The preseason is over. Yes, it is finally October, and the (first time, long time) marathon 82-game regular-season starts this Friday for the New Jersey Devils. But before we drop the puck on a new era, we take a quick look back at what was a successful preseason on the ice, despite some of the injuries and shenanigans off the ice over the past few weeks.
There was a lot to like during the Devils’ five-game preseason slate (4-1-0). They showed that they can put the puck in the net. Multiple players in fact. It showed that investing in Dougie Hamilton will pay dividends on the power play as well as other areas. Also, that the kids are, in fact, alright.
Having been around this team for nearly two decades (damn, I’m old), there is more of a sense of excitement now than there has been in a long, long time. Maybe it’s misplaced optimism because it has been so bad, hoping that this is the year the franchise turns the corner and becomes consistently good again. Not ready to say it’s playoff-caliber just yet, but this should be a team that can challenge for a playoff berth. We’ll see though.
As it stands now, Dawson Mercer is the lone player who will be making his NHL debut on opening night vs. Chicago – and he sure as hell earned it; from his play in Buffalo during the Prospects Challenge right until the end of training camp. Mercer forced management to find a way to keep him on this roster.
Of course, nothing is perfect so there are some minor concerns as the puck is about to drop on another season. The severity of the lower body injuries that defensemen Ty Smith and Damon Severson sustained has yet to really be revealed, and for now, they are on Injured Reserve. Same for forwards Miles Wood and Tyce Thompson, though theirs is believed to be less severe. *All four are eligible to be activated Friday, or anytime after that.
Then there’s MacKenzie Blackwood, the lone player (and probably employee) in the organization who has yet to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. I’m not here to say he should or shouldn’t get it, but every single time he has spoken to the media it seems he makes things worse. He can believe what he wants to believe 100%, but his words have been contradicting his actions or lack thereof. He won’t be able to play any games in Canada without vaccination, so I guess he can delay his decision until the team’s first trip (December) there. Either way, it will be a distraction until it gets resolved. Maybe he was doing so much research last Thursday that the Prudential Center had a power failure that caused the final preseason game to be canceled? I kid, I kid.