The drafting of Jack Hughes, the trades for P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev, and the signing of Wayne Simmonds, combined with a healthy Taylor Hall, meant elevated expectations for New Jersey this year. As of early Wednesday morning, the team was 30th in the league and had one more regulation/overtime win than Detroit. Naturally, the first casualty of such a poor start to the season was coach John Hynes, who was relieved of his coaching duties. Assistant coach Alain Nesreddine will take over in the interim.
Bad goaltending will make most any team look bad, and the Devils sitting with a team save percentage of .881 didn’t do Hynes any favours. Add in Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall having a combined eight goals between them when Hynes was let go, and it makes sense why this happened.
Assuming Nesreddine doesn’t turn Mac Blackwood into Andrei Vasilevskiy overnight, the top priority should be getting the offence going. They’re generating very little in the way of shots and expected goals, and the defence is going to be the important part of a potential turnaround. None of their blue liners are on pace for 40 points, a mark that P.K. Subban should be able to reach, and potentially Sami Vatanen, Will Butcher, Damon Severson as well. With the team’s inability to generate much in the way of offence, and the defence not having much even strength impact, it seems getting them more involved in transition can only help them sustain offence. There are capable blue liners there, it’s a matter of getting them moving as a unit with the forwards.
The team is drawing a lot of penalties, so getting the power play going could be part of a big turnaround. Despite the third-most power-play opportunities, they’re in the bottom-third of the league in total tallies. Here’s a thought: back in 2017-18, the power play was top-10 in efficiency with Will Butcher largely running the top PP. Maybe not necessarily running it, but at least patrolling the blue line. He hasn’t had much of a chance there this year. Maybe now? For what it’s worth, all line combinations were pretty much status quo on Tuesday night.
There is too much talent on the roster for them to be among the lowest-scoring teams in the league. Both Hischier and Hall are due for a shooting percentage rebound, and the team has a lot of ground it can make up on the power play with the rate they draw penalties. Getting more out of the blue line is a start.