Welcome to the eleventh and final post in this series looking back and summarizing each New Jersey Devils season in the 2010s. This serves both as an index of all of the previous posts with some additional thoughts and findings from the decade as a whole.
The Index of Posts Summarizing the Devils Season by Season in the 2010s
- Part 1 – 2009-10 (with Playoffs)
- Part 2 – 2010-11
- Part 3 – 2011-12 (with Playoffs)
- Part 4 – 2013
- Part 5 – 2013-14
- Part 6 – 2014-15
- Part 7 – 2015-16
- Part 8 – 2016-17
- Part 9 – 2017-18 (with Playoffs)
- Part 10 – 2018-19
The whole series can also be found here in this section.
Thoughts for the 2019 Part of the 2019-20 Season
Now, the 2019-20 season is ongoing, so there is no separate post for it. I still want to give some thoughts on what has transpired in the first three months of this season. Given that the Devils are way, way, way out of the playoff picture by the turn of the year, they are not positive. A decade of many changes, often necessary and difficult changes, very much continued into the final month of the decade. I would recommend reading the 2019 Offseason section in Part 10 to get the full picture for this sub-section.
In Part 10, I wrote that all the Devils needed to not do was fall on their faces. They did just that at the start of the season. And this led to the following major points:
- Schneider was hurt again, Blackwood took the #1 spot from him by late October, and Schneider was demoted to Binghamton in November. The Devils traded a conditional seventh rounder in 2021 for Louis Domingue and opted to go with him as a backup until he got hurt. Then, after Evan Cormier had a brief call up, Gilles Senn was promoted to fill in Domingue’s spot and made his NHL debut. While Blackwood has had an excellent December, goaltending remains as a question mark for the organization as a whole. Even if Blackwood shows he’s the real deal – which the team is letting him have every opportunity to do – and can be a starting goalie in this league, the Devils still need a #1A/#2 goalie and depth. Domingue has not impressed as a #2, Senn and Cormier are inexperienced at the pro game, and Schneider has only recently played well in the AHL. The prospects in Akira Schmid and Cole Brady are just that: prospects. It is a thin position at best and it has become an issue in recent seasons. It came to a head in the past few months. For progress to be made in the new decade, this needs to be addressed.
- John Hynes was poor enough behind the bench that it did not matter if the players liked him or not. The performances and results were terrible and so Hynes was fired on December 3. His contract extension in January is baffling in retrospect. An outside fan or person may look at the team’s stats under Hynes and wonder why he was kept on for so long. For those who think he is good for developing players, well, that is hard to really prove. Was it him or other coaches or the players just improving on their own? Maybe a combination of all three but with the team declining sharply after 2017-18, you could not say they were going in the right direction. For those who wanted a more attacking roster, then that did happen under him – but along with an even worse defensive effort. So much so that it overwhelmed whatever gains were made on offense; keeping the team still poor in 5-on-5 play. The staff was largely stable and the players liked him, but for what benefit? The team was often getting beaten in 5-on-5 and the power play has been underwhelming. The results were not there. Hynes had every expectation for a better 2019-20 and so when the team started failing under him early in this season, his seat got hot really quickly. Now the Devils must find a new permanent head coach to start 2020-21 and make immediate improvements. Otherwise, Shero could be next.
- As for Taylor Hall, the similarities in his situation to Parise led to plenty of worries about his future. Any hint or thought of the Devils pursuing an extension was good news. As it turned out, any discussions between Shero and his people did not lead to any extension. And they would not. Not with how the season was spiraling out of control. Whatever good feelings Hall may have had with the infusion of talent The Devils started to take calls for him by the end of November. It finally happened on December 16. Hall was sent to Arizona with 50% of his salary retained by New Jersey for the following package: Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley, Nate Schnarr, Arizona’s first rounder in 2020 with top-three protection, and a conditional third rounder in 2021 that could be upgraded to a first if Hall re-signs in Arizona and Arizona wins a playoff series in 2020.
