Since losing to the Los Angeles Kings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, the New Jersey Devils have been in a considerable playoff drought. Qualifying for only one tournament in the past eight years, the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils hoped to change their fortunes through draft picks and trades.
2019-20 New Jersey Devils No Closer To Stanley Cup
The first move the Devils made in repairing their team was trading for Taylor Hall in 2016. The first overall draft pick in 2010 by the Edmonton Oilers, the Devils’ traded a puck-moving defenseman, Adam Larsson, for some much-needed offence.
Hall produced that offence for the first two seasons he was with the Devils. Winning a Hart trophy and leading the team to their only playoff appearance in eight years, Hall delivered with the Devils. He was a superstar, a huge offensive threat, and a major driver of even-strength play.
He didn’t end up leading his team to a Stanley Cup, though. In the 2018-2019 season, Hall only played 33 games, resulting in a 37 point season. His health circumstances, along with his upcoming unrestricted free agency status during the 2019-2020 season, resulted in Hall’s trade to the Arizona Coyotes in December for draft picks and prospects.
The Devils have had the first overall pick in the NHL Draft for two out of the last three years. In 2017, with their first overall pick, they choose Nico Hischier. A Swiss, 6’0, 175lb center, Hischier was supposed to be a huge step in boosting their offensive power.
While Hischier has solid stats, (36 points in 58 games played), he wasn’t the rescuer the Devils hoped he would be. He centers their top line, but his numbers don’t reflect that.
While he isn’t a bust, he should be producing more than he has in the past three seasons. Hischier adds limited offence to the Devils and doesn’t contribute enough to save them from their drought.
In the 2019 NHL Draft, Jack Hughes was the second of the Devils’ two first overall draft picks. A highly-touted center and the clear top pick, Hughes was taken by the Devils and immediately pulled up to the NHL.
As a U-18 player in the USNDTP, Hughes produced astonishing numbers. Hughes broke both the NTDP points record, surpassing Clayton Keller with 190 points, and Alex Ovechkin’s IIHF point record, with 32 points. Unfortunately, like Hischier, he hasn’t lived up to expectations in the NHL.
In 61 games played, Hughes had a total of 21 points. His seven goals and 14 assists on the season have led many to declare him a bust. Hughes’ career is in its earliest stage. He has the time to develop his game and become the player he was meant to be, but as of right now, he isn’t doing much to help the Devils get back to the playoffs.
Right before the 2019 NHL draft and the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils selection of Hughes, General Manager Ray Shero traded defenseman Steven Santini, a prospect, and two draft picks to the Nashville Predators for P.K. Subban. Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 2007, and then traded to the Predators in 2016, Subban was a leader on both teams and exhibited stellar two-way play.
In the time before he was traded to the Devils, he won the Norris trophy. He also appeared in three consecutive All-Star games. Subban was an elite defenseman for both of his former teams. That trend hasn’t continued with the Devils.
Playing in 68 games during the 2019-2020 season, Subban scored only 18 points. The 2019-20 New Jersey Devils and their fans will have to wait until next season to determine whether his play this past year was just a fluke or an inevitable decline expected from a 31-year-old. In trading for Subban, the Devils hoped to get an elite offensive defenseman. That dream hasn’t come to fruition, just another reason the Devils playoff drought continues.
Other Reasons the Devils Won’t See a Cup Soon
Goaltending. One of the most important factors in making a run for the Stanley Cup is having a solid netminder. Unless goalie MacKenzie Blackwood can be used sparingly and backup goalie Cory Schneider can stay healthy and support him with better stats, the Devils aren’t going to get much farther.
Another huge problem is their defence. In drafting supposed major offensive threats, the Devils have ignored their defensive prospects. With no future in defence and a declining Subban holding down the Devils top defensive pair, the club isn’t going to be winning a Stanley Cup anytime soon.
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