In between bouts of choking back the acidic taste that typically preempts projectile vomiting, it's becoming very difficult to find original ways to criticize a team that has only been consistent in finding sickeningly original ways to give away both leads and games at an obnoxious rate. The Devils might be a far cry from the unwatchable band of buffoons they were in starting the season by putting an almost immediate end to all optimism, but there's only so many encouraging pats on the ass you can give to a team of professionals who have only shown the killer instinct of manic depression with their only victims being anyone that is emotionally invested in their success.
The expected goals model might tell you that you've predominantly been watching a slightly above average hockey team for roughly the last ten games. What the advanced analytics don't take into account, unfortunately, is that the first month and a half of the Devils' season have basically turned a failure to meet any and all expectations into the bleakest of performance art. Not to pin the blame on one player, never mind one whose bags are reportedly packed and whose days are reportedly numbered, but Taylor Hall's Miles Wood-like success rate on the goddamn gift basket of breakaways he's received recently is the perfectly excruciating example of just how efficient they are in making bad on a good thing.
No "clutch gene" of which to speak, and yet the Devils' engine still manages to stall out when it comes to continuing to manually manufacture positive plays when they matter the most. Whether it has been bad goaltending, inexplicable turnovers, or the type of defensive zone coverage that makes even the smallest of co-pay seem outrageous in being unable to insure any sort of lead, the only thing anyone should actually expect from this team is the type of disappointment you can set your watch - or, more accurately, the game clock - to.
Last night it just so happened to be the latter. One stoppage after being bailed out by an incredible glove save from Mackenzie Blackwood....
...PK Subban had the look of the world's most expensive parking cone as his man was about as inconspicuous as a 6,000-watt motion sensor in casually gliding to the backdoor to tap home the game-winning goal...
Still, while Matt Tennyson tests the following conclusion almost every time he takes the ice, the truth is that there's not one particular person to perpetually point the finger at when it comes to the Devils' half-witted hobby of finding ways to lose.
Of course, that is probably why most fans are unconditionally pointing theirs at the man whose responsibilities are approximately 75% strategy and 25% scapegoat. I can't imagine John Hynes spends every second intermission drawing up a reverse course on what got his team the lead on a dry erase board, but an offense with more than enough talent being unable to extend it for 30-some-odd minutes against a shitty Senators' team at home is undoubtedly a reflection on him. I personally think he's a pretty good coach who'll eventually have success in the NHL, but with each passing gag you need a more powerful telescope to see that success coming behind the Devils' bench. This team probably requires group therapy and/or an exorcism to combat their late-game demons more than they require a new voice, but - with the schedule not allowing time for the former - the latter is starting to seem inevitable.
Maybe that changes if they are finally able to capitalize on the chances they have been creating. However, we're far enough into the season to believe much more strongly in their ability to defy odds in disastrous fashion than their stats' ability to regress to a much more merciful mean. Therefore, I'd strongly advise double-bagging whatever this team has you barfing into as their season trends disgustingly close towards something that could realistically be titled 'Final Destination 3: 1st Overall Pick'.
Ilya Kovalchuk is Reportedly Being Released From the Los Angeles Kings a Day After They Deemed Him an Indefinite Healthy Scratch
Oh, no. What a shame. If only someone could have predicted such a fall from grace by a player whose game was heavily reliant on his skill, speed, and athleticism covering for his occasional lack of effort before he spend five years (including the remainder of his prime) aging up and beating down on overmatched opponents overseas. Maybe that would have saved the Los Angeles Kings from going full-AARP on an already elderly roster by weighing down someone whose sole motivation is money by dumping nearly 19 million unconditional dollars into their lap.
In all seriousness, nothing pains me more than to see Ilya Kovalchuk harshly humbled while the organization that "benefited" from him patiently waiting out the Devils' control over him as an asset watches the return on their investment turn red so fast that it might as well be wearing a Putin jersey. My heart truly aches for all those involved in placating to the tire-pumping of a point-producing pariah, as it is almost beyond comprehension that giving a no movement clause to a known mercenary proved so poetically unjust. Truly and deeply just tragic that the underlying numbers of a 36-year-old, puck-dominant defensive liability made him virtually unplayable in a slow, suppressive system during an era in which we actually pay close attention to those sorts of things.
While I do appreciate the humor in the Kings making it clear that he is still allowed to practice, as if that empty gesture didn't immediately make him homesick, I must offer thoughts and prayers to all grief-stricken parties in this time of mourning the slow, expensive death of a (35+) contract as shameful as the person who signed it is shameless.
Here's a Headline That's Months in the Making: The Clock is Ticking on Taylor Hall's Time in New Jersey as an In-Season Extension Appears Less Likely
Ya know, I was really hoping the stockings would at least be hung by the chimney with care before we were thrown into an inevitable and fatalistic conversation so nauseatingly cyclical that it'll make Devils' fans wish they were instead stuck on a Tilt-a-Whirl while battling pneumonia until the trade deadline. A rough start made it all the more likely that the Taylor Hall trade winds would be quick to blow, but rebounding from said start isn't going to be made any easier by having the rumor mill rigorously rotate around the most impactful player on a ripening roster.
The truth is that no one not intricately involved in the negotiations really knows the truth, because I'm not even sure that the impending free agent in question knows the whole truth at this point. Regardless of the source being more reliable than most, "I think the Devils now know..." is as convenient a qualifier as "It might be the liquor talking...", especially considering the attention-driven platform from which it was all-too-absolutely hear-said.
Of course, what followed wasn't a remotely outlandish assessment. There are a growing number of reasons why a recent league MVP who has sniffed playoff hockey once throughout a professional career that's now going on a decade might want to exercise his right to test his worth to true Cup contenders on the open market. However, if that is indeed as open-and-shut a case as it's being portrayed then there really is no difficult decision to be made.
The Devils quite obviously shouldn't be pushing Taylor Hall out the door, but Ray Shero is far too intelligent to be afraid of letting it hit his best player in the ass(et) if he's already decided his fate lies in free agency. The postseason is still a potential possibility, but with this team - as currently constructed - posing no real threat in it regardless, there should be less consideration given to riding the 9 train to it's bitter, barren end than there is given to letting Miles Wood babysit your children in a house full of expensive China. As much as I wholeheartedly appreciate what Taylor Hall accomplished in dragging the ass of a largely unworthy Devils' team - in a way no other player in a highly successful franchise's history ever has - to a playoff spot two seasons ago, the organization's future is no longer tied by the testicles to his timeline.
