New Jersey Devils: Goaltender Could Benefit From Change In Leadership

Goaltending is the most voodoo of positions in all of hockey. It is easy to scout in the short term, yet very difficult to predict for the longer term. Goalies such as Akira Schmid came off an 18-game season and have a lot of upside with his mentality, skill, and overall play. However, it takes the right leadership to bring the best out of these young goalies.

New Jersey Devils v Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils v Columbus Blue Jackets / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

New Jersey Devils goalie coach Dave Rogalski began his run with the Devils before the 2020-21 season that team was north of a .900 save percentage with Mackenzie Blackwood and Scott Wedgewood in net. The next season, only Johnathan Bernier was north of a .900 save percentage. The six other goalies averaged a .874 save percentage.

Last season was the biggest outlier of a season where Vitek Vanecek posted .911 save percentage while Akira Schmid put up .922 during the regular season. Some of it is a defensive play scheme, but at the same time, this all has to do with how the goalie coach has to better work with each netminder one-on-one. This is where he will spend time breaking down mechanics, and working with their psychological approaches before and during games. This season, Akira Schmid has an .897, which is still better than Vitek Vanecek's .883 save percentage.

GM Tom Fitzgerald needs to not necessarily look for a new goalie, but look for a far better goalie coach. Martin Brodeur is in the upper brass and should definitely be going through his hockey business network, looking for a new voice that would best be qualified for New Jersey's goalie conundrum. From a scouting perspective, Vitek Vanecek is looking more sound in his lateral pushes from going post to post and has reduced those juicy rebounds versus Philadelphia (at least a little). Akira Schmid in the game versus Seattle was stellar in net and stole the onslaught of the Kraken's high-danger shots from going in.

The biggest problem for Vitek Vanecek has been his psyche. That has improved a bit of his rebound control. However, Coach Rogalski should be given a nice sit down with Tom Fitzgerald and Martin Brodeur. There needs to be more accountability with the coach who hasn't seemed to fully prepare his netminders this season and needs a more robust, individualistic approach from a goalie coach.

New Jersey has drafted well in recent years. Nico Daws has been rising up the ranks, Tyler Brennan played his first four pro games in the ECHL. He should be taking the next step in Utica soon enough. It is important that goalies like Tyler Brennan. Meanwhile, Jakub Malek is succeeding well while under contract in Finland's Liiga. It would be a wise decision for the New Jersey Devils to promote Anders Nilsson from European Amateur Goalie Scout to Devils goalie coach not only providing a former NHL goalie perspective, but a perspective and approach that would come from a Swedish and European approach. That could help better fit guys like Akira Schmid, and Vitek Vanecek.

As for Rogalski, the Devils have been good at repositioning talent. See what they did with Mark Dennehy after they hired Kevin Dineen. He's been the Chief of Amateur Scouting since 2021. The Devils can find the best places for talent, even in coaching and the front office.

As the Devils try to balance the Devils NHL goals along with their prospects, Martin Brodeur and Tom Fitzgerald should do everything to find the right fit so they can help Coach Ruff extract as much juice out of each of his goalies. The Devils need high-quality starts. The Rogalski experiment hasn't really paid off and has fallen short of what was expected of him for the past several seasons behind the bench.

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