Embellishment. Do it in an NHL game and you’re liable to get two minutes in the penalty box. Take an intentional dive in the standings? Well, that’s another story. Mind you the lottery draft system does work as a mechanism to mitigate all out tanking but it isn’t too hard to point out the offenders. Some teams, like the New Jersey Devils, just don’t.
For better or worse, it isn’t in the organizational DNA of the Devils’ to tank and from a competitive standpoint, should be commended. By no means am I saying the Devils are perfect, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the predicament of having the seventh fewest points in the league. Yet the fact that they are still acting like a team that is still alive, says something, especially when the phrase “tank wars” is a running joke on social media.
Granted New Jersey could go on a tear and garner over 90 points but they could just as easily act like the post master general and mail it in. That they aren’t, means they could possibly find themselves out of a top ten slot for a top draft choice. As of this writing, New Jersey is one point ahead of the sixth fewest points and just five points away from picking outside the top ten. I don’t have to tell you what road is easier to take at this juncture but I can tell you which direction the Devils will attempt to move in.
If anything, the Devils may be guilty of not moving swiftly enough on making changes on the coaching staff and in the lineup. Scott Gomez and Steve Bernier weren’t even on the roster for the first month plus of the season and are third and fifth respectively on the club in scoring. Not to mention that the coaching switch has done wonders to the confidence and playing style of defenceman Adam Larsson. Plus, while Cory Schneider is the undisputed number one goaltender, Keith Kinkaid proving he is NHL ready, would’ve helped the squad by not running Schneider through the ringer in the early going.
Some may question and maybe rightfully so, the Devils not going into full tank mode. However, as much as the Devils are in need of a game changing forward, right now they have a 6.0% chance of landing the top choice in the NHL Entry Draft. Even if they just threw in the towel for their final nine contests, their odds of winning the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes, only rises about 2.0%.
If anything, if you’re the Devils, you hope to make a leap like they did in 2011 and get a top flight guy like Larsson or take that pick and flip it like they did in 2013 for Schneider. While I won’t even attempt to predict what Lou will do but if I had to bet money on which scenario will play out, I’ll go with the latter and say they flip it for an established scorer.
So while they may not have the horses to make the postseason, at least the Devils can carry a winning mindset into the 2015-16 campaign.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.