It was a busy offseason thus far for the 2021-22 New Jersey Devils. General manager Tom Fitzgerald was looking to improve this club filling their needs. And he did just that. First, he signed the biggest fish on the defensive market during free agency in Dougie Hamilton. Then he added Jonathan Bernier to be the backup goalie behind Mackenzie Blackwood. However, Fitzgerald along with the rest of his staff are still looking to add a top-six winger. But even they get that, the 2021-22 New Jersey Devils still have long odds to make the playoffs according to the bookmakers. Let’s take a look at why it will be an uphill battle for the Devils this season.
2021-22 New Jersey Devils Still A Year Away From Making Playoffs
The New Jersey Devils have only made the playoffs twice since 2010. For a storied franchise that won three Stanley Cups in five Stanley Cup Final appearances, that is not good. Over the last couple of seasons, the Devils have gotten the number one pick twice. First, they landed Nico Hischier in 2017 and then Jack Hughes in 2019.
Hischier is finally coming into his own with Taylor Hall out of town. Hughes on the other hand still needs another season to really hit his stride in the NHL. COVID-19 did not help either of those two players’ development along with the rest of the young players in the system. However, something eventually had to give.
General manager Tom Fitzgerald wants the Devils to start playing meaningful games again. He is tired of watching his team miss out on the playoffs. Now the last two seasons the Devils were in the rebuild. And in fact, they still are. But things got accelerated some with the addition of Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton improves the defence right away. He will anchor the top unit and the power play as well. In addition, with Hamilton on the top pair with either Ty Smith or Ryan Graves, the Devils will allow the defenders to slot into their proper position. But the key will be playing good defensive hockey. It does not matter who you have back there, the team must play a better defensive structure to start playing meaningful games.
But that will be tough in a loaded Metropolitan Division, that features the New York Islanders, who went to the Conference Finals in back-to-back years. An improved New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers squad. The Carolina Hurricanes, who have a chance to finish in the top four. Oh yeah, then there is the Washington Capitals, who the Devils have issues beating, along with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Plus the Columbus Blue Jackets, who the Devils have some issues with as well. So things will not be easy for the 2021-22 New Jersey Devils.
Goaltending Matters… But Will It Help
Having the right goaltending duo will help, as we have seen will teams that make the playoffs. The Devils could not go into the 2021-22 season with the same duo. It was unfortunate that Corey Crawford prior to the start of last season leaving a big hole behind Mackenzie Blackwood. So this year, Fitzgerald brought in Jonathan Bernier. Bernier put up a solid save percentage on a bad Detroit Red Wings. He will certainly be able to take the load off, Blackwood, this season. But will be enough to propel the Devils into the postseason. Unfortunately no. Even with this duo, they are a long shot to make the playoffs. If they made the playoffs it would be a surprise like it was during the 2017-18 season.
You can have all the goaltending in the world, but if you can’t put the puck into the net you will not win games. And even if they are able to add a top-six winger it will still be tough because of the competition previously mentioned. The Devils will be playing meaningful games towards the end of the season, but it will not continue into the postseason.
And while they are a long shot to make the playoffs, they make someone very happy if you choose to play them.
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