Tom Fitzgerald needs to address current state of New Jersey Devils

Tom Fitzgerald of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Tom Fitzgerald of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

For all of the praise New Jersey Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald was getting in the offseason for the Devils’ additions, he should be getting the same amount of criticism. The Devils dropped another embarrassing game to the Detroit Red Wings, and Devils fans are seeing shades of 2020 and 2021. What in the world happened to the 2023-24 Devils?

When you look at the forward core for this year and the future, it is easy to see why Fitzgerald was heralded as one of the best in the league. The core is locked up long-term. Timo Meier and Jesper Bratt are signed long-term. Depth piece Erik Haula is also locked in for a few more seasons at a more than reasonable cap hit. Players such as Miles Wood, Jesper Boqvist, and Tomas Tatar were replaced by Tyler Toffoli and Tomas Nosek. The forward core looks fantastic.

The defense is a completely different story.

Damon Severson and Ryan Graves were important defensemen for the Devils last season. Both earned long-term contracts and a decent-sized cap hit with their new teams. What was Fitzgerald’s response? Trade for Colin Miller. That is it. To replace two players who played more than 20 minutes a game a year ago, he brought in one player who averaged less than 17. This is clearly a problem in the first part of the season.

One of the main reasons why neither Severson nor Graves were brought back, was the potential emergence of Simon Nemec. Nemec showed in the preseason that he was ready for at least a trial. However, he has been in the AHL for the first two months of the year while Brendan Smith has played every game. Which is a good reason why the Devils are at NHL .500.

To not address the lack of defensive depth is a massive reason the Devils seem to be embarrassed every other night. Why could you not bring in Radko Gudas on a short-term deal? Why could you not try and bring in Dmitry Orlov on a one-year deal, like he signed in Carolina? One might say that it is because of the salary cap restraints. To which the response should be: what salary cap constraints? The cap will be going up after this season and every team finds a way in the short term.

Now to the goaltending. After 25 years of not having to worry about this topic with Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider, karma is here to collect. Since the 2018-19 season, the Devils goaltending has been an absolute disaster. That is, until last season. Vitek Vanecek and Akria Schmid were the refreshing surprises last season en route to the Devils’ first playoff berth since Cory Schneider was on the roster in 2018.

Now? Cinderella has turned back into the pumpkin. Vanecek, at this current moment in time, is a borderline ECHL goalie. Not just on the eye test, but at every other statistical category all goalies take seriously. Of the 16 goalies who have started 12 or more games this season, Vanecek ranks 14th in GAA with 3.43 and 14th in save percentage with a .886. Compared to last year where he was fifth in the league with a 2.45 goals against and 11th in save percentage with a .911.

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The Devils were tied to Connor Hellebuyck all offseason until he signed an extension with the Winnipeg Jets. Although Hellebuyck is not putting up his usual numbers, in the same parameters this season, he ranks eighth in both categories. Which is much better than Vanecek. If Fitzgerald improved the goaltending after the shaky performance Vanecek showed last postseason, the Devils are not where they are right now.

So what are the options now? The Devils have been linked to Calgary Flames defensemen Nikita Zadorov, Chris Tanev, and Noah Hanafin. All three players would help the Devils immediately. How about the goaltending? Two years ago, Fitzgerald waited to make a move for a goaltender. He brought in Andrew Hammond and that did not work in absolutely no way shape or form. He cannot wait.

The sooner the Devils make a move to address their defense and goaltending the better. They cannot idly stand by and watch the season go by them. The points they are losing in November will matter when it comes down to crunch time in April.

dark. Next. Devils Don't Look Like A Playoff Team Right Now

Yes, Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Timo Meier have missed some time. That. Does. Not. Matter. Why did the Rangers not lose points when they were without Igor Shesterkin and Adam Fox? The same standard should be held to the Devils. Good teams find ways to win. Right now the Devils are very far from a good team.

The time is now for Fitzgerald to act and address the things he should have done months ago. If he waits any longer, it will be too late. Looking at you too, Lindy Ruff.