One word that could best describe the New Jersey Devils’ season thus far, as well as the seasons played since their nearly conspicuous yet miraculous run to the Stanley Cup in 2012, would be ‘erratic.’ Over the course of the last five years, this team has struggled to play consistently strong hockey for any longer than three weeks.
Whether they were losing to bad teams or handing great teams a rare loss, they have yet to show the chemistry it takes to be an elite member of the NHL.
Fortunately for the loyal fan base, the rebuilding process was put into full swing with the hiring of ex-Pittsburgh General Manager Ray Shero, a man responsible for bringing Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and a Stanley Cup to the Steel City.
Moving forward, the Devils then brought in All-Star Taylor Hall last offseason from the Edmonton Oilers, for the loss of their strong defenseman Adam Larsson. It was certainly progress; however, no one claimed Hall was the only piece to the puzzle and could get the job done all by himself.
Currently, Devils fans have two things to look forward to: the inevitable acquisition of two players, a forward and a defenseman, and the growth from within players such as Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, Sergei Kalinin and John Merrill.
Looking just a step farther, one could consider the chances of a coaching change. But if head coach, John Hynes, was on thin ice, it would have cracked by now.
Moving closer and closer to the end of the current 2016-17 season, it is nice to be able to see that all of these pieces truly can fall into place. The core members of the up and coming young Devils are playing better with the more experienced veterans of the team.
Miles Wood shows game after game that he has a burst of energy that fans love to see. Great stick-handling and speed sum up to an incredible on-ice presence, something the Devils have truly lacked since the aggravating departure of Ilya Kovalchuk.
Pavel Zacha, six goals in his first full season now, also carries skills that when developed, can be a dangerous item on the ice. John Merrill, among the other younger defensemen on the team in Seth Helgeson and Steven Santini, are also portraying paramount skills in the defensive zone, the largest area of fault for the team this year.
With 28 games remaining in the season for the Devils, they are only three points away from the second wild card spot. Knowing perfectly well the conditions that must be met for Jersey’s team to make the playoffs, it is hard to realistically estimate if they are going to make it. Staying optimistic, however, despite playing sloppy for consecutive seasons now, the new additions and development from within can lead to the team to anything.