New Jersey Devils Should Learn Lessons From New York Rangers Playoff Run

The New York Rangers are going for their fifth Stanley Cup, and it should really offend the New Jersey Devils front office.
Rangers Mark Messier (11) is handed the Stanley Cup after the Rangers defeated Vancouver 3-2 in game
Rangers Mark Messier (11) is handed the Stanley Cup after the Rangers defeated Vancouver 3-2 in game / Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News

It’s tough to be a New Jersey Devils fan right now as we watch the New York Rangers chugging along in the postseason. Granted, we have a long way to go before the worst-case scenario, but everything is going right for the Rangers so far. They lead 3-0 in their second-round series over the Carolina Hurricanes, and they haven’t lost a single game yet in the playoffs.

Just like the 1994 Cup run. This might not help with the "rent-free" comments, but the Rangers winning the Cup should make the front office push harder than ever. You also may be asking, “Why should the front office care about the Rangers winning the Cup?” For one, they can learn a few things.

Find the Perfect Coach

When the Rangers hired Peter Laviolette in June of last year, many fans thought it was the wrong decision. The Washington Capitals just recently fired Laviolette, and due to their recent stretch of lousy playoff losses and even missing the playoffs, many wondered if he would lead the Rangers anywhere. But Laviolette proved everyone wrong when he helped the Rangers rebound to win the Presidents Trophy. They are now one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. How much impact that Laviolette has had on them has yet to be discovered, considering you can argue that the Rangers roster, which is already talented, got better. But comparing them to Gerard Gallant’s coached team, it’s practically night and day.  

So, this Devils coaching decision is perhaps the most important in quite some time. Thankfully, the front office has a lot of great coaches to choose from here. The current list includes Jay Woodcroft, Craig Berube, Sheldon Keefe, and Todd McLellan; they can even try to get Mike Sullivan if Kyle Dubas hires Keefe as the Penguins coach.

There isn’t one awful coach here. In fact, the only one that can be considered close to being not good is McLellan. So, which of the coaches should the Devils choose to hire? Well, right now, it should be the decision between the two of Jay Woodcroft and Craig Berube. Woodcroft, of course, got fired in early November due to the Oiler's 3-9-1 start. Woodcraft did lead the Oilers to consecutive playoff berths in his two years in Edmonton. Hiring Woodcroft would be a great fit because he’s allowed young guys on a roster to bloom out.

The only question with him is whether he was good because of his coaching or just because of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatil. It’s a significant risk, but if the stats in the playoffs and the regular season are great, why not choose him?

Berube is also a great choice and a great fit. The Blues recently fired Berube for a lousy season, but he can utilize talent on a team as he did with the 2018-19 Blues team that won the Stanley Cup. The Blues roster didn’t have any guys who could branch out this season. Berube could utilize guys like Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec because he can find ways to use their strengths and become better defensive guys.

Keefe would be a good coach, too, but he has the question of whether he is good because of Auston Matthews and Leon Draisaitl. Mike Sullivan would also be a great fit, but it would depend on whether the Penguins are keeping him there. These coaches can make the Devils much better than Ruff and Green did this year. So, it will come down to Tom Fitzgerald and the front office to select the candidate on this list to lead them, and we must trust them to know what they are doing.

Fill The Rock and Madison Square Garden Next Season

Yes, the New York Rangers have more fans than the Devils. That's a fact, and we're fine with it. The Rangers have been around for decades longer than the Devils (and have just one more Stanley Cup win). Despite this, we know Devils fans do well to fill the Rock when the Rangers are in town. It's hard to deny the Rangers fans drive up the price, but Devils fans need to travel just like Rangers fans.

Now don’t worry, we're not talking about Josh Harris doing the same thing he did for the Sixers when he tried to purchase more tickets to try and outsell the Knicks fans when they came to Philly. This is more about attendance numbers versus the Rangers and trying to build a better team whenever they go into town.

Let’s look at it from a number’s perspective. When the Rangers played at the Prudential Center in the 23-24 season, the average attendance for both games was 17,000. It doesn’t seem bad, but how many of them in attendance were probably Ranger fans?

Looking at other teams like the Dallas Stars, for example, when they played the Rangers at home this season, they averaged around 18,532. How many Ranger fans were there? Probably less than that. Now, while yes, American Airlines Arena is farther than the Prudential Center, it, at the very least, has more Stars fans than Rangers fans. If the Rangers go on to win the Cup and they play the Devils next season, you can expect Rangers fans to attempt to bring an entire sea of blue jerseys to Newark, and it could even go lower than that. That should never happen to a team playing in their home state, so the front office needs to put that into perspective, especially for next year and future seasons.