Assessing Future Of 5 Struggling New Jersey Devils Players

New Jersey Devils left wing Tomas Tatar (90): James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils left wing Tomas Tatar (90): James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports /
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New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils defenseman Ty Smith (24): Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports /

Ty Smith

This is the most obvious name on this list and also the one that is most important to fix. Ty Smith fell off a cliff this season, and we can’t figure out what happened. Ty Smith looks like the player that was here before the 2019-20 season. He avoids physicality, and when it comes to him, it causes him to make a mistake.

Even when there is no physicality, the Devils can’t trust Smith to make the right play to get in the right position. Smith has been on the ice for 39 goals against at 5v5. While that’s not tops on the team, he has 200 minutes less than most of the other starting defensemen. Smith allows a goal basically every 17 minutes at 5v5. Only Ryan Graves is allowing more goals, but that got a little thrown out of whack because of a bad stretch earlier this season.

So what comes next? That’s a hard question to answer. Smith was literally in the Calder Trophy conversation for parts of last season (although it was always Kirill Kaprizov who was going to win it). Now, he’s a healthy scratch for multiple games in a row. The Devils think they have a better chance to win with Smith in the owner’s box.

Let’s say Smith avoids any trade talk (people have mentioned him as a return possibility for Brock Boeser). The Devils need to spend an entire offseason working on fundamentals with Smith. He needs to get his instincts back. They are completely gone right now, but he can get them back. Once he does, things will get a lot easier for him. The Devils went from having a future top-line defenseman to having a player who’s one big question mark.