Preseason results in the NHL are taken with a grain of salt for a reason: more often than not, veterans aren’t going 100% for entire games and younger players are being evaluated for what they can contribute. Still, it’s not to say that the preseason isn’t completely incapable of measuring what a team can do. As we draw closer and closer to regular season action, the New Jersey Devils are sending out a lineup more akin to the 18 skaters and two goaltenders that will be on the bench come opening night.
Last night, the group that the Devils sent out looked good overall. Sure, there were a couple of pieces on each side that won’t be in the opening night lineups, and Our Hated Rivals trotted out Jonathan Quick (who seems to be cooked for his career) for the entire game, but overall, the Devils did what they needed to do to get the W. The big names did big name things. The young players made some positive contributions. It wasn’t a perfect game obviously, but what game of hockey is?
The point to be made here is that last night looked like a sign of what we can expect from the team overall this season. Think of last night s a snapshot - it tells us a bit of the story, shows us some important moments, and gives us an indication of what will happen on a nightly basis. The snapshot, however, does not account for the potential, for what could be if things go according to plan. We have the idea of how it could go, or even more so, how we want it to go, but to see the full picture, obviously we have to play the games.
Over the next few days, we will start our yearly season preview for the team, and we will be making our predictions regarding how the team will do as well, so I don’t want to get into any individual stat projections, or my thoughts on the team’s record here. What I will ask you to think about, however, is to imagine that everything goes right. Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt continue to play at the high level they did last season, and perhaps increase their point totals. Timo Meier and Tyler Toffoli live up to the projections of what the team desired when they acquired them. Dawson Mercer, Luke Hughes, Akira Schmid and maybe even Simon Nemec take the next step in their development. The defense and goaltending come together an make the Devils hard to play against every night. The depth proves to be a strength - the possibilities for what could go right are abundant.
This New Jersey Devils team could be the most dangerous one since the Stanley Cup winning years; they have the potential to make a deep run in the playoffs. There will be hurdles to overcome during the course of the season, but the core demonstrated last year that they have the capacity to overcome the difficulties. With more weapons up front, a youth injection on the blue line, and another year in the system for both goalies, the Devils could be a fore as soon as the Spring of 2024. They’re already showing the signs of it - now to just live up to the potential.
What are your thoughts on what the Devils have shown so far as a group this preseason? Do you think an almost full NHL roster such as last night’s is a good indication of what they can do on a nightly basis? Is there anything you are hesitant to be positive about? Anything you’re extremely positive about? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!