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A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the Devils had everything going right for them. They survived life without Jack Hughes, and they had one of the easiest upcoming schedules. I could not have been more wrong. Little did I know, the Devils were about to embark on a historically bad tear. In the month of December, the Devils have one win. One. We are less than a week away from Christmas. Since Jack’s return, the Devils are 1-10, and of those ten games, they have lost six of them by two or more goals. While it may be December, the Devils season is on life support, and they’re playing like it. It’s only a matter of time till head coach Lindy Ruff’s fired. I’m just surprised it hasn’t happened already. And while Lindy hasn’t done the greatest of jobs, at what point does the Devils’ front office have to acknowledge that they built a losing culture. The same franchise that made the playoffs 20 out of 22 years, beginning in 1990 up until 2012, are the same ones who’ve had one winning season in their last nine. In the last decade, the New Jersey Devils have 319 games in that span, which is the 6th most. They’re also one of four teams who has performed under NHL .500 in that stretch. The other teams? The dumpster fire that is the Buffalo Sabres, the Edmonton Oilers, who have picked first overall four times in six years, and the Arizona Coyotes, who were on the brink of being locked out of their own arena. The Devils need a new head coach, but more importantly, they need a culture revamp. The best way of doing that outside of winning is by adding veterans and removing everyone from the old regime.

Being the youngest team isn’t something to brag about

The Devils have been flaunted around the league for the last two seasons as the kids. They have the youngest average roster age among any team in the league at 24.75 years. Devils fans have used this statistic as a bragging point to argue the future in Jersey is bright, yet being the youngest team has brought a lot more negatives than positives. The growing pains have been noticeable, and I’m not just talking about consistency. The Devils have had difficulty battling back from deficits, maintaining leads, and learning how to win close games. Additionally, the Devils get out-manned almost every game. They get pushed around, they lose a majority of puck battles along the boards, and they don’t defend one another when someone takes a big hit. Jack Hughes got smushed in Tuesday’s game against Vegas, and not one player batted an eye. By adding in some vets, they’ll help mentor some younger players. Just ask the 2017-18 Devils players how big of a contributor Brian Boyle was in that locker room. The Devils’ front office has been okay with losing for the last decade. However, if their young stars develop that same mindset, then they’ll end up having a culture similar to the New York Jets.

Out with the old, in with the new

Don’t get me wrong, there aren’t many members of the organization left who had the privilege of wearing the old Devils jersey. However, the ones that did may have overstayed their welcome. Player-wise, Damon Severson and Miles Wood are the only ones left. As for management, Tom Fitzgerald and the ownership team remain. I’m not going to blame Damon Severson’s play, although his fair share of own goals hasn’t helped, I’ll blame his leadership. I have no clue whether or not he’s a good locker room guy, but I do know that Severson has had an A on his crest for multiple years. This is the same Severson who has admitted to past Devils teams quitting midway through the season.Maybe it’s time for a new voice in that locker room. Severson is in the last year of his deal, and if the Devils keep on playing this way, he could be huge trade bait come deadline time. As for Fitzgerald, I’m a fan of a lot of the moves he has made, so I’m not calling for his head. And ownership, even if I was calling for their heads, them selling the team is extremely unrealistic. They seem content with mediocrity if the Devils are still making them some money, which they are. If the Devils want to save themselves from going down this path of becoming a losing franchise, something needs to change, whether that’s via trade or firing.

A look ahead to next week

The Devils travel to Pittsburgh to battle the Penguins on Tuesday before Christmas. They had a game with the Canadians scheduled for the 23rd. However, due to COVID, the NHL decided to postpone all US/Canadian matchups till a later date. Fortunately for Devils fans, they’ll only have to deal with one more dreadful game. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays; make sure you spend them not watching Devils hockey.

 

“Photo: Detroit AP”

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