New Jersey Devils Halonen
Photo Credit: Dave Janosz

Race With the Devils, Playoff Problems of the Team

As of March 4, 2024, most of the optimism for the Devils' playoff chances has been decimated by some harsh media and disappointed, vocal fans. Seemingly, the last straw for the Devils’ playoff hopes was losing to the Tampa Bay Lighting 4-1 last Sunday. Coming out of that game with a win could have sparked a chance for playoffs, as the Devils would be able to inch closer to the wild card spot. The issues listed below seemed to be the team’s core issues on their road to playoffs.


One of the first sparks of distress was seeing how fast the Devils went from a fully healthy roster to losing key players like Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Dougie Hamilton. These players, including Timo Meier and Jonas Siegenthaler, were desperately needed for the Devils’ struggling offense, defense and power play issues. These injuries caused the team to call up many players from New Jersey’s AHL team, the Utica Comets. Even though these team members are talented, most of them seemed to struggle slightly in the NHL. Many new faces have been seen this season caused by injuries, which threw the teams play off early into the season.

Goaltending and Defense

One of the biggest problems this season has been the plays in the net and the way this team has been performing defensively. During their playoff run last season, New Jersey’s problematic goaltending showed a bit when Vitek Vanecek would seem to lose his spark as his save percentage dropped to .825. Tom Fitzgerald would hold onto Vanecek throughout the offseason, keeping his pre-playoff stats in mind as one of the sole reasons to retain him.

Fast forward a few months into the 2023-2024 season, and Vanecek would go from a valued goaltender to underperforming behind an already apparently lost Devils team.

Rumors would start to circulate  that Fitzgerald would be in the market for goalies, specifically Jacob Markström from the Calgary Flames and Juuse Saros from the Nashville Predators. None of these trades have been completed yet, though.

The Devils' defense is a similar story, as their defensive play has seemed to lack organization since Damon Severson and Ryan Graves left during the offseason. These guys played big minutes, and they definitely left a dent in the Devils’ defensive system when they left. When Hamilton tore his pectoral muscle, he was said to be out for the remainder of the season, and with that, New Jersey called up the 2nd overall pick in the 2022 NHL draft, Šimon Nemec. One shining point in the season is that the rookie did a solid job filling the hole that Hamilton left.


Much speciation has surrounded Lindy Ruff’s handling of the Devil’s coaching. During his tenure as the coach, fans would point out that he seemed inconsistent when changing the lineups before each game, which didn't allow players to warm up to their linemates. Ruff developed the young players, and what he has done for the team is tremendous, but poor rosters and confusing change-ups have decimated this season. 

Fans and media have expressed how this may very well help the team realize that the road they are headed down does not lead to the playoffs or a well-organized team. Recently, Devils' ex-coach Lindy Ruff has been relieved of his duties. Associate coach Travis Green will take over as the interim coach, but how his tenure as the interim will go is hard to tell at this point in time.

There is still a long way to go for the Devils to regain the fire they had last season. Right now, the playoffs do not seem attainable for the team. The Devils have the raw talent needed to make a run for the cup, it's just a matter of solving the problems they are facing this season. If the team can make some offseason changes and add new faces, they could make playoffs and be a cup contender in the 2024-2025 season.

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