New Jersey Devils Exit Interviews: What We Learned

We've taken a few weeks to let the season settle and decipher what we learned from New Jersey Devils exit interviews.
Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils
Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils / Elsa/GettyImages
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2. Youth Gone Wild

The silver lining in all of this miserable season that Devils fans had to endure is that their young talent (which is almost half the team) just got another year of NHL experience under their belts. Most notably, their two future pillars on the blue line - Luke Hughes (82 games) and Simon Nemec (60 games) played in basically every situation imaginable and will be better for it next season and beyond. They played more minutes than they probably should have because of all of the injuries that Dougie Hamilton, John Marino, and Jonas Siegenthaler battled through. Both Nemec and Hughes seemed eager to reset and start a new season while also acknowledging the leaps and bounds they took this season.

Up front, Alex Holtz played a full 82 games for the first time in his career, and like mentioned above - he will be better for it in the future; he’s still only 22 years old and has room to grow even more. Holtz knows what he must do to prepare his body and game for a full NHL season. Also, Dawson Mercer played another 82 games to extend his three-year consecutive games streak to 246 straight games. Although Mercer’s point production dropped from 56 to 33 (after 42 points in his rookie campaign), he was a luxury for whoever was coaching the team with his versatility and ability to play anywhere in the lineup. Like Holtz, Mercer is only 22 and still a few years away from his prime.

3. Jesper Bratt was not happy

Following his seventh full season with the Devils, Jesper Bratt is coming off of a career-best in points (83 in 82 games) and assists (56). But over those seven seasons, he has appeared in only 13 playoff games, with 12 of them coming last spring. When he came out to talk with us, there was a serious tone to his words and demeanor. He’s tired of the excuses (we’re a young team, a young core, untimely injuries, etc.) and heading back to Sweden before May 1.

He didn’t care to talk about his magnificent season where he was New Jersey’s most consistent player night in and night out, or that he played in all 82 games for the second season in a row. Maybe earlier in his career no. 63 was just happy to be in the NHL, with the Devils; but now he wants more. He wants to win and the time for talk is over. 

After the season finale and again at his exit interview with the media, Bratt mentioned that he thought the team needed to play more maturely. Whether it’s practice habits, not giving up the first goal in 2/3 of their games, or not playing safe enough at the end of games to get to overtime - the Devils had enough talent this season to make the playoffs, and they didn’t. That is the first time this team could say that in his career, not making the Stanley Cup playoffs was a bit of a shock. Over Bratt’s first five seasons, they didn’t deserve or have a good enough team to make it to the second season, and only did it once because Taylor Hall played possessed enough to win MVP and drag the Devs to the playoffs.

Honestly, I liked seeing/hearing that side of Bratt. It shows that he cares and cares enough to the point where it bothers him. Others showed that emotion too - Erik Haula, Nico Hischier, and Hamilton come to mind - but coming from Bratt, that felt like someone stepping into a leadership role and someone who can and will hold his peers accountable going forward.