Bear with me here, because it's inherently difficult to put speechlessness into writing. I am fully aware of how depressing the following is, but - barring the Taylor Hall trade - the Devils haven't given their fanbase a thrill like this since the 2012 Cup run. Five years and the most exhilarating moment was winning gold in the 'Special Olympics' of sucking by the literal bounce of a ball. Teams have certainly gone through worse droughts, but ask the one guy that has made New Jersey's woes seem slightly less cataclysmic (Cory Schneider) and I bet he'd tell you this feels like stumbling upon an open spring in the middle of the Sahara. As someone that probably spent well over $1,000 on overpriced beer in a half empty arena to numb the pain caused by pathetic hockey, I can certainly echo that sentiment.
So spare me with the "this draft sucks anyway" nonsense. Not because it's completely untrue, but because the ignorant falsehood that the Devils somehow lucked/sucked into a Connor McDavid-esque revitalization isn't what has me excited. Hell, the prospect of having an NHL-ready franchise center (whether it be Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier) get cooking without prep time isn't even what has me wishing it was October already. The thing that has me absolutely giddy is what winning the lottery does for the Devils' immediate future.
This offseason was already setting up to be more productive than anything that took place on 'Prudential Center' ice this year. By all indications, Ray Shero has been working up towards this summer and I don't mean he's been spending a little extra time in the gym on his glamour muscles. He's been shredding contractual obligations and bulking up on draft picks, and the expansion draft has provided him the perfect excuse to pop his proverbial top off and flex on those who have been a little too gluttonous in their roster construction. There were already lop-sided trades to be made and overpaid signings to be negotiated. Mix in a potential return of a Russian lightning rod and the Devils' wealth of assets was starting to look like it could render the most elementary ideals of Communism moot.
That was before they had a ready made talent - that will hopefully be a seamless fit in the middle of their top six - fall right into their fucking lap. Last year's first round pick - Mike McLeod - is on an absolute tear in the OHL playoffs, seems destined for an expedited NHL arrival, and has been regulated to the back page of the organizational news. As far as icing a team that is leaps and bounds closer to contending than the hopeless, defenseless debacle that was this year's New Jersey Devils, having the first overall pick - even in a "meh" draft - is a goddamned God-send. I would pull all caution from the wind and say that these next few months could create the "perfect storm", but with the sky looking a little bluer, the sun shining a little brighter, and the birds chirping a little louder...I think I'm just going to take the day to revel in hockey-induced happiness that seems long overdue.
Let's save the never-ending Nolan/Nico debate for a later date. Not only because I have changed my mind on the matter about 25 times in the last 12 hours, but because I think I speak for a majority of Devils' fans when I say that my head isn't exactly clear. It's clouded by the number crunching necessary to understand the defiance of 91.5% odds. 8.5% baby, eight point fucking five percent.
P.S. Special thanks to Taylor Hall. That's the type of guy you need with you at the craps table. The haunting feeling of deja-vu probably awoke him from a dead sleep in a cold sweat upwards of a dozen times last night, but hopefully Ray Shero uses the leverage at his disposal to put a rabbit's foot in the rear of his PTSD...
P.P.S. Realllllly makes ya think...