New Jersey Devils: Is Quitting On Mackenzie Blackwood Really The Smartest Move?

New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29): Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29): Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

There were whispers that New Jersey Devils starting goalie (when he’s healthy) Mackenzie Blackwood might be available. At first, it didn’t make a lot of sense. Blackwood is the Devils best chance at ever competing in the near future, and he’s about to enter his prime. He’s not making a ton of money (he’s making $2.8 million this season and next). It just didn’t make a lot of sense from multiple fronts.

Then, the whispers turned into literal yells on Friday night. Elliotte Friedman’s 32 Thoughts Podcast had a long segment not only on Blackwood’s availability, but it seems like the Devils have a desire to move him. The Devils have lost faith in Blackwood, who just last year was described as one of the pillars to success for this franchise. He joined Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Ty Smith as the four players who will drive this team into its next era.

In hindsight, there seems to be a reason why this season went to hell. Here is how the four “pillars” seasons have gone:

Jack Hughes: Turned into a superstar after missing six weeks with a shoulder injury.
Nico Hischier: Multiple little injuries and sickness but seems to be hitting his offensive stride.
Mackenzie Blackwood: Heel injury has him out for months. When he was in, he was bad.
Ty Smith: The worst starting defenseman on the team.

No wonder the Devils season is in the tank. The most important players, which likely also includes Dougie Hamilton now, have all faced major injuries or a terrible slump (or in Blackwood’s case, both).

Pucks And Pitchforks
Pucks And Pitchforks /

Want your voice heard? Join the Pucks And Pitchforks team!

Write for us!

The Devils thought they had the right combination of goalies this season. They dealt with Cory Schneider falling off a cliff three different times and Corey Crawford‘s surprise retirement. So, they went out and paid a little extra for Jonathan Bernier. He almost immediately got hurt. He tried to play through a hip injury, but it was clear he wasn’t himself and he had surgery to fix the issue. Now the Devils are stuck holding the bag on two bad goalies without a fix in sight.

Nico Daws prior to this week looked like he at least had something going for him. He had talent, but he was still overwhelmed in the NHL. The Devils don’t really have another choice. They’ve been riding goalies all season. They tried riding Bernier, but he had a bad hip. They tried to ride Blackwood, but he had a bad heel. After trading future considerations for him, they tried riding Jon Gillies, but he’s just not an NHL-caliber goalie. Akira Schmid came in and had the worst stats in the NHL.

The Devils goalie situation is in shambles, but Blackwood is still their best shot at getting out of it. Moving Blackwood would be changing something for the sake of changing it. The Devils need to make tangible moves at the NHL Trade Deadline. Standing pat doesn’t seem like the best move, but moving a 25-year-old goalie who’s shown he can do it at the NHL level when he’s not injured doesn’t feel like the best move when there isn’t a better option in the room.

Next. New Jersey Devils Trade Deadline Preview. dark

Then, there’s the whole vaccine scenario. While it was a headache, Blackwood eventually got the shot. Why is this still coming up six months later? He took too much time, and it became public, but there are players on other teams in the New York media market that are making a bigger fuss than Blackwood. He made the right decision, but the team is still upset with him? That’s the rumor, apparently. He listened to what the Devils and likely Team Canada wanted him to do.

Blackwood’s numbers are bad on paper over the past two seasons. The advanced statistics are also bad. There are more factors than just his .902 and .894 save percentages over the past two seasons. He’s a talented goalie that has God-given abilities that could make him one of the best in the league. He needs something to take him to the next level. Maybe the Devils don’t think they are capable of getting that out of him.

This whole story just seems like an overreaction to a season where literally everything went wrong. Bernier would be the goalie to try and move in the offseason because of the risk involved with returning from hip injuries. Moving Blackwood now, while he’s still injured, means selling him at his nadir value. It just seems like bad business by Tom Fitzgerald and the New Jersey Devils.