- After an offseason of excitement, it seems as if every move Shero made that many people liked – including myself – just went awry at the time. Gusev was a liability in his first month. He has been much better recently – his December was great – but it was a nightmare to have him on the ice until he became acclimated to the NHL. Which was somewhere in November, I would think, and as the damage was being done to the season. Subban was OK but not producing – which is the one thing that makes him a standout defender. He went onto have a rough November with a long scoring slump, too. New Jersey did not decide to give him $10 million for this season but he has not earned it for them. Simmonds looked fine at times but he too has suffered slumps in production. I believe he has the longest goalless streak on the team as of December 29. And the coaching staff thinks he needs to play opposite a fast winger in Wood but not sit at the crease on power plays, which is where he has made his money in this league. Lastly, The Big Deal, Jack Hughes, also showed growing pains in adjusting to the NHL game from junior-level hockey that also included a slump in production. Jesper Boqvist has been in and out of the lineup, yet to impress enough to stay in the lineup consistently. I was happy to see these five players come into the organization. I thought Shero did a great job to bring them all in. I thought they would push the Devils to new heights. But they all did not do so early on in the season. They may be doing much better now but the season is already lost. It is as if Shero rolled snake eyes five times in a row.
And with the early issues, the Devils opened the season with a winless streak and never really came back. The 2019-20 season is on pace to be on par with 2016-17 and 2018-19., only with massive changes made in the season in light of it. The goaltending issues, struggles from the new players, Hynes being fired, and Hall being traded all happening before Christmas is a far cry from what I think many Devils fans – myself especially included – thought back in the summer. That will teach me to forget the Mythbusters motto: Failure is always an option.
Now at the end of the decade, I have to question if the Devils are really on the right track and it is more fair to question if Ray Shero is really the right GM for the job. A lot of the changes made in the 2010s were necessary ones. At the time they were made, they seemed like good or even great ones to me. Now, after some have not worked out and the Devils are on pace for another high draft pick in 2020, I am not so certain. I can be wrong. But I’m not in charge of a franchise whose great accomplishments are becoming further in the distance in history. That is where the Devils stand as a whole. At least the last two weeks of 2019 have went better for the current roster.
Devils of the Decade
In the month in review posts, I would name a Devil of the Month to highlight who I thought was consistently excellent in that month of play. I would often name another player who excelled in the month as an honorable mention. Since this is the end of the decade, I figure the best way to identify who were the Devils of the Decade by tallying up the winners of these monthly awards. After giving 2 points for every monthly winner and 1 for the honorable mention, here are the top eleven (there was a three-way tie for ninth) Devils as per these month-in-review posts up to November 2019 (my choices for December would not crack this list; they are too new):
- Cory Schneider – 13 Devils of the Month
- Patrik Elias – 7 Devils of the Month, 6 Honorable Mentions
- Taylor Hall – 6 Devils of the Month, 2 Honorable Mentions
- Ilya Kovalchuk – 4 Devils of the Month, 5 Honorable Mentions
- Travis Zajac – 4 Devils of the Month, 3 Honorable Mentions
- Kyle Palmieri – 4 Devils of the Month, 2 Honorable Mentions
- Martin Brodeur – 3 Devils of the Month, 3 Honorable Mentions
- Jaromir Jagr – 3 Devils of the Month, 2 Honorable Mentions
- Andy Greene – 1 Devil of the Month, 4 Honorable Mentions
- Johan Hedberg – 3 Devils of the Month
- Zach Parise – 2 Devils of the Month, 2 Honorable Mentions
The award does lend itself to goalies having a hot month and a list like this lends itself to high rankings for Devils who have been with the team for a while (7 seasons for Schneider). However, I think Devils fans – even myself – do not fully appreciate how great Schneider was in the middle of the decade. Even on a non-playoff team in 2015-16, Schneider finished sixth in Vezina voting and was a big reason why that team over-achieved at all. Even on a non-playoff team in 2014-15, he received some All Star votes for the end-of-season awards. Even in 2013-14, Schneider was a big reason why the games would go to shootouts – without them, they would just be regulation losses and the record would be way worse. His great performances from 2013 through 2016 are kind of lost to history because the teams did not benefit from them. Unfortunately, the injuries to core and hip started to add up from 2017 onward so the great months were few and far between. There were some really good ones that would make you think he’s going to be back. Like Pekka Rinne, he’ll make a comeback. Near the end of 2019, we know that is highly, highly unlikely. Still, his current situation and recent seasons should not mask the fact that Schneider really was a first-rate goaltender. It is a shame that the rest of those teams in the middle of the decade were far from it.
