Category Archives: New Jersey Devils Jerseys 2022

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The New Jersey Devils have finally signed RFA goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to a deal worth $2.8 million each of the next three seasons. This is a huge deal for the Devils, who now have a solid two goaltenders for two seasons after signing Corey Crawford in the offseason. Both are good enough to make a bottom-five defense in the league look far more serviceable. Blackwood and Crawford are the biggest keys to the Devils team this year and any success they have will be thanks to their efforts.

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Last season with Blackwood in net, the Devils record was 22-14-0-8 while without him they were as bad as the bottom of the league sporting an awful 6-15-0-2 record. This is why so much relies on good goaltending.

With solid stats on a bad team including a 2.77 goals against average and a .915 save percentage at only 24 years of age, Blackwood has room to improve. If the team in front of him takes a step forward, these numbers could push him into a top-10 goaltender in the NHL. His save percentage was good enough for 26th in the NHL last season. While that does not sound great, factoring in the defense that’s in front of him, it is very good. While comparing and looking at more advanced stats, Blackwood was only one of four goaltenders last season to have a positive goals saved vs expected goals against. All the others (Tuukka Rask, Carter Hart, and Connor Hellebuyck) were on solid teams.

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When looking at this from a team cap perspective, Blackwood is making less than bottom-pairing defender Will Butcher and only $50k above bottom-line forward Miles Wood. Around the league, the other goaltenders Blackwood is comparable to are making three times his money. While he still, if he continues this level of play, has a big chance at a contract when he is a free agent in three seasons, this is still a steal for the Devils with zero risk. Fitzgerald has given a team with a ton of cap space room to make moves and keep anyone they need. With this contract in the books, all focus will be on Jesper Bratt and what he signs for next before camp can get under way and the season of hockey to begin.

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NEXT: Ranking New Jersey Devils Possible Divisional Opponents
It is a good day to be a Devils fan.

Normally, I use a studfinder as if I’m reading the wall: left-to-right. So when I hit the left edge, that means that there is a stud coming up. In other words, the screen indicates a “future stud”.

I could have gone a few different directions with this, but I wanted to choose someone who is steadily improving and is not quite a stud yet. Over the past 2 seasons, among the 82 goalies who have faced 200+ shots, Blackwood has been worth 24.2 goals more than a replacement-level goalie (21st in NHL) and is saving 0.12% more goals than expected (33rd). So, he’s clearly not elite YET. But he’s younger than every goalie on that list other than Carter Hart and Ilya Samsonov and, unlike the other possible choices for this category, the age curve is in his favor — the average peak performance for a goalie is 26.7 years old on my model.

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And it’s not just blind faith. From the time Hynes was fired, Blackwood prevented more goals than any other goalie in the NHL (13.6), according to Evolving Hockey’s GSAx. He’s got draft pedigree, size, athleticism, stretches of elite play, and an age curve pointing upward. The NJDSF scans Blackwood and sees a stud in our future.

Right Edge: P.K. Subban

If you’re reading the wall left-to-right, then the right-edge shows you’ve hit the end of the stud. As a player, this means your days as a stud have come to a close.

There’s only one player on the team who was indisputably a stud at one point, and is indisputably not a stud anymore: P.K. Subban. Given last year’s results, I think it’s important to remind everyone of the scope of his greatness. This is his value in standings points per year.

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He was worth about 5 standings points from 2011-2018. That made him the most valuable defender in the NHL during that time. He fell on hard times in 2019, but with 7 years as the best D-man in the NHL, and 1 as a replacement-level player, that’s absolutely a chance that you take, and Shero did. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out. And that’s putting it mildly.

P.K. Subban — the most valuable defender in the NHL from 2011-2018 — was the least valuable defender in the NHL in 2020. He tied Johnny Boychuck, being worth 10.1 goals LESS than a replacement-level player.

To be honest, I do expect a little upward regression. Someone as talented as Subban doesn’t become this bad this fast, typically. But both my aging curve, linked above, and Micah McCurdy’s show P.K.’s age, 31, as an inflection point where performance typically nosedives. Perhaps he hit it a bit early. Regardless the NJDSF scans P.K. and sees the end of a stud.

