New Jersey Devils News & Clips: Dec. 20, 2018

  1. SUMMARY
  2. LOCAL PRINT/WEB
  3. TV/VIDEO LINKS
  4. RADIO LINKS
  5. NATIONAL PRINT/WEB

    1) SUMMARY

     

    The Devils will face-off against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Nationwide Arena (7 pm, FS-O, MSG). Tonight’s game is the first of four contests between New Jersey and Columbus.  Tonight’s matchup is the first head-to-head matchup between New Jersey and Columbus, and the start of the Devils seventh of 14 sets back-to-back contests. The Devils are 4-4-1 against Metropolitan Division opponents so far this season.

    Abbey Mastracco, The Record, spoke to Devils general manager Ray Shero about head coach John Hynes and why he is choosing to stick with him.

    “He’s always adapting and learning,” Shero said. “It doesn’t matter about our start. Last year we were 8-2 and I saw a different coach. In the summertime I saw a different coach leading them into training camp and on the ice.”

    “He’s got a presence,” Shero said. “The players respect him and he’s grown into that. You need to see that and that’s what I was hoping for before I even hired John.

    “I wanted to hire the right coach for the right team and this was the team I saw. It wasn’t a situation I wanted to get into where it’s three years and that’s it.”

    Mastracco also spoke to Devils head coach John Hynes about the teams struggles and how each player needs to individually step up and out-compete their opponents.

    “There’s games where we have and it and games where certain individuals don’t,” Hynes said Wednesday after an off-ice practice at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House. “If you look at the two games over the weekend, we didn’t have many passengers, we were competitive in the hard areas of the game and last night we weren’t.”

    “It comes down to the player,” Hynes said. “It comes down to the poise, the confidence to have the puck on your stick to make the play, the competitive nature to win 50-50 puck battles and a give a second-effort and engage in physical confrontations and be comfortable with those things.”

    Corey Masisak, The Athletic, sat down with Ray Shero to talk about expectations of the team, individual players, and head coach John Hynes.

    2) LOCAL PRINT/WEB

     

    1. Why NJ Devils’ Ray Shero isn’t deviating from his rebuild plan

    By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

    https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/20/why-nj-devils-ray-shero-isnt-deviating-rebuild-plan/2366924002/

    NEWARK — Ray Shero can sense the discontent.

    He sees John Hynes’ terse press conferences following lopsided losses. He hears the boos for the $6 million goaltender. The Devils general manager may not be on Twitter, but he can practically hear the fans pounding their keyboards from his office at Prudential Center.

    Shero knows that with each loss, the New Jersey fanbase is growing increasingly angry, confused and disappointed with yet another losing season. Even worse, this one came after a season of promise in the playoffs.

    “I know we suck right now,” Shero said this week at Prudential Center, in his first interview with beat reporters since training camp opened in September.

    So, don’t worry. He’s well aware.

    “From a fan standpoint, they’re disappointed,” he said. “Well, really? So am I.”

    The Devils were the upstart darlings of the NHL the last time he spoke to the media. But since then they’ve tumbled to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. But that doesn’t mean Shero is going to suddenly veer off course by doing something like firing the head coach. That would only set the team back.

    A rebuild doesn’t always go in a straight line. Sure, the trajectory is supposed to head upward and a trip to the postseason was a good indication that things were trending upward. Fans may not have anticipated a drop-off this steep Shero himself was anticipating some curveballs along the way.

    While the fans and the media may have expected something more this season, Shero himself was wary about setting concrete goals for the team to reach.

    “We never talked about expectations,” Shero said. “We never talked about anything except gaining respect in the league and we really established that in a big way. I don’t think we really got away from that. I don’t.”

    Shero set out to bring the Devils back to prominence by rebuilding from within. He wanted to change the culture and bring financial and competitive sustainability to a team who hadn’t won since 2012 and was deep in the red, hamstrung by the type of big contracts that once dominated an earlier era.

    The culture has been changed, the player development program has been overhauled and they now have cap space to work with.

    Shero is just getting started.

    “We’re building something here and we started that last year,” Shero said. “We’re going to continue with it and I see it continuing.”

    Which is why he’s not about to fire the coach.

    John Hynes’ status

    Shero and Hynes go back to the Pittsburgh Penguins days when Shero was the GM and Hynes was the coach for the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Long ago, Shero noticed his talent for development and the way he was able to motivate his players. A natural-born leader with a talent for getting the most of his players in order to achieve success.

    Hynes was tabbed by the Devils because they needed a coach who could grow with the team and the GM feels the coach has done exactly that.

    “He’s always adapting and learning,” Shero said. “It doesn’t matter about our start. Last year we were 8-2 and I saw a different coach. In the summertime I saw a different coach leading them into training camp and on the ice.”

    Shero respects the fact that he spends time with coaches in other sports to learn about leadership and personnel management. He believes Hynes had a big hand in Taylor Hall’s Hart Trophy campaign and capable of coaching elite players.

    Chuck Fletcher, who was with the Devils as a senior advisor until the Philadelphia Flyers hired him to replace Ron Hextall as the general manager earlier this month, also had high praise for Hynes.

    Longtime former New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello may have seen coaches as disposable assets, but Shero, who is the son of former Flyers’ and Rangers’ coach Fred Shero, doesn’t share in that philosophy.

    “He’s got a presence,” Shero said. “The players respect him and he’s grown into that. You need to see that and that’s what I was hoping for before I even hired John.

    “I wanted to hire the right coach for the right team and this was the team I saw. It wasn’t a situation I wanted to get into where it’s three years and that’s it.”

    Flaws in the system

    Shero has lauded Hynes’ developmental track record in the past, but acknowledges the fact that some of the players the Devils were counting on develop aren’t ready to contribute or have taken a step back.

    Shero doesn’t necessarily look at young players like Miles Wood (homegrown) or Stefan Noesen (waiver claim) and think they’re regressing, but he is concerned with production. Pavel Zacha was sent back to the AHL this season, John Quenneville is still trying to show that he can stick in the NHL and Blake Speers seems to have faded.

    Many of the Devils’ top AHL prospects are holdovers from the Lamoriello regime. Shero wasn’t able to draft for New Jersey until 2016, after he hired his own director of amateur scouting, Paul Castron.

    Shero is preaching patience with regards to the revamped player development system.

    But patience does not come quite as easy when it comes to the goaltending. There is a level of concern when it comes to both Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid.

    “We’re, what, 28th or 29th in the league right now?” Shero said. “Unless we went to 56 teams, it ain’t good.”

    With Schneider injured, the organization thinks it’s the right time to give Mackenzie Blackwood a chance. They’ve been pleased with his development this season and the way he bounced back from a tough 2017-18 season.

