Photo by Bobby O'Hara

Devils going for it show that times are changing

The New Jersey Devils honored their 2003 Stanley Cup championship team Saturday night prior to their game against the Philadelphia Flyers. It was a reminiscence of the good times this franchise had when it was Stanley Cup or bust in 1995. They were a postseason staple every spring from 1997 to 2010.

Looking back at that era, it was something to be proud of. They won three Stanley Cups. That’s excellent when one realizes how hard it is to win the Stanley Cup. So many great teams only could muster three or fewer.

It’s been a long time since the Devils have gotten there, but for the first time in a long time, the Devils fans can say their team has gone a long way. Maybe they are not a Stanley Cup contender yet, but they are a good team that can make a run this season.

Devils ownership and Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald gave his team a chance in the playoffs on Sunday when the Devils acquired San Jose Sharks winger Timo Meier along with defenseman Scott Harrington and prospects Timur Ibragimov, Santeri Hatakka and Zach Edmond for a 2023 first-round pick, a conditional 2024 first-rounder, forward Andreas Johnsson and prospects Shakir Mukhamadullin, Fabian Zetterlund and Nikita Okhotiuk.

Forget what the Devils gave up. Focus on what they got.

They acquired a scorer who can pair with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. They added depth to their defense by acquiring Harrington. They are making moves to try to make a run. This is refreshing after years of awful hockey. This team is now finally taking the next step and showing they are serious about winning a championship.

This means something to a player like Jack Hughes. He is one of the best players to play the game at the age of 22. It would behoove this franchise to do something before he reaches his prime.

The Devils need to convince Hughes that he can win a championship with them. There’s no time to waste, which is why they had to go for it by acquiring Meier.

The fans needed a reward for supporting this franchise through lean times these last few years. They have been loyal by showing up at Prudential Center to support the Devils. Tickets are not exactly cheap, yet they paid for bad hockey prior to this season. This group wanted a player that can elevate their team, as shown by the chants of “WE WANT MEIER” in recent Devils' home games.

It showed right there that ownership and management got the message.

This trade should be a celebration of how far this franchise has gone. The rebuilding years are over. This is no longer about hoping to win. This is about expecting to win and going as far as they can.

The Devils do not have the goods to win the Stanley Cup yet, but they are good enough to get past the first round for the first time in a long time. They know they can beat the Rangers, who would be their likely playoff foe. That’s why they made the deal.

It will be interesting to see how Meier does with Hughes and Hischier. Of course, Lindy Ruff could have different ideas like having Meier on another line.

But why overdo it? Put three good scorers in the same line and let them cook. Let’s see what happens. There’s a reason Fitzgerald acquired Meier.

Speaking to Riveters forward Kendall Cornine the other night after the Riveters’ 6-2 victory over the Boston Pride, she mentioned the importance of linemates being familiar with one another and knowing each other’s tendencies in touting the new working line she has recently formed with Hayley Lunny and Taylor Marchin that had her score a goal against the Pride in the second period.

Chemistry matters in lines. It’s important to see what Meier does with Hughes and Hischier right away with 23 games to go.

The Devils have a three-game road trip that starts Wednesday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. This is a good time for this line to work out the kinks with them being away from home. These guys can concentrate without dealing with the pressure from fans to do something right away.

This is good timing for the Devils to make the move. They are playing Stanley Cup playoff teams and contenders this month. This is a good chance to see where they are at this point of the season but also, most importantly, see what Meier does with Hughes and Hischier against those teams.

Of course, Meier has been shut down with an “upper-body injury”. But that could be the Sharks holding out their player until he gets traded.

If he is healthy, there’s no time to waste.

The Devils are going to make the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now it’s about what they can do when they get there. That’s why this month will be interesting. How they fare against the contenders and pretenders will show how much more growth they have achieved.

Getting Meier should accelerate this process even more.

Yes, indeed, this team has finally grown up to care more about expectations. That’s what Sunday’s acquisition was all about.

You can read Leslie's Jersey Sporting News columns on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.