Happy Thanksgiving! Today’s the day you go all out on turkey stuffing and cranberry sauce! But after eating my body weight in various food items earlier in the day, I’ll then pass out watching the New Jersey Devils take on the Montreal Canadiens. Remember, today is a workday for our hockey team. After all, bedtime on Thanksgiving is like 8:30 once the food coma kicks in.
While we’re wining and dining today, the date holds special significance in the hockey world. It holds even more significance for the New Jersey Devils. Fresh off their lackluster loss to a low flying Minnesota Wild team, today could not come at a worse time.
The Thanksgiving Rule
There’s the old “Thanksgiving Rule” that more or less states teams in a playoff position at Thanksgiving have a better than average chance at making the playoffs. In fact, it’s a much better than average chance. A 2018 statistic put it as over 77% of teams making the playoffs on a five-year trend.
The date is important not because it has magical powers, but because American Thanksgiving usually falls around the quarter point of the NHL season. By now, the contenders have started to distance themselves from the pretenders, and the league has a clear picture of what the final product will look like. Unfortunately for the Devils, they have never looked like contenders, to begin with.
After Tuesday’s loss, the Devils sit nine points out of a playoff spot. I won’t tell you their place in the standings because I don’t want to ruin your Thanksgiving. My rule of thumb is once that deficit hits double digits, you’re getting dangerously close to the point of no return.
There’s still hope for the Devils, though. Remember last year’s Stanley Cup champions were last in the entire league in January, so wherever they sat on Thanksgiving doesn’t matter in the long run. If the Devils right the ship fast, they can still make something of the season. Be cautious before expecting a St. Louis Blues-esque turnaround, however.
The Taylor Hall Situation
Before the season began, us at Devils army Blog had an exclusive interview with MSG Networks’ Erika Wachter. One of the questions I asked her involved comparing Taylor Hall’s impending contract situation to the one John Tavares faced with the New York Islanders a few years back. Remember, Tavares eventually left the Islanders for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I asked her when should Devils fans start worrying? When will the team start worrying? From her perspective, this was her answer:
“Talking to some of my colleagues, probably a good gauge point is around the Thanksgiving point. You want to have some sort of deal done by that point. Then some of the players might start recognizing it from the rest of the room and it might turn into a John Tavares’ type situation, which, I’m sure, affected the Islanders in some way a few seasons ago.”
As you know, Thanksgiving is today. And the Devils are out of a playoff spot. Taylor Hall has yet to ink a new contract, too.
After a few meetings between Ray Shero and his agent, and some Twitter rumors, the prospect of dealing the Hart Trophy winner seems more likely than ever. I wouldn’t necessarily say the situation has gotten worse, because everyone knew Hall’s departure was a possibility. Obviously not a best-case scenario, but a possibility nonetheless. Now it appears that deadline has officially passed.
Hopefully, we’ll have better news around Christmas. Maybe the Devils will make a turnaround. Maybe Taylor Hall puts his scoring troubles aside and returns to Hart Trophy form. Maybe we still have a reason to be optimistic.