    But Schneider is still owed $6 million per year through 2021-22. It’s not unfair to say the Devils need their most expensive and arguably one of their most important assets to play better. A 4.66 GAA is not good enough in the NHL.

    “You wouldn’t ask the question if there wasn’t a concern, right?” Shero said. “It’s been well-documented with Cory. It’s not good enough and he knows it’s not good enough.”

    The contract, which was awarded to Schneider by Lamoriello, could be something of an albatross if he fails to come back from this dismal stretch.

    “Sometimes a goalie is so good or hot that it masks a lot of problems,” Shero said. “Sometimes it’s the other way.”

    When will they go for it?

    Shero is not sitting by idly waiting for the Devils to snap out of this funk and suddenly start playing like a contender. He’s actively looking for deals to better the club in the long- and short-term and everyone knows he’s willing to deal just about anyone, regardless of the emotional connection they may have to the team and the fanbase.

    But the Devils may be more than just one or two moves away from contending. Shero is adamant about avoiding costly free agents who would require long-term deals since that’s what got the Devils into this mess to begin with.

    Owners Joshua Harris and David Blitzer are behind him with this plan. They want to see a return on their investment, as every owner does, and sustained success over time is certainly a high return.

    So, will Shero ever throw caution to the wind and put together a product powerful enough to contend with the elite teams in the league? Shero will pull the trigger when the time is right, but not if it’s going to be detrimental in the future. He’s attempting to build a powerhouse that will remain so for years to come, not a one-year, flash-in-the-pan team.

    “I’ll deviate from the plan at the right time for the right reasons. Absolutely,” Shero said. “I didn’t promise this was going to be without some bumps. That’s part of a rebuild.”

    The message has not changed since the day he was hired. It’s not changing anytime soon.

    2. NJ Devils trying to rid themselves of ‘passengers’ in search for lineup depth

    By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

    https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/19/nj-devils-trying-rid-themselves-passengers-lineup/2365444002/

    NEWARK — John Hynes likes to use the term “passengers” when referring to the lineup.

    Tuesday night, the lineup was full of passengers with no one driving the bus.

    The Devils’ brutal 7-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs stands out as one of the worst in a season full of bad losses because of the way the team had played in its last two games. They were resilient, relentless and they came from behind for an overtime win and a shootout loss. Those two games should have been building block games.

    But you know what happened instead. Hynes knows why too: They didn’t outwork the competition.

    “There’s games where we have and it and games where certain individuals don’t,” Hynes said Wednesday after an off-ice practice at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House. “If you look at the two games over the weekend, we didn’t have many passengers, we were competitive in the hard areas of the game and last night we weren’t.”

    The roster isn’t the most talented in the league, but Hynes genuinely believes they’re too talented to be where they are right now, which is last in the Eastern Conference (11-14-7, 29 points). The Devils aren’t executing within their system for a myriad of reasons.

    You could point to defensemen being out of position, bad goaltending and bad bounces. The puck management is there on some nights and absent on others. The Devils have been snakebitten on the breakaway, unable to capitalize on their chances. And there have been plenty.

    But Hynes wants and needs his team to be more assertive and more confident in their abilities in order to execute and outwork the competition.

    “It comes down to the player,” Hynes said. “It comes down to the poise, the confidence to have the puck on your stick to make the play, the competitive nature to win 50-50 puck battles and a give a second-effort and engage in physical confrontations and be comfortable with those things.”

    The coaches can preach all of these things until they’re blue in the face but it’s up to them to execute.

    It’s a traffic jam in New Jersey with too many passengers and not enough drivers.

    Book on Blackwood

    With three games left on the docket this week, goalie Mackenzie Blackwood may end up making a few appearances, so the 20 minutes he played against Toronto were beneficial. While the Devils didn’t learn anything new about the 22-year-old out of Thunder Bay, Ontario, they were pleased to see his composure in his NHL debut.

    “He was certainly prepared,” Hynes said. “He came in and made a great save in the third period and made a couple other saves after that. Certainly, a few other things to work on but I thought he handled himself well.”

    Roster freeze

    The NHL roster freeze goes into effect Wednesday at midnight and teams will be unable to make moves until midnight on Dec. 26. This prevents any players on NHL active rosters or injured reserve from being traded, waived or loaned during the holiday period.

    3. Why Ray Shero isn’t deviating from his plan after Devils’ disappointing start to season: 4 takeaways | How to help Cory Schneider

    By Chris Ryan, NJ.com

    https://www.nj.com/expo/sports/erry-2018/12/0afd1b1fd27233/why-ray-shero-isnt-deviating-f.html

    When Ray Shero sat down with media members during December of 2016, the Devils general manager had a clear tone. In the midst of a seven-game losing streak that preceded an eventual last place finish in the Eastern Conference, Shero called out the effort and drive of his team.

    When GM had a similar sit down with media members on Tuesday, the tone was far different than the one conducted two years ago.

    Shero talked with reporters for more than an hour about the Devils’ 2018-19 season, and while he expressed disappointment in the team’s results, where New Jersey has lost 21 of 32 games, he remained confident the culture and identity established at the start of the 2017-18 season remained in tact.

    Shero touched on a variety of topics, from expectations to goaltending to the rebuild. Here’s how he addressed those issues.

    Sticking to the plan

    When Shero arrived in New Jersey in 2015, his message was clear. He wanted to build the Devils the right way, without shortcuts. He wanted to get faster and deeper through the NHL Draft while making other moves to build the Devils back into a perennial playoff contender.

    He’s said it on multiple occasions over multiple years. He’s also said that plan won’t always be without adversity.

    “In the words of the great Mike Tyson, everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face,” Shero said. “And yeah, we got punched in the face a little bit this year. It’s a speed bump. We’ve got a plan here and we’ll stick with it. But it’s also from our fans’ standpoint too. When I came here, we wanted to engage the fans and everything. Get to know the players, and the community’s important. We’re doing all of that, and we want the fans to be a part of it.”

    So, yes, like fans, Shero isn’t thrilled about the team’s 11-14-7 start to the season. Coming off a playoff appearance in 2017-18, it’s not the start — record-wise — the Devils expected.

    That said, Shero still sees some of the same qualities in the Devils that became a trademark during the 2017-18 run. They play with speed and pride — something that was on display when the team rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime on Friday.

    There have been games where players have deviated from the game plan or structure, which will happen to any team over the course of an 82-game season. They’ve been outclassed in five games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, losing handily in all of them to two teams expected to contend for the Stanley Cup.

    While the Devils are currently at the bottom of the standings, he still sees a big difference in his current group from the one that bottomed out in 2016-17, finishing last in the Eastern Conference.

