New Jersey Devils: Tom Fitzgerald Needs To Bolster Defense To Help Goaltending

New Jersey Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41): John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41): John Jones-USA TODAY Sports /

Tom Fitzgerald and Martin Brodeur need to come to their senses with Vitek Vanecek (13 Games Played) and Akira Schmid (6 Games Played) and find the right help to bring the same success they had last season. Vanecek is sporting a -5.6 in Goals Saved Above Expected. Akira Schmid performing better at -2.4 Goals Saved Above Expected per Money Puck, but he’s played about half the games.

This is atrocious and not acceptable at all. There is no amendment to strategies, mechanics, or anything to improve the overall mental and physical approach to each game. There needs more accountability in net. It always seems there have been little to no adjustments with the way both goalies have played. The New Jersey Devils‘ defense not being any good isn’t helping the goalies. The real responsibility needs to be on Tom Fitzgerald to bring in a Chris Tanev or Nikita Zadorov presence.

Goaltending Needs Physical Presences Upfront

Last year, Akira Schmid played 18 games and had 8.2 Goals Saved Above Expected. Vitek Vanecek had 5.2 Goals Saved Above Expected with 52 games played last season. If the Devils can add someone like Nikita Zadorov or Chris Tanev on defense plus someone like a Sammy Blais at forward, this team will be very scary to play against.

Letting Miles Wood go in free agency was a mistake despite his stupid penalties. His physicality, foot speed, and other teams knowing that they can’t take liberties on star players like Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier was something that needed to be replaced. Sammy Blais is a Stanley Cup winner with the St. Louis Blues. He has ties to Martin Brodeur when the GOAT was the Assistant GM in St. Louis under Doug Armstrong.

Blais, much like Miles Wood, would play really well in a very physical and super tough forechecking game that would slow down opponents. New Jersey has to have that first wave and second wave of defense that they did last year. This allowed guys like Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid to settle into a rhythm. That rhythm allowed this team to go onto a historical season run.

Time To Demote & Scratch

The addition of Chris Tierney is not solving anything other than just adding an AHL-caliber veteran whose time is basically up. You’re far much better off bringing up Xavier Parent who has been amazing in Utica scoring 6 goals and 13 points in 13 games played. The 21-year-old is signed to an AHL contract, so that would need to be fixed first. It is time to inject young and exciting blood into this lineup and Tierney is not cutting it one bit.

A player that needs to remain a healthy scratch the remainder of this season is Brendan Smith. Sorry to break it to you, he maybe a leader in the clubhouse, but he is nowhere near productive defensively. Smith is not capable of covering his opponents in front of him and can’t stop high-danger plays from occurring with odd-man rushes. If Coach Ruff could implement the 12-6 lineup it would be better to have Colin Miller take up Brendan Smith’s minutes the rest of the way unless Simon Nemec is ready to be called up.

Next. Fitzgerald Needs To Address Current State of Devils. dark


There are a lot of pieces in place from the same team last season but there needs to be a few physical bodies and really good players that can change the mindset to right the ship early and rapidly. Wouldn’t be surprised if Tom Fitzgerald is forced to change the defensive coach and get this team being very aggressive and relearning to shutdown opponents.

This Devils team needs to play a hybrid of offense and defense and it has to start with the physical shutdown style of play under a new defensive coach. Ryan McGill doesn’t seem to be getting the message across and the skaters look to be not following his failed system this season so far at this time.