Skating in Stilettos

A Hockey Blog by Kristy Lynn

New Jersey Devils

01.11.20 | New Year, New Devils? 

Is it just me or do the Devils seem to be doing better without former MVP Taylor Hall?  Since his departure to the desert on December 16th the Devils have greatly improved (I say greatly because they really couldn’t get much worse).  Let’s note an extremely dominant 7-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at the end of December.

The Devils also had an impressive win over the Boston Bruins, who are sitting at the top of the Atlantic Division.  Goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood is only 23-years-old and this is his first season playing as a starter.  I don’t know about you but I only see things getting better for Mac from here on out.  Can we even discuss his game against the Islanders?  He took a (hard) puck to the mask, which resulted in a mouth full of blood and a few knocked out teeth.  After brief medical attention Blackwood decided to stay in the period and the game.    #TrueHockeyPlayer

Are there still problems? Yes.  Is the defense still a mess?  Absolutely. Will the Devils become the St. Louis Blues 2.0?  Probably not.   What I do know is they became a lot more fun to watch as of late.  Mostly thanks to Blackwood, Coleman and Hischier.

A big bright spot for New Jersey is number thirteen.  Hischier seems to have seamlessly jumped into Taylor Hall’s role.  He is the 1st line center; part of the 1st power play unit and you will see him on the penalty kill.  He may not be as flashy as Connor McDavid but don’t underestimate the first overall pick.

Looking ahead the Devils have some tough opponents coming up in the schedule. Washington, Tampa and Toronto are all coming up in the next few weeks and it will be a really good test.  Again, I do not think this is a team that will end up being post season bound but hopefully they will create something they can build off of for next year.

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12.17.19 | Ch-Ch-Changes

A lot has happened within the New Jersey Devils organization this past month.  First and foremost Coach John Hynes has been unemployed since December 3, 2019.  The move came right after the Devils got destroyed (and that might be putting it nicely) by the Buffalo Sabres.  I feel bad for Hynes but indifferent about how this will affect the future of this season… I’m not getting good vibes at this point.

Captain Andy Greene had this to say about his former coach, “Hynesy is a great coach, great person, and he had to get sacrificed because of us in here. You get the news, you get everything, and you’ve got to be ready. It’s on us in here.”  I pulled this quote from an article written by Chris Ryan of NJ Advance Media.

Shero decided that for the time being he will promote assistant coach Alain Nasreddine to interim head coach until a long term replacement is found.  It took Coach Nas six games before he found himself on the winning side of a game.  The team is still  playing poorly and the chemistry doesn’t seem to exist, but they managed to get two points in Arizona.

Speaking of Arizona.  The Devils GM was/is aware more changes are needed and New Jersey made hockey news again on December 13, 2019 when it was announced that Taylor Hall would be a late scratch against the Colorado Avalanche.  It was reported that Hall was pulled out of the game for precautionary reasons pending a trade.  Obviously news of the MVP winner heading to the trade block took over Twitter, Instagram and all other social media platforms.

Three long (and I mean long) days later Taylor Hall was officially traded and became a member of the pack in Arizona.  By the time he officially got traded I was beyond over the saga… It may have been worse to endure than the Erik Karlsson saga.  Some Devils fans immediately reacted with angry tweets complaining about the return.  Did New Jersey get Arizona’s Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson?  Sadly, but not suprisingly, we did not.  Did New Jersey get Darcy Kuemper or Antti Raanta?  Nope.  The Devils received the following pieces: Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley Nate Schnarr, Arizona’s first-round pick in 2020 and third-round selection in 2021.  

At first glance it doesn’t seem like much but the Devils are in desperate need for size and a defenseman.  If you don’t know Kevin Bahl he is a 19-year-old left handed defenseman that stands 6’6″ and weighs in at 230lbs.  I’ll take it!  The Devils defense is small in stature and I would not classify any of them as a stay at home defenseman.  Bahl is all the above.  It’s worth noting that defensemen usually take more time to develop than a forward but with patience I think he will be a nice addition to the blue line with Will Butcher (currently 24-years-old).

In a fantasy world I would have absolutely loved for the return to be Oliver Ekman-Larsson but it was not realistic.  Taylor Hall is 28-years-old, by NHL standards I wouldn’t call him a young player.  He has a problem with his knee that started in October of 2013.  Hall missed a few games in November of 2014 for the same injury and last year the MVP missed half the season with a knee injury.  He is injury prone.  Plain and simple.  If Bahl develops the way he is projected this could be a phenomenal trade for the Devils.

Time will tell if this trade works out for New Jersey but it was a move that I believe needed to be done.  With Hall on the team and having an MVP season, the Devils won only one playoff game in his three years wearing red and black.  In my opinion after seeing that stat alone it’s okay to move on.

What I will say is thank you Taylor Hall for being the first Hart Memorial Trophy winner in New Jersey Devils history.   Page Break Design Clipart Bes - Page Break Clip Art

11.20.19 | The Blame Game 

We are quickly approaching the Thanksgiving mark of the season and things didn’t get much better for New Jersey since we last spoke.  I know if you’re a Devils fan you’re either thinking fire Hynes, trade Hall or just blow up the entire roster.  Keep reading to learn about my main observations from the past month of the season and what I think the Devils should do next.

The biggest news came when New Jersey announced they placed veteran goaltender, Cory Schneider, on waivers dropping him to the AHL.  You really don’t have a soul if you don’t feel bad for Schneider.  His timing with the Devils was never right.  When he first got traded to NJ he was arguably a top 10 (maybe top 5) goaltender.  He played with an aging roster that took years to get younger, you can’t blame him for the lack talent/speed in front of him.  He was never the same after his injury and it’s sad to witness.  Although, I will say he has been nothing but a class act throughout this entire process which leads back to you have to feel bad for the unfortunate turn in his career.

