After 40 minutes of play against the Winnipeg Jets, the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils thought it was gonna be easy. In the blink of an eye, the Jets were able to erase a 4-0 lead just like that. At the end of the night, it was the hard work of the Jets beating the talent of the Devils. From there, things continued to spiral downhill for the Devils. Even with the added talent, the Devils still need to outwork teams instead of relying on talent to win games.
Devils Can’t Rely On Talent
To quote the late great Herb Brooks, “You don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.” That is the case for the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils. Just because they have new tools in the toolbox on offense does not mean they can get away from what made them successful. The Devils still needed to play defence. The Devils talked about being a tougher team to play against. Through the first two games, the Devils have been anything but that.
Blowing a four-goal lead in the first game of the season is inexcusable. Once the Devils scored their fourth goal all attention should be on playing defence. Instead, the Devils thought it would be an easy win over the Jets. They found out they need to play a 60-minute game in today’s NHL. What makes things worse is the team let it linger into the following game against the Buffalo Sabres.
“Right now, the second half of (Friday) night and (Saturday) we just played a soft, light game,” head coach John Hynes told the media. “We wanted a soft, light, easy game to play. And that’s not effective in this league.”
Forward Travis Zajac reiterated the fact the Devils need to stop relying on their talent and be grittier. Just as quickly the Devils can score goals, they can give them up.
“We gotta get a little grittier on both ends of the ice. I think we’re relying on our talent at this point, Zajac told the media.” We’re not really giving ourselves a chance to use it because we haven’t been hard enough.”
What Needs Fixing
Having comments like that coming out of the locker room after two games is not what you want to hear. When one of the leaders is talking about players not skating fast enough and wanting others to do the work… that is not a good sign. When the coach comes out and talks about the team wanting an easy game, that also is not good.
The lack of playing hard has impacted both ends of the ice. The Devils have failed to consistently put length shifts together in the opposition’s defensive zone. While their opponents have been able to establish their style of play in the Devils defensive zone. The lack of execution resides on the coaching staff.
Not to say a coaching change will fix the situation, however, something needs to change. However, why is this team not prepared to play a hockey game? It is not fair to say Hynes is the wrong fit for the team, but he has a problem with in-game adjustments. Comparing him to other managers or coaches, Hynes overcoaches as Joe Girardi overmanaged for the New York Yankees.
One thing the Devils can fix is using their top players like Taylor Hall, Jack Hughes, and Nikita Gusev in the roles they were designed to perform. Instead of having Hughes on the third line, he should be playing second-line minutes. Where Zajac is a better fit is on the third line in a checking role.
Defensively the Devils need to figure out their left side. Ideally, playing Sami Vatanen on the left side with P.K. Subban. In his career, Subban has played with other righties on the left. First with Andrei Markov with the Montreal Canadiens and then with Ryan Ellis with the Nashville Predators. This pairing played well together in the preseason.
What Lies Ahead
If the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils continue to have a slow start to the season, do not be surprised to see a coaching change happen. It would put the team on notice to shape up and play better. Maybe a different voice in the room gets the message through. After so many years the same message goes on deaf ears.