Leading up to the NHL All-Star break the New Jersey Devils played better in January than they did in December. However, better simply isn’t good enough. Despite going a respectable 6-5-2, the team is still in the Eastern Conference basement.
Through 50 contests the Devils are 20-21-9. Overall, their 49 points are tied for third worst in the league. Plus, their minus-31 goal differential is third worst in the league.
With the Devils sitting seven points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the final Wild Card spot, now is not the time to be mediocre. Now is the time to tank. Hard.
In the Eastern Conference, the Devils would need to jump ahead of eight teams. Conversely, they’re eleven points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second worst mark and 21 behind the Colorado Avalanche for the worst. While they likely won’t have the worst ledger, they need to make sure to stay in the bottom three.
Overall, 10 teams are within three points of the Devils for the third-fewest points in the league. No, the Devils won’t jump all 10 of those clubs but if they did, it’s a difference of selecting third or thirteenth.
Playing for Pride
I know what you’re thinking, shouldn’t they “play for pride?” No! Playing for pride and skating hard is the bare minimum of your job as a player. If anything this team has tried too hard in the past four seasons and it has burned them.
Pavel Zacha, John Quenneville and Michael McLeod may turn into fine players. However, imagine how much further along the team would be if they completely broke it down and drafted the likes of Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel or Patrik Laine?
3 #ADevils will be at the #AHLAllStars this weekend!
Enter to win memorbilia: https://t.co/rkEEjglU0R
How to watch: https://t.co/4vfoU0oDjK pic.twitter.com/NzN72vr5pt
— Albany Devils (@AlbanyDevils) January 26, 2017
The team also would’ve been in better shape if they’d forfeited their 2012 first round pick in the Ilya Kovalchuk tampering fiasco, instead of drafting Stefan Matteau at No. 29. Although the NHL eventually let the Devils keep the pick after Kovalchuk’s “retirement” to the KHL, the team could’ve had the tenth pick in 2014 instead of being subjected to No. 30. While Quenneville looks like a keeper as an AHL All-Star with the Albany Devils this season, players like Dylan Larkin, Robby Fabbri and David Pastrnak were all available at No. 10.
Tearing It Down
Devils ownership and management has stressed the rebuild will not be an overnight process. Hence, they should look at which assets they have and attempt to load up more draft choices and prospects. The team needs to figure out which players aren’t going to be around when they become competitive again and deal them.
Cammalleri is 34 and has two years remaining on his contract at $5 million per year. The left wing has 10 markers and could fit on a club looking for scoring depth.
Before you jump down my throat, I’m a believer in Schneider as a franchise cornerstone building block. However, he’s 30, in his prime and his value will never be higher. By the time the Devils are competitive again, he’s going to be older and worn out from bailing out a porous defense.
Not too sure what he does other than fulfilling the former Pittsburgh Penguins quota. Lovejoy is a minus-8 with four points. His $2.6 million cap hit makes him moveable for a team looking for a veteran with Stanley Cup experience.
Parenteau is tied for the team lead with 12 tallies. His $1.2 million dollar cap hit and looming free agency make him an ideal rental and this year’s version of Lee Stempniak.
In addition, there are plenty more veterans slated to become free agents after this season who the organization should look at dealing. In rebuilding a team, sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.