That doesn't mean I wouldn't gladly celebrate him signing an 8-year, 84-million dollar extension tomorrow. After all, as a fan who inherently prefers the immediate satisfaction provided by the long-term retention of a star, it is not like it is my cap eventually being crunched by a somewhat shortsighted risk. It does, however, mean that the draft pick, high-end prospect, and flexibility they'd more than likely receive in return for his services might make more sense as complimentary pieces alongside two barely-legal cornerstone centers than a soon-to-be 28-year-old winger with an injury history that is eerily similar to that of another #9 that shall remain nameless.
Aside from bellyaching about boo birds while getting up to speed, Taylor Hall has remained quite far from being anywhere close to the problem right now. The thing is, for approximately 11 million dollars a year, he would damn near need to be the type of cure-all solution he was in 2017-2018. He should definitely want to be paid like him but we have yet to see that same level of player this season, so while it would be the depressing end of a short and polarizing era, Taylor Hall deciding he doesn't want to be in New Jersey for the foreseeable future wouldn't be the end of the world.
Simply put, you can piece together a legitimate argument that, as talented as he is, Taylor Hall won't be worth whatever overpayment the Devils are undoubtedly offering him sooner rather than later. I'm sure most would consider said argument to be an emotional hedge made as a way to combat the psychosis caused by the clock ticking louder and louder towards the harsh reality of an outright rejection. Hell, they'd almost certainly be right...but that doesn't necessarily mean you'd be wrong in thinking that New Jersey might actually be dodging a bullet in pulling the trigger on a trade aimed at building around the prime of their 1st overall picks as opposed to shooting themselves in the foot by waiting to be left at the alter with nothing more than dick in hand.
The Devils Filled Another Glaring Hole in Their Suddenly Respectable Resume by Gutting Out a Shootout Win
I'm not going to lie, it feels good. Not just this sudden feeling of respectability, but rather coming away from an overtime game with something to harp on other than how moronic the NHL is for continuing to roll out an overdone gimmick that is 100x less exciting and 1,000x less in line with the sanctity of the sport than the extra session that precedes it.
That's not just my bias as a Devils' fan (that's watched too many uber-talented players deke the goalie out of position and the puck harmlessly into the corner) talking. After all, the only time this team's eyes are collectively made wider with confusion and panic than they are during a breakaway contest is, ironically enough, when the ice is their oyster. The Devils look as overwhelmed as a bunch of stoned teenagers scouring a 12-chapter novel of a diner menu when granted the gift of autonomy and options of 3-on-3 hockey, and just about every opponent has been quick to fill the role of pissed-off night manager as opposed to overly patient waitress. If not for MacKenzie Blackwood, that would be the prevailing storyline from last night, so credit to the goaltending for providing what's been their rare primary assist in achieving the goal of gutting out a tightly contested game.
The truth is that the feeling of dread that's been accompanying each and every third period lead could only be overtaken by the feeling of dread accompanying the clock striking zero with the score tied. Exorcising both demons that haunted their nightmarish start to the season, in back-to-back games, dumped a generous amount of holy water on the burning, "oh god, not this shit again" sensation that had the fans feeling as fatalistic as the team looked. I hardly think that finding a way for the Goose to make a contribution that was positive in nature, as opposed to fecal in nature, is going to be the catalyst for them turning a 180 after regulation. Still, it simply has to add to the confidence they've largely lacked after otherwise impressive 60-minute efforts.
Speaking of 60-minute efforts, last night wasn't their most awe-inspiring, but it was the type that is often necessary to pick up two points on the road. Aside from Blake Coleman throwing a behind-the-back pass from right outside his blue line, as if he just arrived to a season that appeared sunk by such stupidity, and Matt Tennyson filling the annual role of third-pairing punching bag a little too perfectly, the self-sabotage continued to be greatly diminished. The comfort provided by chemistry now consistently has the team...well...actually appearing to be one. It's no coincidence that that has allowed for everyone's favorite unproven to adapt to something other than complete chaos while maintaining the active roster's delicate balance of at least one token Jesper at all times...
That win over Winnipeg is obviously far cry from the type to be replayed on MSG during the offseason, but it is the type that good teams typically win and bad teams typically don't. That's not to say that the Devils are one or the other right now, but they've started what easily could have been a confidence-crushing road trip by exhibiting more far more positive signs than negative. If they can continue to get competent goaltending behind them then there are hardly any recent reasons to believe there aren't still better things in front of them.
With Taylor Hall getting into a groove, Nico Hischier looking seven million dollars worth of dynamic, Miles Wood having Wayne Simmonds help pen the prologue to his redemption story, and the defense looking entirely unfamiliar in its downright decisiveness, the Devils are starting to fill the gapping holes in a resume that was short quite a few qualifiers and requirements as of less than a week ago. Whether they can continue to find ways to get the job done on the road remains to be seen, but they have - at the very least - proven themselves capable of consideration while making their head coach's job security a topic for only the idiotic.
Drew Doughty Offered the Maple Leafs Advice on Playing Championship-Level Hockey, Which is Kinda Idiotic But I'll Allow It
First and foremost, I don't like Drew Doughty. Somehow, even if you consider his rape allegation to be inadmissible evidence, him having the look of something that even the proverbial cat would be too principled to drag in while harboring a demonstrably disgruntled point of view towards just about everybody makes him seem like a bit of a douchebag. Long story short, an apologist for any of his idiocy I am not.
That said, while I care for his opinion of what's been a mediocre Maple Leafs' team about as much as I care to watch his anchor of a contract rapidly rust while sinking with the old, broken-down dinghy of the Kings' roster it is attached to until it rests alongside the Titanic, I do respect his right to offer it.
"To the victor goes the spoils" might typically be a saying reserved for those that have...well...actually won something recently, but - in my opinion - hoisting the Cup puts you in the type of rarefied air from which you can eternally look down and snobbishly scream superficial suggestions to struggling hikers. After all, what fun is "walking together forever" if you can't offer vague and condescending cliches to those that are still learning to crawl? If you run your way through the entirety of the unforgiving marathon gauntlet that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, never mind doing so twice, then you should feel more than free to glorify that accomplishment more smugly than someone who once ripped through the ribbon after 26.2 miles. Doing so, without any real reason to, isn't going to ingratiate you to any of your prospering peers that are currently performing at a higher level, but I think we can all agree that that ship took sail long before Drew Doughty took it upon himself to coach an out-of-conference opponent through the most parasitic of media.
While still being a good defenseman, Drew Doughty hardly remains a chancellor of championship hockey (See: his team's spot in the standings). He does, however, have his name engraved on the ultimate prize for reaching the pinnacle of the sport on multiple occasions. Therefore, if he wants to babble on about blocking shots and displaying leadership as if those are things he still bothers to do during the cash-checking phase of his career then he can be my guest...of honor at the shit-talking symposium for people subtly punching up at aspiring contenders.
