The New Jersey Devils made several significant additions to their roster heading into the 2019-20 campaign. For starters, they won the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery, and right to land coveted top prospect, Jack Hughes. Devils general manager Ray Shero then pulled the trigger and traded for P.K. Subban, and talented forward Nikita Gusev. The Devils also dipped their toe in the free-agent pool reeling in power forward Wayne Simmonds.
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All in all, it was an exciting time to be a Devils fan. Sadly, this excitement didn’t last long. In fact, it was very short-lived. What exactly happened this past season for the Devils, and how is this team shaping up as we look ahead to the 2020-21 campaign? Let’s read on and find out.
Record: 28-29-12, 68 points, (.493 pt.%) (25th)
GF/GM: 2.73 (25th)
GA/GM: 3.33 (29th)
PP: 17.9% (21st)
PK: 82.4% (7th)
What Went Right
After such a promising offseason the Devils fell flat on their faces this year and even missed out on an (expanded) 24-team playoff picture. With this being said, there were a few bright spots. For starters, Kyle Palmieri had an excellent season scoring 25 goals and 40 points in 65 games.
Nico Hischier also had another stellar season scoring 14 goals in only 58 games, furthering cementing his name as one of the team’s leaders. Hischier will be in the running to don the “C”, as the franchise’s next captain.
Jesper Bratt also contributed 16 goals and looks like a real solid top-9 forward for the future which bodes well for the Devils and their fans. I also admired the play of Mackenzie Blackwood in goal and it appears that New Jersey may have found their long-term solution between the pipes.
Come and get em! After moving Taylor Hall in December to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for two draft picks and three prospects, it was evident the Devils had a keen eye for the future. By February, and with the season in a rapid tailspin, the Devils were one of the most active teams at the trade deadline. After Ray Shero was relieved of his duties as general manager, Tom Fitzgerald, who served as the assistant GM, was promoted to general manager on an interim basis.
The Devils’ moves at the trade deadline can be summarized below:
2020 or 2021 (conditional) first-round pick, 2020 (conditional) fourth-round pick, 2021 fifth-round pick, 2020 second-round pick, David Quenneville, Janne Kuokkanen, Frederik Claesson, Zane McIntyre, Nolan Foote.
Overall, the Devils mostly received prospects and “futures” at the deadline but may have hit the proverbial jackpot with promising youngster Nolan Foote, who came over from the Tampa Bay Lightning in a move that saw Blake Coleman go the other way. As sellers, the Devils did their best to garner what they could primarily from pending free agents. Since then, the interim tag has been removed, and Tom Fitzgerald is now in the driver’s seat as GM.
This past season saw the emergence of Mackenzie Blackwood as New Jersey’s number one. Despite the down season that circulated throughout most of the organization, Blackwood put up some respectable numbers in goal. In 43 starts this season, Blackwood posted a 22-14-8 record with a 2.77 goals-against-average, and .915 save percentage.
At the tender age of 23, Blackwood has a real promising career ahead of him. He’s a force competitor, loves to win, and wants to be part of the solution in Newark, New Jersey. As the Devis look towards the future, it appears that the ball is firmly in Blackwood’s court.
What Went Wrong
In short, this was one of the most disappointing seasons in Devils franchise history. 2019-20 saw the Devils fire both their head coach (John Hynes) and general manager (Ray Shero). In turn, New Jersey replaced Hynes with Alain Nasreddine and Tom Fitzgerald. Lindy Ruff was recently hired by “Fitzy” as the team’s head coach for 2020-21. In Ruff, the Devils have a real presence behind the bench, and he should help with New Jersey’s younger players as well. Ruff will also preach attention to detail, something that was severely lacking this past year.
The single-biggest story surrounding this franchise was how much promise this team had and how sub-par and underwhelming their play, as a whole, was throughout the campaign. P.K. Subban, who was brought in to add flare, offensive production, and a physical presence on the blue-line, turned in a career-worst season. His 7 goals, 11 assists, 18 points, and -21 rating was not something the Devils had expected from the former Norris trophy-winning defenseman.
Jack Hughes, who entered the year as the first overall pick, had a season to forget. His stat-line was disappointing, to say the least with just 7 goals and 21 points in 61 games. His production, or should I say, lack thereof, raised various eyebrows not only with the Devils but from across the NHL.
The New Jersey Devils should have some added “pep in their step” heading into next season. The all-important NHL Draft Lottery which took place last month awarded the Devils with the seventh overall pick at the upcoming 2020 NHL Entry Draft. In a draft as deep as this one, the Devils should land another quality and impactful player which bodes well for Fitzgerald and the passionate fanbase out in Newark. New Jersey also has a few good prospects coming through the ranks in Ty Smith, Joey Anderson, and Nolan Foote who will all be vying for jobs at training camp.
The Devils will also be banking on “bounceback” seasons from the aforementioned P.K Subban and Jack Hughes. If Subban can regain his form, that will provide an instant boost on the Devils blue-line. The team will also be centered around the likes of Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, who the Devils hope can form a dynamic duo for years to come. Whether this partnership can gain fruition and steam remains to be seen.
Finally, with Lindy Ruff at the helm, the team now has a stable presence behind the bench. In my opinion, this was an excellent hire for the Devils based on Ruff’s track record and propensity for success. In addition, Fitzgerald, who has paid his dues, will continue to pull the strings as GM. Whether or not the Devils are as a vastly improved team next season remains to be seen. One thing we do know is that they’ll be a team with a big following heading into 2020-21.
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