New Jersey Devils: New Coach and GM Must Address Defense

ST. PAUL, MN - JANUARY 19: Minnesota Wild assistant coach Scott Stevens looks on during the regular season match up between the Arizona Coyotes and the Minnesota Wild on January 19, 2017 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - JANUARY 19: Minnesota Wild assistant coach Scott Stevens looks on during the regular season match up between the Arizona Coyotes and the Minnesota Wild on January 19, 2017 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The New Jersey Devils defense is still so soft despite changes from last year to this year on the blue line. It’s clear the next two people in charge need to address this issue. There have been too many hat tricks, and very soft goals that shouldn’t have occurred this season. It seems like with Martin Brodeur at Hockey Operations going forward. it is very possible Scott Stevens is on the Devils bench. One of the bad decisions former GM Ray Shero did was not retaining Scott Stevens on the bench to run the defense when he took over.

Having a legendary Devils defenseman who is responsible for three Stanley Cups back in the locker room would bring a very strong, super stingy, and ferocious style of Devils defense that will fit next year’s team and those going forward. Anytime you talk to a Devils fan, they aren’t very excited about the decisions Shero made in not hiring the right coaches to fix the defense. What can Interim GM, Tom Fitzgerald and Brodeur of Hockey Ops do to find the right candidates to build this modern era?

Fitzgerald looks more like he is on a tryout basis to show how well he can improve what his “mentor” Ray Shero started building. The kind of players coming into the Devils that could be coached by Scott Stevens include Daniil Misyul, a physical, speedy skater with the grits of a Ken Daneyko. Kevin Bahl, the physical 6’7″ 240 pound mammoth is about 1.5 years of AHL experience away from being NHL ready. He will be the physical presence to keep opponents at bay. Nikita Okhotyuk is a very physical player who can knock North American players around and at the same time quarterback an offense.

With a possible Vatanen trade, Andy Greene likely retiring, Connor Carrick and Mirco Mueller looking like they might be done with their time in New Jersey, it’s time to re-evaluate the defense. Damon Severson is a complete offensive-defenseman, PK Subban is an offensive-defenseman, Will Butcher is an offensive-defenseman, Sami Vatanen is a two-way defender. Andy Greene isn’t as fast as he used to be and is now more classified as a defensive defenseman. To think about a possible ideal trade with the second 1st-rround pick from Arizona this could be dangled like a carrot before the NHL Draft.

If Fitzgerald is around during the 2020 Draft, he can use it bring in a player like Darnell Nurse of the Edmonton Oilers. Having evaluated Nurse’s game he does play very physical, and he does skate very well and can chip in on offense. Nurse also grew up idolizing Scott Stevens which would be a dream come true for him because of that strong physical game.

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What would it look like if Darnell Nurse was acquired?

Ty Smith-PK Subban
Darnell Nurse – Damon Severson
Will Butcher – Daniil Misyul
Connor Carrick

Ty Smith’s still very young and can be a nice pairing on the top line eventually because he can play a 200-foot game, and can play that set-up man feeding P.K. one-timers. Subban can also play his strong side covering the right side of the defense and allow Smith to play his end. Nurse’s game would take a lot off the plate of Damon Severson. Misyul’s style of defense will allow Butcher’s game to recalibrate to being more defensively sound. With a hockey mind like Scott Stevens around the structure for each 3 pairings will extract the natural skills, and tap into the abilities of those units.

Something has to be done and it needs to be addressed in the Devils next hire. Devils fans and season ticket holders want to see improvements and results on the ice. Having to watch opposing teams score hat tricks each week needs to end. There is no reason to get blown out anymore, and watching the defense allowing pucks to come through the slot and in mid- to high-danger scoring needs to be prevented. The moment Scott Stevens takes over the reigns on the defensive core will make winning games a lot easier for guys like Blackwood next season forward.