New Jersey Devils: Jersey Joe’s Notes Ahead Of A Great Season

Kevin Bahl #88 of the New Jersey Devils and Jack Hughes #86 during the preseason game against the New York Islanders on October 2, 2023 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images)
Kevin Bahl #88 of the New Jersey Devils and Jack Hughes #86 during the preseason game against the New York Islanders on October 2, 2023 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images) /

As the new sheet of ice is cleaned and showtime ready, there is a new beginning as the puck hits the faceoff circle. In the offseason, General Manager Tom Fitzgerald upgraded the New Jersey Devils in different areas of the offense and brought in veteran leadership that brought in critical playoff experiences.

There are not very many conundrums for the Devils’ front office at this time due to the fact mitigating risk by diversifying and growing the team’s depth. Now, with the team’s first win behind them, they can look to the rest of the season.

Fans are excited for the new season to begin, and The Rock will be ready to rock again. This is the Garden State of Hockey, and a new era of Devils hockey will be very fun to watch.


The New Jersey Devils dodged a bullet when it came to Connor Hellebuyck. Upcoming contracts like Luke Hughes, Dawson Mercer, and Simon Nemec in the not-too-distant future would make that Hellebuyck contract very hard to handle. Akira Schmid improved in the latter part of last season and answered to the Alphorn in the playoffs against the Rangers, recording two shutouts and securing the critical four wins.

Just like in the movie The Godfather, Akira Schmid had his playoff baptism under heavy fire. Nothing came easy against the Rangers in the first two games when Vitek Vanecek was in net, but Schmid came in to be a calming presence. He can be a long-term fixture.

Schmid’s main goal is to step in and alleviate the workload off of Vitek Vanecek’s shoulders. Schmid has the making of not only a 30-win goalie but also one day getting the Devils closer to hoisting that Stanley Cup. It is Schmid’s duty to push Vanecek’s game to the next level, similar to how Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider both competed game in and game out in their glory years.

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In Vanecek’s case, there are still a lot of questions. Can he not only play fewer regular-season games and split them with Schmid, but can he be mentally, and mechanically prepared for the playoffs? Will Schmid be the go-to goalie in the playoffs?  The first part is possibly splitting the workload and giving the defense and offense an even amount of exposure.

The mentality part is meant to be seen when comes playoff time for the Czech netminder, so this is a wait-and-see approach. Lindy Ruff could give the keys to Schmid in the playoffs and see how he handles the big-game pressure. If Vanecek can shake off the negative postseason past, he can certainly help the Devils increase their odds of going deep in the playoffs.

Offense Under Travis Greene

Tom Fitzgerald seems to be pressing the right buttons with his past coaching hires. In the past several seasons before Travis Greene came along, overpassing on the power play and substandard offensive zone entries with the man advantage was an issue. In Game 1, it’s already improving. Jack Hughes scored a power-play goal against the Red Wings, putting one off Ville Husso’s mask.

Yes, we take the preseason with a grain of salt, but if it’s a free sample for those getting a glimpse of guys like Max Willman to Tyler Toffoli cashing in with a shoot-more mentality and snap-the-puck. Each player brings their own philosophy to this new power play scheme.

Speaking of guys like Tyler Toffoli, Yegor Sharangovich was traded to Calgary in a package for Toffoli. The New Jersey Devils now have Timo Meier, Tyler Toffoli, and Tomas Nosek on the roster. There are gonna be a lot of players looking to score from the slot and areas near the bumper.

The Devils now have a blend of grit and sandpaper, players with finesse, speed, elite-level shooting, and high-end hockey IQ that will make it much harder for opponents to try and defend. Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier, Nico Hischier, Nathan Bastian, and Michael McLeod now have guys on their lines that can help them play a consistent 3-4 lines of offense a night. If one of them gets shut down, the other lines can kick in and take care of business.

Next. Pucks and Pitchforks Season Preview. dark

Ryan McGill’s Defense

A lot of you are wondering how this Devils team handles the growing pains of younger guys like Luke Hughes and Kevin Bahl in the lineup. It’s not a matter of if, but when Simon Nemec gets called up. Guys like Nemec are unique because they are quick learners, capable of being motivated to help chip in both offensively and defensively. So many young contributors will bring questions.

John Marino will return to playing his elite-level defensive hockey and contributing timely offense. Dougie Hamilton will be a force to be reckoned with once again but might not have to play as many minutes as previous seasons. Jonas Siegenthaler will be out there shutting down lanes, blocking shots, and hitting opponents. Kevin Bahl is more of a stay-at-home defenseman but is a complete Sasquatch who loves to play a rough-and-tumble defensive game on his own end. Bahl, however, has a nice acute shot that doesn’t need much torque because of his natural and fluid torque.

Luke Hughes is a huge offensive-defenseman everyone in the hockey world truly loves watching. He’s as smooth skating as a figure skater and blazing fast like a road runner in Looney Tunes. If Hughes can iron out the passing and be smarter with the puck in every facet of the game, he’ll have the chance to become a two-way defenseman with legend status if he can raise the Devils dynamics from the regular season throughout the playoffs.