Instead of the winning streak clip from Major League, I get to post this one after the last two games – and really 90% of this season. I wanted to post the Japanese gardner ‘they’re still ****ty’ clip from Major League but had to opt for this cause this is a family blog after all and I couldn’t post an open swear word. Unfortunately both sentiments apply to this current Devils team, which after flirting with NHL .500 came crashing back down to reality with two losses in Alberta to Calgary and Edmonton by a combined 9-2 score. Now the Devils sit seemingly too far out of the playoff race to matter after just four wins in their first fifteen games. Already – in early November.
A road trip that got off to a surprisingly good start in Carolina and Winnipeg hit a pothole almost from the moment they went up 2-1 in Calgary and proceeded to give up eight straight goals after that – four against the Flames, and four in a loss to the Oilers. Even worse, this loser team tried to sell all the golden oldies of moral victory lines…we played well, it wasn’t as bad as the score indicated, yadda yadda yadda. Hogwash. Moral victories are for losers, and that’s what this team and this organization is right now. Losers. Just like the Oilers used to be (especially when Taylor Hall was there), always waiting for the next lottery to fix their problems.
To beat a dead horse even more, the staff’s problems with lineup decisions and tactics are one thing but both this general acceptance of losing and the lack of fight in the room to push back against it speaks to lack of leadership both from coaching and players. When arguably one of your three best players this season (Sami Vatanen) gets elbowed and concussed out of the game in the first period with yet another cheap shot – reminiscent of Nikita Kucherov in the playoffs who gave Vatanen the first of a now-series of concussions with another bad elbow – and there’s no response to it at any point in the game don’t tell me about how well you played or how you deserved better from a 4-0 loss where you were outshot in the game and in the third period while trailing big.
All these games are just running together, so don’t expect many recaps going forward at this rate unless things start to change. This feels like one clip from Major League I can post:
Honestly I do have to give the NHL (or the Devils) credit on one aspect…the time for games on this trip really hasn’t been prohibitive for East Coast fans watching. Usually a West Coast trip has a ton of 10 and 10:30 starts on weeknights where I couldn’t even watch in the first place but in theory I could have watched any game on this trip, the Jets game started at 8 PM on Tuesday and both the Alberta games started at 9. Notice I said could have. This team just isn’t doing enough for me to bother with any game I’m not stuck going to. Even after the two wins I had a feeling they’d hit the skids in Calgary so I didn’t bother watching. I was going to watch last night except it was Cory Schneider’s turn to play which usually is an automatic loss, and sure enough that was the case again. Not that it would have mattered who played when you get shut out by the immortal Mikko Koskinen.
Still, how can I think this is getting any better anytime soon? Especially since it needs to get better soon to save the season before we start to sell our free agents (and that means Hall, Vatanen assuming he’s not out forever, and maybe even captain Andy Greene). Perhaps the only noteworthy thing of the last few days is Shero met with Hall’s agent in Calgary over pizza. However with the more the team loses, I’m that much more ambivalent over giving Hall what he wants long-term. Sure he’s putting up points via the assist but he hasn’t really scored a lot of goals yet and he’s had some scary moments like a some turnovers and penalties in Calgary that led directly to two goals. Maybe he was affected by whatever happened – or didn’t – in contract talks. Or maybe he’s just checked out of what seems to be yet another losing season.
Not to mention if Hall thinks the fans were rough on him before, wait till the team comes back off the trip further buried in the standings with just four wins in their first fifteen games. Every fanbase and locker room wants to keep up hope but really, where is it at this moment? Let’s say 95 points winds up being the playoff marker for the last wild card which is actually slightly under where it’s been the last couple years in the East, the Devils would need 83 points in their last 67 games (sixteen games over .500 if you’re counting) just to hit THAT marker. This team is going to play sixteen games over .500 with no coaching, their best defenseman out indefinitely – and yes the fact Vatanen has been the best defenseman is a problem considering P.K. Subban is still in the room, no locker room leadership and a so-called leader who’s more worried about what the home fans are doing than what the rest of the team is? Not bloody likely.
And I’m sorry, people want to give GM Ray Shero a pass but he’s had five years now and has stuck with the same failed staff despite all the evidence that the coach cannot get this team out of a hole. Our two best seasons under Hynes – his first year and the playoff season – we got off to great early starts, but once adversity hits we never respond. Shero’s acquisitions (such as Marcus Johansson two years ago or Nikita Gusev now) look good on paper but don’t always work out. There hasn’t been enough time to see whether most of the Shero and Paul Castron draftees are going to be viable NHL players, though Ty Smith not making this year’s team certainly put us behind the eight-ball organizationally. With Connor Carrick injured and Mirco Mueller not ‘pushing the puck’ enough for this staff (i.e. actually caring about defense), we’ve been playing an AHL fodder guy in Matt Tennyson, and just when we’d finally got him out of the lineup for Mueller, Vatanen’s injury pushes Tennyson right back into the lineup giving up goals left and right because he pushes play at all the wrong times.
If you want me to believe something’s going to change, then something better change and I don’t just mean IR’ing Cory for the immortal Louis Domingue hoping he can put up a 2018 Kinkaid-like stretch. You can’t just keep banging your head into a wall with the same personnel and same ‘tactics’ with no plan B to get around or through it.