One thing that has stood out over the last few years of lackluster New Jersey Devils season is the fact that scoring has come at a premium. In that, the Devils did not get the premium scoring they absolutely needed. Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri were great for what they were, but they seemed like the only players who could score with consistency for a long time. Some of the names who find themselves in the top-five in scoring over the last five years (looking solely at singular seasons) include names like Damon Severson, Will Butcher, Nikita Gusev, Travis Zajac, and Pavel Zacha (although he was good last year).
This year, something feels different. The Devils’ goals leader is Jack Hughes with 24 in 46 games. It’s clear he is the Devils’ super-duper star and he will lead them into prosperity one day. Jesper Bratt is right behind him with 22 goals, but he also records a team-leading 65 points. Nico Hischier has a good chance to break 20 goals, while Yegor Sharangovich and Dawson Mercer have an outside chance to do the same thing.
Do you know the last time the Devils have five 20-goal scorers? It was 2011-12 when the Devils made a run to the Stanley Cup. That year, Ilya Kovalchuk led the team with 37 goals. Zach Parise and David Clarkson also put up a 30+ goal season. Petr Sykora rounded out the 20-goal scorers. This team doesn’t have the defense and the goalie combination that the 2012 playoff team had, but the offense is very similar.
Then, look down at the Utica Comets. They are scoring at will as well. A.J. Greer just scored his 20th goal of the season, making him the third player on the Utica Comets to hit the feat. He dod that with his second hat trick of the year. Fabian Zetterlund and Alex Holtz both have 20+ goals themselves. This shows that scoring has become a priority for a franchise that famously won its Stanley Cups on defense.
And that’s how the Devils should be going about it. This is a league where scoring is just as important as stopping players from scoring. Alright, that sounds a little too obvious, but this league is as close to normal when it comes to scoring as it has been in a while. It all comes down to goalies, and the Devils currently don’t have one, but they have the scoring to keep up with almost anyone. They beat the Colorado Avalanche and New York Rangers on scoring alone in the month of March.
This is a huge step in the right direction. Yes, this season is a mess and the Devils are tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for last in the Metropolitan Division, but the scoring numbers give us hope for the future. The Devils are scoring exactly 3.0 goals per game. That’s near the middle of the pack in the NHL. If they had normal goaltending, they could at least be much closer to the playoffs than they are now (although they wouldn’t make it this season).
Next season, if the Devils get marginal advances in offenses (for argument’s sake, let’s say 3.25 goals per game), that puts the Devils close to the top 10 in scoring. If they just get something like middle-of-the-pack goaltending and defense, that might be enough to be a playoff contender as early as next year. Obviously, with how the Devils are currently constructed, that’s still a lot to ask, but it’s at least possible.