Can the Devils Be a Legit Cup Contender This Season?

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With the 2024 NHL season on the horizon, the New Jersey Devils find themselves in a position where they have a legitimate chance at capturing the coveted Stanley Cup. Building upon their rich history, solid roster, promising prospects, and effective coaching, several factors contribute to the Devils’ positive outlook. Let us explore why the New Jersey Devils could emerge as the 2024 Stanley Cup Champions. Here are some aspects of the team that make them a contender right out of the gate.

Young Talent Rises

“Mercer plays a lot bigger than his 6’0 frame, excelling below the hash marks around the crease. Equal parts playmaker and goal scorer, he looks to have the makings of a strong complementary piece on a scoring line.” – Brock Otten, McKeen’s Hockey

The Hockey Writers

The Devils boast an impressive pool of promising young players who are expected to reach their prime during the 2024 season. Led by cornerstone players such as Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Jack Hughes, the team possesses a solid foundation to build significant success. Their growth and development and the team’s ability to maximize their potential will be key to the Devils’ season. Those are also the key to whether or not this team can make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Devils have fortified their roster with experienced, skilled players through strategic trades and signing key free agents. General Manager Tom Fitzgerald’s shrewd moves have added depth and balance to the team, ensuring they have the necessary firepower to compete against formidable opponents, mostly within their Conference and Division. The most recent example is the trade bringing Tyler Toffoli into the Devils squad. Timo Meier plays the same role on line one with Hischier and Mercer (or Holtz?), while Toffoli should be seen playing alongside speedy playmakers Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt. What a top six. Some forget Curtis Lazar (who made a great play to ensure the win over the Rangers the other night) is even an option for the team, only because of his initial problems getting to the team after the trade. Lazar, Tomas Nosek, and Colin Miller add three more veteran players to this young Devils locker room. The team’s newfound strength down the middle, including Mike McLeod and on defense, gives them an advantage in crucial situations. Additions to the blueline include Luke Hughes, who looks to be a star in the making, and second overall pick Simon Nemec, who is having an excellent preseason so far. With the emergence of Nemec, it will be extremely hard for Coach Lindy Ruff not to put him in the lineup. The Devils had two major losses on the back end this summer, with Ryan Graves and Damon Severson both locking up long-term deals within the Metropolitan Division. Although they were great for the Devils, and Severson was around for a long while, it was necessary to bring in the young blood and move forward.

DEVILS GOALTENDING A SURPRISE

A reliable goaltender is crucial for a team’s championship aspirations. The Devils’ goaltending situation has shown signs of stability with the emergence of young netminder Akira Schmid and a slightly more veteran presence in Vitek Vanecek. Signing Ex-Devil Keith Kinkaid just a few weeks ago was surprising, but if you’re like me, and most aren’t, I love Kinkaid. He did leave the preseason game vs. Montreal the other night after initially staying in the net. Unsure of his prognosis, the Devils have Erik Kallgren, who has played his share of NHL games. I’m sure that Nico Daws being out until December was the catalyst of the Kinkaid signing. But if they are both injured, where does the organization go from there? We know Kallgren can hold his own in the NHL net, but surely not as a 1B if Schmid or Vanecek were to get injured. During any season, you can almost expect one of your team’s goaltenders to be out with a groin injury or something along those lines at least twice. In that case, the goalie still standing should become the number 1, and Kallgren should be used as backup, not as a 1B like Akira Schmid will (barring injury or a stellar preseason) be in position for at the start of the season. If the Devils continue their upward trajectory, the team’s defense will be complemented by strong performances in the crease, providing the foundation for playoff success. Hopefully, it will lead to a President’s Trophy, at the least.

BOTTOM SIX PLAYERS/NEW DEFENSIVE STRUCTURE

Under the guidance of Head Coach Lindy Ruff, the Devils have developed a solid defensive structure built around effective backchecking and positioning. They are consistently causing turnovers, leading to breakaways for players like Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt. No one wants a part of that. Travis Green entering the coaching staff compliments Sergei Brylin and brings a splash of difference to the bench this season. Some thought that by the season’s start, Andrew Brunette would have taken over as the Devils’ head coach. He moved on, and Travis Green was brought in. Hearing so far what we have from Green and the players, it seems Travis is a great fit for the coaching staff and is helping to tighten up the defense, leaving fewer shots for the goaltenders to face. This improved defensive mindset will make it difficult for the team to penetrate for opposing offenses, even in the case of other Eastern Conference behemoths like Toronto or Tampa Bay. The Devils have a star Selke nominee leading them as Captain of this ship and a couple of powerful two-way forwards. Line three and line four go overlooked. When looking at this Devils team, you have to understand that the bottom six will include players such as Ondrej Palat, Erik Haula, Nathan Bastian, Curtis Lazar, and Mike Mcleod. Lindy Ruff is not shy about playing 11 forwards and 7 defensemen. With the Devils new Defensive weapons, we may see that a lot again in 2023/2024.