The Devils Cracked Down in Carolina and Finally Offered an Opportunity to Praise Their Improved Process
Lord willing, this will be the very last time I have to say so much as a boo about anyone saying boo. The Devils' fanbase collectively feeling an alleviation of anxiety that'd make you think Xanax bars were Friday's postgame giveaway after a torturously tormented team finally held tightly to a third period lead on Saturday is proof positive that bringing conclusive cheers was always the only way to put an end to jeers. I'm somewhat shocked that Taylor Hall didn't already know that fans are overly emotional and largely fickle brats, but hopefully this sudden wave of positivity starts to wash away both the negative energy of their own building as well as the stink of a storyline that makes just about everyone in it look bad.
Now, before I continue, you can go ahead and knock on Miles of Wood, because the very same New Jersey team that felt like they were set to fully source their supporters seasonal affective disorder in losing both a late lead and a shootout on Friday night was playing at a 109-point pace over the last six games by Saturday night. That's quite obviously a cherry-picked sample, but it's the exact same size of the one that got John Hynes' face photoshopped into clown makeup and pinned over every dart board currently residing in a Devils' themed man cave.
The undeniable truth of the matter is that the Devils are playing far, far more cohesive hockey as of late. All it took was an impressive road win over one of most well-structured opponents in the NHL to be able to look past the cruel and unusual circumstances of leads lost and focus on what's been a significantly more sufferable style of play...
The goaltending is still a massive concern, as recently (and desperately) acquired Louis Domingue would have to sprout about six more legs to be considered the savior to a problematic position group, but there's more going right than there is going wrong at the moment. Considering a season-opening stretch during which they looked doomed to be a doormat, that's a trend that everyone whose semi-unrealistic expectations were immediately humbled will gladly take.
Once a head coach gets labeled a know-nothing nincompoop by the fanbase it becomes a scarlet letter that not even a 10-game winning streak could completely scrub free, so I hardly think we're merely a couple thousand pacifiers and/or free nipples away from silencing the cries for John Hynes' job. That said, outside of some questionable line-up decisions and dumbfounding deployment, he's been better at it (with the help of Tom Fitzgerald) as he's gotten increasingly acquainted with a revamped roster. Much like the improved performances of his players, it's just far easier to both notice and appreciate when a winning formula actually produces a victorious bottomline...
Now, despite Nico Hischier starting to look like the type of developing talent that can make a $50+ million dollar contract seem like a steal before it even starts (as evidenced by him calling Jacob Slavin's jockstrap an UberX and sending it straight across state lines)...
...and Jack Hughes looking more and more like a man (the operative word) on a mission since being tasked with top line duties...
...the Devils still have a lot of work to do to crawl out of the hole of their own digging.
That said, we're starting to see a consistency to their cardio as they've managed to maintain the lead in their run of play regardless of whether or not they've failed to do so on the scoreboard. It was just one game, but it's one that highlighted what they are capable as opposed to undercutting any optimism by rendering what they are capable of a footnote to a seemingly fatalistic final score. We'll see if their road woes and third period problems resurface in Western Canada, but - in the building of a team that gave them fits before it was a contender - the Devils gave us an untainted look at what they could be going forward...without the deafening distraction of defeat.
When asked about the celebration, Hall laughed, saying there wasn’t any ill will behind it.
“I thought I heard, I thought I was getting booed in the second period there,” Hall said. “So just making light of that fact.” (h/t NJ.com)
And onward we go. Episode two of a show of stupidity that no professional athlete should ever want to find himself starring in the pilot of, never mind going out of his way in actively attempting to get it picked up for further (counter) production.
To be very clear, under exactly one condition, I took ZERO issue with Taylor Hall capping off a third period, go-ahead goal on an impressive end-to-end effort by making light of #BooGate and the fans' doomed demeanor with a little celebratory mockery...
Unfortunately, that one condition was not met as the Devils found yet another way to blow a late lead at home and lose in front of a crowd that wasn't nearly as vocal in its criticism as it could, and probably should, have been after being called out for articulating its well-earned anger on Wednesday.
To be fair, I understand that the team is playing much, much better as of late and has recently been sunk by bad bounces and worse goaltending...
I also understand (all too well, I might add) that, very conservatively speaking, a quarter of the people that attend Devils' games don't have an intricate understanding of the sport outside of the score. I also understand that the rest of us poor bastards have already grown exhausted of praising an improved process, that's merely cleared a bar low enough to serve someone who has drank themselves off-the-stool unconscious in defeat, as it has continued to lead to a repetitively unrewarding result.
Judging by my eardrums, whatever boos that Taylor Hall took oddly personal offense to last night were a predominantly a product of the voices in his own head, which is a whole different issue entirely. However, lets for one second say that they weren't...
As these down-to-the-wire games have somehow defied the odds of a coin flip, wouldn't it make more sense to pay full attention to detail as opposed to paying any attention whatsoever to every gaff-induced grunt and groan? I don't know, but having already helped completely waste four much more comfortable third period leads on home ice prior to last night, wouldn't it have made sense to worry a bit more about actually maintaining one than taking a laughably premature jab at fans who had laid woeful witness to all of two wins in ten (and now 11) games?
The fact of the matter is that Taylor Hall could gave quickly untied his skates, trudged up to my seats, spit on my shoe, and shoved his sweaty sock in my mouth as his celebration for scoring that goal last night. So long as it was eventually part of the Devils picking up two points, I'd be sitting here singing his praises loudly enough to drowned out the Neanderthalic jeers of the half-wit he mistook me for.
The lesson to be learned from that absurdly hyperbolic hypothetical is as follows. If the New Jersey Devils reach a point in which fan frustration is anywhere near the top of their growing list of concerns then, not-so-ironically, there will be no frustration amongst the fans. Cause-and-effect, it is about as novel a concept as winning curing all.
The Devils Managed to Blow yet Another Multi-Goal Lead, and Taylor Hall Somehow Committed a Cardinal Sin Worse Than His Blind Behind-The-Back Pass
Oh no. Just, no. Hallsy...baby...what is you doing? Honestly, the only way a Taylor could actively tank their approval rating amongst their own immature consumer base as badly as this would be if T-Swift entered a loving relationship with the intent of actually staying in it, as opposed to turning the premeditated breakup into promo for the next 'Bad Blood'.
As someone who bounces back and forth between being a silent self-loather and a maniacal mutterer while filling the thankless and unpaid position of Assistant Coach in Attendance, you won't hear these vocals joining a chorus of boos anytime soon. I personally find such an insanely unoriginal act to be the criticism of a caveman, but that's neither here nor there.
