New Jersey Devils: Observations And Analysis


The New Jersey Devils continue to display inconsistency and continue to struggle against teams with losing records which was evident in the 2-1 loss to the last place Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. New Jersey was outplayed for most of the game, including the entire second period, and could not seem to get any sort of flow established in any facet of their approach to the game.

This loss comes off the heels of a rough trip up north to Montreal last weekend, but I would not blame this loss on penalties, though I thought the delay of game call was questionable, the loss to the Oilers came down to lackluster effort and not closing down the passing lanes in the defensive zone. Edmonton had several scoring chances (converting twice) by being able to pass the puck into open lanes that the Devils missed on defense.

The media is touting the double-minor penalty on Dainius Zubrus as being the difference in their loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday evening, but it was more than just that one penalty. In my observations as a lifelong fan of the team, the sluggish power play sequences and the overall lack of intensity were the main culprits in that 6-2 loss.

The team used the following lines in the Edmonton game:

Adam HenriqueScott GomezSteve Bernier

Patrik EliasTravis ZajacMartin Havlat

Zubrus – Mike CammalleriJaromir Jagr

Tuomo RuutuJacob JosefsonJordin Tootoo

In my view, I have no idea why Zubrus is still on the line with Cammalleri and Jagr, and I think that the coaching staff should consider: either moving him to the fourth line by moving Ruutu up to the Jagr line or sitting Zubrus and plugging Ryder into his spot. Zubrus has been too inconsistent or just flat out invisible at points this season to be kept in the lineup.

The options to move him around are limited because the coaches are obviously not going to break up the Elias line, and the Henrique line has been reasonably consistent so tinkering with it would not be advisable at this point.

Offensive Spark

New Jersey has to find a way to generate some offense, with the exception of the games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers, both of whom are struggling at this point in the season, the Devils have had difficulty scoring goals since they returned from their West Coast trip.

The team could use a bounce back performance on Friday in Chicago after the loss to the Edmonton Oilers, where they managed to score just one goal. I agree with my colleagues on this staff that the inclusion of Eric Gelinas into this lineup and into the power play unit will help the team since they are struggling to get quality scoring chances and they have been drastically outshot by their opposition as well.

The defensive pairings for the road trip to The Windy City and to Nashville need to be altered. I would like to see a change on those pairings to put Gelinas in with Jon Merrill and scratch Mark Fraser. I also think that Marek Zidlicky should be given the puck in a position to generate offense from the blue line as well.

While Cammalleri has played well, especially in this recent stretch, and has acclimated well to the shift in position to center that line; Zajac has been too inconsistent this season and needs to pick up his offensive game for the Devils to have a chance to win some tough games on their upcoming schedule. Overall, the team needs to provide more effort in this next stretch of games, they have to improve on both the power play and the penalty kill units, and they have to close down the lanes in the defensive zone. The Devils cannot allow the many talented Chicago players to gain clean entry into the zone, and they cannot allow them space to shoot the puck in the slot.

On The Block

The beat media for the team focused again on the potential for Jaromir Jagr to be traded at the deadline which is March 2nd. The response by Jagr was typical, in paraphrasing he essentially said of his no-trade clause, that he would accept the conditions of the trade if it was in the best interest of the Devils, if it made New Jersey a better team moving forward.

I understand why Jagr is on the block, but I will be sad to see him leave if he is indeed traded on or before March 2nd. He remains probably the most desirable asset on the roster at this point in order to bring back the best possible return to the Devils. However, I think the package of players a potential trade would return would have to be very good for the fans to be accepting of any sort of trade of a player as popular as Jagr.

I know that some reports surfaced this week that Jagr, if traded, has asked the Devils to send him to a contender within the Eastern Conference. Those reports remain unconfirmed, and Jagr would only state that it is “in the Devils hands” where he goes and where he does not get traded, which is true only to a certain degree because of his no-trade clause in his contract. Jagr only maintains that he must stay “ready” because whether he stays in New Jersey or plays elsewhere this season, he explained that at his age he must train harder to perform at his peak level.

However, the reports do make sense on the surface, because at this stage in his career he would not opt to be traded from New Jersey, where he seems to have really enjoyed playing, to a similar situation on a losing team elsewhere. That request narrows the field down a bit as far as his potential landing spots. I thought a lot about this last night, and in my view one spot that makes sense is the Washington Capitals. The Caps have a need for a top six forward (which Jagr is still playing like amazingly) and he has played there at another point in his career so he has a familiarity with the city, the fans, and the organization.

I would be interested to see if the Devils would potentially entertain offers on Elias as well. That would be a similar situation, the return would have to really be impressive for the fan base to be accepting of a deal involving a guy who has spent his whole career in New Jersey and continues to be productive.

Finally, I will mention another trending topic for the Devils on social media and that is the trade of Evander Kane today by the Winnipeg Jets to the Buffalo Sabres. New Jersey was rumored to be one of six teams involved in potentially acquiring the troubled forward. Some fans feel that the Devils should have made a push to get Kane, while others feel that not getting Kane was the best possible outcome for the Devils. I am a big proponent of team chemistry, and I think Kane is too disruptive to a locker room, I would not have wanted him here with the Devils.

What do the rest of the fans think? Would you have wanted Evander Kane on the Devils? Should the team trade Jagr or Elias?

(Stats and some background information courtesy of,, )