The old adage, “it can always get worse”, has come to be realized in New Jersey over the past couple of weeks. The current 10 game slide has seen the Devils fall from being within striking distance of the final wildcard spot (four points back), to laughingstock of the NHL. Back-to-back regulation losses to the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes have put an emphatic brand on what Devils Hockey has come to be: Bad. The Devils have plummeted, crashed, imploded, or whatever other adjective you use to articulate the disastrous hockey we have watched. So… what is next for the worst installment of Devils Hockey (record-wise) since Ronald Reagan was President (1988-89)?
What is next for Coach Hynes?
In a perfect world, the Devils would have built off a successful rookie season for John Hynes, and found themselves in the final wildcard spot for the East. While this was the dream, and not necessarily expectation, it was an achievable goal. Would fans have crucified Hynes for falling short of this goal? Possibly, but not justifiably. A hard fought year with proper progression would have been more than acceptable. Sadly, it is really hard to pinpoint many positives.
With effort dissipating, Ray Shero has to honestly assess whether or not Hynes still has command over the locker room. We all know that Hynes is Shero’s man. Shero brought the Rhode Island native along with him from Pittsburgh’s farm system and has shown unwavering loyalty and confidence in Hynes’ vision for the club. However, every general manager has their limitations in patience. We do not know whether or not Shero is still assured in Hynes’ role as bench boss, but we do know that the screams for Hynes’ head are getting deafening. Fans are looking for some new energy to feed off, and at this point, players probably are as well. Most signs point to Hynes having lost control of the team, but we will soon see whether or not Shero thinks a coaching change is in order.
So, with 14 games remaining in the regular season, do the Devils have it in them to end the embarrassment? The roster is banged up and young, but this stretch can not be fun for Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Adam Henrique, Andy Greene, or Cory Schneider. Coming to the rink everyday has to have become almost torturous for the prideful vets who do not take losing lightly.
Outlook For Fans
Shove wins and losses aside; they do not count. It is easy to get caught up in the staggering amount of losses building upon each other and draft lottery positioning. What truly matters in the last fraction of the season is development. You can root for losses, while suffering through the torture in hopes of winning the draft lottery, but no 18 year old kid (in this draft) is going to magically resurrect this team. Damon Severson finding his footing defensively, Pavel Zacha building on his offensive game, or Joseph Blandisi maturing into a factor on this team would all help more than any young kid stepping into a garbage fire of a team.
Let us also remember that at best, if the Arizona Coyotes catch the Devils, the odds of the Devils winning the lottery improves from 10.3% to 12.1%. A 1.8% increase in a game of bouncing ping pong balls is more important than development of the core going forward? So I’d take my chances, and at least put out an honest effort on the ice.
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