The New Jersey Devils used to be a juggernaut, but this will be the third time in four seasons that they have fallen short of the playoffs. The one exception was when they went to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
Of course, they then lost to the Los Angeles Kings, but Devils GM Lou Lamoriello still used it as a pretext to look on the bright side.
“I’ll look at a positive. If you can say one out of every four years you’d be in the Stanley Cup Finals, would you take it?” Lamoriello asked, per the Star-Ledger. “Approach it from a positive standpoint. We’re here to win the Stanley Cup. We’re here to win, not to just get into the playoffs.
“You can (take) that answer any way you want about three out of four years (missing) the playoffs. If it means missing the playoffs to do certain things to win the Stanley Cup, then that’s what it means. That’s mediocrity just getting to the playoffs.”
The problem is that’s the argument a franchise uses when they’re embracing a rebuilding process where the team is willing to endure losing seasons in the hope of building a squad with a chance to seriously compete for the Stanley Cup.
That’s not what the Devils have been doing though. They do have some young talent like forward Adam Henrique, but the core of this team are players in or past their prime. They lost Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk in back-to-back years and responded over the summer by signing 31-year-old Ryane Clowe, 34-year-old Michael Ryder, and 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr. Do those sound like the guys you go after when you’re focused on the future rather than present?
Of course, there’s a reason why they would try to win now even after losing two of their best offensive players: Because the Devils didn’t have a draft pick in 2014. They lost it as part of their punishment for their original attempt to sign Kovalchuk to a long-term deal. The NHL has since partially reversed that decision so that the Devils will get the 30th overall pick. That’s better, but doesn’t compensate them for their shortcomings this season.
Maybe Lamoriello’s statement is an indication of what’s to come for the Devils though. It’s understandable that they wouldn’t fully embrace a rebuilding process ahead of a season where they didn’t control their first round pick. Going forward, they won’t have that issue.