    “Play with pride. That;s why it was so disappointing that year,” he said. “But this (current) team, again, they battle and battle. We’ve got a lot of hockey to play, and for it to be about expectations, it’s more of our identity and how we’re playing.”

    All that said, Shero is by no means done in his efforts to make the Devils a better team and organization.

    Even if the Devils were sitting in first place atop the league, he would still be searching for ways to make them better in the short and long term.

    “We’ve got a lot of work to do as an (organization),” he said. “But we’ve got a lot of good things in place. We’ve got upside to the team. We’ve got upside with our cap space, our ownership. There’s a lot to expect, because it’s in a good spot.

    “And you’re always looking to get better, and that’s certainly our goal. Again, the basis of our team is identity that we play hard and we play fast, and we’ve become a good team. That’s been a good story. It’s a ways to go, but it’s not a disappointment. It’s not.”

    Where Devils’ goaltending stands

    Before Cory Schneider went on injured reserve with an abdominal strain, Shero met with the struggling goalie in Los Angeles at the start of the team’s California road trip.

    The veteran goalie’s struggles this season are clear, and one loss in two starts following the meeting dropped Schneider to 0-5-1. The goalie needs to be better, and both Schneider and Shero know it.

    “We’re doing everything we can to help him. It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or you’re 32,” Shero said. “This is development as a play, as a person. You want to be put in the best position possible, and he’s no different. This has been a really, with Cory, especially the beginning of his year was really good. He surprised a lot of people and got off to a good start, and with that, Keith Kinkaid was really awesome (in the second half).”

    While Schneider is on IR after suffering his current injury while being pulled in a 5-4 OT comeback win over the Vegas Golden Knights last Friday, Shero did say the goalie’s hip is healthy following major offseason surgery to repair torn cartilage.

    So that aspect is good news for Schneider, but it doesn’t explain his struggles that date back to December of 2017, when he last won a regular-season game.

    “It’s our job to find a solution, and certainly Cory’s job as well,” Shero said. “We’ll continue to do that. In the meantime, Keith Kinkaid, he’s one of the guys you work with, and you’ve seen the growth in his game the last couple years, growth as a person. It’s been a great story and that’s what you need.”

    Schneider’s struggles this season are well documented. But now take him out of the equation entirely.

    Using Keith Kinkaid’s .902 save percentage alone, the Devils would still rank 18th in the NHL. It’s not terrible, but it’s still far from the dominant second half Kinkaid posted in 2017-18. With Schneider and Mackenzie Blackwood’s one period of play in the mix, the Devils are 30th in the NHL in save percentage.

    So regardless of who is in net for the Devils, whether it be Kinkaid, Schneider or the recently recalled Blackwood, they need better performances. Part of that falls on the goalies themselves, and part of it falls on the play in front of them.

    “Now with Mackenzie’s up here, and depending how long Cory will be, he’ll play. Keith can’t play them all, and it will be a great opportunity,” Shero said. “This is what you’re seeing around the league. And let’s be honest, we’re 28th, 29th in the league. Unless we went to 56 teams, that ain’t good. And it needs to be better overall. That’s a team game overall, and we understand that.”

    When to go for it

    Coming off a playoff appearance in 2017-18, it’s understandable for a fan to want the Devils to make a big splash to take the next step. That could be through signing a big free agent, trading future assets for a player or two that could help now or spending some of the Devils’ valuable cap room.

    Shero didn’t do that this summer. HE dabbled with a couple big-name free agents who ultimately signed elsewhere, such as James van Riemsdyk, who took a longer deal to sign with the Flyers.

    That didn’t mean Shero was going to resort to plan B by spending money on a lesser player, just for the sake of spending.

    Shero wants to help the team turnaround in the short term, but he’s not going to sacrifice the foundation he’s been trying to set for the past four seasons.

    “It’s fun because this is the challenge of the job, trying to sort this out, but also keeping with the plan,” Shero said. “I think my history shows, I’ll deviate from the plan, at the right time and for the right reasons. Absolutely. But from the fans’ standpoint, I think it’s important to know, from day one, it’s been about them and the engagement and interaction and knowing we’re about the team.

    “And you know what, you’re getting to the point now where they give a (expletive). They’re disappointed, they’re frustrated? Well you know what? So am I. But I didn’t promise it was going to be without some bumps, and that’s part of a rebuild.”

    How Chuck Fletcher fit in, and what Shero gained from his brief Devils stint

    Chuck Fletcher’s tenure with the Devils lasted just five months, spanning from his appointment as a senior advisor in June to his hiring as the GM of the Flyers in November.

    Most of Fletcher’s work with the Devils went on behind the scenes, but he provided Shero with some valuable insight.

    The two worked together prior to New Jersey, with Fletcher serving as assistant GM to Shero with the Pittsburgh Penguins before going to run the Minnesota Wild. So Fletcher came in as not only a trusted voice to Shero, but someone who could give a fresh perspective on what the Devils had.

    Of all the things Fletcher told Shero, the biggest vote of confidence went to coach John Hynes. Fletcher never had any ties to Hynes when Shero hired him as an AHL coach in Pittsburgh. From seeing and listening to Hynes in New Jersey, Fletcher gave his stamp of approval.

    “‘I’m telling you, this guy’s outstanding,” Shero recalled Fletcher saying. “‘You have a hell of a coach here.'”

    While talking about Fletcher, Shero also got into some of the philosophical processes of evaluating talent within an organization.

    Shero gets constant reports and updates on the team’s prospects from his own staff, and he can make plenty of evaluations off them. But some of his biggest insights come from other GMs.

    When Shero was buying at the trade deadline in 2017-18, he talked to other executives around the league, and he would hear which Devils prospects other teams were eyeing in potential trades.

    “That’s when you find out who has value in these prospects,” Shero said.” I know who these teams are asking for. ‘No, we’re not trading this guy, but they like this guy more than (we) do, what’s going on?’ It’s a great exercise to go through.”

     

     

    3) TV/VIDEO LINKS

     

    1. WATCH: NJ Devils’ John Hynes breaks down off-ice workout

    By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

    https://www.northjersey.com/videos/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/19/watch-nj-devils-john-hynes-breaks-down-off-ice-workout/2365467002/

     

    2. Off Ice Workouts: John Hynes

    By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

    https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/off-ice-workouts-john-hynes/t-277437418/c-64103103

     

    4) RADIO LINKS – N/A

    5) NATIONAL PRINT/WEB

     

    1. How a pregame gift to a kid with cancer and a couple of broken sticks led to another magical night for Brian Boyle

    By Corey Masisak, The Athletic

    https://theathletic.com/721530/2018/12/20/how-a-pregame-gift-to-a-kid-with-cancer-and-a-couple-of-broken-sticks-led-to-another-magical-night-for-brian-boyle/

    Brian Boyle scored one of the biggest goals of the Devils’ season Saturday night in Nashville, helping the club steal a point in a 2-1 shootout loss despite not having Taylor Hall and struggling to generate offense for most of the evening.

