The New Jersey Devils made a coaching change of sorts on Wednesday. The team announced that assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald will join John Hynes’s coaching staff. With the Devils, the only winless team on the season, something had to change. However, even with an extra set of eyes on the bench or up in the sky, the Devils have a major problem on defence that needs to be corrected. Let’s take a look at what needs to be fixed.
Assistant General Manager Tom Fitzgerald will join John Hynes’ staff today and serve in an assistant coach capacity.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 16, 2019
Tom Fitzgerald Joins The Coaching Staff
As the Devils sit with a 0-4-2 record, the team knew changes needed to be made. While fans were calling for the head coach to be fired, the team went in a different direction. Adding Fitzgerald to the staff brings a different element to the game. It doesn’t hurt when the head coach asks for your services. Plus, Fitzgerald has done this before. He previously was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-09. During that year, the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup. Fitzgerald knows what he is looking for when it comes to correcting problems.
“He was an excellent face-off guy, he’s played over 1,100 NHL games and he’s invested,” Hynes told the media. “He has a lot of belief in the players that are here, knows who they are and knows our situation. I think to have him, with his eyes and input on certain things when your team is in a rut, is good. It’s finding solutions, finding ways where we can all get better. I think he’s going to be a good asset.”
Even with Fitzgerald behind the bench, he knows he is not going to be the saviour of the season. There are a lot of problems the Devils need to address going forward to turn the season around.
“I don’t think I’m going to be the answer but I do think I can help in certain areas of the game that I know well,” Tom Fitzgerald told the media. “I have a development background, a coaching background, a management background.”
With Fitzgerald now on the bench and general manager Ray Shero having eyes in the sky, the Devils will be held more accountable. However, the biggest problem they need to fix is on defence.
Devils Defensive Zone Gaps
Throughout the Devils’ six-game losing streak, their defensive zone gaps have been way too big through the neutral zone and in their defensive zone. Because the Devils turn pucks over in the neutral zone, the defence does not trust the forwards; thus leaving gaps in their defensive zone coverage. That is one of the problems they need to fix moving forward.
As video shows during a game against the Florida Panthers, where the Devils blew another 4-1 lead, the defence just let the attacking player walk right into the zone. With Devils up 4-2 late in the third period, the Devils are moving the puck through the neutral zone.
Kyle Palmieri is stripped of the puck, leading a rush by the Panthers going the other way. Mike Hoffman picks up the puck skates into the zone backing up Devils defenceman Matt Tennyson and Connor Carrick. Hoffman drops the puck off to a trailing Brett Connolly, who fires one passed Cory Schneider for his second of the game.
The big thing here is that the defencemen backed up right into the vision of Schneider so he didn’t see the puck. Either the trailer or one of the defencemen needs to step up on the puck carrier or shooter at that point.
What is clear is that with Fitzgerald on the bench, he may be able to fix the defensive zone gaps. While all the problems can’t be fixed right away, fixing just one will help with other areas of their game.