Halfway Through, New Jersey Devils Have Failed To Perform


The New Jersey Devils have hit the halfway point in their season. Through 41 games, the Devils are 14-21-7, good enough (or bad enough, if you will) for seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and 14th place in the Eastern Conference.

At the season’s halfway mark, let’s take a look back at the good, the bad, and the ugly for Jersey’s Team so far this season.

The Good

New Jersey got off to a hot start, as the Devils started the season 3-0-0. But that is merely a distant memory now, as in the three months since then, nearly nothing has gone right for the team.

The Bad

The Devils have had a laundry list of things go wrong for them from the get-go.

Underperformance of Key Players

The Devils entered this season with a chunk of their hope for success riding on players like Michael Ryder, Ryane Clowe, and Travis Zajac, to name a few. But that trio, arguably, has been the Devils’ most disappointing.

Ryder signed with New Jersey prior to the 2013-14 season with the hope that he could pick of some of the slack left behind by Ilya Kovalchuk’s departure. But in 118 games with New Jersey, Ryder has only found the net 23 times, including only five this season – only scoring his first goal in nearly two months just the other night. He has scored on merely 6.8 percent of the shots he’s taken this season, and has even been a healthy scratch at times. Ryder’s lack of success has no doubt been a contributing factor to New Jersey’s record.

“We can’t keep doing this win one, lose one or two. You’re never going to get anywhere.”
Cory Schneider

Clowe also signed with New Jersey prior to the 2013-14 season to presumably be a replacement for David Clarkson. But Clowe is in the same boat as Ryder – not because of lack of success, but because of lack of time on the ice. Clowe missed a good chunk of last season with multiple concussions, but still put up a respectable 26 points in 43 games. He has been virtually non-existent this season, scoring one goal in 13 games, having not played since November 6 after suffering another head injury.

Zajac signed an eight-year/$46 million extension with the Devils after the Devils run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012, but has failed to be the “first-line” center the team expects him to be ever since. Zajac has just 30 goals and 49 assists in 161 games over the past three seasons, including just 11 points this season. Zajac’s production, or lack thereof, is also clearly hindering the Devils’ ability to produce offensively.

Penalties/Penalty Kill

The Devils have had trouble with their ability to, one, play shorthanded, and two, stay out of the penalty box altogether.

New Jersey spent a good portion of the season’s first quarter in the bottom three in penalty kill success (though, there has been a stark improvement since Bryce Salvador went down with an injury, ironically enough). This has undoubtedly has contributed to their lack of wins.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Devils still rank 28th in the NHL in total power play opportunities allowed. They cannot seem to stay out of the penalty box, and although their penalty kill has greatly improved, the time they are spending shorthanded limits the amount of time they have to play an offensive game, hence being ranked 28th in the league in goals scored per game at 2.15.

The Ugly

A lot of bad things for the Devils have been made much worse by the ugly factor.

The Injuries

Injuries are a part of hockey. Every team experiences them, and they are most definitely an issue when they affect a core player. But the Devils haven’t just had a player or two lose time to injury – they’ve had practically their whole team see time missed due to injury.

Adam HenriquePatrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus, Travis Zajac, Mike Cammalleri, Jacob Josefson, Ryane Clowe, Martin Havlat, Bryce Salvador, Jon Merrill, Damon Severson and Adam Larsson all have missed at least seven games due to injury – or sickness.

If any team can overcome that many players missing that much time, it would be a miraculousl feat.

More from Pucks and Pitchforks

Devils, Damien Brunner Part Ways

An ugly relationship between Brunner and the Devils came to an end in early December, ending a tumultuous tenure in New Jersey for Brunner in which he and Peter DeBoer seemed to butt heads a lot.

The Devils and Brunner mutually agreed to void Brunner’s contract, with DeBoer bluntly saying “It hasn’t worked. Pretty simple,” according to Rich Chere.

Lack of Scoring

Through 41 games, the team’s leading scorer is Jaromir Jagr, who has amassed 25 points.

What’s worse – rookie defenseman Damon Severson, who hasn’t played in three weeks while nursing an ankle injury, still ranks seventh on the team with 12 points.

Coaching Change

The Devils fired head coach Peter DeBoer on December 26, succumbing to the clamoring of the Devils’ fan base to make a change.

But rather than name a replacement coach, the Devils took an unexpected and unprecedented approach. General manager Lou Lamoriello took the reigns – kind of. Both Scott Stevens and Adam Oates returned to be “co-coaches,” something that was considered laughable by much of the Devils’ fan base.

The End Result

The New Jersey Devils need to go on a run similar to what they accomplished during the 2010-11 season, when they went on a 22-3-2 hot streak, and yet still missed the playoffs. While a run of that stature may not be necessary, the Devils will likely need to win at least 25 of their remaining 41 games, while losing 10 or less in regulation to have a shot at the playoffs.

The season’s second half begins tonight as New Jersey takes on the Buffalo Sabres at Prudential Center.

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