The New Jersey Devils had one of the worst seasons in franchise history. No, seriously. In 2020, I called that the worst season of all time. If only I knew what was to come just two years later. Yeah, that year was terrible. We fired a coach and GM, traded our star player, lost Blake Coleman, moved our captain for a draft pick, watched Jack Hughes struggle to handle the NHL, and our goalie situation fell apart. This season is undoubtedly worse even if it comes with more hope for the future.
The actual season was impossibly bad. Let’s start with the goalie situation. We started with Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier. We finally fixed goaltending. If Blackwood struggles, Bernier has a long history of success. Plus, he won’t retire. That’s a major plus. Welp, Bernier’s season was over by the first week of December. Then, the Devils leaned all the way in on Blackwood, and his injured heel finally gave out in January.
Scott Wedgewood was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes off waivers on November 4th, less than a month before Bernier’s final game of the season. Instead, the Devils traded future considerations for Jon Gillies. They traded for Andrew Hammond, and they forced Nico Daws and Akira Schmid to play in the NHL before they were ready.
It’s just a microcosm of the season. It was a season where the Devils won just 27 out of 82 games. The last time when the Devils lost 55 games in a season was 1984, the Devils’ second season in New Jersey. They lost one more game than the Devils did this season. It was a pathetic performance that proves to be rock bottom for this fanbase.
It’s not rock bottom for the front office. They will blame injuries and things outside of their control. How can a team win with a carousel of AHL goalies in the NHL? There is plenty of blame outside the goaltending situation. The coaching staff didn’t do nearly enough to fix the Devils’ transgressions, which include a baffling sophomore slump from Ty Smith, the worst power play in the league (the shorthanded goals mean more to us than PP%), drop-offs from Michael McLeod, Janne Kuokkanen, and others, while also blowing leads too often. Sometimes big leads.
The New Jersey Devils season ended on a six-game losing streak. It was their third six-game losing streak of the season. They just couldn’t stop the losses from coming in bunches. There was no stopping the bad times.
On top of the losses, the injuries made the product near-unwatchable at times. We brought up the goalies, but that just scratches the surface. Jack Hughes had two major injuries, although the second one was probably just a precaution more than an actual injury. Dougie Hamilton broke his jaw in his first season with the Devils. Miles Wood only played three games this season after a hip surgery. Jonas Siegenthaler ended the season with a broken hand. Just about everyone missed a week here or there. It felt like the Devils never had a full lineup.
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Changes must come this offseason. The Devils can’t go into next season with the same coaching staff and the same roster. Something about the definition of crazy comes into play here. The Devils season is over, and it’s sad. It’s not sad because it’s over, but it’s sad because we’re not sad it’s over. We just needed it to end. It was constant misery. It was 55 days of disappointment. It’s time to celebrate the Devils looking to defend their offseason championship while others play for the real thing.