Looking ahead to next season, we evaluate what the New Jersey Devils need to focus on to improve and make a Stanley Cup Playoffs run.The New Jersey Devils are terrible, plain and simple. They need to improve in several areas if they are to return to their glory days of the late 1990s and all of the 2000s.
There are several different ideas on what the team can do to improve overall, however, there are three key areas the team needs to improve:
- Offensive Production
- Special Teams
As you can already tell, that’s pretty much the entirety of a hockey club. Not a good sign for any NHL team.
This has been an issue for the Devils for several seasons now. The team is always among the league’s worst in goals for and shots per game.
In the past two seasons, big name acquisitions Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall were brought in to try and help that problem. However, the problem has persisted. The Devils have traditionally been a defense-first organization, but in today’s changing NHL, offense is much of a necessity as ever. Not since the Devils had 30-goal scorers named Zach Parise, David Clarkson and Illya Kovalchuk have they been a serious offensive threat.
Before the team can even dream about the puck being in the back of the net, they have to get it to the net first. The Devils will have a few games where they average between 21-23 shots. Then, like in their most recent game against the Penguins, they will have 38 shots on goal. They aren’t going to tally 38 shots every game, but they need to average at least 25 shots on goal per night if they are to remain competitive in games.
The Devils need is for a puck moving forward, someone who can get the puck into the high priced real estate and move it toward the net. The Devils are prone to having serval good scoring opportunities either be blocked or go wide. This player would ensure that even if the puck is saved, it at least went on net. Moving the puck toward the net as often and as quickly as possible.
The first three numbers to be retired by the New Jersey Devils organization all belong to defensemen. The Devils top four consisting of Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski were legendary. Now, the Devils defense has greatly fallen. Right now the best player on the defense is Andy Greene. And that’s not saying much, unfortunately.
Damon Severson and Greene can be the only real pieces the Devils would be wise to keep. John Moore, Ben Lovejoy and Jon Merrill are on the books for one more year, so they are stuck there. Beyond a rotating sixth player, the Devils d-core has been a revolving door due to injuries/poor play. This is the area that needs most work.
The Devils need a player that is established and can put up numbers. Andy Greene won’t put up numbers but does all the little things right. Damon Severson is having a career year, despite being -30. The Devils need a few two-way defenders. Not only players that have offensive talent, but can shut down the other teams best players. Perhaps the team can look into rebuilding a line similar to the Jay Pandolfo, John Madden, Sergei Brylin line.
This is an area that was half way to being better but has fallen off track this season. Last season the Devils power play was in the top 10 in the NHL. This season, they’ve given up the most short-handed goals in the league. The penalty kill started out good this season but has since become lost among the most average of teams in the league.
A Devils power play of recent memory is the Adam Oates led 2011-12 squad. The power play was untouchable, quite possibly scoring the perfect power play goal. It helps that three 30 goal scorers were on it. One of which was David Clarkson, and if he can get 30 goals on a team, you are doing something right. The 1-3-1 has been shown this season that it is flawed and the Devils aren’t a team that is cut out for it.
Like with the offensive production, the team could use a puck-moving player to quarterback the man advantage. The play can be set up, and he can direct traffic, moving players to their proper positions. For the penalty kill, the team simply needs to have the players they are putting out be more aggressive. The Devils are the only team that will not pressure the man on the point with the puck. The player has room to move side to side and has two open passing lanes. They don’t force the play, and that’s why other teams succeed where the Devils fail.
While the wishlist currently reveals a lot, this is the reality. If the New Jersey Devils were to look themselves in the mirror, they’ll see many deficiencies across the board.