    Yet that wasn’t the only special story of his night.

    Last season Boyle met a little girl named Kendall James at Bridgestone Arena, and it was one of the most memorable moments in a season full of them for one of the NHL’s new faces of the fight against cancer. Boyle, who was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia last September, has embraced the role and tries to meet with people in similar circumstances whenever he can.

    The Devils were facing the second game of a back-to-back when they traveled to Nashville this season, but Boyle met up with another young person enduring a similar fight.

    Alexander Berthelot, 14, was diagnosed with CML in December 2016. He’s on his school’s tennis team in Franklin, Tenn., and plays the saxophone.

    As Boyle put it, Berthelot was in much worse shape than the Devils forward when the disease was found in his body. Berthelot takes a slightly different type of inhibitor medication, a routine that includes one pill per day instead of the two that Boyle takes. But like Boyle, Berthelot’s medication has provided great results.

    The two met Saturday about two hours before the game. They talked about where they are with their treatments. Boyle said Berthelot has another scan coming up soon where they’re hoping for the same diagnosis Boyle received in October, that the cancer is in remission.

    At the end of the meet-up, Boyle decided to give Berthelot a signed stick. That’s where this story began to take an unconventional turn.

    Boyle did not have that many sticks with him on the trip: five, but only four that he liked enough to use during a game, and really three that were in a condition that he typically wants from his sticks.

    He gave one of those three to Berthelot.

    “He didn’t ask for one,” Boyle said. “I just wanted to give him one. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it.”

    Now, Boyle has been playing on the wing for most of this season instead of in his typical center position. He still takes faceoffs, which can be hazardous to sticks, but he had noticed that playing on the wing has led to fewer broken twigs over the course of this season.

    Boyle broke one of his two “good” sticks in the second period. Then the other one broke early in the third period.

    He was down to two sticks — one was about two weeks old and “whippy” by his determination. It had lost some of the stiffness he typically likes with his 107 flex Bauer Nexus sticks. Given that Boyle is not a normal-sized hockey player at 6-foot-7 and 244 pounds, he can’t exactly just borrow a teammate’s stick, either.

    He had that fifth stick on the trip, but he did not consider it game-worthy. Boyle had seen the way Marcus Johansson had crafted the curve on his stick and decided to mold this one in the same manner. It has a different curve and lie than what he is used to, so it’s one he’s reserved for experimenting with after practice or in the offseason, not to use in a one-goal game in the third period.

    “I thought I was going to have to ask one of the equipment guys to track down Alexander and get my stick back,” Boyle said.

    To be clear, he was joking. He said if the “whippy” stick had broken, he’d have used the Johansson-like prototype.

    Still, imagine the looks or the chirps Boyle might have received had he taken a shift in the third period with a stick featuring his autograph.

    It turned out the “whippy” stick worked just fine for Boyle.

    His goal with 91 seconds left in regulation came with six skaters on the ice after the Devils pulled goaltender Keith Kinkaid. The shift started with 2:25 left and with a wrinkle — New Jersey put four forwards and one defenseman on the ice for the offensive zone draw.

    Boyle joined the top line — Johansson, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri — along with Will Butcher, and took the faceoff. Jesper Bratt became the extra attacker, so the Devils had five forwards on the ice when Johansson’s shot from the right wing kicked into the slot and Boyle snapped the rebound into the top right corner. It was his ninth goal of the season, which tied him with Blake Coleman for third on the team.

    While the Predators prevailed in the shootout, and Boyle’s “whippy” stick didn’t have anymore magic in it during the one-on-one competition, it was another night to remember for him and a “special” one for Alexander and the Berthelot family.

    2. State of the rebuild: Candid GM Ray Shero goes in-depth on the Devils’ plan, roster, coaches and more

    By Corey Masisak, The Athletic

    https://theathletic.com/724229/2018/12/19/state-of-the-rebuild-candid-gm-ray-shero-goes-in-depth-on-the-devils-plan-roster-coaches-and-more/

    Devils general manager Ray Shero met with a group of assembled media for about an hour Tuesday. It was the first “scrum” he’s done since training camp and came at the end of a mini-press tour that included interviews with NHL.com, MSG Networks and Leafs Lunch in recent days.

    The reason for the media availability is pretty obvious. New Jersey has lost 21 of its 32 games this season (11-14-7) and sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference one year after reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six seasons. This is Shero’s fourth season in charge, during which he’s been tasked with rebuilding the club after the Lou Lamoriello era that left the Devils with an eroding NHL roster and one of the worst farm systems in the league.

    New Jersey has crumbled since beginning the season 4-0 and 5-2-1, and fan unrest has been prevalent online and at Prudential Center.

    Shero spoke at length about a variety of topics, but perhaps the most interesting takeaway from the meeting — which happened before New Jersey lost 7-2 at The Rock to the Toronto Maple Leafs — was something he mentioned near the very end. In the middle of a response, Shero referenced a collection of excerpted interviews he’s done since he arrived in northern New Jersey and offered a window into his detail-oriented process.

    “The fans are awesome. We want them engaged,” Shero said. “We want them to know what we’re doing like we’ve said from Day 1. Do these guys (the assembled media) have all those excerpts from since I was hired? It’s really easy to look at this and be consistent with the message.”

    That question was directed at Pete Albietz, the team’s vice president of communications, who’s responsible for maintaining a record of Shero’s public comments, including 17 quotes excerpted from stories and radio interviews ranging from the day he was hired — May 5, 2015 — to last week.

    To set the scene, Shero spoke for about an hour but actually fielded only five questions. His answers are often long and drift in different directions, though there’s always a lot to unpack, whether a great story from the past to help illuminate a point or a frank assessment that other GMs might shy away from. To make this a cleaner experience for our readers, we’re going to list the five questions first, then re-arrange Shero’s answers into a more organized set of topics that should make his “state of the franchise” easier to digest.

    First, the questions:

    At this point in the season, what is your assessment of the way things have gone so far and are they below expectations? Right at expectations? How would you assess to this point in the season?

    What is your level of concern with the goaltending right now?

    You said on MSG the other night there are some young players that you were expecting to take a step forward and haven’t. I’m sure it’s a continuous evaluation, but is there — I don’t know if you’d call it this — but a deadline for when you need to see what you’re looking for before you have to move on or look for other alternatives?

