Last week, I handed out the final report cards on all the Devils’ forwards, and the players you would’ve expected to grade high, did. Unsurprisingly, most of the team had failing grades for their performance during the 2021-22 season.
However, I think the defensemen will be happy with their results as I was content with their play for most of the year. For a team that gave up as many goals as they did, night in, night out, Devils’ defenseman gave the team a chance to win. Yes, they were prone to give up an odd-man rush or two every game, but most teams do. The only thing that separated them from other teams was their AHL caliber goaltending. Not everyone had their best year, but a few of the guardians of the blue line did or at least had bounce back years.
Dougie Hamilton: C
It felt too good to be true when he scored the goal on opening night just 17 seconds in. Never have the Devils ever been able to lure the big fish in free agency, and they had done it. His Devils’ tenure started off great and had been going well until he fractured his jaw. After returning to the lineup, he wasn’t the same player. He didn’t play like a 9-million-dollar man, he didn’t even play like a 4.5-million-dollar man. He’s not known for his defense, everyone knows that, but he was making the wrong read left and right, leading to odd man rushes. As for the offense, it wasn’t there in the slightest. Through the first 30 games, he had 20 points, but he managed to get just 10 points in his next 39. I’m writing this season off as an injury-riddled season. Next year, he’ll be back to the Dougie of old.
Ryan Graves: B
Other than Nico Hischier and P.K. Subban, I’d consider Graves the third-most underrated Devil. He offers size, shot-blocking, and an ability to get “sort of” physical in front of the net, something the Devils haven’t had in a defenseman in a long time. He too, had a good start to the season, then had that horrible game against the Rangers and seemed to have been off for a little while. But other than that stretch, he was unnoticeable, which is a good thing for a stay at home defenseman because it means he’s doing his job. I’d like to see the Devils bring him back next season, but we’ll see what general manager Tom Fitzgerald has up his sleeve.
Jonas Siegenthaler: A
There was little known about Siegenthaler when the Devils traded for him outside of he’s a defensive defenseman with no offense, and he was never given a shot in Washington. Now, the Devils have a 25-year-old shutdown defenseman on their backend, and it only cost them a third-round pick, which they got in the Hall trade. I’ve been advocating it all season, but I’d love to see a Hamilton Siegenthaler pairing all year next season. They complement each other perfectly, and it makes just too much sense.
Damon Severson: B+
Severson could easily have an A grade, but I may have to bring it down just because of that one game against the Maple Leafs. Honestly though, this was the best season of his career, undoubtedly. He put up 46 points, the most by a Devils dman since Will Butcher recorded 44 in the 2017-18 season. He cut down on his “Damon” games as well. Severson’s biggest flaw was his weekly off game. He’d play great hockey the majority of his games but would have a collapse game once every ten games. However, he only had a few this season and was a rock on the blueline all season long.
Ty Smith: F
There’s no way of getting around it, you could not have had a worse season than Ty Smith if you tried. He was an absolute liability on defense, which was expected for a young offensive defenseman entering his second season. Growing pains were going to happen, but he couldn’t make the correct read if his life depended on it and got steamrolled on his side of the ice. This one would’ve been manageable if his offense was solid, but he constantly looked uncomfortable with the puck and had made multiple costly breakout passes throughout the season. Don’t get me wrong, I think Smith can figure it out, but the weight room and a break will definitely help out.
P.K. Subban: B
The dropoff in Subban’s play once he got to the garden state was unfathomable. Over the last two seasons, one of the most disliked Devil players seemed destined to fall out of the league in a year or two. However, this year, between being matched up with lesser opponents, on top of reinventing his game, Subban bounced back big time this season. He simplified his game. He stopped making the difficult play the old Subban would and instead made the play 33-year-old Subban should. I would love for them to bring him back this season, he is one of the few guys who know how to win and has everyone’s back.
Photo: (Adam Hunger/AP)