I just wanted to get something off my chest because it’s been building all season. (This is just my initial thoughts about the season; more in-depth reviews, top moments, offseason expectations, and posts like that will be up within the next few weeks. It’s a busy time academically!)
It has been, among other things, an aggravating and frustrating season. It hasn’t been easy, for us as fans and for the team (and for the organization). The team was supposed to build off of last season. They were in playoff contention for most of it. They had two 30-goal scorers in Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri, who both hit that mark for the first time in their careers, and they acquired an offensive juggernaut in Taylor Hall but to get him, they had to trade away a top defenseman in Adam Larsson. We, as fans, had expected the team to at least make the playoffs, and they could have been eliminated in the first round for all we cared but they’re not.
For a while now, fans have started various campaigns. Many want to fire Coach Hynes and I can see the appeal. The blame has to be placed somewhere but GM Ray Shero has reaffirmed his trust and confidence in Coach Hynes. I still trust Coach Hynes to lead this team because the organization is still rebuilding. They are only two years into the rebuild and major overhauls take time.
Other fans have wanted the Devils to tank for weeks (months, even), voicing their desires with #NolanPatrick2017. It’s fine if you want your team to tank, you’re allowed to have an opinion, but I think it’s silly when fans who want their team to tank get angry when the team then proceeds to lose. A team can’t tank if they don’t lose? Where’s the logic? Or are these fans completely incapable of being logical? The Devils finish with 70 points, tied with Arizona for third. They’re getting to pick no fewer than 8th in the first round.
Still other fans want management to trade starting goaltender and NHL All-Star Cory Schneider and to that I have to say, what the heck* is wrong with you? He has been the backbone of this team. He shouldn’t be going anywhere. The fans who complain about Schneider also say that Keith Kinkaid should be in net, and when Kinkaid has a bad start, they say to call up Scott Wedgewood but they say Wedgewood is injury-prone and then they say to bring up Mackenzie Blackwood or Ken Appleby but they’re young, and need time and experience in the AHL to develop. They need to come into their own. We had one of the greatest goaltenders of all-time (if not the best of all time) in Martin Brodeur but not every goaltender is going to be Marty. Most of them won’t be but comparing any Devils goaltender to him is disrespectful and unfair. Yes, both Schneider and Kinkaid did not get off to good starts this season but a lot of that was due to a shaky defense in front of them but they got better and so did the defense. Kinkaid will be an unrestricted free agent so whether or not he returns (just to be exposed) remains to be seen.
The offense has also consistently been one of the lowest-scoring ones in the National Hockey League. We thought it would see some improvement with the addition of Hall but it didn’t. Both Henrique and Palmieri had relatively disappointing seasons compared to last season but it’s unrealistic to expect them to score 30 goals again. It’s not an easy feat to achieve year in and year out. Yes, we expected more and we didn’t get it. Let’s move on.
Devils fans have been spoiled to say the least. For those who are older than I am (born in ’95), you’ve seen your favorite hockey team win three, three, Stanley Cups in your lifetime. I was too young to remember even if I had been a fan at the time; I’ve only seen the highlights and the championship videos uploaded onto YouTube. You’ve seen Devils greats lift that beautiful piece of hardware three times. There are 12 teams in the NHL who have never won the Cup (13 if you count Vegas, but I don’t). There are fans of teams that entered the league in the 70s (or the 60s, if you’re the St. Louis Blues) who have gone 40 years without seeing their team hoist that Cup.
We have been spoiled and we are selfish. We expect nothing less than perfect from the Devils, which is fine, we’re fans. We’re allowed to have expectations, however unrealistic or unattainable they might be. The Devils will be entering Year Three of The Rebuild and again, the expectation is playoffs or bust, as it should be. The team will continue to grow. They will make mistakes but they will learn from them. They are young and they will continue to gain experience. The future looks bright.
This is hockey. The New Jersey Devils are my team. I chose them. They chose me. As frustrating as it might be to watch them, I’m not going anywhere. That’s what being a fan means to me. You stick with your team, your team, no matter what. I’m still here. Are you?