    What’s your take on how John (Hynes) has handled all of this? You talked about building a culture and last year you had a lot of success so it’s easy to keep guys on track, but when the results don’t go your way how has he done in terms of keeping them on message?

    When Ron Hextall got fired, he openly said, “It was not time to go for it.” Where are you on that process? Does it just happen? Can you flip at a moment’s notice and say now’s the time?

    Now, for Shero’s responses …

    On the 2018-19 season

    I think we had a really good training camp. It reminded me a lot of last year in terms of the things we established and guys came back in great shape. I think we got off to a really great start to the season and then there’s parts of our game that weren’t as good. In a nutshell, what are we 30 games in or something like that, I think the expectations are … that’s an interesting word because our expectations are built around (that) we have some expectations now, which is awesome. Maybe my first year there wasn’t much (in terms of expectations). My second year, definitely after my second year there wasn’t much. Then after last year, we really see something that is starting to come together both on and off the ice and with our fans and what we’re doing. I think that’s been awesome. In a nutshell, I think a lot of parts of our game have been good. That’s the beauty of using all the information you have. You’re judged on wins and losses and points at the end of the day, but we haven’t been that far off. Our conversion is not there like last year. Our goaltending is not there like last year. Special teams have been … the penalty kill started off really good, the power play started off really good. You still have to score at the right time, kill at the right time, get the right save.

    What have we played, (eight) overtime games? We’ve left a lot of points on the table, which certainly they add up. But to me, I really look at the identity we wanted to establish when I hired John Hynes in early June 2015. We said “fast, attacking, supportive.” I know, not even what people thought, I could see it — people looking at me like “good luck.” It wasn’t immediate, but this was the mindset we wanted to have in terms of how we wanted to practice, players we may want to look at to acquire and sort of the identity of your team both on and off the ice. I think last year was really what you saw coming together, from draft picks to free agents to traded players.

    It’s really how close the league is and all that’s come together and we’ve missed on a little bit. We’ve missed some of the goaltending. This year we’ve missed that one (extra) power-play goal. One of the areas of overtime — we looked at this closely, I think after the fourth (overtime) game — we found that our turnover rate in overtime was really, really high. If you’re not going to manage the puck, sometimes a team might score in seven seconds and other times it might be with seven seconds left and either way, we weren’t giving ourselves the best chance. I know a lot when into that, and telling them you’re beating yourself. It’s a funny thing. We had a 2-on-0. We had 2-on-1s and … they’re going down the other way and they score. You can’t control that. The game in Anaheim, I thought that was our best game in overtime. Cory had some great saves. I think he got (Adam) Henrique and someone else. We had chances the other way, but we did things in terms of managing puck and not forcing it. We got to a shootout, and then same thing the other night in Nashville. Both teams could have won that game. It was a hell of a game, get to the overtime and again we have a chance to get the extra point in the shootout, but (we) missed. That’s a slight difference of whether it’s two points, three points and that’s kind of the nutshell and becomes the whole thing.

    We’re not out of games. Even in Washington we were down 4-1 and we made it 4-3. We came back against Winnipeg. I thought we played really against Winnipeg and next thing you know they’re up 3-1. I’d have to look, but I think they can convert. OK, let’s give up, playing back-to-back and they didn’t play. We came back and tied it with the goalie pulled. That’s exciting. We’ve tied it with the goalie pulled a few times now. Four times?

    This team, they battle and they battle and we’ve got a lot of hockey to play. To me it’s more about our identity and how we play. Some things you can’t control and the third goal Cory gave up (against Vegas), you don’t draw that up. You’re thinking, “This could be 10-0.” To battle back, even before we got the first goal, we could see that we’re having fun and we’re just playing hard. It was awesome. It’s a good group and they care. We had every reason (to quit). It was 3-zip in seven minutes, Taylor’s not playing, but that’s the group we’ve got. That’s what we’re proud of.

    That Vegas game is exactly what John talked about last year. That’s a brotherhood game. They picked each other up.

    There’s a lot of hockey to be played and that’s part of our job to fix that and also understand what the underlying issue could be and how do we best fix it? Part of it’s players. Part of it’s coaching. Part of it’s player performance. And part of it is certainly me.

    On ‘The Plan’

    You want to sell hope to your fans. You want to sell a plan to your fans. I think you don’t want to sell something that is false, either. I think going back to when I was hired on Day 1, I think I’ve been really consistent with what I was going to do or how this could work and how it wouldn’t work. How long would it take? I don’t know, but I know one thing — it wasn’t working the way it was going. If I had said Day 1, “Oh yeah, in three years we’ll be …” How in the heck do I know? I don’t know. Yeah, we can probably trade a defenseman for a really good forward? I don’t know. OK, but you have a plan. And when opportunities arise, you have to take advantage of them if you think it makes sense. Nothing is changing there. The plan has been consistent. Nothing’s changed. We’re in a good spot. We have outstanding ownership. We have good coaching, and we have cap space. But, listen we came a long way in three years. I don’t want to put any limitations on the team. No one likes to go through a losing streak. Everyone loves a winning streak. Those are great. I learned a long time ago that if you base your decisions or your plan on a winning streak or a losing streak, you never had a plan.

    We never talked about having expectations. We talked about gaining respect around the league and having an identity of our hockey team, which I think last year we established that in a big way. I don’t think we really got away from that, I don’t. When you turn the page quickly like this, you’ve got six, seven, eight first- or second-year guys. If you recall after last year, one of the things I said as exhilarating as that was, to make it with that group of players and lot of them hadn’t been there be before. Having gone through expansion and things like like, it is so fun when you make it like that with your first group of players for the first time, haven’t made it before. They earned it. This is most of the same guys. They earned their way in and they care. I did say, “That’s the easy part. It’s going to get hard” because not only is it expectations, it’s just, “Hey I scored this (last year)” and “Maybe I can score this this year then,” and then it’s “Oh, geez it’s not that easy.” But to me, the identity of our hockey team is the hard work and the resiliency. That’s what we have shown, I think, playing with speed.

    We have a lot of work to do as an organization, but we have a lot of good things in place. We have upside on the team. We have upside with our cap space, with our ownership. There’s a lot to expect, because it’s in a good spot. You’re always looking to get better and that’s certainly our goal, but again the basis of our team is the identity that we play hard and we play fast and we have a good team. That’s been a good story. It’s a ways to go, but it’s not a disappointment. It’s not. You know I was disappointed in ‘16-17. That’s a disappointment. Nope, this is a caring group, a hard-working group. They care about each other. There’s some things that happened where they could easily say, “Oh, forget it,” but they’re sticking with it. That’s the goal. Expectation-wise, we want to be relevant. We want to build something here. We started it last year and we’re going to continue to build it. I’m not judging this team based on the first four games and I’m not judging them on (recent games). I wanted them to stick with it and they have.

