Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the New Jersey Devils.
31-41-10, 74 pts. (8th in the Metropolitan Division, 15th in the Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: Did not qualify
2018-19 season review
Season grade: F
Offseason grade: A+
Yes, it appears it can all change that quickly for some teams.
Much like the Florida Panthers, who I wrote about last week, the New Jersey Devils can rest easy knowing that last season is going to feel like a distant memory after the summer Ray Shero and Co. put together.
The Devils were very bad last season, so bad that, for the second time in the past three seasons, they were rewarded (thanks to a bit of luck) with the first-overall pick back in June.
They came into the draft lottery with the third-best odds but moved up to spots for the honor of selecting Jack Hughes.
They then shook up the hockey world, dropping a massive trade bomb on the second day of the draft as they acquired P.K. Subban to fortify their blue line.
Getting Hughes and Subban in the same weekend helped take the sting off a poor season where they couldn’t score much and couldn’t stop the puck a whole lot at the other end of the ice.
Just two players cracked the 20-goal plateau, only one player hit 50 points and their goaltending was abysmal. It didn’t help that Taylor Hall was limited to just 33 games because of injury and then there were the rumors of his long-term future not being in Newark.
Some of those questions still remain, especially between the pipes, but there’s a reason for optimism after such a big summer.
Aside from Hughes and Subban, the Devils also added some grit in Wayne Simmonds. It’s a one-year ‘prove it’ sort of deal that will keep Simmonds hungry as he goes searching for a longer-term deal next offseason.
And they added a player some consider the best who wasn’t playing in the NHL in Nikita Gusev, a former Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick who was then signed by the Golden Knights last year and then traded to New Jersey in July.
A lot of good has happened since the Devils played their final regular-season game of 2018-19. They’ve had to keep up in an arms race across the Hudson River as the New York Rangers took Kaapo Kakko right after New Jersey took Hughes and added Artemi Panarin in free agency and signed Jacob Trouba to a long-term deal.
Either way, gone should be the days where the Devils aren’t considered a perennial playoff contender.