Jacob Josefson is in a strange spot with the only team he’s known since he was drafted 20th overall in 2009. He’s not a rookie anymore, which means he won’t be heading to Buffalo with some of the other Devil rookies. He also isn’t veteran on the squad either. He’s been a guy who under Pete DeBoer saw almost no playing time, but when the coaching change happened, midway through last season, we saw Josefson’s skills come out. However, with one more season remaining on his 2-year, $1.6 million deal, there’s not doubt that it’s either produce or pack your bags and move on.
Not Enough Playing Time
I’ve liked Josefson since he was drafted. Nobody has ever had a problem with him, he’s a good guy in the locker room, and he simply hasn’t received a long enough stretch of consistent playing time. The main reason for that is injuries.
In 2010, Josefson was slashed on the hand and then fell on it later in a game against San Jose, which caused him to tear a ligament in his thumb. After he fully recovered, in the fifth game of the 2011-2012 season, Josefson broke his right clavicle sliding into the boards, in another game against the Sharks, which sidelined him for over four months. When Josefson returned from injury late in the season, he bumped awkwardly into Jay Pandolfo of the Islanders, which caused him to suffer a broken wrist. It’s been a tough road back to full health for Josefson, but there shouldn’t be any doubt coming into training camp that he’s over his injuries, and is ready to move forward.
In 180 games with the Devils, Josefson has 36 points, which isn’t great, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to produce points like others have. On many nights, Josefson was delegated to fourth-line duties, while playing with the likes of Cam Janssen and Tim Sestito. He’s had a very small amount of playing time with the big boys, but even when Josefson got that chance, DeBoer would move him back down unless he produced a point within 3-4 shifts.
I’m not blaming all this on DeBoer, as it’s the player’s job to produce when given the opportunity, but when those opportunities come along every 10 games or so, it’s hard to stay mentally focused when only playing 6-7 minutes a night.
Devils Youth Is Coming
The Devils don’t have many home-grown players on their roster as many of them came to the team via free-agency over the past few seasons; so seeing Josefson succeed in a Devils uniform would be a great thing. Sure, they have guys like Reid Boucher and Stephan Matteau coming up, but between 2006-2010, all the Devils really have to show for those drafts are Adam Henrique and Josefson.
Henrique is obviously a staple on the team now, but having another guy around the same age that can be a solid point producer is crucial, especially for a team like the Devils who struggle nightly to score.
Josefson isn’t the answer to the Devils problems, far from it in fact; but with new management in place, now is the time to make an impact. New head coach John Hynes will be looking for players who can stick with this team for a long time. Even besides Boucher and Matteau, the Devils have 2014 first rounder John Quenneville and most recently picked 6th overall Pavel Zacha coming through the pipeline. There are also guys like Blake Coleman (75th overall in 2011), Graham Black (135th overall in 2012), and Connor Chatham (71st overall in 2014), among many others looking to nab a spot on this team.
Josefson will be given an opportunity to be a regular, everyday player when the season begins. He’s earned at least that after all the time he’s spent up in the press box. However, if he doesn’t show what he’s capable of, then he will definitely get traded, or even worse, put on waivers.
This is the season to make an impact on the Devils because not many other players will. The Devils are a team that many people know aren’t offensively gifted. Patrik Elias will likely retire at the end of the season, and we have no idea whether Ryan Clowe will play even one game this year. The only players who will definitely be in the Devils top-six are Henrique, Mike Cammalleri, Travis Zajac, and probably Kyle Palmieri, so there are two spots open, and then an entire third-line to fight over once training camp starts.
Josefson considers New Jersey his second home and he will get a shot at having an impact with this team. However, it’s now up to him, in his last true chance to stick with the Devils.
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