The fact is that I do sympathize with the sentiment, so I can speak for all the infuriated fans out there in saying that an understandably hot-headed home crowd is much like a hangry pregnant woman. More or less telling them to "calm down", no matter how harmless the intent, is just about the only thing that could kick a proverbial leg out from under what is, at best, a wobbly chair of emotional instability.
As a person, I appreciate the honesty and humanity in Taylor Hall openly expressing his distressed displeasure in feeling like we've reached a point in which every little mistake will end with him and his teammates feeling exiled on their own ice. As a fan, who has had every ounce of preseason optimism, joy, and excitement knocked out of me by the unrelenting gut punch of multi-goal leads quickly turning into inexplicable losses, I offer him a simple piece of advice that Cory Schneider apparently could have used last night...just fucking save it...
I don't know that there is ever a "good" time to criticize the fickle frustration of the fans, as the one thing that is typically true about boos is that they are, shockingly, a product of the overall performance of the people they are directed at. A prime example of the worst time, however, is on the heels of yet another gut-wrenching home loss that was the direct result of yet another blown lead.
It was Taylor Hall's blind behind-the-back pass, which was made so long after it was actually open that you'd think the button on his soon-to-be-thrown controller got stuck, that gave Tampa Bay the possession that they eventually put off him and into his own net to tie the game at five. In a lot of ways, it was a pee-wee-level play that was depressingly symbolic of how creative they've been in creating their own bad luck. As a partially self-appointed leader, whose struggles have been far from mutually exclusive to those of his team, there may have been no better time for a little self-aware silence than last night. The impending free agent of the elephant in the room asked for the expectations that Ray Shero so gracefully provided throughout a busy offseason. He's since been complicit in turning them into a self-deprecating punchline, so - anatomically speaking - it's a far less painful endeavor to bite your tongue as opposed to putting your foot to the back of your throat.
Like, at least try to read an irate room better than you read the defense. You'd need more asterisks than the MLB record book to say aloud the explicit content echoed throughout the Prudential Center last night aloud in front of a room full of children, so an intricate, mind-mannered conversation was not something the crowd collectively felt ready to get roped into. This seems almost too obvious to even type. You cannot, under any circumstances, follow up a "victory" that was nauseatingly moral in nature with an overly nuanced appraisal of those who definitely aren't referring to a super-select powerplay percentage or that particular evening's advanced analytics when giving voice to ten largely cataclysmic games' worth of grievances.
This isn't some secret, most fans don't give the crustiest of crap about incremental improvements (no matter how big those increments may be) if they aren't accompanied by the result that gets you hired and/or fired in professional sports. Sure, the Devils - sans both their #1 defenseman and their goaltender (that, to their credit, accepted full blame) - played their second straight good game in which they were decisively the better team...
Considering they spent the first period looking as though they were passing with one eye open, managed to repeatedly leave Steven Stamkos streaking down the wing in transition with so much room that they might as well have gone ahead and offered him board, and - in a way that's metaphorically fitting - didn't...ahem...pick up the other point in letting Jan Rutta load and unload a puck that cut their recently extended lead to one, I certainly wouldn't say they played an amazing game. Point being, they hardly put themselves in any position to add to their opposition in addressing the inherently irrational idiots (myself included) that have gotten a sickeningly familiar piss poor return on what was shamelessly marketed as a much safer investment.
Again, I don't think Taylor Hall's actual words - that admittedly seem exponentially more moronic when read through eyes as red as the hundreds upon hundreds of #9 jerseys in the arena - were anywhere near as wrong as his timing. To put it simply, if you want to find a way to make this nightmarish start about anyone outside of that locker room then fine. Just please, for the love of Jesus fucking Christ, toughen up, tune out the noise, and find a way to win a goddamn game that you lead by two with under twenty minutes left first.
The Goose's Wings Have Finally Been Clipped: Nikita Gusev Will Watch Wednesday's Game Alongside Patrik Elias as a Healthy Scratch
He did it. He actually did it. In drawing the ire of a good portion of a fanbase that is (somewhat understandably) more concerned with spewing obscenities in the direction of the head coach than thinking critically about a single decision he makes, John Hynes finally took the oddly partial 'Handle With Care' label off a player whose play has been careless at best and panicked at worst.
Personally, I find myself flabbergasted by the backlash, even if it is being buoyed by the bias most have towards the bald dude behind the bench. It almost makes me believe that Damien Brunner was merely a catchy nickname away from his jersey sales taking flight, because the Goose's on-ice flight path has been about as "stable" as the marble-minded obsession that some have with the fact that he's scored a few times.
To be clear, I'm hardly "out" on a supremely talented player who is obviously adjusting to a new style of play in a rink much smaller than the one he's grown accustomed to. I still think there is a ton of potential to be realized pending his transition to NHL ice - that shouldn't be considered so time-sensitive, mind you - becoming less choppy than his skating and more clear than his understanding of the English language.
That said, if Nikita Gusev is currently passing anyone's eye-test than I have no choice but to believe their vision is more blinded by unconditional lust than the heart-eyes emoji. Put aside advanced analytics that read as follows while the Goose continues to lay eggs on both sides of the ice...
Literally the only stat that supports him playing on a nightly basis is goals. Two of those were put on a tee for him by the player whose spot he's been taking in the lineup (Bratt) and the other, while crafty, was the direct result of dumb luck as Panarin broke his stick on an attempted clear. With a Tampa team coming to town that made the Devils look like chickens with their heads cut off on multiple occasions last season, the last thing a team that struggles in its own end can afford to have in their Top-9 is an even more bewildered bird.
Simply put, this isn't Hynes finding another creative way to ride the "hot hand" of John Hayden (::insert eye-roll::). It's him giving an overwhelmed and turnover-prone player a chance to pick the brain of one of the brightest hockey minds in franchise history by watching a game through the all-seeing eyes of someone who spent two decades cultivating the perfect combination of skills and smarts at both ends of the ice...
Perching Goose alongside the friendly face and multi-cultural understanding of Patrik Elias, whose jersey rests eternally in the rafters, isn't just a a resourceful attempt to repair his game. It's also one that it approximately 1,000% better for his development than continuing to be babied up and down a lineup that's hardly been able to wipe its own ass defensively. The Jespers can't be the only offensive-minded, middle-six players who are held accountable for their mistakes and forced to learn from a luxury suite, especially since their mistakes haven't had near the cringeworthy look of a bird flying aimlessly in circles with a wounded wing.
