Only 53 days till hockey. Until then, it’s still the “dog days” of August and little to report. To which, we continue with the 3rd installment of our writers roundtable. In this week’s edition our staff writers Sam Britt, Mike Luci, Alex Chauvancy and Brian Bobal indulge in different Devils topics from marketing, fan expectations and trade scenarios. Enjoy:
- With all the monumental changes the Devils organization has gone through this summer, none may be more significant (or drastic) than the ones pertaining to marketing. New flex ticket plans, players are now allowed to be on social media and higher numbers for players including (gasp!) the #13! That is a first that goes even before Lamoriello. How impactful do you feel these changes are (positively or negatively) for the organization and what are some of the changes you’d like to see in the future?
AC: I think these changes are very positive for the Devils. Social media can be a dangerous thing, but allowing the players to interact with the fans is definitely a positive way to engage the fans and allows the Devils to grow their fanbase. Having the players where any number they want is a nice change as well, but I don’t think it’s as big a deal as some fans are making it out to be. It is nice to see all these changes being made now when the team is beginning to usher in a new era.
ML: These old Lamoriello-era policies always separated the Devils from the rest of the pack in a way that didn’t necessarily appeal to the fan base. While the marketing overhaul won’t affect the team’s place in the standings, the organization underwent a sorely overdue cultural modernization. The appeal to the fan base should be nothing but positive and help make the Devils more socially relevant in the Tri-State area. This should be the start of more fan-friendly changes coming to the Devils. My hopes are we start seeing more of a social presence moving forward whether it’s social media, seeing players appear on more shows, or the organization participating in events like the prospect tournament they’re doing in Buffalo.
SB: One change I would like to see with the organizations view on privacy would be more behind the scenes stuff. I enjoy shows like 24CH, Behind the B, and HBO’s 24/7 series. I think it would be cool with all the new faces entering the organization to get to know them by seeing how they go about their day and live their lives. I would like to see a Devils version of these shows.
BB: I think all of the changes so far, except for the goal song, have all been positive. It seems this new regime is really trying to welcome the fans closer to the team. I was at the development camp scrimmage and all of the fans were happy to have a chance to see the youngsters in the pipeline. As farms going forward, how about bringing back “victory card” days to encourage more people to come to the games? Accumulate a certain number of cards after home wins and you get a free ticket. Also, one major question, now that Lou is gone, will a third jersey be in the Devils’ future? If the Devils do go for one and it’s the Eastern Hockey League’s Jersey Devils home uniform from 1964-1966 sign me up.
- People/fans seem generally optimistic and excited about the new change in leadership and philosophy Shero & Co. have begun to instill. At the same time, it’s probably not realistic to think these will translate in to success overnight—more specifically by seasons end. Not to mention, everyone else in the division has gotten significantly better. Given how impatient the fan base is after missing the playoffs the last 3 years, how long will this general optimism last if we’re not sniffing the playoffs by March? Will fans still have patience knowing this is the right direction despite not seeing the results yet?
ML: The difference between the Devils’ situation compared to other teams with reputable non-playoff track records is identifying the source of their recent struggles (offense, holding leads). Granted it’s been unbearable to watch the once-almighty New Jersey Devils fail to make the playoffs four out of the last five years, they haven’t struggled to the extent of teams like the Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, or Columbus Blue Jackets, who have spent years making roster and personnel changes to little avail. If the Devils had a team that was similarly built to the teams from the past three seasons, the frustration would be understandable. Unlike Lamoriello, Shero has basically admitted the Devils are in the midst of a rebuild, which should translate to the fans having minimal expectations for the team going into next season. As long as the boys give a commendable effort each night and play a brand of watchable hockey, I see no reason why the fan base shouldn’t be optimistic about the future watching this newly revamped team instead of lamenting their frustrations.
