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Thursday Thoughts for the New Jersey Devils as 2023 Winds Down

With the calendar year winding down, and one set of back to back games left in 2023, today we look at some recent positives and negatives involving the New Jersey Devils.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at New Jersey Devils Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Including today, there are only four days left until the calendar rolls over from 2023 to 2024. While ther have been a variety of highlights (and lowlights) for our New Jersey Devils, today we take a look at a number of narratives surrounding the team as December begins to fade into January:

Jonas Siegenthaler Needs to Sit for a Game

I’m not sure how popular or unpopular this idea might be, but something drastic needs to be done to get his head on straight. Whether you want to fault the ice at the Prudential Center or not, his turnover late in the third last night just can’t happen; if not for the heroics of Luke Hughes, that is a game losing play. I know the Devils are a bit light on the whole “extra available skaters” thing right now, but Siegs has been pretty bad this season. Maybe a healthy scratch would be just what he needs to get himself going. And speaking of the Prudential Center ice...

The Devils Need to Figure Things Out at Home

While the Devils currently sit at 10-5-0 on the road, their .500 rcord of 8-8-2 at home inspires much less confidence. Maybe the ice is part of the problem, but their opponents have to play on it too, so that can’t explain everything.

What I have noticed is that the Devils don’t seem to be optimizing their matchups at home. Obviously in road games there is only so much you can do with the home team getting the last change, but the Devils aren’t maximizing their opportunities. If Nico Hischier’s line is taking on the opponenet’s best line, wouldn’t you want to get Jack Hughes’ line out against weak competition and not the next best line of the other team? Maybe it’s not every game, but there are enough times where from watching it seems the Devils aren’t always getting the best matchup, and perhaps this is part of the reason their home record isn’t as strong as it could be. No matter how you address the issue, the Devils have to be better at The Rock.

Keep M3 Together at All Costs Right Now

Again, available personnel may continue to make this one an issue, but the Devils have been on to something lately with Michael McLeod centering Timo Meier and Dawson Mercer. The latter two have started to finally look explosive and are being rewarded with multiple entries on the score sheet across the last few games. McLeod has seen his name on there less, but has looked dangerous on just about every rush up the ice, and he continues to be strong on faceoffs. Maybe they don’t all stay together for the remainder of the season, but right now this trio is working and it’s paying off for the team as a whole. Fix the broken stuff, leave this line intact.

Jack Hughes’ Slump Will Pass

It might be a bit weird to complain about a guy who leads the team in scoring and has three points in his last five games, but hear me out. Jack just hasn’t looked like himself lately; he’s turning the puck over more, he’s forcing the play a bit more and he’s scoring less. Hughes has had these kinds of struggles before and he always works himself out of these slumps. I’d be more worried if everyone was in one at once, but with Timo and Dawson carrying a bit more weight in recent games, it’s okay if Jack is a step or two off right now. Here’s hoping he comes surging back soon, because I really want to see a player hit 100 points in a season for the Devils while also aiding the team in stringing together more wins.

The Inevitable Start of Nico Daws

Prior to last night’s game, Nico Daws was called back up to New Jersey and served as the backup to Vitek Vanecek. He almost appeared in the game as well when Vitek took a high shot that stung him and left him down for a few moments. While Daws’ prior recall this season was to serve as backup due to Vanecek not being 100%, him being dressed while he, Vitek and Akira Schmid are all healthy means he’s going to start a game sooner or later. While the team could send Schmid down without waivers, I think they might gauge how Daws holds up with the current Devils team in front him before they make any moves; I could also be wrong here, but we’ll see when the holiday roster freeze ends. With back to back games coming up tomorrow and Saturday, Daws’ trial by fire seems set to happen this weekend. Here’s hoping he’s is the shot in the arm that the team needs.

Don’t Count the Devils Out of Anything Yet

Last night’s game was only game 33 for the Devils. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I don’t see issues with this team, as you already know from this article. I’m also not going to sit here and count the team out with over half a season still to play. After defeating Columbus, Jersey’s Team has the eighth best points percentage in the East; they certainly haven’t PLAYED that way, but the numbers don’t lie. Everyone has work to do, including GM Tom Fitzgerald to get the Devils back to the postseason, but once teams get there, anything can happen. All it takes is a talented team getting hot at the right time; who’s to say the Devils can’t be that team?

Your Take

As the calendar year draws to a close, what are your thoughts on the current state of the New Jersey Devils? Are you happy with the play of McLeod, Meier and Mercer? Do you think Siegenthaler should sit a game, even if it possibly means more Brendan Smith? Will Nico Daws be the boost that the Devils need in net for this season? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!