As they say in New Jersey, “How you doin”? Well, in the case of the New Jersey Devils they are not doin’ very well this season to say the least. The Devils have a lot of high expectations￼￼￼ of making it back to the Stanley Cup playoffs after all of the additions they made in the off-season to improve their lineup.￼￼ Unfortunately for this team, they haven’t really worked out for different reasons. I’m going to play teacher here and hand out my grades in different areas of the New Jersey Devils as a team as well as an overall grade.
In my opinion, coaching has played a huge factor in why this team is not doing so well. I’ve been pretty clear in a opinion piece I wrote not too long ago, but I am not a big fan of John Hynes as the coach of this team. ￼His systems in my opinion aren’t very effective and he’s not playing to his team’s strengths. Also, I don’t care for how he handles certain game situational tactics. What I mean by that is, he doesn’t play the correct players at certain points within the game and instead puts players out that don’t belong in certain situations. When they’ve had leads, especially in a close game the players he’s deployed￼ are players that aren’t as defensively responsible to close out a game. With all the offensive talent he has, his￼ offense has been very inconsistent as well. Specialty Teams are ranked towards the bottom of the league as well. The fact that he supposedly “asked” for assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald to come in and help behind the bench is very telling as well.
I’m giving the Devils a grade of a B- here on forwards for a few reasons. Firstly, they haven’t had a complete lineup￼￼ at times with players in and out due to injury and especially Nico Hischier. Recently that has started to settle down and the Devils have had more of their regulars in the lineup. Secondly, the forwards haven’t been taking advantage of their opportunities and putting their scoring chances in the back of the net. This has resulted in multiple one goal games this season. Lastly, Back checking has been an issue as the forwards haven’t been playing well when coming back on defense to help their defensemen￼. The Devils have struggled closing out games and back checking is part of why they haven’t been able to hold leads.
The defensive group as a whole has been completely and utterly disappointing this season to say the least. The off-season acquisition of PK Subban hasn’t worked out like how everybody had thought it would. Subban hasn’t been playing the kind of hockey that fans have been accustomed to where he plays a solid two way game. Subban is capable of much more and has shown he can impact the game both offensively and defensively￼￼￼￼. Closing out close and tight knit games has been a big problem for the defense as they have blown multiple leads dating back to opening night against the Winnipeg Jets￼￼. The defense hasn’t been playing very smart and positionally sound defense compared to the great defense of New Jersey Devils teams of the past￼.
I’m giving the Devils goalies a C for a couple reasons￼. I know Cory Schneider’s stats look like he’s playing horrible however, in this case the stats are very misleading. The stats aren’t showing that his defense hasn’t been playing very well in front of him and have helped blown leads. His stats are also a very small sample size as he’s only played in six games. Schneider recently was placed on and cleared waivers to go to the minor leagues to regain his confidence and work on certain aspects of his game. MacKenzie Blackwood has been a saving grace on this Devils team as he currently leads the team in wins, goals against average, and save percentage. His stats clearly are better than Schneider’s and the team seems to play better in front of Blackwood￼￼￼. Time will tell how good their young netminder is.
Special Teams: F
I’m just gonna be blunt honest, the Devils specialty teams on both sides stink! The penalty kill is ranked 25th in the league with a 75% success rate. On the power play, the Devils rank 27th with a 13.9% success rate. Both of these rankings are absolutely pathetic￼￼￼ and are also another part of why the Devils season hasn’t been successful so far like they had hoped. Coach Hynes & his staff have been unsuccessful at fixing the problem with the Penalty Kill & Power play units.
Overall Grade: D
Clearly this team is not the team we all thought they’d be after all the offseason moves that were made. They’re not performing to the capabilities that they can. Personally, I think a lot of this stems from not having the correct coach to lead this team to greatness. John Hynes does not scream head coach material in my opinion and his systems aren’t getting the most out of his players. I think it’s time that the Devils get a new voice behind the bench and in the locker room.￼￼￼ They need a veteran coach who knows how to win and is a leader of men. Otherwise, I don’t see this team getting this ship back on track anytime soon.￼
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