Also, I was surprised to see Hall finish behind the legendary Elias but then I realized Hall missed out on half of 2018-19 and was dealt in 2019-20. His fire burned brightly in New Jersey. Similar to Kovalchuk, whom Hall barely beat out on this list. In a way, that is the other tale from this decade. The Devils did not have anyone that really dominated the decade. There were some great runs but they were short. Elias aged wonderfully until he did not. Kovalchuk’s, Jagr’s, and Hall’s time with the Devils were fairly short. Parise’s peak was right before the decade. Ditto Martin Brodeur. Johan Hedberg had three awesome months and that was it. Right there, that is most of the list. Palmieri was behind some of those shining moments and Zajac’s and Greene’s longevity made them options. But those were exceptions and not the rule.
I can understand if you feel this should go to whoever had the best season in the decade (Taylor Hall in 2017-18) or who dominated the news (Ilya Kovalchuk with three offseason dramas) or who had a number retired after ending their Devils career in the decade (Brodeur, Elias) or whoever made you a fan or appreciated the most in this decade (your choice). This is not a definitive list. But it is a list based on the monthly awards I would give out on this site. To quote a former coach of the Devils, it is what it is.
The Top Ten Devils Scorers of the 2010s
Here is a simpler, less controversial, and more objective question. Who produced the most points in the regular season between 2009-10 and 2019-20 as of December 29? Per Hockey-Reference, the leader is one of the two players who played in every season in the decade:
- Travis Zajac – 140 Goals, 241 Assists, 381 Points, 715 Games
- Patrik Elias – 113 Goals, 206 Assists, 319 Points, 418 Games
- Adam Henrique – 122 Goals, 135 Assists, 257 Points, 455 Games
- Kyle Palmieri – 122 Goals, 108 Assists, 230 Points, 335 Games
- Andy Greene – 42 Goals, 173 Assists, 215 Points, 772 Games
- Taylor Hall – 76 Assists, 132 Assists, 208 Points, 211 Games
- Ilya Kovalchuk – 89 Goals, 112 Assists, 201 Points, 222 Games
- Zach Parise – 72 Goals, 85 Assists, 157 Points, 176 Games
- Dainius Zubrus – 59 Goals, 87 Assists, 146 Points, 390 Games
- Damon Severson – 33 Goals, 110 Assists, 143 Points, 398 Games
Being around awhile helps a lot as four of your top five scorers in the decade played in over 400 games in the 2010s. This list also gives a little more love to a center who became a legend in 2012: Adam Henrique. As well as the Pride of Montvale, New Jersey, who really was what the team needed from 2015-16 to today. By the way, Nico Hischier finished really well on this list. He is 11th, 23 points behind Severson, with 120 in 183 games. Expect him and Jack Hughes to be high up in the 2020 list in about a decade.
If you want more numbers about the decade, Mike has this post that is worth checking out that compares the 2010s Devils to other decades in other ways.
My All-Decade Devils All-Star Teams
Here is who I would pick as representative of the best Devils by position from this past decade. I have also included the specific season for the player to best represent them. I also named a First and Second Team and only picked each player once. I expect plenty of disagreement with the defensemen.