AC: I sure hope so. This is definitely a rebuild and results usually don’t happen overnight. If Shero is looking to restock the prospect pool, he’s going to want to do so through the draft and that means having high draft picks to get the best players available. Devils fans should be ready to endure enough rough ride in 2015-16. However, if the team is still getting poor results come 2016-17, then frustration will begin to settle in.
BB: To me, there’s a difference between the optimism that fans are feeling this year compared to last year. Last year, the fans were hopeful of getting back to the playoffs and putting the disappointment of the prior seasons behind them. Obviously the team failed, but it was how offensively inept and slow the team was that frustrated fans. This year, things are completely different. The team is younger, faster and more skilled. I think the fans are just happy the team finally realized an overhaul was due. Having said that, the Devils can’t go another season in the basement of the NHL in terms of offense. They need to show some sign of improvement or else fans will be very restless by the end of the season.
SB: I think the organization will have some leeway in the success department. The fans really should be happy with an exciting product. Not many teams go from 6th to last to successful playoff team in one year. There may eventually be some disgruntled fans, but it should all be good as long as we see the team move in a positive direction.
- Shero is still very likely to go the trade route at some point during the season, whether it’s in early October or later towards March after seeing what we have. Putting on your GM hat…put together one realistic trade scenario for an “impact” player who would be a building block for the franchise you’d like to see happen hat would make you feel optimistic about the future.
SB: Eventually this season we will find out if Eric Gelinas should continue to be a part of our defensive core. If we don’t see an improvement in his defensive game he might be out the door. I’m thinking Gelinas+Pick for Kerby Rychel of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Kerby Rychel is a young power forward in the Jackets system who could jump into the Devil’s NHL roster. He plays LW, but the Devil’s really just need talented young forwards in general. I think this would be a solid trade for the Devils.
AC: It’s tough to say. The Devils don’t have the farm system to pull off a major trade unless they want to get rid of one of their younger defenseman and it’s unlikely they’ll trade Severson or Larsson which makes Merrill the odd-man out. If that’s the case, it’ll depend on how other teams value Merrill. Can he be a building-block defenseman or is he just a top 4 defenseman? If he is the former, he’ll be able to get the Devils a good return. If Merrill could bring back a James van Riemsdyk caliber player, the Devils would have a scoring forward that they’ve not had since Kovalchuk and Parise were around. It would surely get the fanbase excited again.
ML: The reason I’m not a big fan of these hypothetical trade scenarios is because most people (like the armchair GMs), fail to conduct them in a realistic mindset. A trade like Merrill, a second round pick, and Matteau won’t land us a Drew Doughty or Evgeni Malkin-caliber player…just to clarify (sorry to disappoint anyone that may think elsewise). If Shero does acquire another building block for the future, age, like I said in our previous edition of WRT, will undoubtedly be a huge factor. I think of the usual suspects that have been brought up since the season ended…Edmonton, Columbus, Carolina, even Toronto (because I’m sure Lou has a wish list of players he’d like to bring over with him). Most of these teams are top-heavy with forwards that could shore up on their defensive depth. It’s hard to pinpoint what players on each team Shero could target, but as long as they fit the profile of being young, fast, and can produce in the offensive zone, they’ll be fair game.
BB: Instead of going straight for Jordan Eberle, here’s another name the Devils could target, Tomas Jurco. The Devils trade Jon Merrill, Reece Scarlett, a 2015 third-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick to Detroit for Tomas Jurco and Alexey Marchenko. The 22-year-old Jurco is currently in a bottom-six role on a very young and deep Detroit Red Wings team. He has great offensive upside and could slide right into a second-line right wing role with the Devils. Much like Eberle in Edmonton, Jurco is going to be overlooked as Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin rise through the Red Wings system and Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyqvist are already in line to supersede Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Marchenko has potential to be a very solid shut-down player with the ability to put up a few points. As for Merrill and Scarlett being the odd-men out in New Jersey, the Devils have plenty of solid defensive prospects to cope with losing both especially Merrill, who to me is another version of Mark Fayne.