    You’re always evaluating the team, in the short- and long-term, but I’m not doing something with this team that I wouldn’t do when we were 4-0. If there’s something, I’m jumping on it. If there was something now, it’d be the same thing. That’s the way it’s always been since I came here. With ownership, we’re on the same page. To take, whether it’s a trade to improve yourself, or listen — you don’t fall in love with any player, unfortunately. That’s the way it goes. You want to see development, but a guy might be having a great year, but maybe that person is the one who is part of something because it makes sense for the short- and long-term of the franchise.

    Making the playoffs was fantastic and I think it was really important. I never said at the beginning of the year, “Geez, our goal is to make the playoffs.” I was probably closer to “I hope we don’t get relegated.” I said at the end of the ‘16-17 season, this is not good. This is not the team I want to have, or I’ll ever have like this (again). That’s no disrespect to anyone. It was more on me.

    Not a lot has changed and the expectations haven’t changed, but it’s also not like, “Eh, this is OK.” It’s not fun. We want, and you can see the players how they battle, how they come back. That’s going to be our team and we’re going to have that identity. That’s the expectation we’re going to have and certainly it’s going to be up to me from this point moving forward adding talent. That’s my job.

    One of the big reasons I came here is Josh (Harris) and David (Blitzer) having a fierce (belief) and I believe 100 percent this is the only way it can be done. I don’t know how long it would have taken. I never would have said, “We are going to trade for the league MVP. We’re going to make the playoffs. We’re going to do this and that. We’re going to get bad and get lucky and win the lottery.” I don’t know. I knew there was a way to do this and you want to do this through the support of ownership. I’m really fortunate that way. You see teams who have a plan and stick with it. In the words of the great Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” OK yeah, we’ve been punched in the face a little this year. OK, this is a speed bump. We have a plan and we are going to stick with it.

    But it’s also from the fans’ standpoint, listen when I came here we wanted to engage the fans on everything. Get to the know the players, the community, youth hockey, everything. We’re doing all of that. We want the fans to be part of that. We want new fans. We have 13 afternoon games this year. Why? Because 15 years from now, those are going to be our new fans. That’s important. That’s bigger picture stuff. But it’s, are you coming along for the ride or not? That’s what we want to share with (the fans). It’s part of explaining what we were doing from Day One and how we want to do it. I think it’s been exactly … it’s not like we went and signed all these free agents and, well, that didn’t work so we are going to change and get rid of this and this.

    Here’s how it is going to go. The question of when? I can’t give you that answer. I couldn’t give the answer in that second year in Pittsburgh either, but you feel it and if there’s something there, then yeah. It certainly wasn’t my first year or my second year, and last year it wasn’t, but we added and I thought that was important. Like I didn’t know if (Marcus) Johansson would come back. (Michael) Grabner struggled to score but we needed NHL bodies and (Patrick) Maroon did a good job. There’s still no guarantee. But in the ‘16 and ‘17 drafts we had 20 picks. We’ve traded a couple for (Kyle) Palmieri, then a couple for Johansson, but that was (from the Marc Savard trade) and extra picks.

    The only thing I knew coming here in was we had to get younger. And getting younger doesn’t mean you have a plan, either, but we needed more assets. And we needed to take advantage of things like taking the Savard contract and getting a second-round pick from Florida and get more assets. Also as I said, the foundation with adding pro scouting, amateur scouting, European scouting, development coaches. Why? Because we can’t … this will take 20 years if not. The draft? There’s only seven rounds. Christ, I got drafted in the 11th and that wasn’t even the last round. And you can’t just build through the draft. If you look at this team, it is a combination of trades, college free agency, draft, luck, waivers like Stef Noesen and using an asset like (Adam) Henrique for (Sami) Vatanen. That was obviously good for both teams.

    We are using all avenues to try and get there as quickly as possible. You sit there and sometimes someone is driving and you’re like, “Hurry it up!” “Well, Christ I’m going 75. Do you want me to (expletive) crash or what?” That’s a little what this analogy is like. Our car is in good shape. Some other ones on the same highway aren’t.

    On John Hynes

    I think it’s really … that’s where I see the growth of a coach. I really see that. Especially after our second year, I knew that I wanted to hire the right coach for the right team and this was the team that I saw. It wasn’t a situation that I wanted to get into some expansion in the past and it’s three years and that’s it, got to go younger and get another guy. I wanted someone who could grow with the team.

    You have to earn things and learn and adapt. The first year I thought was fantastic. After the second year, there were some things and we had some hard conversations. I said, “Listen, this is not going to end well.” But he’s always adapting and always learning. It doesn’t matter about our start last year, 8-2, I saw a different coach in the summertime. I saw a different coach in training camp before we get on the ice. He spent a lot of time, he always does, he visited the Falcons, visited the Giants, visited the Steelers. He’s a learner and it’s “OK, how do you draft and how do you deal with veteran players and how do you deal with younger players and where is the accountability?”

    Then, can you coach an elite player? I’m not sure if (Hall) won any MVPs out in Edmonton. I don’t think so. Under coach John Hynes, it was part of the development of the player and of development as a person with Taylor and it was great to see. I always say this with Taylor, but if this had happened for Taylor in his first year here that would have been great, but because it didn’t and it wasn’t a great year for us and it was below his expectations and there were things that we challenged him with that were important to us. Then all of a sudden you see him take control of his career and himself and the team. He has always bought in to John. Taylor was obviously a huge part of our success last year, but it was great to see John’s growth last year as a coach.

    When we did this “Behind the Glass,” I said I believe that John will come off well with this because  I believe he’s got the respect of the players and he’s got a presence. I don’t think people always get to see this behind the bench, but he’s got a presence. Players respect him, and he’s grown into that. You need to see that and that’s what I was hoping for when we hired John.

    On the goaltending

    You wouldn’t ask the question if it wasn’t a concern. Let’s be honest: It’s well-documented with Cory that it’s not good enough and he knows it’s not good enough.

    Keep in mind that last year Cory won 17 games by Dec. 27 and had about a 92 save percentage. Then he faltered and had to be shut down there for I don’t know how long it was and then Keith stepped up and Eddie Lack won the game at Tampa Bay. Keith from Feb. 13 on had 14 wins, the most in the league. The great thing was we didn’t back into the playoffs. We had the hardest schedule after the trade deadline. This team won its way in. It was a hell of a run, which is why it was so exhilarating.