First All Star All Decade Devils Team:
LW: Taylor Hall, 2017-18, C: Patrik Elias, 2011-12; RW: Ilya Kovalchuk, 2011-12
LD: Andy Greene, 2013-14; RD: Mark Fayne, 2011-12
G: Cory Schneider, 2015-16
Second All Star All Decade Devils Team:
LW: Zach Parise, 2009-10; C: Travis Zajac, 2009-10; RW: Kyle Palmieri, 2015-16
LD: Will Butcher, 2017-18; RD: Damon Severson, 2018-19
G: Martin Brodeur, 2009-10
Honorable Mentions: David Clarkson’s 2011-12, Adam Henrique’s 2015-16 (and 2011-12, flip a coin), Jaromir Jagr’s 2013-14, Lee Stempniak’s 2015-16,
Takeaways from the 2010s for this Devils Fan
In putting this series together, there are a few takeaways for me as a Devils fan. I think they are worth keeping in mind as we head into a new decade.
- Do not take making the playoffs for granted. Back at the beginning of the decade, there was frustration that the Devils would have great regular seasons but they could not turn it into playoff success. After the Stanley Cup run in 2012, the Devils made the playoffs all of one time. When the team clinched it in Game #81 in 2018, it felt like a big deal because, well, it was a big deal. Even with knowing that the Devils were likely going to get bounced quickly by Tampa Bay (and they were). It is not easy to make it and the Devils have spent the better part of the decade demonstrating it. It is an achievement, even if it is a small one in light of championships. I would hope that should the team improve to make it more regularly, the fans can accept that it is a far better fate than hoping the team loses specific games to increase their lottery odds by a percentage point.
- The Devils were mostly bad in the last decade. Not mediocre – bad. 16 teams make the playoffs in a 31-team National Hockey League. A mediocre team in the NHL is in the mix and can make it. A team that misses the postseason by a large margin is a bad team. And the Devils have found plenty of ways to be deficient in the run of play and on the scoreboard to have high draft picks more often than playoff appearances in the 2010s. The Devils appear to still be quite bad as 2019 closes. Much has to be done to turn it all around.
- The game has changed, change with it. One of my pet peeves with Ken Daneyko as color commentator with the Devils is how he refers back to his playing days about what was and was not allowed physically. There needs to be an acceptance that those days are in the past. I can understand in his case that he cannot fully discard those memories since it is a big reason why he is in his broadcasting position to begin with. But the team can and needs to accept that Likewise, there needs to be an acceptance that the game has changed from 2010 and 2011. The Devils are not likely going to be this super-stingy team that can get by with a pop-gun offense. The team has made strides to attack and create more offense, but they still do not have the defensive effort to become overwhelmed with it. For the Devils to find success in the coming decade, they have to adhere to that “Fast, attacking, supportive” motto. Not just because their draft classes aligned with it, but the NHL game is very much in that vein. As we enter 2020, the players are faster, the game is faster, and the goaltending and defenses are not so stout. Goal-scoring in the league has risen and getting them is a good antidote for leads being lost, shootouts being a nightmare, and/or seasons falling apart due to less than average goaltending. Yet, when the Devils have had months or even most of a season’s worth of very good goaltending, they still struggled to find success. Why? Because they just could not score enough. The Devils have a young Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes; they need to not only add and/or develop additional talent but also have tactics, strategies, and team philosophies that emphasize an offensive approach. The turtling of the early half of this decade was impressive but it became less and less effective as the decade went on, never mind with the players the Devils had. And attempts to bring in solely offensive or defensive minded players have not brought a lot of value to the team. More than ever, everyone has to contribute in both ends of the rink in today’s NHL. The trick will be to adhere to that while also nurturing the offensive skills of the young players in the organization to give them the extra goals they need to be more successful than they have been.
- You still need at least decent goaltending to see success. See the past five seasons. It alone is not enough, but you need that baseline to not have the opposition out-score the offense.
