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Know Your Neighbor: The Devils have some young pieces, but aren’t quite there yet

They do still have PK Subban though!

Boston Bruins v New Jersey Devils Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Just the facts

Last year’s finish:

28-29-12, 68 points, last in the Metropolitan Division

Bruins’ record against them last year:

2-0-1. The wins were by margins of 3-0 and 5-1, with the loss coming in a shootout on New Year’s Eve 2019. Ah, the pre-2020 days. Good times.

Offseason moves:

The Devils had a fairly busy offseason, making a number of NHL and minor-league moves. At the NHL level, they:

  • Waived one-time franchise goalie Cory Schneider
  • Acquired defenseman Ryan Murray
  • Signed goalie Corey Crawford, who then decided to retire
  • Signed goalies Scott Wedgewood and Mackenzie Blackwood
  • Signed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov

None of those moves really register as major, but they sure did happen.

Perhaps the biggest move made by the team was the hiring of Lindy Ruff as the new head coach.

The B’s and Ruff had plenty of good tussles when he was behind the bench for the Buffalo Sabres.

What to expect

Not much!

The Devils were bad last year, and aren’t going to be very good this year.

You can read the expectations from our friends over at All About the Jersey, but I’ll summarize: the Devils should improve and be a pain in the neck for a few teams this season, but most pundits expect them to finish at or near the bottom of this tough division.

This isn’t to say that the Devils don’t have any talent. They have big veteran names like PK Subban, Kyle Palmieri, and Travis Zajac. The addition of Murray was a good one.

They also have a lot of decent young talent in guys like Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier (though he’s out hurt), Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, Nolan Foote, and Jesper Bratt.

However, those pieces aren’t really surrounded by the complementary pieces necessary to move this team forward.

The Devils were 24th in the league in goals-per-game last season, and that mark isn’t likely to improve too much this season.

While the offense isn’t great, the Devils’ defense is definitely a bigger issue. The Devils allowed the fourth-most goals per game last season, and didn’t exactly make huge upgrades on the blue line in the offseason.

Plus, their goaltending situation got pretty dicey when Crawford decided to retire. Neither Wedgewood or Blackwood is terrible, but neither is likely to be the elite goalie needed to help this team make significant strides.

The Devils were in the bottom third of the league in PP% last season, but they did have the seventh-best PK in the league.

The verdict

I don’t mean to pile on, but the Devils should be also-rans in the division this season. The Bruins play them 8 times, and if they don’t win at least 5, it’d be hugely disappointing.

Still, the Devils are a team in development, and there are enough pieces in the mix to give Devils fans reason to be optimistic.

Plus, any PK Subban game against the Bruins is a good time.