New Jersey Devils: Youth Versus Age


I have been a fan of the New Jersey Devils since the beginning and I have seen the team go through the best of times and the worst of times as far as professional hockey is concerned. Since the departure of Zach Parise to “greener pastures” in Minnesota and Ilya Kovalchuk to Russia (in a move he may now regret) the Devils have been on a downward spiral. The team must decide to either embrace the youth movement or play their aging veterans with the remaining games in the regular season.

New Jersey has tried to stay relevant through a number of moves aimed to bolster a veteran core group of guys at the detriment of their farm system. In a similar fashion to other NHL teams, they got trapped in a cycle where it is hard to restock your minor league system with no draft picks.

The NHL trade deadline came and went last week and the Devils made one trade, the now well-known transaction involving Marek Zidlicky going to the Detroit Red Wings which many fans felt should have garnered a better return. However, the Devils hands were essentially tied because Zidlicky had a no trade clause and the front office had to trade him to where he wanted to go.

New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils /

New Jersey Devils

The writers on this staff with me on Pucks & Pitchforks felt that the team should have been much more active. I told my fellow fans on social media that the trade deadline is more like a “dead” line in that the Devils activity level was dead and the chances of the team making the playoffs are essentially dead too. This type of concession from me speaks volumes because I am a very optimistic fan, but at some point even I have to face the reality of the situation.

Expectations versus Reality

The expectations for the Devils were that they would trade other veteran players off of their roster which I covered in an earlier article prior to the NHL trade deadline. I know my colleagues here on this site have echoed those sentiments in their observations on the front office activity (or lack thereof) at the deadline.

The reality is that the Devils did not make many changes to the roster and have not made many changes since. The reality is that the team should embrace a youth movement and I had thought that the pre-deadline move of Jaromir Jagr about two weeks ago that they were moving veterans off the roster to play the young prospects.

The reality was that the Devils did not play Michael Ryder enough since the All Star break to get any sort of return from him. I could not understand the strategy with the handling of Ryder because if the team had played him I think he would have had some interest on the trade market.

Then you have New Jersey General Manager and co-Head Coach Lou Lamoriello comment to the media that the Devils have a “plan” for not trading players such as Ryder and Martin Havlat which will be revealed over time. I do not understand what that plan could be or what the end of that scenario will be. It is certainly not to play those veteran guys anymore as the excellent article on detailed prior to the game last Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators.

Dec 13, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars defenseman Jason Demers (4) defends against New Jersey Devils right wing Martin Havlat (9) during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Devils 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In that article, both Havlat and Ryder were described as being frustrated with a lack of playing time, which I assume both guys thought would increase with the trade of Jagr. However the reality is that the Devils should not be focused on playing either of those players as they will be gone after this season. The coaching staff and the front office have to embrace the fact that they are not going to make the playoffs and they should start playing the young guys from Albany to evaluate their development pipeline effectively.

The expectations were that the Devils would either be in contention for a playoff spot or in contention for one of the top picks in the NHL Draft. The reality is that the playoffs are a long shot and that the stellar goaltending of Cory Schneider has kept the Devils out of a top draft pick. This was explained in an earlier post on this site.

Tanking It

The fan base is also divided on social media regarding the final remaining games of the season. Some fans feel that the team needs to “tank the season” and lose most, if not all, of the remaining games. Others feel that the team needs to play younger prospects and see what they can contribute to the club in the future.

I remain somewhere in the middle, I think the Devils should play the younger prospects but I also believe that they must remain competitive in these remaining games. It is a very dangerous sign to send to the fans, to your coaching staff, to the front office, and to the other teams in the league to start “tanking games”. I believe that the team needs to compete and play at a high level against their opposition and close out the season on a high note. That will enable the fans and the players to take an optimistic view into the offseason and into next season.

The Devils have plenty of young talent in the minor leagues that deserve the opportunity now to prove themselves to the coaching staff. The example of the improvement of Adam Larsson is proof of what that type of chance can do for a young player.

The team should have the opportunity to make improvements to the roster in preparation for next season during the course of this summer, but I was surprised that they were not more active at this point to shake up the roster in the short term.

In the end, I think the Devils front office still believed that the team is good enough to end the playoff drought and they tried to manage the roster in a way that would keep the team “in the hunt” for a postseason spot. The reality is that this team needed to think about the long term implications for the franchise and not just the short term goal of a wild card playoff berth. Sometimes, that reality is hard for us all, from the fans to the front office, to accept.

(Some background information courtesy of,, and

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