In case anyone is unfamiliar with the concept of tanking, this is the simplified definition: a team intentionally losing to get a higher draft pick.
It’s hard to remember that the season actually started off strong for the team, going 4-0 in the first 4 games. Since that strong start, the season has really fallen off a cliff. The New Jersey Devils need to embrace the tank at this point in the season. In fact, they really should have embraced it about a month ago but that doesn’t matter now. We need to keep our eye on the prize: getting a top draft pick.
The Devils definitely have been plagued by injuries this season. As of the last game on Saturday, the list of injuries is quite extensive:
- Taylor Hall
- Kyle Palmieri
- Miles Wood
- Stefan Noesen
- Mirco Mueller
- Pavel Zacha
- John Quenneville
- Additionally, Nico Hischier did not finish the game. He appeared to be in a bit of pain at first, took another shift, then went down the tunnel for good. It is still unclear at this point what his injury is or if he will be out long term. The team did not practice on Sunday so there was no update from the organization on his status.
- Currently, the majority of the Devils roster is AHL players called up from the Binghamton Devils. The team ultimately ended up losing to the Bruins 1-0, which was ideal. In my opinion, that is how the Devils need to play (and lose) for the rest of the season. The young players had a good game and had a chance to prove themselves. Mackenzie Blackwood was strong in goal against a very hot Bruins team. We did not get blown out or embarrassed but we did improve our draft position. Win-Win-Win.
When you look at the top teams in the NHL, it’s obvious that the Devils (at this point, with the current roster) cannot even come close to competing. It is obvious that the Devils are in a rebuilding period and we need to get more depth for both offense and defense. I know it is not fun to root for your team to lose, but it really is the best thing for the team and for the future. If the Devils are able to capitalize on this situation, get a good draft pick (fingers crossed, please bring us Hughes), and make solid trades to add depth, we can once again become a serious top contending team in the NHL.
As for the rest of the season, the Devils need to be smart about it. With all the injuries, what is the cost of continuing to play hard? Potentially injuring more key players? No. The Devils need to pump the brakes and embrace the tank. Like the game against Boston, make it a respectable loss. There is a light at the end of tunnel.
Stats: nhl.com; espn.com Cover Photo: Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP