-game season, it is really hard to put new tactics, systems, and plays in place and let the team go through the growing pains of doing that. It is one thing for a team with nothing to play for to just try things out. It is not recommended when a team does have something to play for - like the New Jersey Devils.

The best case scenario is that this month was mired in a slump, poor shooting luck, and mistakes that are ultimately correctible and it is all of the past. A more successful January should have the Devils remain in a playoff position - which they are still in even after a 4-7-2 month - and a lot of the worries and concerns and so forth will fade away a bit. Sure, some will still hold onto them if and when losses happen. Yet, as I have written before Thanksgiving and again in this post before Christmas, the Devils do not need to go on a monumental hot streak to make the playoffs. They just need to be a bit above NHL average. They were not in December but they can do so for 2023 and make the playoffs without much drama. Whether they will do well in them, well, that is another matter. After no playoffs since 2018, I am not really worried about how they will do in the 2023 playoffs. I just want the Devils to get there. They are still in a good place to get there.

This does not mean there is no room for improvement. Absolutely there are areas to work on for the coming months. The team does need more consistent production outside of Hughes at forward and Hamilton at defense in the coming months. The power play could stand to be far more productive. If adding another scoring forward addresses both and a soon-to-be-returning Ondrej Palat is not an answer, then the Devils have to consider making a deal before the trade deadline. In net, Vitek Vanecek and Mackenize Blackwood need to be much better, especially in 5-on-5 hockey. Simple as. Lindy Ruff risks wearing out his main players if he continues to be unwilling to roll four lines and, more recently, all six of his defensemen. Either he needs to have them play or management gets him some players he will play. The team has to sort out taking care of business at home, which now stands at a not-so-great 10-9-1 with a six-game winless streak at the Rock. Suffering a lot of losses in front of otherwise large and favorable home crowds is bad for business as well as in the standings. The costly errors need to be cleaned up, which can be applied to literally all 32 NHL teams. There are potential and ongoing issues that the Devils can improve upon which may lead to the wins that they desire.

They just need more of their Good Performances to lead to Good Results. Which I think will happen. It is very difficult to continually out-shoot opponents, generate more chances than their opponents, and somehow fall apart a lot. Provided the Devils do not over-react to this past month, they should be fine. Should a slump re-emerge in January, a month largely set on the road, then more drastic measures have to be taken.

As a last point, no, this December did not undo the wins in October and November. The Devils are currently 23-11-2. Even with a poor month, the Devils still have the sixth best record in the NHL. You may think the Devils are not as good as their record. That is your opinion. But this past month did not really expose them either. A six-game winless streak does not erase a 13-game winning streak, which was bookended by three-game winning streaks of their own. That may be obvious to some, but it needs to be pointed out for those who may have lost sight of that fact.

Now that you have read my take and review of December 2022 for the Devils, I want to know what you think. Are you still worried about the Devils slumping into January? Do you think the Devils have what it takes to put together a more successful January? What would a more successful month look like to you other than a winning record? What aspect of the Devils’ performances would you like to see them improve upon in January (e.g. discipline, creating scoring chances, giving up fewer goals in the final few minutes of periods, etc.)? Would you agree that Hughes was the best Devil of the month of December? Please leave your answers and last thoughts about last month in the comments. Thank you for reading.