Welp, we needed that one and by "we" I most certainly do not mean the New Jersey Devils. By we I mean everyone that was trying to explain away their struggles by focusing on the failures of a handful of players. You see, this team's recent incompetence is more than just a product of an All-World goaltender being in the midst of an unforseen slump. Their futility can not just be explained by a forward group whose former-30-goal-scoring catalysts have largely been dormant. Their flat out unwatchability can't be rationalized by pointing the finger at a defense that is so void of talent and cohesiveness that it likely gives Taylor Hall flashbacks to his darker days of despair in Western Canada. The fact of the matter is that the New Jersey Devils are not playing to their strengths, and that's partly because - as of this very moment - they really don't have a strength.
It's pretty clear - given the complete lack of accountability in their own end - that the focus going into the year was to make the Devils more potent up front. I think we have all seen that come to fruition in the increased aggressiveness of the forecheck, but we have also seen it come at the expense of any sort of viable structure that is conducive to winning. Don't let a couple lucky wins over Toronto and Nashville fool you because the Devils (or any other team for that matter) aren't going to win many games while consistently giving up 4 goals, and if their style of play doesn't change drastically then not even Cory Schneider coming to can save this team from themselves.
Bottom line? Something has got to give. I am not smart enough to tell you I know exactly how to mold a blueline featuring 5 (of 7 available) players that could benefit from a sheltering that would make a homeschooled kid look well adjusted into a respectable group that plays within themselves. I would imagine keeping them out from behind the opposition's goal line and placing an emphasis on the type of team defense that helped the Devils mildly overacheive last year would be a good start, but what do I know? I'm just a guy...watching much more talented guys...pissing away their playoff hopes by ignoring literally every aspect of the sport that mediocre teams can use to even the playing field.
Personally, I think we are very far from talking about John Hynes' job security. This was supposed to be a rebuilding process and a hot start shouldn't have changed that mindset as much as it has amongst the fanbase. Hell, the most detrimental thing the guy has done is raise expectations with a 5 game winning streak that was largely a result of weak competition. Not exactly grounds for explusion if you ask me. That said, the way this team reacts after a pummelling of epic proportions at the hands of their heated rivals will say a lot about his effectiveness within the locker room. An admittedly tough schedule finally lends them a practice break, and if they don't use that practice to tinker with some things that can cover up the inherent flaws that have led to embarrassing losses then the Devils' leadership deserves questioning.
They could have traded for five Taylor Halls and I still wouldn't have thought their Larsson-less defense was decent enough to make them an actual contender so the breakdowns in their own end aren't surprising. Their complete lack of competitiveness at every level of a much deeper lineup, on other hand, absolutely is. Even for a group whose ceiling was that of a bubble team, the lack of accountability and purpose has been completely inexcusable. If the Rangers skating through, over, and around them for the vast majority of three periods didn't highlight how much work there is to be done to both coaches and players alike then the next few months could make Kanye's 'Coldest Winter' seem like a goddamn Caribbean getaway. God help us if periods like the second become anything close to the norm...