Center: Nico Hischier

When you see this marker on your stud finder, it means that this is where you want to drill. Putting up my TV, I want to hit the center of the stud to make sure that the screw catches the wood comfortably on all ends. This is the screen you see when it’s time to go all in — you’ve got yourself a stud.

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To me, this is Nico Hischier. His rookie year, you could write off as benefiting from Taylor Hall. Sure enough, the next season, with Hall injured, Nico’s point rate did take a dip ever-so-slightly, but his impact on the pace of play remained in the top 2% of the league due to a supremely underrated even-strength offensive impact, and an improved defensive game.

In the tire fire that was the 2020 season, Hischier was not immune to the spiral, but was still in the top third of the league in value (and more stable metrics had him in the top quarter).

No matter what was you slice it, Nico is a stud. The NJDSF says this is the player you plant your pilot hole in and build the mount around.

Deep Scan: Will Butcher

Some walls are built a little thicker than others and that can wreak havoc on the studfinder readings. When this happens the Tavool studfinder has a “deep” setting that increases the depth of the scan up to 1.77 inches into the wall. This is what you use when you have to look a little deeper than the surface to see the stud that’s there.

There is only one reasonable choice here, to me, is Will Butcher.

Butcher is 25 which is near the peak age for a defender. And his peak is pretty peaky. It’s among the peakiest in the NHL. Since joining the league 3 years ago, this is his peer group in terms of value.

I know, I know, I can already hear the chorus of commenters that has invaded my past 3 “Will Butcher is great” articles. But the whole premise here is that this is a player that might be a stud if we just look a little closer.

His pairing with Ben Lovejoy was among the most efficient in the NHL. He never found a pairing that worked last year. There are a lot of new faces likely to join the starting 6 this season and that gives Butcher a chance to prove that not only was last year a fluke, but that he can handle increased responsibility while maintaining his efficiency.

Butcher is small, slow, and plays 18 minutes a game. He does NOT looke like a stud. So, when NJDSF prepares to scan him, it needs a deeper setting.

Metal Scan: Blake Coleman

I know, he’s not on the team anymore. But, that’s why he’s perfect for this setting. This setting is used to change the type of stud we’re searching for. A metal stud is serves the same purpose as a wood one, but you can’t drill into it. So, for the purposes of mounting a TV, the stud just won’t work out.

Blake Coleman was a STUD with the Devils. He was the NHL equivalent to a 3-and-D forward. He could score by getting in the high-danger areas with his underrated athleticism, and he was a Selke-caliber forward in terms of defensive impact, both even-strength and penalty-killing.

Blake Coleman was absolutely a stud in terms of value to the team. But, he didn’t pan out here. He was a little too old for the core of this team, and we wouldn’t have room for his next contract. To some degree, he was never able to shake this “depth forward” mystique and so, with the potential to acquire two chances at usable studs in Nolan Foote and Shakir Mukhamadullin, management decided to move on.

NJDSF scans Blake Coleman and sees a stud, but not one to build a mount on.

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Two good goalies are better than one for the New Jersey Devils in 2020-21.
After waiting nine-plus months to watch a meaningful game of New Jersey Devils hockey, the 2020-21 season is right around the corner – and needless to say, it’s going to be weird.

The fans will be… sitting at home. The Prudential Center will be (essentially) empty, and the Devils will be playing their smallest slate of games since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Factor in an all but guaranteed division realignment to accommodate for the closed Canadian border and an abbreviated schedule that could feature less time between games, and it’s safe to say any team with even a small hope of contention will need to have their goaltending plans on lock.

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Well, fortunately, the Devils suddenly find themselves with not one, but two of the more intriguing netminders in the Metropolitan Division.

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After sticking it out with a rapidly developing MacKenzie Blackwood and a clearly diminished Cory Schneider, New Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald signed two-time Stanley Cup winner Corey Crawford away from the Chicago Blackhawks on a two-year, $7.8 million deal.

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While Schneider will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Devils fans for his impressive string of seasons in the mid-2010s, it’s hard to describe just how much of an upgrade Crow is over a player who finished out the 2019-20 season in Binghamton.
Earlier this week, The Athletic’s Pierre Lebrun unveiled what realigned divisions will look like for the shortened 2020-21 season. For the Devils, they’ll have the usual suspects from the Metropolitan Division — the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders.

