In theory, it would be silly for the Devils to "entertain" the idea of sending their former first round pick down to the AHL. I don't think the trade that brought in Sami Vatanen was anything other than an acknowledgement of their clear and present defensive deficiencies. However, the fact of the matter is that it in shipping out both a player that was above him and a player that was below him in his positional pecking order, the Devils couldn't have cleared a wider path for Pavel Zacha to take a reins on a permanent spot in the lineup. Not only that, but it's a path that is currently being overseen by both a General Manager and a Head Coach that have shown no hesitancy in giving young players - whether it be a first overall pick, 6th round pick, or college free agent - a chance to succeed in an environment that is pretty clearly conducive to their success. With that in mind, one of the Devils' most physically skilled prospects should hypothetically be humored as he looks to carve out a steady and consistent niche on a team that needs his services more than ever.
Unfortunately, in execution, he has made it seem silly to expect things to suddenly change. You can instinctively blame John Hynes if you want, but all you have to do is take one look up and down the roster to realize that Pavel Zacha isn't playing because he hasn't deserved to play. He isn't getting yanked in, out, up, down, and around the lineup because he's the unofficial team scapegoat, but rather because he's failed to take advantage of the multitude of opportunities he has been given to contribute.
Now, I don't think a 20 year old - who was originally considered a bit of project - should be labeled a 'bust' just because a couple of his peers are incredibly wise beyond their teenage years. That said, having pushed all the right buttons in getting this team back to respectability, John Hynes and Ray Shero can't let the under-seasoning of their sole outlier cause even the slightest of distractions. I'd love to see him flourish wherever he's given the chance, but if the ever-changing role of Pavel Zacha is going to continue being a storyline then it should one that pops up on the sports page in the Binghamton Gazette. This inexperienced team has far too much going right to worry about what's wrong with one particular player that hasn't quite figured himself out. Your guess is as good as mine when it come to predicting whether or not Pavel Zacha needs to be sent across the New York border in order to turn a corner, but if a player's game-by-game usage (or lack thereof) is so sporadic that it requires the reading of tea leaves then all options should - at the very least - be kept in strong consideration.