What Went Wrong: New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils went through another heck of a season in 2018-2019 and came out the winners of the Jack Hughes sweepstakes, so that’s something. Right?

The Devils finished with a 31-41-10 record, good for 72 points – second from the Eastern Conference basement to the modest Ottawa Senators and their 64 points. New Jersey was two points behind the Detroit Red Wings and 26 points out of a playoff spot.

They won just 11 games on the road, too.

Offensively, the Devils were offensive. They managed just 222 goals for, which put them at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Buffalo Sabres scored four more goals, while those pesky Senators scored 20 more goals than New Jersey.

Only two Devils – Kyle Palmieri and Blake Coleman – had over 20 goals.

Palmieri led the team overall with 50 points. Yes, 50 points was the team-high in 2018-2019. For the 28-year-old from Smithtown, it wasn’t a career-high year but it wasn’t a terrible year. 11 of his 27 goals came on the power play, but he finished a career-worst minus-nine.

Coleman’s 22 goals were a career-high, but he’s got just 180 games under his belt in three seasons with the Devils. And the 27-year-old was a terrible minus-19. He did continue his penchant for short-handed goals, scoring three.

20-year-old Nico Hischier had 47 points in 69 games. He did top out with three power play goals and took a few strides forward as a player. Hischier spent most of his rookie season with Taylor Hall, so the production boost associated with such a superstar was apparent. In 2018-2019, however, Hischier was not only hampered by injuries but driving his own line.

Speaking of Hall, he was limited to 33 games and that has an awful lot to do with how New Jersey’s fortunes took such a dip. Still very much the go-to player for the Devils, the 27-year-old had knee issues and could in no way duplicate his 93-point season from 2017-2018.

What’s more, New Jersey was dealt a lousy hand in goal. Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid both had off years between the pipes. Much was made about the former’s lack of quality. He won just six games in 23 starts, posting a 3.06 goals against average – way below his career average. On December 9 of 2018, Schneider was 0-15-3 in his last 18 starts.

Kinkaid is gone, while Schneider just tipped the halfway point of his seven-year deal and will be the starter again in 2019-2020 barring some miracle.

The Devils did punch up their defence with P.K. Subban, plus they’ll hope for an offensive boost with Wayne Simmonds added to the forward group. And yes, Jack Hughes should put some interest back in the water.

But is that enough to fix what’s wrong with Ray Shero’s Devils? Hardly. This team is a bit of a mess, both on paper and on the ice, and they need more consistency to support their younger players.

While having Hall back will make a difference, New Jersey still has to become the sort of team Hall wants to play for – especially if they want him to re-up next summer. That will take some doing.

Photo credit: NHL.com

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