- Father Time always wins and good times do not last forever. I became a fan of the Devils during the 1993-94 season. As horrible as how that one ended, it was the start of a Golden Era for the Devils. Playoffs were almost always happening. The team would win 3 Cups and were a game away from 4. Even if the postseason ended early, the Devils were always competing and someone that other teams dreaded playing. They did not get the respect they deserved from the hockey media and fans and networks and such. But other teams, players, hockey executives, and fans who knew a thing or two about hockey, would give the Devils their due respect. Even with the idiosyncrasies of Lou, the track record could not be denied. You could trust Lou. The Devils did things their way and it was a badge of pride to not be like everyone else. And they kept it largely going for nearly 20 years. However, it all ended and it ended in this decade. The last legends from that Golden Era hung it up. David Conte lost his edge. Lou left. Ownership changed again. Even the broadcast teams changed. Now the Devils are seemingly. just another organization, trying to find its way and its identity in a way. The ends of Golden Eras are rarely good in sport and the Devils fans have found that out the hard way from 2013 to now. The upside to all of this is that there is no guarantee that where the Devils are will be where they are forever. There is a lot of work to do and quite a bit of luck to find the right people and ways to move forward. But moving forward is as much of an option as failure and I’d rather see the Devils keep trying. I will always have more respect for an offseason like 2019 than 2018 if only for the efforts and we shall see what will come in the next decade. Hopefully, a new, brighter era can begin for the generation of fans that grew up in this decade to reward their patience and a new generation of fans can see success again like I did in 1994.
Just as much as the Devils have changed a lot over the decade, often by necessity, this very blog has changed. I noted those major changes in each post. I think it is fitting and always appropriate to thank people at the ends of posts. At least to thank them for their attention in reading the whole thing or at least scrolling down the whole thing. In this post, I want to thank all of the people have who helped make this site what it is today and throughout the past decade. So I will.
I thank SB Nation / Vox Media as a whole. They have provided a world-class platform that makes it easy to make posts, host images for said posts, moderate comments of those posts, and promote the posts easily through various channels, search engines, and social media platforms. The tech team and support staff are unsung heroes in a lot of businesses. They have been great over the past decade whenever I needed help with something or a new upgrade was going to come that would end up making the site easier for me to create content and make it easier for the readers to view it.
Related to that, I thank the various SB Nation NHL managers that have overseen the hockey blogs over the past decade. James Mirtle (yes, that one) hired me back in 2008 and stuck around until the early part of the decade. Unless I am forgetting someone (and I’m sorry if I did), Brandon Worley, Travis Hughes, and current manager Stephanie Driver followed James. I appreciate all of their support and communication over the years with respect to this site. John Gennaro gets a special shoutout for helping get Garden State of Hockey off the ground in 2019 too. Tyler Bleszinski also gets a special shoutout for supporting the site in all manners, and starting an Athletics blog that became the foundation for this whole network instead of the Devils blog he also considered doing.
I thank all of the amazing sources for hockey stats online, which have helped support and guide the content on this blog. I thank the now-defunct or not-updated sites like NHLSCAP, Behind the Net, Time on Ice, Hockey Analysis/Puckalytics, Extra Skater, War on Ice, CapGeek (RIP Mathew Wuest), General Fanager, Hockey’s Future (the site, not the message boards), Fire & Ice (sort of, I blame USA Today for the archives being not so available), and many past blogs (especially mc79hockey and not because Tyler Dellow is now with the Devils). I thank the current sources such as NJ.com/devils, CapFriendly, Hockey-Reference, HockeyDB, Elite Prospects, Corsica, HockeyViz, Evolving Hockey, PuckIQ, Natural Stat Trick (the best), NHL.com, and all of the current blogs on and off the SB Nation network. By the way, this series would not have been possible without Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com and Hockey-Reference. Please consider them sources throughout this series.
I thank all of the writers and contributors that have been a part of this site for as a little as a few months to many years in this decade. I am proud that this is not John Fischer’s All About the Jersey. It’s All About the Jersey. While I may set the tone and style of the blog, I am very happy that there have been multiple perspectives and voices over the decade. Most of all, I am always blown away that people want to contribute even back when it just volunteers. I thank everyone who ever auditioned and/or applied for a position for the site. You were all brave for making the effort and I genuinely appreciate you wanting to be a part of this.
