Devils Must Bounce Back This Season

By Patrick Hoffman

With the selection of Jack Hughes as the number one overall pick in this year's draft, the expectations are now high for the New Jersey Devils.

After making the playoffs in the 2017-18 season, they got pummeled to the bottom of the league last season and struggled in every facet of the game:

- 26th in the league in goals allowed
- 25th in the league in goals scored
- 21st in the league on the power play
- 23rd in the league in shots on goal per game
- 17th in the league in shots against per game

As you can see, this team was awful last season. When you have those kinds of rankings, you know that everything went wrong for this hockey club.

This means that the pressure is going to be on the Devils to get the ship on the right track this season. The drafting of Hughes is certainly a starting point.

Hughes is someone who has a ton of skill, can play well at both ends of the ice, can dangle with the best of them, can blow by opponents, and can put up points. Hopefully for the Devils, this was translate to the NHL level.

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Speaking of offensive skill, the team also still has Taylor Hall. Hall, the Hart Trophy winner in 2018 as the league's most valuable player, had 37 points in an injury-shortened 33 games.

Hall, like Hughes, has a ton of skill, knows how to use his speed and can put up points. With 511 points in 562 career games, it's easy to see that Hall, 27, knows how to get it done.

Another reason why the Devils could end up having a bounce back season is because of the addition of All Star defenseman P.K. Subban. Subban, 30, had 31 points (9 goals and 22 assists) and 63 games with the Nashville Predators last season and currently has 408 career points (98 goals and 310 assists) in 645 games.

Subban is someone who can put up points, help the team's power play, log a lot of minutes, and play well in big games. Subban can be a leader both on and off the ice for this hockey club.

Lastly, the Devils can have a good season if they get much better goaltending than they had last year. That starts with 33-year-old Cory Schneider.

Schneider, 33, has been plagued by injuries over the last few seasons. Because of that, his play has ended up being very inconsistent and has negatively impacted his hockey club.

In 26 games last season, he was 6-13-4 with a 3.06 goals-against average, a .903 save percentage, and one shutout. These numbers are well below what he used to post in his first four seasons with the club.

If Schneider can find a way to have a strong season, that could end up being the difference when it comes to making the playoffs. Hopefully, he'll do just that this year.

The reason why these things need to happen this season is because of Hall. At the end of this upcoming season, Hall is due to become an unrestricted free agent.

If the Devils were to lose him, it would be a huge blow to a team that really needs his offense moving forward. Sure, the Devils will still Hughes and some other youngsters who can provide offense, but I don't think they'll be able to fill the void that someone like Hall would leave.

For Hall to stay, the Devils will need to do the following:

- Show that they can be competitive every night
- Show that they are at least very close to being a playoff team
- Show that they will bring along Hughes the right way

The team could end up doing all of these things and Hall might still leave. With that said, if they can show significant progress this upcoming season, he might end up signing with this team for the long haul.

Hopefully for the Devils, Hall, and their fans, it will be a positive season for their hockey club that gets the team moving in the right direction.

Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.

He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

For comments and hip checks, feel free to contact Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com or on Twitter at @pathoffman35