So as we sit here, waiting for the playoffs to start without the New Jersey Devils for the 3rd straight year, I thought now would be a great time to look back at the 2014-15 season.
I’ll be honest, this was probably the most frustrating season I’ve watched in the history of being a Devils fan. If you’re a team that is going through a rebuild process, missing the playoffs for a number of years during the process is expected and welcomed because all teams must go through this, unless you are Detroit. However, with the Devils, I can’t really tell if we are in a rebuilding process or not. The future doesn’t seem all that bright and there doesn’t appear to be a game plan on how to exactly restore credibility to this franchise. The way this team was built from training camp didn’t exactly make anyone feel the Devils would be successful and some of the moves not made at the trade deadline were just puzzling.
The Devils didn’t hand out any team awards at the conclusion of the season but I think you can easily say that Cory Schneider was the MVP of this team. At times he was nothing but brilliant and he kept the Devils in a lot of games. Had he had the benefit of having goal production from his offense, the Devils would have done much better. Still not a playoff team but they would have done better. He played 69 games which is right where I thought he’d be and ended up 15th overall with a .925 save percentage.
Keith Kinkaid was certainly a nice surprise in the backup role and the rumor is he will be sticking around next season in the same role.
Overall, goaltending was not the problem in New Jersey
I think we can all agree that Mike Cammalleri was a welcomed addition to the New Jersey Devils as he notched 27 goals and 15 assists in 68 games. Unfortunately, he had very little help. I thought Henrique had a very down year although he had a huge number of assists. Elias is a fraction of the player he used to be and Zajac continues to prove that he is not worth the contract NJ gave him as he’s a 3rd line center at best. I thought Gomez played well once he was given a spot but his age and speed are a concern. I thought Bernier played really well throughout the year, much better than I had anticipated. The bottom line is the Devils need a guy or a line that can score and while there are rumors about Kovalchuk wanting to return to the NHL, the Devils need to address this in the next few months.
The forwards are also a slow bunch and in today’s NHL that’s not cutting it. Look at teams like Rangers and the Lightning who are loaded with speed. Speed gives you the ability to open the game up and allow your bigger players to go to the net. The Devils finished 28th in G/GP and that is something NJ really needs to fix.
The decision to hang on to Ryder and Havlat at the trading deadline only to healthy scratch them night after night is beyond mind boggling.
Where to start with this category is the question. I think NJ has a lot of defensemen that are very capable of being good in the future but aren’t there right now. The Devils are young on defense with guys like Larsson, Severson, Merrill and Gelinas. The Devils also dealt with a lot of injuries on defense as 10 different defenseman saw a minimum of 15 games this season. I thought Larsson had a good year and is starting to prove that he’s a guy that deserved to be drafted 5th overall. Severson had a decent year until he got hurt but I’d like to see more from Merrill. Gelinas is a guy with a tremendous shot but his defense liability isn’t something his shot can make up for. Either move him to the offense or move him to another team in exchange for something that will fix your offense. Greene is the best defenseman the Devils have and probably should have the “C” on his sweater next season. Harrold, Salvador and Fraser are guys that just need to go. When you look at GA/GP the Devils finished 14th overall which isn’t terrible at all (in fact a couple of playoff teams finished lower) but a lot of that I credit to Cory Schneider. The Devils did finish 24th overall when you look at SA/GP, which is something they will want to drastically improve on.
The future looks bleak to me at the moment because the Devils don’t appear to have much for the future. Sure, they will end up with a high draft pick in the 2015 Entry Draft (7.5% chance the win the Connor McDavid sweepstakes) but beyond that, they held on to guys at the trading deadline that may have gotten them a few more later round picks. Don’t under estimate late round picks since guys like Andrew Shaw, Dustin Byfuglien and Joe Pavelski were all late round picks and are valuable members to their clubs.
The coaching staff is very much in question for next season. I’m one that believes the Devils need an entirely new approach and need to move away from Scott Stevens and Adam Oates. In fact, you can’t deny what Lou Lamoriello did for the Devils during the cup years and while they did make it back to the Final in 2012, mostly what Lou has done for this team since the 2004-05 lockout hasn’t been for the better. NJ has lost a number of key guys over the last 3 summers and really did nothing to replace them. I would like Lou to retire and hand the keys over to a GM with different ideas but right now I don’t see that happening.
So to sum up the 2014-15 New Jersey Devils in one word, it would be “frustrating.” The Devils need to make big changes especially when you consider how competitive the Metro Division is. Four of the eight playoff teams came from the Metro division and Florida appears to be a team headed in the right direction. Columbus had a year full of injuries but their play to close out the season makes you believe that they are headed in the right direction and will be a playoff team next season. Sad to say, without making some serious changes, I could see New Jersey hitting the golf course early again next season.