During the Most Solid 60 Minutes They Have Played This Season, The Devils Still Managed to Find a Minute or Two to Make Themselves Easy Prey for the Coyotes
The good news is that Devils put forth their best overall performance of a young season, that has its target audience feeling more doomed than the team's line combinations, against a Coyotes' team whose (even) strength seemed so destined to expose their defensive zone weakness that its failure to do so may have put the reputation of advanced analytics on short-term IR. The first overall pick didn't just make good on a first line role. Jack Hughes shined like a star, as opposed to looking like he was seeing stars, in force-feeding a foot to every idiot that considered a 6-game sample size - during which the teenager's play incrementally improved despite his production failing to follow suit - to be a permanent black mark against his "manhood"...
You'd think that collecting the lion's share of the shots in demonstrably dominating the run of play, in part due to the unreal efforts of someone who is still at least one growth spurt away from requiring a razor replacement, that the bad news would begin and end with the length of the beer lines.
Unfortunately, the bad news is that all the good news didn't mean jack shit, as a team who self-sabotages more efficiently than a drunk double-texter after a first date managed to make lemons into lemonade...only to immediately dump it down their shirt while taking the first sip. The Devils, as has already served as a nauseatingly familiar plot to many a soul-draining defeats, watched multiple leads, including a multiple goal lead, evaporate with the ease in which a half-full glass becomes half-empty, and untimely turnovers "helped" to defy the physics of what was decidedly tilted ice.
Now look, I'm just as baffled as everyone else in John Hynes being the 'Jill' to John Hayden's 'Jack' in dying on the hill with a fringe fourth liner. I can't even begin to comprehend how Nikita Gusev earned a promotion despite maintaining an apple-per-turnover ratio that would make a baker swear off gluten. Especially since the more accomplished NHL player (Jesper Bratt), who hand-fed him two goals of the three goals that seemingly make up the entirety of his weak argument for an increased opportunity, serves time sitting in a luxury suite for his offensive and defensive sins. The Jespers being granted not a single reprieve, while the Goose uses his (apparently unconditional) spot in the lineup to fly blindly throughly the neutral zone multiple times a game reeks of the type of double standard that tears at the inherent fabric of a team's chemistry. Point being, Hynes is anything remotely close to innocent in this early season ordeal.
That being said, if you wanted an example of a loss that strongly supported Ray Shero's unmistakable message stating that the all-world athletes that need to hold themselves more accountable, above all else, then look no further than the fuckery that took place Friday. The sacrosanct "system" has been under siege from all corners of an understandably fed-up fanbase, and rightfully so....
However, there is not a single system in any walk of life, never mind just sports, that is entirely immune to the type of situational stupidity that undercut the Devils' otherwise encouraging effort against Arizona...
The fact of the matter is that being made more clumsy by the presence of a blueline than by your first sexual experience isn't in the blueprint. Lacking focus in fleeing the ice early keeps coaches awake at night, but it's not because they see dawn while drawing up easy exit strategies for professionals that can't process the flow of play. MacKenzie Blackwood certainly didn't help matters in failing to fall ass-backwards into a big save, but it was the players in front of him that ensured the opponent quality over quantity in pissing away their hard work by making that of the Coyotes all-too-easy.
Truthfully, it feels counterintuitive to say the following about a team whose scheme already seems brutally basic. Still, the Devils have to cleanse themselves of counter-productivity in getting far, far better at the basics that were learned long prior to entering the highest level of hockey before it makes any sense whatsoever to blame the coach, no matter how jumbled his judgement.
For at least one game, it was the "system" - that is undoubtedly more scrutinized than it is understood - that helped them push the Coyotes back on their heels. It's the fatal and fundamental fuck-ups in executing said system, however, that had them spoiling Jack Hughes coming out party by getting knocked off their toes in falling even deeper into a grave that's as much a product of their own digging as it anything designed on the drawing board.
The Devil is quite obviously in a lot of depressing details when it comes to the issues that have turned New Jersey from everyone's favorite preseason "dark horse" to something more fit for the glue factory than a playoff race. That said, I'm all for the delightful distractions they have offered a fanbase that was one more multi-goal collapse from a crisis center in keeping its composure about as well as...well...
Simply put, sandwiching a ridiculously reasonable and relatively unexpected Nico Hischier extension (that will make a lot of devout box score believers sound stupid sooner rather than later) in between a win over the rival Rangers and a first-career-turned-game-winning goal from Jack Hughes in the 'Battle of the Brothers' is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to helping the Prudential Center collectively avoid a panic attack...
Time will tell whether it was a product of them slowly coming together as a team or if the timing was just right in them clicking on the safety and putting down the proverbial gun before shooting themselves in the foot for the umpteenth time, but a couple steps in the right direction is much better than chasing their tail without direction. The harsh truth is that this young and, to this point, dumb team is still hundreds of yards away from being out of the woods, but at least they are no longer surrounded by a forest fire of their own sparking. John Hynes' seat isn't nearly as cool as an unused toilet seat, especially with him appearing to harbor an inexplicable prejudice towards all things Jesper, but at least it's no longer singeing his ass hairs. The Devils play in their own zone is still trash, but at least that garbage is no longer piping hot from the blaze of the dumpster it was residing in.
The last/first two victories are made to look far better by the inexcusable losses that accompany them on the Devils' minimum wage-worthy resume. Still, finding a way to win was marked improvement, even if that "way" was holding onto their butts so as not crap themselves before being bailed out by a hot goaltender in MacKenzie Blackwood. Mix in a long term commitment from someone who has all the makings of a happy and humble franchise cornerstone and you have a bye week that feels almost as much like an early vacation as it does a late vaccination.
The general tone surrounding this franchise could easily change as soon as tomorrow night. A Coyotes' team that has been nothing short of excellent at even strength is sure to offer an unforgiving test to a group that's made 5-on-5 defense look like a passive penalty kill at best and a blind person trying to read a vision chart at worst.
Still, an extended weekend that predominantly provided this unfamiliar feeling that people apparently call pos...a...tivity(?) was a breathe of fresh air that was as desperately needed as a Devils' line change after their fifth straight failed clear. As of this moment, it's more wait-and-see than "FIRE AWAY!". However, with that provisional patience being challenged with each and every posted practice lineup, now would probably be the best time to show some more real improvement before a crowd that's waited a long time for the dawning of a new era is instead left rioting in the aftermath of a yet another implosion.
This is the closest thing they are going to get to a fresh start after the first one turned rotten faster than the banana they appeared to be repeatedly tripping over in looking like a 'Learn to Play' clinic, so they damn sure better come out looking like a cohesive hockey team. After all, there is only so many first goals to be scored and contract extensions to be signed before you're forced to turn your focus to where the real successes shows themselves. Ya know, like, in the standings.