To fire or not fire John Hynes.. isn’t that the question of season.  I still say don’t fire him simply because there are no good replacements.  I really don’t think Mike Babcock is the answer the Devils need, please give me your thoughts below if you disagree.  I recently went to a Panera and sat at the drive thru for 30 minutes for a bowl of soup… beyond ridiculous and unacceptable.  When I finally got my soup it was the wrong one.  I had to waste even more time by going in and speaking to an employee.  The manager came out and I was ready to give him an earful.  He said he had workers call out and when I looked back the employees he had did not give a damn about what they were doing.  To translate this to Coach Hynes… can you really blame him if player aren’t giving 100 percent or just doing whatever they want on the ice and not following plays?  Just think about it.

When you examine every loss the Devils have had (which is a lot) the blame changes each time.  You can’t blame the goaltender when the forwards can’t score one goal in 60 minutes.  It’s hard to blame the forwards when they scored six goals but the team still managed to lose 7-6.  The team has rarely been in sync with each other.  When they manage to win a game they look real good but that inconsistency is going to keep destroying them all season if they don’t figure out how to play as a full unit.

Then there is Taylor Hall and this gem of a quote – > “we’re 1-for-3 on the power play and getting booed, It’s a tied game and we are getting booed. That’s a tough environment to play in, especially when you are home.”  Now he is not wrong!  Devils fans are brutal and because they had high expectations going into this season, fans are booing the team every chance they get.  Are the boos sometimes deserved?  Yes, especially when the team gives up a 3 or 4 goal lead.  I think this quote rubbed people the wrong way and some people want him out.

Ideally I would like to trade Hall but my reasons have nothing to do with the above quote.  At his best, Hall has the most trade value on the team, I would have happily give him up for a right-handed defenseman.  I know I know I sound like a broken record but can I please have just one solid defenseman on the team… just one?

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10.16.19 | Started at the Bottom… Still Here 

Going into this season I think some (probably most) Devils fans were expecting an instant turn around after this summers acquisitions.  As of right now they are winless and earned a mere two points via shootout losses.  By the way in both of those shootout losses they let a lead slip away (insert eye roll emoji).  On various platforms I have seen the angry rants of Devils fans not happy with these past two weeks.  I decided to break down my top three current issues with the Devils this season.  You will notice that goaltending and the coaching staff did not make my list, well at least not yet.

  1.  Lack of Leadership

When Andy Greene was named captain in the 2015-2016 season I was okay with the selection.  At that time the team did not have many candidates.  Now we started the 2019-2020 season and Greene’s leadership style doesn’t appear to be effective (I’m sorry Andy Greene).  There was one event last year that really changed my opinion of our current leaders (again, I’m sorry).  On January 18, 2019, after a 4-1 loss to the NY Islanders, Drew Stafford called the rest of his teammates to center ice for a players only meeting. Now why is it that Drew Stafford felt the need to call a meeting?  Where was our captain or any of the alternate captains?  Now the team has even younger players on the roster and I ask who will be the player to call a meeting?  Will PK Subban step into that roll?  Maybe Taylor Hall?  All I know is that there needs to be a wake up call whether it comes from the captain or someone else.

  1. Defense

How many years have Devils fans been complaining about the defense?  Since Stevens retired?  When Scott Niedermayer left for Anaheim?  It’s been a really long time.  When PK Subban was traded some thought he was the solution to the defense’s woes.  Nope.  First of all that’s a lot of pressure for one guy.  Second, he is an offensive defenseman.  Do we ever see Subban out on the first penalty kill unit?  Nope. The Devils, in my opinion, are still missing a defenseman that can #1. bring the puck through the neutral zone (although Butcher can possibly grow into this role) and #2. I would also like to see a defenseman that can park in front of our goaltender and be a stay at home defenseman.

  1. No Chemistry

Our lines are being juggled a lot.  In fairness to the coach, the Devils are taking a ton of penalties. See below:

PLAYER

PIM Through 6 Games

ZAJAC 2
WOOD 6
COLEMAN 8
PALMIERI 2
SIMMONDS 4
ZACHA 2
BOQVIST 4
GUSEV 2
SUBBAN 14 (Including 10 minute major)
BUTCHER

2

CARRICK 2
MUELLER 2
VANTANEN 2

I can imagine it is difficult to keep four lines in tact when players are constantly taking penalties and players having to jump in for the penalty kill.  With that being said, Hynes is still juggling lines too much game to game.  A friend of mine pointed out that when Nico was developing he had Palmieri and Hall as his constant wingers.  Hughes has been on a line with Simmonds, Boqvist, Zacha, Coleman, Bratt and Wood.  There is no consistency for Hughes… yet.  I think the lines eventually should be as follows:

Hall  – Hischier – Palmieri

Gusev – Hughes – Bratt

Wood – Zajac – Coleman

Boqvist – Zacha – Simmonds

I am not ready to fire Coach Hynes or trade away one of our goaltenders.  In the last game the Devils blew a three-goal lead to the Florida Panthers.  I personally think that was a team loss.  The forwards collapsed, the defense could not track the puck, Schneider probably was not as bad as the score depicted but still was not on his game.  For this game I would also say that Hynes was out-coached by Quenneville.

Tomorrow the Devils will face the New York Rangers (who are off to a much better start).  While most people will be focusing on Hughes v. Kakko I will be focusing on special teams, the play of our goaltender and who will be Jack Hughes wingers.

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