The New Jersey Devils are coming off of a season where they underperformed big time. So where are they at right now and going forward?
The New Jersey Devils went into 2019-20 with high hopes. They made some significant moves to their roster over the 2019 offseason so there were plenty of reasons to be excited for this team to get going. Well, they underperformed from pretty much the first day of the season on. They blew a 4-0 lead on Opening Night to the Winnipeg Jets and it all fell apart from there. Now, headed into the 2020 offseason, what is the current state of the team?
Well, they are better off than some of the teams near them in the standings. When you think about teams like the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks, you don’t see any team there that has a brighter future than the Devils. Those teams wish that they had the lottery luck that the Devils have had up to this point.
Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes are, in all likelihood, going to be the pillars of this team for a long time. Nico is the two-way, captain material type player that every organization needs at the top of their lineup. Jack is the offensive-minded, super-skilled center that projects to be one of the better offensive players of his age group. If both of them reach the potential of their skillsets, this team will have an incredible 1-2 punch down the middle.
There are other forwards there that can support the Hischier/Hughes duo. Jesper Bratt, Nikita Gusev, Jesper Boqvist, Joey Anderson, and others are all there to try to help. Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac are veterans that are there that will hopefully, be there for a while to help the young kids develop. They should also have a high draft pick to potentially add one of the good young draft-eligible forwards.
As far as the state of their defense, that needs work. They have P.K. Subban on a rich deal and he had a disappointing 2019-20 season. He needs to prove next season that he can be an impactful player otherwise that trade will look even more like a disaster. It isn’t fun to say that either because he is a fun guy to have on the team we cheer for. Damon Severson and Will Butcher are also there but their futures with the team are uncertain.
Outside of them, the defense hinges on some prospects. They hope that Ty Smith is able to come in and make an impact next season. He was the 17th-overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and has dominated the WHL since becoming an NHL draftee. They are also hoping that Reilly Walsh signs with New Jersey after his senior year at Harvard is done next year.
When it comes to goaltending, things are confusing. They are more than likely going to buy out Cory Schneider after this year. He has struggled mightily over the last few seasons after being an elite goalie for a while. MacKenzie Blackwood has been awesome since December and really looks like he might be able to be their starting goalie for a while. They could also sign a big name over the summer to come in and help. The one thing that is for sure is that they need to address the fact that they need a second goalie.
So with all of that said, the state of the New Jersey Devils isn’t perfect but it could be worse. They have some great pieces that you can build around but there is still a lot of work to be done. If all things go well, they can become a playoff team soon. To become a real Stanley Cup contender, they need to make smart decisions and make developing their key pieces their top priority.