Whether as an Average Coach or an Excellent Scapegoat, John Hynes Can't be More Than a Couple Embarrassing Efforts From the Unemployment Line
Welp, here we are. From floating on Cloud #9 to seeming depressingly destined to bid an eventual farewell to #9 while dick-deep in Shit's Creek without a paddle in sight. When an unprecedentedly promising season opened, less than two weeks ago, it was implausible that we'd be discussing John Hynes' job security like it were as weak as the one-ply the Devils' are apparently using to plug their leaky team defense prior to people purchasing their Halloween costumes. Then again, the only reason I didn't use the word 'impossible' is because that is reserved for a shockingly incompetent start that somehow has a playoff berth looking like a pipe dream with 76 whole games left to loathe, cry, or sleep through. Not even the most eternally pessimistic Devils' fan, of which there are many, would have envisioned this organization needing this quick of a courtesy flush. However, with the long overdue induction of a new era of hockey in New Jersey increasingly resembling a clogged crapper, fans almost have no choice but to have their finger on the trigger in being more than ready to send John Hynes swirling into unemployment.
Personally, I don't think that merely appearing to pick the lineups out a dunce cap warrants such a swift ousting of a head coach who has been tasked with the unforgiving job of turning a ton of new talent into a cohesive team. To say the Devils look be on the same page systemically would be like giving a 5-star review to a self-help book authored by an unmedicated schizophrenic, but I highly doubt the drawing board is chalked to the gills with new and "improved" ways in which professional athletes can blindly turn the puck over in their own zone like visually-impaired pee-wees. Many of the mistakes being routinely made at a nauseating rate are some bantam league bullshit, so pinning the entirety of the tail on the donkey behind the bench is to play the blame game at a novice level. Both the powerplay and the penalty kill, that were presumably granted a false sense of security by going up against each other all camp, are defiantly defying the laws of probability in being an obvious indictment of a team that couldn't possibly appear more ill-prepared. That, along with a defensive system that's approximately as effective as repeatedly jamming their dicks into a doorknob, certainly falls at the feet of the head coach. Every half-witted mismanagement of the puck that has enabled each and every inexcusably embarrassing effort, on the other hand, does not.
For that reason, I actually don't take issue with Ray Shero's first state of the union being a direct challenge to those most capable of and most responsible for flipping the franchise's fortunes...
As someone with a lot of respect for Tom Fitzgerald as both a talent evaluator and a hockey mind that doesn't pull any punches, I'm fine with him being brought down to ice-level to offer his insight, even if it does feel like giving a single crutch to a head coach that has no legs to stand on...
That being said, I'm "fine" in the way that a scorned woman might be "fine" because if things don't change both drastically and almost immediately then there should be hell to pay with only one person to be realistically be sacrificed in financing the fanbase's fury. If the Devils head into what could quite literally be a bye week with two more uncompetitive no-shows on a winless resume, the question shouldn't be whether or not John Hynes is the entirety of the problem. The question should be whether or not what he brings to the table as a communicator and a motivator after four predominantly dogshit seasons is worth watching a particularly important fifth one prove all-too-familiarly irrelevant as the New Jersey Devils get deservingly tabbed as Edmonton Oilers East.
Honestly, if the team continues to look like the result of a yips epidemic as a group that should probably be wearing name tags on the front of their jerseys instead of name plates on the back - as they appear to know each other about as well as a randomly selected jury - then the verdict shouldn't take too much longer to come in. There's currently no blame to be directed Ray Shero, but that will change extremely quickly if he doesn't do absolutely everything in his power to squeeze something mildly successful out of the skill he acquired over the summer. After preaching patience, annually and ad nauseam, he can't play the waiting game while the expectations he created over the offseason continue to go comically unfulfilled while a flustered fanbase loses hope faster than the Devils lose a multi-goal lead.
I've liked the cut of John Hynes' jib for quite some time and I have no idea if the solution to a contagious lack of confidence is to simply bring in a new voice to tell the players the myriad of ways in which they are setting the sport of hockey back beyond all recognition. However, if an unrecognizably in sync team doesn't soon take the ice - starting tonight against a hated divisional rival - then I see very few legitimate reasons not to say "fuck it" and find out if changing the messenger helps to clean up a complete mess that's been made by far, far more than one person.
Who Better to Punctuate This Summer's Massive Migration of Talent to the New Jersey Devils Than The Goose Himself
You know, when the celebration of this offseason title finally subsides, there should be no shortage of apologies addressed to the man that turned a bad team with money to burn into one of the NHL’s most exciting rosters in the short time it typically takes for some fans to convince themselves that they are better at his job. Honestly, I want strong consideration given to constructing a confessional booth on the Prudential Center concourse between now and opening night for preseason use by any and every idiot that slandered Ray Shero for his reluctance to commit the sins of cap-strapped teams before him by falling victim to the fool’s errand that is free agency. I don’t know about you, but the irony of him being able to give Devils’ twitter exactly who they desperately wanted - with the shrewd acquisition of the best player outside the NHL - solely because he left them to spend a season-plus screaming into an empty void of an echo chamber while obsessing over the prospect of overpaying for past performance isn’t lost on me.
As for the actual player that serves as the next chapter of what’s been a quick and complete organizational rewrite, I’m not sure there’s anything other than his nationality that’s not to love. Once you get over the entirely understandable and otherwise undying trust issues that come with New Jersey signing another offensive-minded Russian, Nikita Gusev perfectly fits the bill of what the Devils openly prioritized at the very public request of their impending free agent of an MVP...
If absolutely nothing else, he is pretty much the personification of talent. He might not be the most physically imposing or fleet of foot of talent, but the skillset of someone that compares favorably to a New York Ranger that shall remain nameless are as undeniable on the ice as they are in the analytics...
How well it’ll translate to the NHL can obviously be questioned, but its existence can not. The player that owns two KHL MVP awards and the second highest scoring season in league history has star-power potential and he’s joining a team that hardly even needs him to fully realize it as he is presumably the final, complimentary piece to a formidable Top-6. With the risk of throwing in some ‘B’ level assets in order to pay an unproven commodity nine million over two years being minimized by the fact that the Devils don’t need full financial flexibility until those seasons have elapsed, it becomes pretty hard to envision it not being easily matched by the reward of rostering a preposterous amount of puck skills.
Whether or not the Goose takes flight towards the top of a lineup that’ll cater to his creativity remains to be seen, but Ray Shero’s laser-focused vision for the long-term future of the franchise he’s built from the barest of bones is not. Championship contention isn’t exactly around the corner, but it’s a hell of a lot closer than it was in April. That’s due in large part to the possibilities that patience provides, and those possibilities appear damn near endless with the Devils renovating their roster by adding Jack Hughes, P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Ty Smith, Nikita Gusev, and potentially Jesper Boqvist to a flock that’ll look almost unrecognizable for all the right reasons.
