New Jersey Devils: If Cory Schneider keeps it up, Devils could contend by next year

New Jersey Devils. Cory Schneider (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
New Jersey Devils. Cory Schneider (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Somehow, the New Jersey Devils are sort of rolling behind Cory  Schneider since his return from injury on February 7. If he can keep up his recent pace into next year, the Devils could contend next year.

The New Jersey Devils are bottom dwellers of the Metropolitan Division this season but that does not mean what we are seeing from Cory Schneider since his return is not important. In fact, a lot of what Devils are doing now is important, just not for this season. But perhaps no bigger piece to contending next season is the Devils goalie dilemma taking care of itself.

To start let me give some context. The Devils had a wonderful deadline. They traded off talent who were likely not coming back or no longer worth having around for basically a bundle of mid-round picks. Last year, they were buyers who fell flat on their face in the playoffs, so it was nice to get some of that back.

But still, this Devils team right now is the victim of their own false hype. Much like I have always said, last year’s playoff run was more or less a fluke than something to build upon. So, this season is more of where they actually are than the playoff team was. But, there is still reason to be hopeful, by being where they are now, the Devils can expedite their re-build now.

When the Devils made the playoffs, keep in mind this is the same coaching staff, it was in large part to Taylor Hall going ballistic and hot-streaking goaltending. Keith Kinkaid, now on the Blue Jackets thanks to a deadline day splash, played out of his mind when Schneider was injured.

Now this season, that magic wore out. The Devils’ defense was still a problem, Schneider spent a lot of time hurt, Taylor Hall spent a lot of time hurt and the Devils had to part ways wit players like Marcus Johansson to make ends meet. But, there are things that we are seeing this year from the Devs, that can carry over to next year that will be more reflective of what we have seen work for them.

Right now, Cory Schneider is on a tear. He has won four of his last five games and has three shutouts. Minus laying an egg vs the Rangers, he has been one of the better players in the league and the best on the team. Note, he is coming back from injury and is not even in full-form.

His stretch of playing solid for five to six games is similar to what Kinkaid did in the latter half of the 2017-2018 season when the Devils were playoff pushing. And now that Mackenzie Blackwood is back up from the AHL, and he has two shutouts of his own this season, and is the de-facto future goalie, the Devils once again have a solid one-two goalie punch to put out there and play the hot hand.

What is also great for the Devils is the fact that Nico Hischier is gaining more experience with almost nothing around him. He is the current top line center. Kyle Palmieri is one of his wings and he was an all-star this year. So, when Taylor Hall comes back, the Devils could have a great top line. A Hall-Hishchier-Palmieri line could finally be implemented and could be a great line with lots of all-star potential.

Through that, it would then allow the Devils to have their younger guys that are playing now lower down on the depth chart. They could put Miles Wood, who does not have top line production (8-13-21 in 56 games), back one with Travis Zajac. Then there is John Quenneville who is arguably the heart of the youth movement and he could be put back down to a line where he would be getting better experience and he should make the team out of camp next year.

Michael McLeod could also be a factor in all of this by placing him somewhere he could start logging minutes and tapping his potential. Then there is the possibility of the Devils pulling all their picks together to get better in the offseason whether it be by draft day trades or by actually drafting solid players. Not to mention there is free agency where the Devils could improve their defense and maybe add scoring. Erik Karlsson to NJD is unlikely, but one could dream.

The point is, the Devils’ recent run of a few solid wins and savage experimentation could lead to seeing exactly what we need from them. Taylor Hall needs more so Kyle Palmieri has 48 points this year, Nico is developing nicely and leads the team in assists.

Then, the namesake of this article, Cory Schneider, could enter the offseason healthy and on a string of impressive play. If you throw in #35 being healthy, Taylor Hall coming back, Blackwood become a better goalie and a solid option, a potentially great line, and you are looking at a Devils team that could contend once the depth is figured out.

The Devils could be what the New York Islanders are right now. A team built around a solid young center and a great prospect pool mixed in with veterans on defense and each line and a two-headed goalie monster. The Islanders even lost their version of Taylor Hall when John Tavares left.

Obviously, that is a gross exaggeration because the Devils need to prove that all of that would work, and as good as John Hynes is, he is no Barry Trotz, but the Devils’ window to contend might not be all that far away based on what they have yet to do.

The Devils are not stock right now. Are they terrible? Yes, but they have an over reliance on young players that could pay off when they don’t need to do that and they have goalies who are solid. They are also an injured mess with pretty much everyone coming back next season, like Hall.

While I am not writing this to predict a Devils playoff run next season, or to even justify how terrible this season has been, I am saying behind every tank there is a silver lining. Behind every tank there is a reason for hope down the road.

The Devils are doing now, stuff that could help them come together nicely in the future. The Devils are not a team with no hope, they are a team who is simply just taking this season for what it’s become. Taylor Hall is too good and they were too careful at the deadline this season to keep stinking up the joint.

Next. Recapping everything the Devils did at the deadline. dark

Peep for their contention window to open up next year, even if just for a little bit. There is a lot of potential there.