New Jersey Devils Slumping; No Light at the End of the Tunnel
By Kristin Tullo (@K_Tullo)
Following 13 straight playoff appearances by the New Jersey Devils, the organization that has reached the Stanley Cup Finals three times in that time span has been suffering.
With no end in sight for the sinking Devils (1-5-3), the front office has to be better than it has been.
It’s not just on the players this time.
The Devils have missed the postseason two out of the last three years and have accumulated a few high draft picks which they haven’t used to their advantage.
While teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks used their losing records to their benefit, the Devils have used their losses to… Well, we aren’t really sure what they have done with them.
Following the 2010-2011 season in which the Devils tanked to the basement of the league, the Devils held the fourth-overall draft pick and used it to select defenseman Adam Larsson.
Things were looking up for New Jersey as they made the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals and were looking at a 29th overall draft pick at the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh shortly after losing in Game 6 to the Los Angeles Kings.
Knowing they would have to eventually forfeit a draft pick as part of their Ilya Kovalchuk contract punishment, giving up a late first round pick seemed like a pretty obvious decision for General Manager, Lou Lamoriello to make. Lou Lamoriello though is not known for doing the obvious.
So comes along Stefan Matteau out of the US NTDP, the 29th overall pick by the New Jersey Devils in 2012.
With every tick of the clock and every loss the Devils suffer, the decision to draft rather than hand the NHL back their pick has looked worse and worse.
Matteau signed a contract with New Jersey following the draft and played in 17 games for the Devils, accumulating three points and six penalty minutes. Coming out of training camp in the 2013-2014 season though, Matteau was reassigned to Albany where he has zero points through his first five AHL games.
Having him develop in the AHL isn’t a bad thing.
Burning a year of his entry-level contract, sending him back to the QMJHL, having him get cut by his team in the middle of a playoff series and watching him become abysmal for the Albany Devils though, that’s a bad thing(s).
Larsson on the other hand is with New Jersey but purely to entertain the visitors in the luxury box while his team continues to slump at the hands of Pete DeBoer. Larsson has only been inserted into the lineup six times this season while the likes of Peter Harrold, Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov remain blueline staples for the Devils.
What kind of message is it sending to a young defenseman, full of potential that he isn’t good enough to make the lineup for a team with one win?
The worst part of this slump the Devils find themselves in is that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Nothing good will come out this season if they can’t find a way to claw their way to the top of the Eastern Conference.
When the 2014 NHL Draft rolls around in June in Philadelphia, the Devils will be forced to give up their first-round pick.
And that, is on Lou Lamoriello.
Whether it was the big guys getting too cocky or just overestimating the team they put together, there is no excuse for the Devils to be without a draft pick this year when they had an opportunity to throw out a less-appealing one in 2012.
The Devils will be left battling to make the most of an unfortunate situation that was clearly mishandled and continues to be at the hands of Lamoriello and Peter DeBoer.
It’s Lamoriello’s job to get the players, its DeBoers job to play the guys that will give his team the best opportunity to win.
Wake up, Fellas.
Lamoriello watched on has Zach Parise walked away, then handed Travis Zajac a bigger contract than the former-linemate of Parise has earned. David Clarkson did the same thing to the Devils a year later, then Kovalchuk followed it up with his retirement.
Sure, the Devils made some solid additions to their lineup over the summer to make up for some of the losses, but in order to attract young, talented players and keep them here, Lou Lamoriello might have to loosen up his tie.
If the tides don’t change for the Devils, Lamoriello is going to need to pull one special rabbit out of his hat to keep the organization from falling apart even more.