Monday, August 10, 2015

Metropolitan Division: New Jersey Devils

This is a series previewing the Metropolitan Division of the NHL. Next up: the New Jersey Devils.

NJ Devils GM Ray Shero
The 2014-15 NHL season was one the Devils would rather forget. They sputtered out of the gate and never recovered, leading to the firing of head coach Peter DeBoer the day after Christmas.

Following the "three heads are better than one" philosophy, GM Lou Lamoriello stepped out of the front office and joined Scott Stevens (DeBoer's assistant coach) and Adam Oates behind the bench. The Devils went on to finish 20 points out of a playoff position and closed out the season with just one win over their final 11 games.

On May 4, Lou Lamoriello stepped down as the team's President and general Manager. That same day, the Devils hired former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero to fill the role of GM for the Devils. Less than a month later, Shero hired John Hynes away from the Penguins organization to be the new bench boss in New Jersey. In five seasons as head coach of the AHL Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins, he had a record of 231-126-27. At 40 years of age, Hynes is the youngest coach in the NHL.

The Devils have many issues that need addressed, foremost of which is a lack of scoring. They finished last season with and average of just 2.15 goals per game, ranking in the bottom of the league. While there was little off-season movement to bolster the roster, the team has a group of young defensemen that are expected to help. Eric Gelinas, Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill, John Moore and Damon Severson are all under the age of 25. Last month, Larsson signed a six-year, $25M extension with the team.

New Jersey has the lowest salary-cap hit of any team in the league, sitting just $4.5M above the cap-floor. With $14M to spend, there are free agent players this summer that are silently screaming "show me the money...", hoping the team will part with some of their cash reserves.

NJ Devils head coach John Hynes
The biggest acquisition for the Devils was trading draft picks (2nd, 3rd round picks in 2015 draft) with the Anaheim Ducks for 24 year-old forward Kyle Palmieri. In 57 games with Ducks last season, he went 14-15-29.

Between the pipes, the Devils have one of the league's best goaltenders in Cory Schneider. He signed a seven-year, $42M extension with the team last summer and posted .925 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average, 26-31-9 in 69 games. Backing up Schneider is Keith Kinkaid, who signed a two-year, $1.45M extension in April. In 19 games for the Devils last season, Kinkaid had a .915 save percentage and a 2.59 goals against average, going 6-5-4.

These inauspicious moves could very well mark the precursor to a long-overdue rebuild for the Devils. But, they still need to address their scoring woes if they hope to return to the playoffs.

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