I especially thank those that were on the site for spending their time, energy, and effort to be a part of this blog in the past. In no particular order (and hoping I did not misspell a name or forget anyone), I thank Thibaut “Tibbs” DeShayes, Steve Lepore, Tom Stivali, Matt Ventolo, Kevin Sellathamby, Rob Watson, Josh Weinstein, CJ Richey, Matt Evans, Karen Meilands, Jerry Tierney, Nick Gerli, Ryan Stimson, Shane Kinsley, Nicholas D’Alessio, JT Sroka, Matt Mowrer, Matt Torino, Trevor Post, Christopher Moxley, Nick Varney, Steve Wozniak, Ryan Grosso, and Alicia Strauch. While he was not an official member – a special thanks goes to David Sarch for running Talking Red for most of this decade and regularly featuring members of the site on the pod.
And I am grateful for the current staff on the site: Nate Pilling, Mike Stromberg, Brian Franken, CJ Turtoro, Gerard Lionetti, Alex Potts, Chris Fieldhouse, Devin Yang, Jenna Verrico, Dan Rozel (who suggested splitting up all of these posts and the title of the series; thank you, Dan), and Jeff Ulmer. Thank you all for continuing to support the site to this very day, keeping it real with the readers and not shortchanging them, and making it easy to manage.
I thank everyone who I ever met at a Devils game because of the site or Twitter (@AAtJerseyBlog), and elsewhere that brought up the site or became interested in the site because I talked way too much about hockey. I thank those at the game who have been fortunate (unfortunate?) to be by my seat in Section 1 for the decade from The Associate to P to Steve C. and a whole lot of fine members of the People Who Matter along the way to the current day.
I thank my family for supporting me throughout this entire endeavor. Whether it is asking a question about the site or the Devils or both to just understanding that when things happen, I have to go write about it. I cannot fully put into words how much I appreciate the direct and indirect support.
I thank the New Jersey Devils organization because, well, without them, who would I write about? Seriously, while I never actually pursued media credentials or traditional coverage of the team, the organization has never had issue with me or the site directly. I know they read it. I know they appreciate that for as much criticism as I and the other writers have had, we back up our criticism and provide our reasoning. They may disagree but they know where we are coming from. Plus, what other team is worth all of this effort?
Lastly and as important as everyone else, I thank you. Yes, you. The reader. I call the collective readership and Devils fanbase the People Who Matter because you do. That thousands of you read this site every day justify the reality that there are a lot of people who want detailed previews and recaps, interesting and outside-the-box opinions that includes analytics and other evidence, and all kinds of content. Yes, this site is clean. Yes, it’s run with an iron fist. Yes, it is not a sword or shield for someone else’s cause – it primarily sticks to hockey. Yes, it does things differently than most. And your readership confirms that people at least will put up with it if not outright support it.
The term means a little more than that. Even when the Devils were winning loads of games and contending for Stanley Cups, the team rarely got the respect it deserved. The underlying feeling from other fans and how the media regarded New Jersey was that the Devils and their fans did not matter. That there were not enough of them. That they were not passionate enough. Well, they were wrong then and they are wrong now and they will always be wrong. And I mean this when I say that you all matter. You do. Whether or not this is your first time at the site, you read the site less because of the Devils and more because you know and want to support one of the writers, you share this site with people online or in person, or you are a Devils fan of any level of loyalty to the team, you all make this site matter. You make it worth writing all of these posts, whether they are short Gamethreads to an very long and detailed series looking back at the 2010s of Devils hockey or the team’s zone exits on penalty kills over two seasons or every point scored by a player or every goal against a goalie or anything else. You are the People Who Matter because you make All About the Jersey matter by reading the site and supporting the Devils on any kind of level.
The past decade was not good overall for the Devils and it remains to be seen if and when they will become a mediocre team again, much less a team who can attain glory like they did in the Golden Era. The 2010s were a decade of necessary and often difficult changes. Plenty that were welcomed at the time based on what we knew. Others that were questionable then and now. But there was a lot of changes in the organization, on the roster, in how they were broadcasted, and even how they were blogged about on this site. We can only hope for more success for the Devils in the 2020s. I have no doubt that the People Who Matter will be there to appreciate celebrate if, and I really hope when it happens.
Now let us get ready for 2020. There is a game tomorrow and the future is ahead of us. Hockey never stops. So we will not. We’re always going to be All About the Jersey.