Hockey

New Jersey Devils Fringe Playoff Contender

|
Image for New Jersey Devils Fringe Playoff Contender

The New Jersey Devils Nucleus

As New Jersey Devils General Manager, Tom Fitzgerald has not only built up the pipeline of core players via the past few seasons. Players from Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich, Miles Wood, Janne Kuokkanen, Ty Smith to name a few core players now have gone through the hardest season together during the COVID-19 shortened 2020-2021 season. Fitzgerald made some moves to bolster the team and it’s one of those situations as some Eastern Conference teams took on risky trades and moves to try and keep up with the growth of a very young Devils team.

Defensive Investments

As Fitzgerald traded a second-round pick and Mikhail Maltsev for Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche due to their salary cap troubles. The Devils addressed a solid top-two pairing left-handed defender to reduce Ty Smith‘s workload who can play very well as a Dougie Hamilton type of player. Dougie Hamilton signed a monster seven-year deal with a $9 million average annual value per season helping fortify the team’s top need while an aging P.K. Subban couldn’t handle top-two pairing minutes. Having Hamilton logging top-pairing offensive and defensive minutes allows Damon Severson and Subban to play against other team’s third and fourth lines.

Ryan Graves brings a physical edge, skates very well, and can chip in a bit offensively. Graves brings that physical Sasquatch style of hockey that flushes out opponents from the goalie crease and reducing high danger scoring opportunities. In Dougie Hamilton’s situation, he’s an elite-level offensive defenseman. He can play very fast in his decision-making to carry the puck up the ice or make the breakout passes to get his teammates up ice in transition.

Having Jonas Siegenthaler around for a full season should have a nice steady big body defender that could also allow Kevin Bahl to fine-tune his game a bit before cracking the lineup out of camp. Siegenthaler and Graves manning the left side of the Devils’ defense is a positive for the team. If Subban gets moved and someone replaces him it will be because of his age. Subban has not been an all-star for three seasons now.

A Fringe Playoff Team

As New Jersey Devils General Manager, Tom Fitzgerald has not only built up the pipeline of core players via the past few seasons. Players from Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich, Miles Wood, Janne Kuokkanen, Ty Smith to name a few core players now have gone through the hardest season together during the COVID-19 2020-2021 season. Fitzgerald made some moves to bolster the team and it’s one of those situations as some Eastern Conference teams took on risky trades and moves to try and keep up with the growth of a very young Devils team.

Goaltending

It’s safe to say with Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier both coming off very poor defensive teams they should be excited to have fresh bodies that can make life easier for an 82 game season. Blackwood and Bernier will be pushing each other all season long in a 1A 1B combination. No Bernier is not going to steal Blackwood’s spot but this will allow Nico Daws, Akira Schmid to eventually come up over time and replace Bernier.

Coaching and Veterans

Expect Coach Lindy Ruff and his staff to step it a notch with the players in being tougher on the younger players. Having guys like Tomáš Tatar now in the fold to bolster the top six and top nine forward pairs you want to see the coaches and veteran players push the younger core guys harder throughout the season. Guys like Tatar who know how to win with Hamilton, and Graves here help Jack and Nico get goals achieved. Ruff, Recchi, and company will need to use new tactics tailor-made to make this team a potential seventh or eighth seed team to make the playoffs.

main image credit

Embed from Getty Images

Share this article

Former writer for Pucks and Pitchforks and The Puck Authority. I cover New Jersey Devils hockey and NHL Draft prospects. I have a podcast called Heads Up Hockey on Anchor.fm