5 Decisions That Led To Failed New Jersey Devils Season

The New Jersey Devils season is essentially over after a Saturday night loss to the Ottawa Senators. Now, it's time to evaluate where Tom Fitzgerald failed in his decision making that led to a lost season in the middle of a contention window.

New Jersey Devils forwards Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes
New Jersey Devils forwards Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes / Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Starting with Brendan Smith over Simon Nemec

Let’s start with this; Brendan Smith did not have a good season. The Devils put too much on him, expecting him to be a full-time starter from day one. It seems like forever ago, but to start the season, the Devils felt like it was in their best interest to start the season with Smith playing on his off hand. They had other options, especially when it came to playing with Luke Hughes for his first full-time assignment in the NHL.

We understand wanting Smith in the lineup for his play on the penalty kill or his leadership in the locker room, but playing Smith over Simon Nemec, a rookie who has shown in his time replacing Dougie Hamilton that he’s ready for the show, was a colossal mistake. 

Obviously, most were hoping Smith would act as the Devils seventh defenseman this season. The expectation was that John Marino, Hamilton, and Colin Miller would be on the right side. Miller didn’t get in the lineup and was eventually hurt. Santeri Hatakka looked good in preseason, and he probably should have been given a shot. 

Either way, the Devils went with Smith when Nemec could have given the Devils those important shifts to start the season. It was an overthought by management. It was prioritizing traditional development over putting together the best roster, and it cost them crucial points in the beginning of the season.