    In the playoffs, Keith played one-and-a-half games and then Cory goes in and plays 3-4-5 and ends with a 1.78 (goals against average) and a 95 save percentage. He gets the hip done and you think, “Oh, we’re on our way. He played great.” And we’re not. It’s not what you plan on. Keith has won games for us and like anything has faltered a little bit, but he played great on the weekend. What’s Cory’s record (0-5-1)? So out of 12 possible points, let’s say you have four? Five? You’re there (in the playoff hunt). That’s what you need obviously. And Cory knows that. It’s one of those things.

    Mackenzie (Blackwood) is up here and depending on what happens with Cory, he’s going to play. Keith can’t play them all. I think it’s a good opportunity. He’s a good young goalie. He’s having a really good year. He had a good first year, second year last year wasn’t but he’s really developed. It’s what you’re seeing around the league.

    With our goaltending, let’s be honest: We’re 28th in the league or 29th in the league. Unless we went to 56 teams, that ain’t good. It needs to be better overall. That’s a team game, as well. We understand that.

    Sometimes a goalie is so good or hot that it masks a lot of problems, and sometimes its not and you’re thinking … you can make bad decisions based on something. I’m not saying it is just that. Certainly, if I said to you guys, (our goaltending) is outstanding you’d say, “What the hell is this guy talking about?” So we see it. It’s there. It’s part of the game. It’s part of our group. We have to be better in certain areas and that’s one of them.

    More on Cory Schneider

    We talk about development all the time. I said this the other day, but with Cory Schneider I met with him in L.A. on Wednesday. We’re doing everything we can to help him, and I don’t care if you’re 20 or you’re 32. It’s development. It’s development as a player and as a person. You want to put him in the best position possible and he’s no different. With Cory, the start of last year was really good. He surprised some people and got off to a really good start. It’s a weird one to figure out. Maybe now with this thing (the abdominal strain), which has nothing to do with his hip so that’s great, I look for the silver lining with a lot of these goalies that had the hip surgery. I met with him and I said there’s Tim Thomas, who came back and won the Stanley Cup the next year, or whether it’s Pekka Rinne, who came back. I’ve known Pekka a long time. If you look back, he had the same hip surgery in 2013, comes back in training camp and he starts out like 2-6. I talked to David Poile about this and asked, “Were you worried at all?” (He said) “Yeah, Christ, we had signed him for 7×7.” Then what happened is it didn’t get better, it got worse because he had the infection and they had to shut him down for 50 games. Then he comes back the next year and is second in the Vezina (Trophy voting) and plays 60-some games. How old is Pekka now? 37, 38? That was a few years ago, and he got to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final a few years later.

    With Cory, it’s part of the development. There’s a bit off with his foot work. There’s a bit off with a lot of things in his game. It’s got to be … it’s difficult. I’ve been through this with some other goalies. Especially, thinking of Friday night with Vegas. Marc-Andre Fleury, I went through a lot with Marc and I’m so happy for him with how he’s done. Everybody is talking about, and I said this to Cory too, him and Marc are just different personalities, but Cory has let in the first goal, the first shot of the game. I said to him, back in 2010 with Marc we lost in the second round in Game 7 to Montreal and we won the first round in six. So in 13 games, he let in a goal on the first shot in seven of them. Seven of them. In the playoffs. It’s hard, and Marc went through a lot of stuff in the playoffs, but I was really happy, whether it’s the development of people or the development of the athlete, but Marc has really bounced back. He’s certainly had a good career and had a really great story for himself out in Vegas, so it reminded me with Cory and Vegas there.

    It’s our job to find a solution, as well. We’ll continue to do that. In the meantime, Keith Kinkaid is one of the guys we’ve worked with. We’ve seen the growth in his game the last couple years, his growth as a person. It’s been a good story. That’s what you need is more good stories, and for them to continue.

    On the young players

    Miles Wood had 19 goals last year and what’s he got this year? (Three). His game is coming on. Stef Noesen obviously had a good year last year with 12 goals. Blake Coleman has obviously continued to improve and been a real big factor for us. Will Butcher, Jesper Bratt — Jesper missed a month or something like that. (Pavel) Zacha, to send him down when we did I think was good timing, five games before waivers. Then to put him in all of those situations (in Binghamton) and coming back and you kind of saw a different player and I get the goals, but you could see it. Then he kind of slid back. What’s he, 21 (years old)? That’s the thing. The last two games I thought he was really good. He can be what you see. He’s a powerful kid. He can skate and when he takes control, he’s more of a dominant player, which you can see the last two games. I thought he played really well.

    That’s the thing. You wish and hope your younger players are going to get better, but just because you’re a year older doesn’t mean you’re going to be better. They care. They work at it. They don’t call it the freshman slump. They call it the sophomore slump, right?

    I think (Wood) missed most of training camp, but it’s part of his development and part of his maturity as a player. I can see it over the last couple of weeks too, maybe a week before that. He tries so hard sometimes that it’s like, I think we need to put him in a straight jacket. I don’t know what he’s doing out there sometimes. But all of a sudden you can see him in terms of the development and the coaching starting to slow it down. You see him cutting to the middle of the ice and he can also go wide. He’s net front. In terms of the goals like he had last year, in Anaheim he had one or two that he tipped that (Ryan) Miller made great saves.

    On Chuck Fletcher (and more praise for Hynes)

    Having Chuck Fletcher here for five, five-and-a-half months, I told Chuck I think it’s awesome to have an opportunity after nine years as a GM and the trust we have for each other, but he helped us so much more than we helped Chuck. Trust me. I just said, “Let me know what you think of Damon Severson. What do you think of our coaching staff? Watch Zacha. Watch this guy. Watch and let me know what you see.” Whether it was our prospects in rookie camp or training camp, it was really good to get that info back. What was your evaluation of this? Well, we saw him like this. And geez, that was a surprise, or geez was it as bad as we thought? One of the things that he would always say to me — I think the Philly job was on a Sunday and he took the job and we went to lunch — and I can’t remember what game it was. I think it was on a Friday, but I didn’t see John’s postgame press conference. Chuck did and he told me, “This guy is outstanding.” And he would say, “You have a hell of a coach.” He has no ties to John Hynes.

    Sometimes when you talk to GMs, how do you know who is any good on your team? How do you know how good any of your prospects are? You can read stuff and find out and listen to our staff say, “Hey this guy is great,” or “Man, this guy is an awesome prospect,” but really what I find is like last year at the deadline, I’m not selling. I was adding if we can. It was “What do you want for this guy, or that guy? OK, which prospects?” That’s when you find out who has value in your prospects. I know who they’re asking for — it’s this guy, this guy and this guy. Really? OK. No, we’re not trading him, but they (other teams) like this guy more than you guys (his staff) do. What’s going on? You learn a lot about your players and it’s a great exercise to go through. Certainly we’ll identify at the deadline, look we’re not trading (these players) no matter what, but you find out a lot about them. It was really insightful having Chuck here. It was good for me. It was good for (Tom Fitzgerald) and (Dan MacKinnon) and the coaching staff. And we gave him a lot of bad information to take down with him to Philadelphia.

