Editor’s Note: This piece solely reflects the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect upon the views of the Devils Army Blog or any of its writers/admins.
Most fans were disappointed with the Devils’ play last year, to say the least. Each game was seemingly played with a lack of fire, lack of drive, and a lack of competitiveness which led to a lack of wins. The Devils played low event, chip and chase hockey. They put this in to play with a roster which lacked speed, skill, and any scoring touch. Former coach Peter DeBoer may not deserving of bearing the whole brunt of the blame for this, however, because it’s understandable how he failed to win games with such a lackluster roster. The problem with DeBoer lied with what seemed like his complacency. DeBoer rarely showed any fire on the bench or during any post-game press conference, aside from a couple of screaming matches with John Tortorella during his first season as bench boss. With a team that skated so lazily and played with little competitive drive one would think it would anger the coach, maybe causing him to show public displeasure to their play. With DeBoer this never happened. The Devils’ terrible play was seemingly accepted by the organization and it was chalked up as a failed season. Pieces were sold off and new coaches were auditioned. After one of the Devils worst seasons in recent history, us fans are left with a question of what will happen next.
The Devils will most likely be bad next year, there is no sugar coating it. They lack young talented forwards and are going to be learning a new system under a new coach. It should be a growing year. Players like Stefan Matteau and Reid Boucher should get an extended look to see if they are going to be a part of the future of this team. The young defensemen will continue to grow. The one sure thing the Devils have going for them at the beginning of next year is elite goaltending. Cory Schneider will be a beast again and will certainly help keep this team in games. With the large amount of cap space (over $21M) and lack of NHL level forwards there will most likely be some new faces on the roster. There is always a little excitement to be had with the arrival of new players. The team will certainly be a lot different from last year’s team, it’s just a waiting game to see what kind of different and how big of an impact that will have on their play.
If the Devils are going to be anything next year, it needs to at least be exciting. The slow paced, low-scoring Devils need to be taken out to pasture. As fans we need a product on the ice that is watchable. Last year was painful and mostly hard to stomach. The Devils need to get aggressive, fast, and play with some bite. They need to adapt to this fast-paced style of the NHL. Jersey’s team may lose games (probably a lot of games) but they should be watchable games. Players should be taking chances, rushing down the ice with speed, attacking the net, and shooting the puck a lot more than last year. The players need to play with emotion. One moment that sticks out from last year is when Adam Henrique challenged Evgeni Malkin. Henrique was angry with the game and was playing with an edge. That is exciting, that is great hockey. The Devils can’t play this year being afraid of making mistakes. They will make mistakes, so if there are going to be mistakes, make them aggressive mistakes.
Ray Shero has really shown he is ready to take the reigns. His signing of Vojtech Mozik shows he is ready to try new things in the hopes of bringing his style of hockey from Pittsburgh to The Rock. He has been very active in both diving into the European pool of players and bringing in his own coaching staff. Hearing the comment of wanting the Devils to be “fast, attacking, and supportive” really made it seem like Shero knows what he needs to do. The signing of Mozik really is what spoke the most of Shero’s ideals. Signing a young, goal scoring, European defensemen would have been seemingly unheard of 1 year ago. Shero obviously knows he needs to address two things first: the old age of Devils roster and the lack of goal scoring that plagued the Devils last season. This signing seemingly at least attempts to try to accomplish both.
Devils fans are sick and tired of slow and boring hockey. Shero has seemingly tried to get right to addressing this. From what has been said and done by the new front office and coaching staff, it sounds like the Devils are trying to give the fans what they want. If the off season continues with moves like these and the Devils have a great draft, the Devils will be exciting to watch this year and it would not be surprising if in the next 2 years they return to fighting for a playoff spot.