The 2011-12 New Jersey Devils surprised many by falling just two wins short of a Stanley Cup, ultimately falling to the Los Angeles Kings.
The franchise’s long run of success ended with that unexpectedly deep push. In finishing with 70 standings points last season, the Devils missed the playoffs for the fifth straight time and the sixth in seven tries. (The one time being, oddly, that 2012 Stanley Cup Final run.)
New Jersey didn’t finish with the worst record in 2016-17, yet they enjoyed something rare for the franchise: the first pick of a draft, selecting Switzerland’s Nico Hischier (pictured).
Landing the top pick wasn’t the only significant gain of the summer for New Jersey, either, as they also took advantage of Washington’s cap woes to land underrated forward Marcus Johansson. The Devils continue to be the team that trades might rebuild, as Johansson joins Taylor Hall, Cory Schneider, and Kyle Palmieri as significant pieces added thanks to often-deft swaps.
Despite those nice moves, the Devils still seem like they’re a long way from being truly dangerous again in the East.
A franchise that grew accustomed to All-Star (if not Hall-of-Fame) talent patrolling the blueline now looks pitiful in that area. You could make a solid argument that the Devils sport the worst defense corps in the NHL.
Schneider struggled last season, and with Travis Zajac slated to miss months, the overall picture doesn’t seem pretty.
That said, GM Ray Shero is putting together some intriguing building blocks to get this team back on track, particularly if the likes of Pavel Zacha take steps forward in their development. Here’s hoping that Schneider and especially draft lottery magnet Taylor Hall can be a part of a brighter era for the Devils, whenever that comes.