We Might Never Again See an NHL Offer Sheet With How Badly The Hurricanes Bodybagged the Canadiens and Their Attempt to Sign Away Sebastian Aho
And that, my friends, concludes your two day emasculation of a once-proud, long-storied franchise that might have the most wins in NHL history but couldn't save themselves from taking one of the most monumental L's. I was half kidding about never seeing another offer sheet throughout a league that has stigmatized them in such a way that the signing of one is comparable to the targeted spreading of an STD. However, I'm probably not far off with how savagely the "bunch of jerks" running a small market team in the South are do-si-doing atop the occupied cap space of an Original Six organization.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. Marc Bergevin looks like a complete buffoon, as he presumably got duped by an agent into doing Don Waddell's job for him in inking a point-per-game centerman in Sebastian Aho to a ridiculously reasonable deal to stay in Carolina for the next five years. There's dumb, and then there is insulting your own intelligence. Which category do you think front-loading a contract in an attempt to price-out an owner that, without so much as a second thought, sunk $70 million into the fool's errand that is trying to contend with the NFL falls under? I'll give you a hint, it's the one that allows the entirety of the Carolina Hurricanes' front office to publicly bend you over their knee and mix in abject mockery between metaphorical spanks with the wooden spoon while your negotiation tactics get laughed out of the room louder than Dr. Evil's.
A team that is no stranger to being the butt of the joke is basically sitting on the head of a legendary franchise like the Montreal Canadiens and belly laughing while bullying them without even having to lift a finger until Monday. Knowing how tight-assed NHL GM's are when it comes to the attempted robbery of restricted free agents, I can't imagine such a relentless roasting does anything to make them unclench any time soon. Though, I suppose the easy way to avoid being victimized by a similar spectacle would be to spend two seconds on a Google search of a team owner's net worth or six seconds scanning their salary cap situation before finalizing something as intricate as an offer sheet.
In What Will Surely Serve as a Stick to the Craw of Flyers' Fans, The Devils Have Signed Wayne Simmonds to a One-Year Deal
Please welcome all the impatient Devils' fans that spent all of last offseason (and, unbelievably enough, the last couple of hours of this offseason) incessantly whining for Ray Shero to go blind to his future budget for the temporary thrill of overspending to the wonderful world of free agency! It's a highly stressful place where your options are either obnoxiously expensive, entirely over-the-hill, or all of the above. Can't believe the Devils didn't decide to vacation here sooner!!!
In all seriousness, as far as flawed players who aren't worth 5 million dollars are concerned, I actually like Wayne Simmonds fit in the Devils' lineup. So long as his role is limited one, there is very little risk associated with adding a player who adds a rare combination of talent and toughness to an undersized lineup for one season during which the continuation of his career as an impactful NHLer hangs in the balance.
If that's not convincing enough for you then go rewind last season's game tape and try to watch the Devils' 2nd powerplay unit operate for more than 45 seconds without being brought to the saltiest of tears. If absolutely nothing else, Wayne Simmonds gives them endless options with the extra man as the type of net-front, pain-in-the-ass presence that actually has puck skills.
Now, I can't say I love inserting an old and slow defensive liability into a lineup that has young players who better fit the team's collective style banging on its door. For example, if Wayne Simmonds is what gets an NHL-ready Jesper Boqvist sent back to Sweden for another season then I'll lose my shit. I have an extremely hard time believing that's a legitimate possibility at this point in their rebuild, but it's one of the very few concerns I have about adding a player that brings attributes that the Devils don't otherwise have.
All in all, the reward might be limited to a 15-20 goal prick of a powerplay specialist who plays sparingly at even strength in the bottom-six. However, the risk is next to nothing for a team that's got a pretty populated nest to protect and could easily afford to sign a burning pile of money to a ten million dollar deal so long as the fire extinguished after this season.
Plus, can you really put a price that can be measured in AAV on the Flyers signing Kurtis Gabriel within the same 60-minute span as their fans finding out that one of their most beloved shit-stirrers took his tenacity up the Turnpike?
If you recall, the last we saw PK Subban he was really struggling to make ends meet in trying to dress properly for a celebration of new beginnings...
Well, the Devils lent him a helping hand to make sure he made David Puddy proud by, ya know, supporting the team, and I got to be honest folks...not even sitting cross-legged on a hardwood floor can rid me of this paranoid feeling that I am about to have the rug pulled out from under me. I don't know what feels more like a photoshop, seeing the provocative PK Subban in red and black after all these years or just seeing literally any legitimate #1 number defenseman in red and black after all these years. Whatever the case may be, if my eyes don't deceive me then my mind does, as it has yet to fully process that one the most electrifying talents in the NHL is going to be calling New Jersey's blue line home.
I'm assuming I won't have the opportunity to sneak my way onto the ice to gently caress the face of #76 in making a proactive pitch for it sink in that such a special specimen can actually still exist on the Devils' backend, as if my brain convinced itself that the concept of a first-pairing defenseman was deceased within the organization or something. Therefore, I think I'm going to need someone to pinch me or punch me prior to October. The days of Scott Niedermayer effortlessly wheelin' around Continental Airlines Arena were far too long ago for me not to feel like I just caught a glimpse of a fresh spring off in the distance while crawling dehydrated through the desert. Like, are we entirely sure that Lou Lamoriello didn't body-snatch Ray Shero and is just waiting to unveil that the whole trade was a hoax as revenge for letting Nico Hischier wear #13? Past his prime or not, I'm still wary that the visual of PK Subban flashing his 1,000 watt smile from under a Devils' helmet is a long con, as I've become astonishingly accustomed to New Jersey's defense being an complete joke.
The Devils' Twitter Fired the Initial Shot of the Hughes/Kakko Era, and It Was a Pretty Damn Good One
The truth of the matter is that the New Jersey Devils have far too much going right for them as a franchise that, after one turn of a clock, now boasts endless intrigue for me to be all that concerned with what's currently burning in James Dolan's dumpster fire.
That said, with the schedule having just been released, a rivalry having just been reinvigorated, and a Finnish freak having just been sentenced to a commercial flight into a public airport where an awkward and embarrassing display of fandom awaited, the time was definitely right for Devils' twitter to strike...
Rangers' fans can claim that rare objectively funny pun is proof of the Devils never letting their biggest rival out of their head, as they are too uncreative to think up a more clever retort to 'The Rock' being entirely unwelcoming of the NHL Draft's runner-up come October. However, with their own team's account having deleted their despondent draft pick's hilarious hostage video, I'm not sure they have much room to point out the insecurities of others at the moment...
