I said after the Devils’ horrendous opener that I didn’t want to go nuts in terms of calling for John Hynes to be fired or anything drastic like that, although I certainly didn’t like the signs coming out of that game and the parallel to how other disasterous seasons began (this year’s football Jets, or the ’10-11 Devils to name two). If the Devils wanted to drive me nuts and get me on my last nerve in record time, okay here it is – I’m nuts now. This might be blow it up time and not just with the staff although god help us I really don’t see any reason after five years why things will improve on that end. It certainly has to start with the staff at the very least. Especially with quotes like this:
Really? We’re gonna take bows after a close loss to the OILERS? At home?! Where we blew yet another lead?!
Perhaps my best decision this week is to only have watched the Devils sparingly. Not as if there was a lot of entertainment value involved, in spite of GM Ray Shero’s offseason additions and the franchise mantra of ‘fast, attacking and supportive’ which has never seemed more laughable than now. You can get whatever brand of player you want, the first requirement above all else needs to be that they’re good hockey players! There’s no way to spin this first four games as anything other than an unmitigated failure on all levels. After the ghastly opener, to go on the road and get your scalps handed to you 7-2 by Buffalo(!) was frightening. Then to follow it up with a passionless 4-0 loss to the Flyers last night was dispiriting. Tonight’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Oilers was infuriating and not because of that stupid non-disallowed goal late when the Devils blew YET ANOTHER lead in the dying moments of the third period. I don’t want to hear the whistle blew (especially since it shouldn’t have anyway), that’s a loser’s lament. Bad teams don’t deserve breaks and this is a bad hockey team right now.
I get the Oilers and Sabres are both off to hot starts right now but my god if you’re lost against these teams, how are you going to fare against the Bruins, Lightning and other proven good teams? This was supposed to be a winnable part of the schedule and right now they have zero wins in four games, which is actually one less than the John MacLean Devils had at the same point of their train wreck half season. It’s truly frightening how much I’m getting 2010 flashbacks. I mean both seasons they blew Opening Night in spectacular fashion (‘only’ losing 2-0 and 3-2 leads to the Stars at home, before dying in OT) and then went on the road to get housed 7-2 the next night each time. Only then it was at least the Caps destroying us as opposed to an unproven outfit that’s getting over its own recent streak of losing seasons.
Buffalo it has to be said, may have finally found the right coach for their young group bringing back Ralph Kreuger from soccer. It’s time for Shero to try it, it’s just not gonna work with Hynes. It’s not any one decision or a number of decisions – although scratching Pavel Zacha and Jesper Boqvist in favor of AHL role players Kevin Rooney and John Hayden in Philly was a ‘seriously dude?’ moment. And Hynes was all too quick to switch the lines around and change something that was working against the Jets, while he was too happy to lay off the trigger finger in Buffalo. Even beyond all the stupid decisions, what young players – specifically the defensemen – have actually gotten better under this staff? Maybe Zacha for a few meaningless games last year? Damon Severson after looking like he was ready to take a step forward at the end of last season has taken like three steps back this year with an awful start. Mirco Mueller’s been an abject failure and one of Shero’s few trades that looks like a total dud. I guess you could say Taylor Hall’s taken a step forward but it’s not like he wasn’t a great player before getting here.
Development was supposed to be what this staff was good at and I really don’t see a lot of it here. Certainly tactics and lineup decisions are questionable at best…does this team even have a system beyond running around like chickens with their heads cut off? Special teams (both PK and PP) have been a tire fire this year. Maybe if this were another season Shero could afford to be patient, heck he was patient enough last year when he trolled the fanbase giving Hynes an extension during the downslide of another poor season. But after all the moves this offseason – trading for P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev, signing Wayne Simmonds and drafting Jack Hughes – Shero can’t afford to just say business as usual, especially with the future of Hall likely riding on what this team does going forward, both because Hall himself won’t want to commit to a loser long-term, and because if this team continues to careen downhill Shero might wave the white flag and go to rebuild #2, in which case he should go immediately onto the hot seat himself.
I’m sorry, it’s time for the excuses for Shero to end now. This is year #5 of the new era, Shero’s had more than enough time, and a couple of lottery ball breaks to build his own team. Rebuilds do not take ten years, I’m sorry – this isn’t 1985. Especially in this market, you can’t afford to have the fanbase get apathetic in a market with a small base of hockey fans to start with and so many other options for entertainment dollars. Maybe all of his moves looked great on paper, but it’s possible that they weren’t right in terms of team-building. Gusev for example…the dude’s got talent but right now he looks like Damien Brunner plus in that all he is, is a playmaker. Hynes certainly doesn’t trust him defensively, and he probably doesn’t deserve it. It’s early to get on Hughes but he certainly isn’t as ready-made as Nico Hischier was two years ago.
Certainly the new additions and key players haven’t been pulling their weight either. Hall you could excuse based on rust, but where is the supposed impact of a Subban? Simmonds looks too slow to keep up with the frenetic chickens with their heads cut off system. Gusev if he’s only going to play ten minutes then he certainly isn’t any kind of an answer in the top six. When so many players are underachieving it usually comes down to coaching, but effort is definitely a players issue and the effort already hasn’t been there in two games…the Philly fiasco would have been even worse if Cory Schneider didn’t play well in the first two periods before caving in during the third. At least he managed to finish this game upright and so far he’s played better than Mackenzie Blackwood, who stunk in Buffalo.
Whether Shero fires the staff or not – and god knows if this gets to 1-7 or 0-8 with the inevitable Rangers embarassment of the Devils at the Rock next Thursday it’ll be impossible to avoid the five-alarm fire this season is becoming – decisions also need to be made on key players. Hall’s a free agent that’s still unsigned, but if the team continues to stink to this level at least it makes the decision to trade him at the deadline a whole lot easier, assuming he doesn’t re-sign. Defensemen Andy Greene (who missed tonight with an UBI) and Sami Vatanen are also free agents and this D really can’t afford to lose any talent.
All I know is I’m getting depressed over losing the same ways each season and doing the same darn recaps. All we’ve gotten for change, change, change so far is one quickie playoff appearance that was over with inside a week. Eventually Shero’s going to have to answer for why the rebuild has stagnated.