New Jersey Devils
Photo by Mark Fischgrund

New Jersey Devils 2023-2024 season In one word: Disappointment

The New Jersey Devils ended their season this past Monday with a 4-1 loss against the New York Islanders. After a disappointing season, the Devils could not win on Fan Appreciation Night. Instead, fans could watch the New York Islanders punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Devils were considered a cup contender over six months ago as they went undefeated in the preseason. What went wrong for the Devils this season?


The Devils were riddled with injuries for the entire season. Dougie Hamilton suffered a torn pectoral muscle just 20 games into the season, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Hamilton's absence did not go unnoticed, as the Devils' power play suffered without him. Not only did the power play suffer, but the Devils were then forced to have two rookie defensemen, Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, in the lineup for most of the season.

Luke and Nemec held their own as they were asked to fill a big hole in the defense. But, like any other rookie, there were times when they made costly mistakes in our zone.

Jonas Siegenthaler also suffered injuries, only playing 57 games for the Devils this season. Although it was not Siegenthaler's best season, the difference between a rookie and a veteran is noticeable.

Jack Hughes was the next significant Devils loss. He only played 62 games this season, and probably more than half of those games he was playing hurt. Since Hughes dislocated his shoulder a few seasons ago, it has always been a recurring issue. He re-hurt it in January and missed about a month. Just a few weeks before that, he was also sidelined for two weeks due to injury. A few games before the season ended, Hughes was shut down and underwent surgery on his shoulder.

Hughes cannot be replaced in the Devils' lineup. When he was unable to play, the balance between the first and second lines was thrown off. Despite playing hurt for most of the season, Hughes still collected 74 points in 62 games.

Captain Nico Hischier missed almost a month due to a concussion. No team is the same without its captain. The Devils' record without Hischier this season was 4-7. When he returned from injury, the Devils had their best win, beating the Buffalo Sabres 7-2. The Sabres were also the team the Devils were playing when he got hurt. He played 71 games for the Devils this season and picked up 67 points.

Jack and Hischier were sidelined at the beginning of the season. Having your first—and second-line centers out at the same time is never ideal. The Devils were not able to keep up with the other teams when these two were out, and that is when things started to look bad for New Jersey as they began to slip down the standings.

Timo Meier, a key part of the top six, was also sidelined for 13 games due to injury. In the beginning of the season he was sidelined due to a lower-body injury, and then a few games after he returned from injury he was sidelined with a mid-body injury. Ex-Devils head coach Lindy Ruff confirmed Meier was playing not completely healthy when he returned from his second injury.

In 64 games, Meier produced 52 points. He became fully healthy in March, and it showed, as he had 19 total points in 15 games. With a healthy Meier on either Hischier's or Jack's wing, he could be an unstoppable force for the Devils next season.

Other players like Nate Bastian and Brendan Smith suffered injuries that sidelined them for a decent amount of time. With constant injuries, the lines and defensive pairs were constantly shuffled, not letting them create any chemistry.


The Devils started the season with the goalie tandem of Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid. In the previous season, these two were a huge reason why the Devils made it as far as they did.

When the Devils went on a 13-game win streak last season, Vanecek got the starting spot more times than not. After the impressive win streak was over, Vanecek's performance declined significantly. From December to the end of the season, with the exception of January and four games in April, his save percentage was below .900 for each month.

Schmid was a brick wall against the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs last season. Many expected him to break out this season since he had that type of performance as a young goalie. His calm and collected demeanor changed as he struggled with the Devils and the Devils' AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, this season. He played 19 games this season with the Devils and won just five games.

Nico Daws received hip surgery over the last off season and returned to the AHL in December. Immediately following his return, he was called up to play in the big league. As expected, a rookie goaltender following a serious hip surgery, was not going to be the savior for the Devils. But, he did give them nine wins in his 21 games played.

The Devils had the second-worst save percentage as a team in the league with these three in net.

At the trade deadline, the Devils dealt Vanecek to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for goaltender Kaapa Kahkonen and then acquired Jake Allen from the Montreal Canadiens. Both goalies gave the Devils a chance every night. The team finally had goaltenders who could steal a game for them. Allen, who most likely will be returning as the Devils' backup goaltender next season as he has one year left on his contract, ended his season with a .906 SV% for the Devils.

Kahkonen, a UFA after this season, certainly should be considered a backup goaltender for the Devils next season. He finished his season with a .923 SV% with the team. Since Kahkonen is a UFA, he can freely walk during the off-season if he chooses, but there is no reason the Devils should not consider signing him to a new contract.


A lack of communication between players and coaches can ultimately derail a season. There is a huge possibility that was one of the key factors in the Devils' disappointing season. Ex-Devils head coach Lindy Ruff was with the Devils for four seasons before being fired in the middle of an underwhelming season. General Manager Tom Fitzgerald fired him in March, hoping the Devils would have enough time to turn things around with a new voice in the locker room. Ultimately, that was not the case, and the Devils did not do much better under interim head coach Travis Green.

There was a clear disconnect between the coach and the players. Ruff also made some questionable decisions as a head coach. For example, seventh-overall pick Alex Holtz was misused under Ruff his entire career. Holtz would receive less than 10 minutes of playing time on the third or fourth line. As a player who is there to be a franchise goal scorer, the third and fourth line is not where he will succeed. Also, only giving him limited playing time slows down his development.

The Devils will look for a new head coach over the offseason.

Immature Play

As the Devils are still a young team, immature play is almost guaranteed. But, to allow the other team to score first in 57 of 82 games shows more times than not, the Devils were not ready to start the game.

The Devils' defensive breakdowns at the beginning of the season cost them many goals. Breakaway goals and 2v1s were often seen in many games. The defensive play did get better towards the middle of the season, but signs of a young D-core remained.

The Devils have a lot to learn from this season. But on the other hand, the future is still as bright as it has been. Devils fans have seen what this team can do when they are connecting and playing well. It is just the beginning for the Devils as their window has just opened.

Learn from this season and come back stronger in 2024-25.

Gabrielle Nordstrom

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