Are the New Jersey Devils a goaltender away from being a playoff team? Who knows, but it wouldn’t have hurt if they did get league average goaltending. Before the season started, we all agreed the Devils needing a combined .910 save percentage between Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier.
Instead, they used a total of seven goaltenders throughout the season, a franchise record. Between the seven of them, they made for a .882 save percentage, the 2nd worse in the league.
According to JFresh, Devils goaltenders have allowed 41.3 more goals than expected, the worst mark in the NHL.
You’re probably tired of hearing about the Devils’ horrible goaltending, You watch the games, so you’ve suffered enough. But let’s pour a little more salt into the wound and inform you of the self-inflicted wounds made by the Devils’ front office along the way.
Obviously, it’s not Tom Fitzgerald’s fault that the two veteran goaltenders he signed in back-to-back offseasons didn’t work out. However, it is Fitzgerald’s fault for opting to waive both Scott Wedgewood and Eric Comrie.
What have the two been up to?
We’ll first start with Comrie, who made one start with the Devils last year and posted a win. He did his job. He saved 30/33 shots, posted a .909 save percentage, and saved all the shots he was supposed to.
Shortly after, the Devils decided to waive Comrie to make room for Devils legend Aaron Dell. In his time with the Devils, Dell went 1-5 and put up a horrendous .857 save percentage. Those would be the only games Dell would rock in a red and black sweater as he moved onto Buffalo in the offseason.
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As for Comrie, he was picked up by the Winnipeg Jets last season and won the job to be Connor Hellebuyck’s backup this season. In the process, Comrie has posted eight wins in the 12 games he’s started. One of those wins, of course, coming from a stellar performance against the Devils. In that game, he saved 33/34 shots, which was good for a .971 save percentage.
All in all, he’s put up solid numbers in front of a questionable Jets blueline. His .912 save percentage would be the best among the seven goaltenders the Devils have to offer.
The Comrie situation was unfortunate, but at least Fitzgerald learned not to waive goalies anymore, right? Well, wrong. And this time, it ended up being worse than the last one.
At the beginning of November, the Devils decided to waive goaltender Scott Wedgewood in order to activate Mackenzie Blackwood from the IR. At the time, the move was whatever. Wedgewood’s a 29-year-old goaltender who, when on his game, looks like Andrei Vasilevskiy. When his positioning is off, which is most of the time, he’s an AHL caliber goaltender.
In Fitzgerald’s mind, there was no need to carry three goaltenders. Still, he should have known better, considering all the tendies the Devils ran through last season. Furthermore, when you have a guy like Mason Geertsen on your roster, who’ll finish the season with 0 points and 77 penalty minutes in 24 games, it would have made sense to waive the less-serviceable option.
However, Fitzgerald didn’t see it that way and got rid of Wedgewood. Since then, he’s not only been serviceable for the two teams he’s been on, but since being traded to the Dallas Stars, he’s been one of the league’s best goaltenders.
Since the start of February, Wedgewood has the 3rd best goals saved above expected and the 5th best save percentage. Even when he was in Arizona, he posted a .911 save percentage and somehow managed to win ten games with the team.
You know for a fact Fitzgerald is kicking himself because the Devils have been searching far and wide for competent goaltending but little did they know it was on their roster the whole time.