It’s no secret that the New Jersey Devils will probably not play a game beyond their 82 game regular season schedule even though they are still mathematically in the playoff picture. In fact, when it comes time to look back on the 2014-15 season, words like disastrous and terrible will probably be thrown around and rightfully so. It’s hard to look at the Devils from day one and feel that they were built for any type of success this season but one thing is certainly clear, the time to make changes is now but unfortunately those changes are a long road and not a short one.
So what changes do the Devils need to make?
There has been a lot of mismanagement with both younger and older players. For instance, we saw Jagr sit on the bench the other night while Jordin Tootoo got time on the Power Play unit. Yes, the Devils only got one shot at the PP but the point here is that you never know how many chances you will get on a given night and you have to make the most of every chance. Putting Tootoo on the ice and keeping Jagr and Henrique on the bench is just not smart coaching.
Benching Gelinas is favor of Harrold and Fayne is just mystifying. This team has not been generating shots and Gelinas is a player that possess a heavy shot, especially on the PP. One will argue that Gelinas has shortcomings on defense, which would be accurate but both Harrold and Fayne aren’t exactly defensive studs. It’s not like the Devils are playing spectacular hockey with him as a healthy scratch vs him being in the lineup. He can shoot the puck, he’s not afraid to shoot the puck, especially on the PP and that alone should put him in the lineup each night.
Trading and Drafting
The trade thoughts have to be coming. Lou’s approach to fixing this team over the last few season seems to revolve around adding free agents but that type of mindset doesn’t work in the NHL anymore. The few decent players that actually hit the open market aren’t coming to New Jersey because while they still seem to have the reputation as a great organization, the reality is that the product New Jersey puts on the ice isn’t something most want to play for. If you want talent, you have to trade for it. Look at what Buffalo did just yesterday in acquiring Evander Kane.
With that said, the main problem I see with the trade approach for New Jersey is that the Devils just might not have the players other teams would want. Could New Jersey have realistically been able to offer up something for Kane that Winnipeg would have jumped at? Up front, Ryder, Jagr, Havlat, Bernier, Tootoo, and Gomez are all on 1 year deals and while Jagr might net you a 1st or 2nd round pick, no one is going to want the rest. Zubrus has one year left on his deal but he’s not showing that he’s worth much at all while he’s on the ice. Zajac has a ridiculous contract that no team is going to want to touch and at this point you’d be stupid to trade either Henrique or Cammalleri. On the back end, I would think the only one that you’d realistically have a shot at unloading would be Zidlicky but again, you’re not getting anything higher than say a 2nd round pick as he will hit free agency this summer. The Devils somehow have to clean house and obtain as many draft picks as they can for the upcoming draft. Then bring up the kids and bring in a coaching staff that understands today’s NHL and how to get the most out of the youth we have.
The bottom line is that this team has been mismanaged for so long and a quick fix is not a realistic thought. The Devils aren’t good enough to make the playoffs and they aren’t bad enough to have a shot at either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel without some type of draft lottery miracle. The future isn’t a bright one and the thought that the Devils are close to ending their playoff drought is not realistic in my head.