Even further beyond that, the Devils are giving Alexander Holtz his last try, and he is not taking it lightly, scoring a goal in Philadelphia in the Devils most recent game. Holtz, a former first-round pick, has an increasing chance of making the roster. In camp, he has been paired with Captain Hischier and Timo Meier. This leaves a glaring question. What about Dawson Mercer? Holtz and Mercer were both drafted in the same year and in the same first round. Holtz was picked first, and Mercer was the Devils second choice at 18th overall. After a deep draft, it seemed two of the three first round picks were ready to show the team what they could do. Dawson Mercer ended up making the squad and not disappointing. He was ranked 6th amongst all North American skaters. So here lies the issue; it is not a bad issue, but an issue nonetheless. If Holtz makes the squad, does Mercer get demoted to the third line? I hope not, as that can take the passion out of the player’s game. Either way, the Devils bottom six will likely also have Holtz or Mercer available. Chris Tierney also signed a two-way contract, so the bottom six goes pretty deep. The reinvigorated blue line, comprised of experienced veterans and talented young defensemen, ensures a balance between defensive responsibility and offensive contributions.

COACHING/FANS AND MORE

The coaching staff’s expertise is crucial in guiding a team towards playoff success. Lindy Ruff, renowned for his defensive strategies, has a wealth of NHL coaching experience. Assisted by capable minds such as Travis Green and Ryan McGill, the staff combines a winning pedigree. Having Sergei Brylin and Chris Taylor working with the players brings innovative methods, resulting in optimal player development and team cohesion. Goaltending Coach Dave Rogalski, who is the former St. Louis Blues goalies Coach, has been with the Devils during the most turbulent time in the organization regarding goalies; he started in October 2020. After going through so many ups and downs, mainly downs, it seems Rogalski finally has the tandem to work with and concentrate on. This is an underrated factor of the Devils overall threat to every team in the NHL.

Regarding the Devils fans, something has to be said for them. I can tell you, as a die-hard fan who is observational, at the least, I can say it is extremely clear that the Devils fanbase has been growing steadfastly over the last four to five years. The number of overseas fans the Devils have can rival any other team, especially in Switzerland, where they watch the Devils games in the local pubs or bars. Having the four Swiss players, all great at what they do, has made the Devils a huge part of day-to-day life for sports fans in Switzerland, and we all collectively love to see that as NHL Hockey fans.

The Devils have the talent and the drive to do anything they want however, that is usually not how things work. Teams have injuries and suffer from losing streaks and all other kinds of obstacles. If the Devils were immune from these things, I would put money on them today to win the Stanley Cup. But when you’re living in reality, the Devils broke a franchise record last season, and it would be surprising if they could match that. The reality is when a team has a surprisingly successful year, they usually are brought back down to Earth the next season. Now, I am not saying the Devils will not be contending for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. It will be tough, though, especially with all the amazingly talented teams just in their same division alone. While predicting the outcome of a future Stanley Cup is inherently uncertain, the New Jersey Devils possess the necessary ingredients for a deep playoff run in the 2024 season. Young talent, a strengthened roster, improved goaltending stability, enhanced defensive structure and experienced coaching all align in their favor. If the Devils can leverage these factors effectively, they stand a good chance of realizing their ultimate goal and bringing the Stanley Cup back to the Garden State. Fans eagerly await the upcoming season to see if the Devils’ potential translates into success on the ice. To see live streams from Devils Opening Day, Preseason at UBS Arena on Oct 6th, and more, follow @DevilsJointYT on X/Twitter and Subscribe to Devils Joint on YouTube for game recaps, player interviews, unique segments, and more.

Joseph Stassi

Joseph Stassi is a Writer/Musician from New York. He covers the New Jersey Devils on X @DevilsJointX and YouTube with the same handle.

6 thoughts on “Can the Devils Be a Legit Cup Contender This Season?

  1. found this on Twitter. Great Read! I think the Devils could win 2 or 3 Cups in the next 6/7 seasons. And I’m a Sens fan but the truth is the truth. The Devils are my Favourite American team though.

  2. You are killing me with these articles. I am looking forward to the season already and after I read them I want the season here. A lot of things can happen in a long season. The Devils are finally built for a long year. Great Article.. gave me a lot to think about.

  3. Great game tonight. Jesper Bratt had a hatty! He is awesome, I think your previous article you made a case for Bratt being underrated in one way or another, enjoyed, keep up the good work! -Otis

    1. Otis! where did you go on twitter man? It say’s i encountered an error, not that you were suspended or the account doesnt exist………what happened?

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