New Jersey Devils: Alexander Holtz Deserves Better

Alexander Holtz scored the game-tying goal against the Montreal Canadiens, but still found himself with just over eight minutes of ice time. Why are the New Jersey Devils treating him this way?
New Jersey Devils v Vancouver Canucks
New Jersey Devils v Vancouver Canucks / Derek Cain/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils drafted Alexander Holtz with the seventh overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and he filled an organizational need for a right shot scoring forward. He came in with a lot of hype and took a year or so to develop into an NHLer. When he gets put into the lineup, Holtz has shown he is able to score goals at key times and has a bright future ahead of him.

With all of that being said, he has not been given an opportunity to excel from Head Coach Lindy Ruff. He is consistently given fourth-line ice time with no room to grow. Even with the short ice time, Holtz still leads the Devils in even-strength goals. However, it seems when Holtz makes a small mistake, he is punished for it and not given ice time to try and grow. However, when someone else on the roster makes the same mistake, they are not punished at all, especially the defensemen.

A prime example of this is the Devils most recent game against the Montreal Canadiens. Holtz made a bad play in the second period when he tried to pass the puck into the middle of the ice, which led to a small opportunity for the Canadiens. He did not see the ice for the rest of the period. He was then put on the power play and scored a game-tying goal on a great slap shot, which then gave the Devils momentum.

Holtz was then rewarded for his goal by being punished for his turnover the previous period. He was only given two shifts in the third period while the Devils, who needed goal scoring, did not score in the game again and were embarrassed yet again at home. A team that is desperate for goal scoring with injuries to key players cannot bench the player who gives them the most at even strength.

Holtz is not given the chance to succeed. Young players make mistakes. Coaches need to let them play through those mistakes instead of giving them less ice time as a "think about what you did." Especially when other players make the same or even worse turnovers and are given more slack than Holtz.

Holtz should be playing with the team's top offensive players. A line of Meier-Hischier-Holtz could be a great one. Meier is a powerful forward. Hischier can take care of things defensively, while Holtz can be the scoring touch on what could be a good line. But that is complete wishful thinking because Ruff believes Holtz is better off with borderline NHL players Max Willman, Chris Tierney, Nate Bastian, and Brendan Smith. Yes, that Brendan Smith.

When he was asked about Holtz's lack of ice time after his goal, Ruff chastized beat writer Ryan Novozinsky. Ruff responded with, "You don't watch the game very well." It was a completely valid question about Holtz's ice time, and it was met with a very back-peddling response. The fact that Ruff has to defend his decision to bench a young player who is in the top ten in scoring on the team with such a tone is embarrassing for Ruff and the organization.

It has come to the point where the New Jersey Devils and Tom Fitzgerald are going to have to decide who will stay. Lindy Ruff or Alex Holtz? With the team underachieving this year, Ruff should be on thin ice. However, it does not seem like that is the case. After consistently losing to bad teams, Ruff is still here, preaching the same message as always. That message is: make mistakes and no one is held accountable unless you are Alexander Holtz.

Holtz should be the one the Devils choose to stick behind. He is young, scoring at a 20-goal pace, and is in a position of need for the organization. Is it not often that a team drafts a scoring forward with the potential Holtz has and who is showing that potential already.

The crossroad is here. Ruff or Holtz. The easy answer is Holtz. It remains to be seen if Ruff can change his ways and salvage what has been a very lackluster season. As of right now, the Devils fandom's faith in the team and in Ruff is at a very low point right now. With the All-Star break approaching, it should be a very interesting couple of weeks, especially with the trade deadline on the horizon.