You wouldn’t think it to watch their play, but after the All-Star break the Devils have gotten at least a point in each of their five games since then. Sounds great, and certainly beating the Flyers 5-0 on Thursday was, even if I had another commitment and couldn’t watch a minute of the game even if I wanted to. Other than that though, it’s just been more of the same for a gang that couldn’t shoot (or defend) straight. Scratching out a road shootout win over Ottawa last Monday? Fine. A back and forth shootout loss to Nashville in the John Hynes reunion game? Not so much, but we always seem to have at least one wild, cooky game with the Preds every year whichever bench Hynes is on anyway. Failing to bring home a game against the Stars on ’00 reunion night which we dominated for the better part of 35 minutes? Typical.
Certainly the worst game of the five was Tuesday against the Habs, also known as the Ilya Kovalchuk 2.0 return, which was another fitting pie in the face game. Sure we had key people missing from our lineup (so did Montreal, thanks to the flu) but when you get a 3-0 second period lead, you gotta put the game away. Losing a 3-0 lead was just so indiciative of what the last few years of Devils hockey have been, actually getting the game into OT after falling behind 4-3 just drew out the agony…with the real pie face splat coming when Kovalchuk scored the shootout winner and shushed the crowd of 12000 or however many people were there to boo him the whole night. If we were in a different situation, I might be upset but watching it on TV I only could laugh at this point. Quite frankly we kind of deserved that pie in the face – or three – as an organization these days.
I still don’t think it’s likely interim Alain Nasreddine keeps his job through whatever new administration emerges from the rubble of replacing both a GM and coach in-season, but at least he’s earned some respect for his calm, yet competitive demeanor. I almost thought it wasn’t allowed for a coach to call timeout to yell at his players the way Nasreddine did after we fell behind, given how little Hynes would use a timeout for that specific purpose. Since Ray Shero got replaced as GM, there hasn’t been a peep about what the organization’s direction is going forward, other than the stock line we want to win sooner rather than later if possible. We’ll see how true that is judging by the moves sure to come at the deadline and this offseason.
I don’t really want to comment on the team on ice, especially since I’ve barely watched one of these five games in aggregate – I even had to leave the Dallas game early to see a friend but wasn’t exactly sorry about that at this point – and nothing that really happens on ice is going to matter apart from younger players hopefully getting better. There are a couple of things off-ice to comment on though, one good and one eh. Of course, the good was the ceremony for the 2000 Cup winners on Saturday night, specifically the nice touch of allowing Petr Sykora to skate a lap around the rink with the Cup after he was denied that moment on the ice in Dallas in 2000 due to Derian Hatcher’s headshot in Game 6. Figures all it took to bring out one of the most intense crowds of the season was celebrating the past…well that and a real nice giveaway replica Cup ring. That alone was worth having to sit through this team for a couple of periods, although I knew by the end of the second they were probably blowing this game against the Stars and sure enough they ate it in OT.
By this point, the on-ice failures are as expected as the off-ice shortcomings. Of course here I’m referring to season ticket renewal time, which comically came the night after the blown game against the Habs. Everyone step up and renew your tickets after we fell on our faces again and got shushed out of our building by the hated Kovalchuk! No, prices weren’t raised which was the absolute positive bare minimum you could have expected after the last two seasons. What is laughable is the option to renew and lock in your prices for two years, with absolutely no incentive given for it other than…locking in the same price for two years. You would think they’d at least try to add some incentive to that so-called perk since people like me would understandably be cautious about committing to two years when so much about this organization and its direction is up in the air. Tickets are already hard to sell and impossible to get even season ticket face value for this year, after one or two more bad years? Forget it.
Even the hook of locking in a price for a second straight year isn’t quite what it seems since the number of games you’re allowed buyback credit (exchanging your tickets to some games at season ticket holder price for a credit towards next season’s invoice) is dropping from 8 to 6 next year. So there is an actual ‘increase’ in the 2022 invoice just in the form of the two fewer games credit you’re getting, never mind what else they’d dare to increase it by if you don’t lock in your prices by then. They do offer the opportunity to exchange six games for extra tickets to six other games, which probably has a limited use at best since they’re not going to let you exchange preseason games for extra Opening Night tickets obviously, perhaps if you want to exchange tickets for one Saturday game to another it can have some use but exchanging Tuesday tickets against Ottawa for say, Monday tickets against Calgary? Meh. That’s basically what you’re talking about.
It was an easy decision for me, and others I suspect to only pick the one-year option. I almost feel silly about doing this much complaining to only keep my tickets again but really I’d pretty much locked myself in early to renewing both by using my buyback credits (which get erased if you don’t renew), and with my apathy toward using my reward points, since there wasn’t a whole lot they were offering I actually wanted to use them on and I didn’t jump on enough of the club seats when they had an absurdly low point value. It is stupid that the reward point system is one of two incentives you have to pick to keep using it, it should be an automatic part of your ‘membership’.
Don’t get me wrong, things aren’t all bad even with the state of the team. Just last week, I was able to get to a team autograph event where Kyle Palmieri signed my Palmieri jersey. Of course watch us trade him now lol…but the player events are usually my favorite thing among the perks and incentives. Earlier this year a lot of the younger Devils were at Funplex in another team event and I got pictures with guys like Nico Hischier and Will Butcher and a nominal ($10 combined) credit for me and my friend at Funplex as well as free access to the rides for the night, so we did the bumper cars for a while as well as the racing game. Little things like that and the Cup ring giveaway do help add intrinsic value to being a season ticket holder, but the prices themselves are getting way above what you can realistically hope to recoup on the secondary market for most games. A lot of my reason for retaining the tickets is location – right on the aisle behind the goal is a prime location and probably the only reason I can still sell any tickets at all this year.
Still, I am going to approach things differently next year and not use my buyback credits (while trying to use more of my reward points) until after the next invoice comes out. If we’re in the middle of another rebuild and they dare to raise prices, well next year this is probably a different conversation, seat location or no seat location. At a certain point even with the buybacks and location it just isn’t going to be worth it to have to worry about having to sell a third of the games, and take a loss selling single tickets to certain other games. These last two months without the buybacks would be particularly brutal on the resale market, with a ton of winter weekday games. All eight of my buyback games were weekday games between last Thursday and late March. Even with that buffer, the team (and prices) plummetted so quickly this year the early season games were a struggle to find someone to go with/sell games.
Of course there is the contrarian argument that since I’ve been a season ticket holder at the Rock I’m not going to know how much I’ll miss the little things (seat location/certainty, the perks) until I cut the cord. Just don’t make it easier for me to want to find out, that’s all I’m asking for the next year. As it is the last couple years have made it easier for many other sth’s to cut the cord.