Are Criticisms Of New Jersey Devils Rookie Luke Hughes Valid?

Luke Hughes has had an up-and-down rookie year with the New Jersey Devils. How should we look at this year as a whole?

Ottawa Senators v New Jersey Devils
Ottawa Senators v New Jersey Devils / Adam Hunger/GettyImages

It’s clear at this point that the New Jersey Devils aren’t a good team. They have too many flaws that weren't addressed properly, especially on defense. All the defensemen get called out whenever their foul play is showcased. However, one player that gets a lot of criticism is Luke Hughes.  The kid looked forward to playing with the team in his first entire season. Last year in the playoffs, there were a lot of positive takeaways from his performances.

This year, sadly, he hasn't lived up to his expectations. Some moments were great for him, but for most of the season, there were a lot of problems with his play. He lacked a lot of defensive skill, and for the most part, his awareness was off. Due to that lack of understanding, he constantly turned the puck over, players got easily set up, and many of their opponents’ goals were scored because of him.

Even though this seems increasingly negative, are the criticisms of Luke Hughes justified? First, let's address that there are reasonable criticisms and destructive criticisms. Many people criticize Hughes for turning over the puck and not playing defense. Both of those are true. But some people feel differently, saying the good plays are missing completely. That’s not entirely true. We all remember the play against the Blue Jackets, where he went coast to coast to tie that game. That play was the big reason why they won that game later. You also have the game against the Isles on his first goal of the season being a slapshot. So it’s not like Luke isn’t making exemplary contributions to the team.

There’s also criticism against not him but Travis Green and Lindy Ruff for giving Hughes special treatment and not getting benched whenever he screws up. It does make sense. When a player isn’t performing and is screwing up, they tend to get benched. Getting benched allows a player to work harder and improve, so why isn’t Luke benched when he does something wrong? Alexander Holtz gets benched, even on Wednesday night when four players were kicked out of the game. Granted, this is a criticism of coaching more than Hughes, but he can benefit from it. Being benched can allow him to play better defense and make better plays.

Hughes may have had a poor year, but he will be better under the right coaching, and the play will improve. So, no one should be hard on him in his first year. Luke wants to contribute here to a Cup, and he will.