Well, we arrived near the end of another chapter of the New Jersey Devils franchise. As many as predicted, the Devils didn’t make the playoffs, like that’s even a surprise. It feels like the Devils rebuild has gotten worse and worse, and nothing changes in terms of how the Devils could survive in the NHL. The 2020-2021 Devils season was nothing different as it felt like many mistakes got made by the whole team, not just on the ice but off. This article will focus on the two huge mistakes made by the organization that isn’t talked about more during the 2020-2021 season. It feels like the 2020-2021 season felt like the worst year out of all the years in the rebuild.
Hiring Mark Recchi and Alain Nasreddine as the 2020-2021 Devils Special Teams Coaches
When hiring coaches for a hockey organization, you need to understand their background when managing. You also need to figure out if there is the right fit for the team you’re attempting to put together. Despite Mark Recchi being a good player with the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, he is not suitable as a special teams coach. Throughout the entire season, Recchi made the Devil’s powerplay invisible. Not one player helped guide the powerplay, and no one could shine on the roster because of it. The strategy of the powerplays didn’t help either.
A few of those powerplays had the plan of just passing the puck around and hoping to find spaces to make pretty passes instead of shooting the puck. Sometimes the Devils didn’t have much control over their powerplays as most teams who had significant penalty kills easily stopped them from having any chances. One big example of those teams included the New York Rangers, who dominated them in their 4 game series because of it.
The penalty kill for New Jersey was even worse. When Alain Nassredine was allowed to stay in the organization after the 2019-2020 season, it felt like a good decision considering his role as head coach. When Nasreddine became the penalty-killing coach for the 2020-2021 season, however, the feeling has gone from good to awful for having him stay.
Nasreddine perhaps made the worst penalty kill the Devils had in their franchise history. No fight when it came to try and stop opponents from scoring goals. There were also terrible defensive breakdowns that allowed our opponents to pass the puck with ease. With many of the Devils’ defensemen of the 2020-2021 season not being skilled defenders, it leaves many teams with a much easier time on the powerplay. If the powerplay needs to get fixed, it needs a new coach and a new scheme because Nasreddine’s penalty killing is last in the NHL for a reason.
Not Getting Better Returns for during the Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri Trade in the 2021 Trade Deadline
The New York Islanders were interested in Kyle Palmieri when it announced he was going at the 2020-2021 deadline. The Islanders’ offense is already stacked enough when players like Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, and Josh Bailey. They may not be 1st in the NHL when it comes to scoring in the 2020-2021 season, but Barry Trotz finds a way to make them a well-played team, usually every night. Adding Travis Zajac to the mix was also pretty surprising, but for the Islanders, it was understandable considering they needed a veteran to the mix.
As for what the Devils got in return, it was very underwhelming. The Devils received A.J Greer and Mason Jobst while also getting the Islander’s first-round pick in the 2022 Draft and the 4th rounder conditional pick in the 2022 Draft. While A.J. Greer and Jobst can be worked out in the minors leagues to give them chances in New Jersey, Tom Fitzgerald should’ve gotten a better return.
While Lou Lamoriello is no stranger to robbing teams of players, Fitzgerald could’ve tried to outdo Lou and get a better return. Now granted, the Islanders definitely couldn’t have given the Devils the main strong talents on their team, but Fitzgerald could’ve gone after maybe after a few Islanders that Lou felt couldn’t play for them anymore. One example of a player the Devils could’ve tried to go after on the 2020-2021 Islanders was Kieffer Bellows.
Bellows is a very young player, but considering that last year was his first year in NHL, he certainly can still be developed into a great player. He could also fit into the young vision the Devils are trying to make. If New Jersey made the trade, it could’ve been an excellent return for veterans like Palmieri and Zajac. Would the transaction have been accepted? We’ll never know, but it would’ve been great for Fitzgerald to try and make the trade suitable for both teams.
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