Missing Playoffs Could Be Beneficial for New Jersey Devils: Here's Why

It has been a rough season for the New Jersey Devils. However, with all young teams, there will be setbacks. Despite the disappointment, missing out on the playoffs this year could be beneficial long-term for these players.

New Jersey Devils v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five
New Jersey Devils v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five / Jaylynn Nash/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils have had a bad year, plain and simple. Whether you want to use injuries, goaltending, or something different entirely, the 2023-24 season has been a failure. Off the heels of a 112-point season and a playoff series win, this team had high expectations to start the year. Fast forward to today, and they're staring down the barrel of their ninth playoff-less season since 2012.

For many fans, the most frustrating part has been the team's inability to string together wins. Their longest win streak this year is three games. Couple that with them still mathematically in the playoff hunt, and anyone could see how infuriating this year has been. Losses against bottom-feeding teams like San Jose, Anaheim (2x), Columbus, Montreal, and Arizona (2x) have put the Devils in a precarious position.

Still, with a little less than a month to go, the Devils have a mathematical chance of making the postseason. However, a miracle run to the playoffs may not be the best thing for the long-term health of this group. As crazy as it may seem, there may be some benefits for the Devils to miss out on the postseason this year.

Learn that they can't sleepwalk through the season

For most of the 2022-23 season, things came easy for the Devils. Outside of a rough patch in December, they skated by with relative ease to the playoffs. What this young Devils group is now realizing is that it won't always be that easy. Even during their 5-2-1 stretch to open the season, they lacked the same type of cohesion and conviction they had a year ago. They could skate by because of a power play that was clicking at over 40%.

This young core that's in place will be together for a while. They've faced adversity all season long and they'll face even more of it over the next decade. What will be most telling is how they respond next year. They came into this year with their bellies full, hoping they could use their skill to mask any problems. Next season, they need to come out hungry and fly out of the gates with the same intensity we saw back in 2022.

While this season probably hurts like hell for the players (and fans, of course), they must have a long, hard look in the mirror over the summer. This year was a massive learning curve for a team trying to take the next step that you can't come into the year and sleepwalk your way into playoffs. The only thing fans can do now is hope; hope that this young group uses this year as a learning tool to come out flying in 2024-25.

Add another high-end, young player in the draft

The Devils have become all too familiar with the draft, the draft lottery, and prospects over the last decade. And it looked like they had turned the corner last year with the playoffs. First-round draft picks were starting to look more like a luxury rather than a necessity. However, when you disappoint to the extent the Devils have this year, having another likely top-10 pick becomes massive.

The Devils are in an interesting spot where they are trying to win and build towards a Stanley Cup but have also used assets like draft picks and cap space to build up the roster. However, what a high first-round pick this year gives the Devils, and Tom Fitzgerald is a young, impact player on a cheap ELC for three years. Regardless of the position, with this pick, the Devils can fill a spot on the roster with just a $950,000 cap hit rather than pay multi-millions of dollars. Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec, and Alex Holtz are all currently on the ELCs, and because of that, the organization has the ability to be flexible when filling out the roster.

A setback that can have a positive impact

Perspective will be huge this offseason. Will Tom Fitzgerald have the foresight to see this season as just a small setback, or will he feel that major changes will need to take place? We've seen that this group can make the playoffs and make some noise. We've also seen teams like the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights miss the playoffs with a solid core in place. Vegas most recently showed that a smart coaching hire and filling out the roster can go a long way and is what led them to become Stanley Cup champions. It's tough to stay positive during a season like this one, but there can be long-term benefits for the Devils even if they miss the playoffs.