New Jersey Devils: This season has been a brutal reality check

New Jersey Devils (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
New Jersey Devils (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils were the feel-good story last season. However, based on where things are now, that was in the distant past. A reality check has hit hard.

The New Jersey Devils are not the worst team in the NHL, I’ll give them that. But, that is about the only nice thing to say about them right now.

Last season, the Devils were a great story, but not that great of a team as it turns out.

The Devils made the playoffs last year, had the MVP of the league on their team, and won random games on the road vs elite opponents.

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The Brian Boyle beating cancer story will be awesome forever but was fresh last year and it sparked the Devils.

Let’s not forget the offseason last year was great for the Devils too, they won the draft lottery.

So, essentially the Devils turned some great fortune, opportune schedule, and an inspirational story into a playoff run.

The Devils made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, and lost humbly to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the conference quarter-final. Just being there was great, but showed us a lot.

This year in Jersey, I don’t think the tables could have turned more.

The Devils got no luck in the offseason, Cory Schneider had surgery, they didn’t even have a lottery pick, and nothing really happened.

The one thing that is correlated to it all is the talent. Aside from Taylor Hall, and a few elite games from Kyle Palmieri here and there, the Devils are that not that great of a team this year.

Last year, everything that could have gone right did. That includes Keith Kinkaid being the best backup netminder in the league.

This year, a reality check has hit hard.

The Devils are showing why they are still a year or two away from sustainable winning.

The Devils have a shaky defense this year, winning a goal-fest or not all.

The Devils are getting outscored at an alarming rate, with a brutal -8 goal differential.

Taylor Hall is once again the Devs’ leading scorer, and an elite player at that, but is still on the ice for most of the goals against.

The Devils have more losses than wins and are well out of reach of the top of the division, already.

Also, they are putrid on the road. They only have five road points so far this year which is just not going to get it done. For perspective, they were over .500 on the road last year by 10 games.

And, what is with the fact that they haven’t played in a shootout yet? The Devils have nine wins and all of them in regulation or overtime. That isn’t wrong, per-say, but definitely odd.

Anyway, I will say this, the Devils were smart to stay on-track this offseason. They really did do that. They didn’t trade away assets to get fractionally better for nothing and they didn’t blow it up.

It even feels like even the team took their magical playoff run with a pinch of salt.

However, that does not make the sting of this poor season hurt any less.

The Devils got a wake-up call.

The Devils are no longer the dream team that made the playoffs in the most confusing but awesome way possible.

They are, which wouldn’t normally be a bad thing, right where they should be. They were supposed to miss the playoffs last year, and be better this year.

Instead, they are worse this year but only because of last year.

Overall, it is difficult to complain about where the Devils are in hindsight. They are not shattering any expectations.

It just stinks to watch a playoff team last year be so off track from that.

This season is a reality check for the Devils. They are a team that is still building and a team that is still set to spend a lot of money and draft more players to come up soon.

This is the reality. What we are seeing from the Devils is not a decline, it is not a great team with misfortune. This is a team being where they should be.

The conference around them got better, the division around them is playing better than expected, and the Devils are just kind of there.

This season, it has become crystal clear the Devils’ season last year was a blip in the rebuild and not the start of something special.

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This season has been a brutal reality check. Do not expect it to get any better as it goes on either.