But they’ll also have two new division “rivals” in the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres, meaning the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets won’t be division foes. The Devils will play all 56 games within the division to reduce travel and risk of exposure to COVID-19. So they won’t be seeing the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets during the regular season.

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On the surface, this is a pretty tough division for the Devils. Every team other than them and the Sabres were part of the league’s 24-team, return-to-play format in the summer. A look at point projections from Jack Fraser (you may know him as @JFreshHockey on Twitter) has the Devils finishing with 57 points, second to last in the East Division and just ahead of the Sabres.

Though the Devils only project to finish with 57 points (an 84-point pace in an 82 game season), there’s not a significant gap between them and the Flyers. The Devils upgraded their goaltending significantly when they signed Corey Crawford to a two-year deal in free agency. If he and Mackenzie Blackwood produce exactly as they did last season, the Devils should be competitive. Combine that with steps forward from Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, and the Devils could surprise some. But there’s no doubt the team has a tall task ahead of them in a stacked division.

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Measuring in at 6-foot-2, 216 pounds, Crawford has the seventh-highest saves percentage of any active player in the NHL (91.8) and has the rare distinction of winning the Jennings Trophy twice – in 2013 and again in 2015.

Though he’s certainly seen his average number of games played drop over the past few seasons, going from roughly 53 from 2013-17 to roughly 35 in each of the past three seasons, Crawford is clearly still one of the better ‘name brand’ goalies in the league even if he’s more of a platoon player than an unquestioned number one.

In 2019-20, Blackwood appeared in seven more games with four more starts than Crawford with the Blackhawks, but is that the plan moving forward? Did Crawford sign what may be his final substantive contract extension to play second-fiddle to a 24-year-old goaltender with ‘long-term starter’ written all over him, or is there a world where the Crow makes Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman look silly for explicitly passing on giving the 13-year vet another contract?

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Well, fortunately, we may not have to have that conversation right now; not in the first half of 2021 at least.

Again, the 2020-21 season is going to be weird. The Devils will presumably be playing four-five games a week and may need to rely on a legit 50/50 goalie split. While the team will surely need to pick a number one goalie for the sake of consistency, there’s no reason to believe the team couldn’t roll with Crawford for a few games and then switch over to Blackwood and then back to Crawford the following week.

On paper, both players have their own merits. Crawford is a stable vet with 12,500 saves to his name. Playing him in net against more offensive-minded teams could help the Devils steal a few more wins and better evaluate the talents of developing defensemen like Ryan Murray, Connor Carrick, and Dmitry Kulikov. And as for Blackwood? Well, he’s the future. After impressing down the stretch last spring, Blackwood deserves a chance to prove one way or another what his ceiling is as a member of the Devils, and if he’s the kind of player who can fill out a defense alongside prospects like Kevin Bahl, Ty Smith, and Nolan Foote moving forward.

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In a perfect world, a team would have one elite goalie they can rely on for 60-plus games a season and a decent enough backup to keep them competitive when the top guy is out. Crawford was that guy for much of the 2010s, and, fingers crossed, Blackwood will follow suit in the 2020s. However, in 2020-21, having two very good guys may be more useful than one elite goaltender, especially if the season is only 56 games long.

NEXT: Will Alex Ovechkin finish his career as the NHL’s leading goal scorer?
After playing his entire career with the Chicago Blackhawks, I highly doubt Corey Crawford ever expected to wear another team’s jersey in an NHL game. Had the team that drafted him prioritized loyalty as much as he did, he likely wouldn’t have, but fortunately for fans in the Garden State, that wasn’t the case. By signing with the New Jersey Devils – after a long talk with his childhood idol Martin Brodeur, which you can read here – Crawford accepted a position in a platoon and an opportunity to pass his knowledge along to MacKenzie Blackwood over the next few seasons. While either player could conceivably outplay the other and full take on a true number one role, the Devils’ best chance to win would be running a true two-goalie system where each player can play off the other. If the 2020-21 season is going to be weird, why not embrace it?