Fact is, in the form of PK Subban, this past weekend's biggest splash was made on the New Jersey side of a Hudson River that now separates two teams that have made significant steps forward. That, of course, says next to nothing about the outcome of the blood feud that will play out on the ice over the next decade, but as far as the oh-so-important internet is concerned? Big brother is, for the time being, getting noogie'd to hell and back by a first class organization that is suddenly looking about as endearing to the casual fan as one Jack Hughes.
Realistically, when you consider Ray Shero's unspoken affinity for American-born players and John Hynes' history in coaching them, it's pretty easy to envision the Devils' scouting staff keeping a keen eye on Patrick Moynihan regardless of his former teammate's understandably biased thoughts on how he projects as a pro.
That said, with New Jersey welcoming both Jack Hughes and PK Subban in a window so small that it barely offered Devils' fans an opportunity to breath, the world we live in is now surreal. Therefore, I'm all for taking some liberties with the truth and letting myself believe that the most electric prospect in franchise history was doing amateur scouting on behalf of the organization before he had even become a part of it.
Hell, at the very least, he was cocksure enough in his own draft standing to use his first question to the team with which he saw himself spending his foreseeable future as a chance to talk up another prospect. I can only speak for myself, I suppose, but there are certainly on-ice opinions I'd value less than the one belonging to a player I had my sights set on selecting first overall. Especially when he drags his balls all over the ground he eventually left the room on in going entirely out of his way to correct me in making such a convincing case for someone other than himself.
The truth is that Patrick Moynihan was probably pretty close to the next man up on the Devils' draft board at Pick #158 with or without the prior input from Pick #1, but how can you not let yourself believe in the lore of a white lie when the last 72 hours feel like a fairy tale of a fantasy anyway?
I shouldn't be as shocked as I am. Perhaps that's a feeling that comes naturally with an unprecedented and expedited influx of skill, creativity, personality, swag, and charisma (never mind high jersey numbers) into a lineup that might well have left Lou Lamoriello in need of a Xanax and a 1995 Stanley Cup Championship VHS. However, the moves, as impactful as they'll presumably be to the present and the future of the organization that almost immediately went from one appearance on national television last season to being one of the most intriguing teams in the entire league next season, aren't anything we shouldn't have seen coming.
I was skeptical that the most dispiriting price tag on a formidable first-pairing defenseman wouldn't be the one that was preceded by a dollar sign, but leave it to Ray Shero to pull off a heist in doing exactly what he said he was going to do all along. That, of course, being the use of a little luck, a lot of patience, and some maniacal cap management to push the Devils into contention at the perfect time. With Taylor Hall stopping just one step short of begging for a real reason to make New Jersey the place where he can attempt to do some all-too-elusive winning, that perfect time wasn't any one of countless times fickle fans bitched for Ray Shero to majorly overpay in making a minor move for the sake of making a move. Rather, it was the 24 hour window in which the franchise was given the type of facelift that leaves you in complete disbelief of what your suddenly seeing in the mirror.
Regardless of what happened at the World Championships, Jack Hughes was basically an inevitable addition. The Devils now have the type of one-two punch down the middle that's knocked out no shortage of playoff opponents throughout recent Cup runs. Perhaps just as importantly, that second punch is one that is liable to completely take your breathe away as quite easily the most dynamic offensive prospect the franchise has ever gotten their hands on at a time when dynamism is at an absolute premium throughout the NHL. It might not be from Day 1, as the kid could definitely benefit from sprouting a few more ass hairs, so to speak, but Jack Hughes was born to be a game-changer.
In that sense, it makes total sense as to why his selection is what ultimately changed the way Ray Shero was playing the high-risk game of rebuilding. Make no mistake, trading for PK Subban is a risk, as he is now past his prime and performing below his pay grade. However, it's a risk that's almost entirely mitigated by giving up a package centered around a former 7th round pick, albeit one that has developed into much more, for a player at a position of desperate need whose prime literally had him atop the conversation for best defenseman in the league. As far as I know, 90 out of 100 is still an 'A', and there are hardly any blue-liners on the Devils that could have dreamed of grading out with Scott Stevens-level scores over the last few seasons. This is a massive upgrade that makes the depth throughout the right side of the Devils' defense flat out dangerous. It might be one that's objectively overpriced, but it's one whose expiration date so conveniently coincides with those of entry level steals like Jack Hughes and Ty Smith that you'd think this was all planned out years in advance if that were even remotely possible.
Despite his seat getting hotter, mostly just amongst a petty and premature public opinion, Ray Shero repeatedly maintained that everyone should just chill before filling the two biggest holes on his roster in less than 24 hours. Admittedly, this all feels like a franchise-altering blur, but this is a picture that was outlined ad nauseam by the man that just painted a large portion of his masterpiece. It may have become harder and harder to hear him out, but if you did then you shouldn't be quite as dumbfounded by debatably the fiercest fleecer of cap-strapped teams continuing to do what he's done best in picking first overall and making a lop-sided trade for the type of talent that you usually need far more than money to buy.
I don't know about you, but I'm starting to think he may have been onto something more than serendipity in not sacrificing a long-term vision that's blindingly brighter than it has ever been for a short-term payoff of a couple more points in the standings. It was a great "day" to be New Jersey Devils' fan, which means it was also a great day to be their MVP...
To be clear, it really shouldn't be all that comforting that the General Manager of a young NHL team on the rise isn't worried about sparing the feelings of his competition in the cutthroat quest to acquire more talent. It really should be common sense that Ray Shero, or anyone else in his position, would take full advantage of every opportunity contractually afforded to him in making his team better. Unfortunately, lazy narrative or not, history speaks to that not being the case, as some sort of unspoken gentleman's agreement makes for a better explanation than anything else that might explain the continued absence of offer sheets throughout the NHL over the years.
So, while I don't know that I'd want Ray Shero to go down such an asset-expensive path in improving his roster, it is good to know that he's not the type to shy away from taking a long look down it like some of the executives that frame their cowardice as consideration. "Fuck that shit" couldn't possibly do a better job mirroring my feelings on the matter of playing nice with other negotiators, so I'm glad it came out of the filterless mouth of the man tasked with taking the New Jersey Devils to the next level by any stupidly stigmatized means necessary.
If robbing cap-strapped teams of their restricted free agents is wrong then Ray Shero clearly isn't overly worried about being right. That's exactly the type of mindset you want your primary decision maker to have when you're in the business of risk-taking, never mind one that hopefully has over-anxious Devils' fans putting a pin in their pissing and moaning, at least until we're anywhere remotely near the eye of the offseason storm.