In Utterly Embarrassing Themselves Against the Rangers, the Devils Torched Whatever Remained of John Hynes’ Seat in a Way That Should Have Ray Shero’s Ass in a Full Sweat
This season was supposed to be the dawn of a new day for the New Jersey Devils. As if the implication of the most erection-inducing offseason in franchise history wasn't enough, it was by their own admission that the time to compete was now.
So, I guess my only question is why, exactly, do they, as an organization, keep hitting the snooze button in avoiding the use of the only tried and true wake-up call as said season tosses and turns into the type of day-long nap that is symptomatic of the chronic depression that is ever-present in the Devils’ body language whenever they give up an inexcusable goal and their empty eyes whenever they try to "excuse" it in the postgame media scrum.
I was willing to give John Hynes a longer leash than most as he got comfortable with a roster that was given the type of makeover that makes the ass on an Instagram model seem unaltered. That, of course, is not saying all that much since his new and “improved” team forced the finger to the trigger for his firing before the fucking leaves even totally turned. Still, I can't imagine that his methodology as a coach is to caution against confidence while prioritizing unforced turnovers, undisciplined defense, and operating a powerplay with the sophistication and adaptability of a child repeatedly sticking metal utensils in active electrical sockets. You can yell about a "system" that you're in too much of a blind rage - and understandably so, might I add - to worry about studying up on. Not recognizing that it is being executing with the precision of projectile vomit by professional athletes that need to schedule an emergency double-session with Stuart Smalley, on the other hand, is a pretty massive pass to give a group of players that can't currently make or catch a routine one...
All that being said, it is undeniably John Hynes' responsibility to adjust the game plan in a noticeable and impactful way (aside from randomly picking a young, skilled scapegoat out of a hat/the lineup). It is his continued ineptitude in failing to configure a structure and foster a climate that allows for even the seedlings of chemistry to take sprout amongst a roster that is hardly devoid talent that has him on the borrowed time equivalent of crippling debt.
Honestly, I’m just not sure what Ray Shero could possibly be waiting for. If there were ever a rubber-meets-the-road moment then it was the afternoon of a holiday weekend that typically serves as a checkpoint, against a run-of-the-mill rival who was starting a backup goaltender. The Devils found just about the most deflating way possible to find themselves stranded on four flats in flunking that litmus test, despite basically being offered a cheat sheet by insanely favorable officiating, as they got shutout while flat-out gifting a bad penalty-killing team multiple shorthanded insurance goals...
The most impassioned people wearing red and black in The Rock on Saturday were those in the stands letting “Fiiiire Hynes!” ring in unison and drumming up more defiant distaste for their own team than the most obnoxious of opposing assholes even had reason to...
It was a result that was sadly far, far more embarrassing than it was surprising, and that speaks volumes of what everyone has come to expect of a sinking ship of a Devils' team whose rare successes (See: somehow beating Montreal while giving up NINETY shot attempts against) have the feel of tying a pool noodle to the Titanic. A "look what we found lodged in our rectum"-type victory over Buffalo tonight would be like taking a 60-minute piss on a raging forest fire and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be anywhere close to as satisfying. The standalone wins feel like losses in prolonging the otherwise imminent, and that is an unrelenting purgatory to find yourself stuck in as a fan of a floundering franchise that's being more cowardly in refusing to shoot the only defensible and uncontestable shot left wide-open for them than Ben Simmons.
I probably differ from most inherently emotional fans in believing that John Hynes will be a good NHL coach somewhere down the line, but that somewhere is definitely not here, as his primary and predictable form of damage control is as desperate as Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt are for a coach that believes in them for more than a shift at a time. His message, whatever its motif may be, is obviously stale and apparently as clear to a young team, whose future in New Jersey is pretty well-spoken for, as the English lessons of the teacher in Charlie Brown.
I don’t know that there is an intriguing long-term replacement currently available, but we’re also not exactly looking for Scotty Bowman’s successor. I would suspect that Tom Fitzgerald makes the most sense as an interim, but the truth is that doesn’t really matter who the (somewhat) fresh face belongs to. Its unsupervised presence alone communicates a level of urgency that, if judging off dispirited performances that look to be sponsored by Prozac, its predecessor proved incapable. Even if their style of play remains somewhat similarly snooze-worthy (which it very well might), something absolutely has to change and making an underachieving head coach, who is far less accomplished than others that have suffered this same fate, the sacrificial lamb for the innumerable missteps of so, so, so many others is a time-honored tradition in pro sports.
If having the Prudential Center made relatively Ranger-friendly by beyond fed-up and frustrated fans who had the entirety of their ire turned to the usual suspect behind their own bench wasn’t rock bottom then I don’t know what the hell is. If that wasn't the breaking point then the only logical conclusion was that everything was already well past broken and the adhesive on the entirely transparent bandaid that is the line change lottery finally wore too thin. I personally can’t think of a worse feeling than the one festering in the pit of my stomach during the last 14 minutes or so, as it felt as though the lost-seasonal depression and the upcoming apathy of yet another uncompetitive April were joining forces to kick the last leg out from under whatever false hope I was left balancing on.
I don’t know that this roster, as impressive as it was in theory, wasn’t constructed of volatile pieces that fit together about as seamlessly as the oft-unsightly and irredeemable wreckage they appear to implode into on a regular basis. I do know that Ray Shero only has one way of finding the fuck out. We’ve reached the point of no return, where the more stubborn he is towards exhausting his only option, the less benefit of the doubt he’ll receive after he inevitably does.
This team will look different next year regardless, as we’re mere months away from finding out if Taylor Hall’s uninspired play (which, as of today, has him playing in thebottom six) is a PTSD-like byproduct of what has become an Edmonton-esque environment...
Common sense says (and the standings nod alone in firm agreement) that you might as well get a head start on a potentially unforgiving evaluation process by at least trying to spark a fire under their ass prior to an upcoming offseason that will almost unavoidably be spent conducting a thorough head coaching search. Yes, even if all it does is begin to burn up the only optimism left...which has somehow already been limited to that of the complete unknown.