It wasn’t an easy start, but it seems as though the New Jersey Devils fanbase has come to accept and embrace Erik Haula. The feeling seems to be reciprocal because shortly after the season ended, Haula expressed his desire to remain in New Jersey. He even went as far as to describe the entire organization as his “family.” This resulted in him signing a three-year, $9.45 million extension. Most people realized what Haula’s true role is within the organization, both on the ice and in the locker room.
The 2023-24 season is fast approaching, and it seems as though the Devils will roll with the same leadership group from last year: Nico Hischier (C), Jack Hughes (A), and Ondrej Palat (A). Palat’s experience and championship pedigree are definitely respectable, Haula should be in consideration for the second alternate captain role. He’s a useful veteran asset, makes the people around him better, and seems to be well-respected within the locker room.
Haula has been playing in the NHL since the 2013-14 season and has competed on seven different teams. Surprisingly, his teams have never missed the playoffs. He missed the playoffs in 2019 due to a knee injury with the Golden Knights, but he’s hit the ice every other year in the postseason. The Devils made the playoffs for the first time since 2018, and Haula played an integral part in why they were able to do so.
After a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues in January, Lindy Ruff was asked why Haula was never a healthy scratch despite his low scoring numbers. Ruff came to Haula’s defense and explained that his impact doesn’t always appear in the score sheet.
“We get possession a lot more with Erik,” Ruff said. “You see that during the game at times I play Jack with Shar [Yegor Sharangovich] and somebody else…You get offensive face-off, win the draw, and get possession. If we don’t have possession, they’ll chase it around and probably go the other way.”
During locker room cleanouts, Hughes also spoke highly of Haula and loved what he brought to the organization.
“I’m a huge Erik Haula fan,” Hughes said. “He did great job for us by providing leadership and experience. But there’s a difference between being in the locker room and being a voice and then not backing it up. He’s been a guy who’s been a gamer for us, pretty much played all the games all year. He’s fighting, scoring, penalty-killing, and also on the power play…He fit really well in our locker room.”
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Haula has had a tremendous impact on this organization so far, and it seems as though Haula has found a new sense of belonging with the organization. It can also be inferred that Haula is the heart and soul of this team. He more than deserves to wear the “A” on his sweater come the new season, given his experience, reputation, and on-ice production.