    On knowing when to “go for it” (and how he traded for Marian Hossa)

    That’s a good question, and I read that (quote from Hextall). Unless your part of the meetings in the organization or with ownership or whatever the case is … but I went through that. It happened in Pittsburgh. It was our second year, ‘07-08. In ‘05-06, that was Sid’s first year. I wasn’t there, but he got 102 points as a rookie. I don’t think he won rookie of the year (NOTE: Alex Ovechkin did). Anyway, but they had 58 points as a team. Then I came in the next year, and it’s not about one guy obviously. Craig Patrick did a great job there for 17 years, but in the last five they hadn’t made the playoffs. He was basically under the gun financially. They were getting rid of players. It was a tough way to do things. The plan, like how many years? I didn’t know. (Evgeni) Malkin, we didn’t know if he could come, when he was coming. We found out that summer he basically deserted his team and left and kind of hid out in Finland for a couple weeks. I hadn’t even been the GM of a team yet, and I was getting sued by the KHL and Magnitogorsk. I’m like, “Jesus Christ, I’m getting sued.” The Penguins were like, “Don’t worry, you’re fine.” I was like, “What’s going to happen here?” I hadn’t even gotten paid yet and I’m getting sued by the Russians. That guy is a billionaire.

    Oh boy, that was a tough way to start, but that first year we didn’t know what to expect. We ended up with like 105 points and we were like, “Oh.” That year we traded for Gary Roberts, then made the playoffs and lost in the first round. The next year (go for it) was never part of it. We thought we were still a little ways away. Next thing you know we get to the deadline and we traded for Marian Hossa. From the All-Star Game that year in Atlanta talking with (Thrashers GM) Don Waddell and we had a board meeting there actually. Ron Burkle and Mario (Lemieux) were just like, “We know this isn’t like, part of our plan, but we’re doing pretty good.”

    Shero: Yeah?

    Burkle and Lemieux: What about that Hossa guy?

    I was with Marian in Ottawa when we drafted him and was with him for a few years.

    Shero: Yeah, he’s pretty good.

    Burkle and Lemieux: Do you think we can get him?

    Shero: I don’t know. I can ask. You know he’s unrestricted?

    Burkle and Lemieux: Yeah.

    Shero: You know he makes $7 million?

    Burkle and Lemieux: Yeah.

    I didn’t have to ask a third question.

    Shero: OK, let me check it out.

    About three weeks later, there’s about three minutes left before the deadline and we traded a bunch of stuff for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis, who ended up being like a six-year Penguin. I still remember talking to Mario right about five minutes to go before the deadline. (Waddell) came back to us.

    Shero: Mario, I’ve got a soft deal on the table. It’s this and that. And Hossa. I’ve got this on the table. Mario, this is not what we talked about. Just so you know.

    Mario is on the golf course and he’s fantastic. I still remember. He and Ron worked really well together. There’s like four minutes left. I’ll never forget what he said.

    Lemieux: Ray, I bought this team out of bankruptcy. I’m a risk taker. I’ll never tell you what to do, but I’m telling you that I’m a risk taker.

    I’m not sure what else he said, because I was like, “Donnie, I’ll do it!” That changed everything, and that wasn’t the plan. But when you feel it, you do it. And we felt it. It wasn’t (the plan) on paper, but I say it all the time. I equate it with culture. Like culture, what does that mean? Everyone wants to have culture, but no one wants a bad culture. So what’s a good culture? What does it mean? Dictionary says this, but that’s bullshit. The time to do it is when you feel it.

    On John Moore

    We didn’t re-sign John Moore, and I thought John Moore did an outstanding job here. He was a huge part of what we built, him and Elizabeth both were fantastic, caring. He came here and signed a three-year contract and then he got a five-year contract. You know what? If that’s how things work, that’s fantastic. There were more opportunities for other guys to find out. Mueller has played well at times. Other times, eh … that’s part of finding out on players.

    On a lesson learned from Jim Rutherford

    As a manager, it’s hard enough and you learn this as you go through it, but when you make decisions from the GM’s standpoint like you make a trade or sign a free agent — when you’re young, you want to justify it. You learn from some other veteran GMs, though, sometimes. Jimmy Rutherford is hilarious. I like him a lot. He was in Carolina and he signed a guy for $4 million a year for four years and in November of the first year, he got shuttled out in a four-player deal. I was like “Wait, didn’t they just sign this guy?”

    Shero: (I asked) Jimmy, what happened to that guy?

    Rutherford: Wasn’t working.

    Shero: Really? It’s November.

    Rutherford: Yep, wasn’t working.

    First, to get rid of the guy he was a magician. No. 2, it was like, “Damn, I probably would have said, ‘Yeah, yeah but …’” So you have to identify and you have to be honest with yourself, whether you’re a coach or a general manager. I’ve learned that at least.

    On Kris Letang and Damon Severson

    (The 2009 Stanley Cup Final) was a coming out party for Kris Letang. He was matched up with Hossa’s line with Mark Eaton and Kris was 20 years old. Everyone says Kris Letang this or that, this is how Kris did it. I say it to Damon all the time. Kris has pride in his defensive game. You can see that now with Damon. He’s got it. It wasn’t always … Letang won the Stanley Cup as a third-pairing 20-year-old playing against Hossa and Hossa had nothing in seven games. That’s development. That’s something that comes, and a lot of it was so many of the people that we hired in ‘06-07 are still part of the Penguins training staff or … but that’s why you build for the long-term.

    On Will Butcher and Alex Kerfoot

    Everyone says, “Aw, great singing of Will Butcher.” I was like, “Really? Great signing?” If we had the ‘77 Canadiens defense, do you think he’s signing here? No wonder he signed here. We stink. I had no idea if he was going to make the opening lineup. I remember that last exhibition game against Washington and that was his best game. We just happened to be playing Colorado on Saturday afternoon and we’ve got to get our roster in after that last exhibition game we’ve got seven, eight D. Will doesn’t need waivers and he had a good camp. The last game was pretty good.

    I still remember Thursday and Colorado opens up at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. On Wednesday I’m reading that Alex Kerfoot is going to be playing for the Avalanche. Then we’re going through our roster on Wednesday at about 3 p.m. and I said, “Where does everybody have Butcher?” Some said well here, or maybe at (No.) 7. I said, “John, look I’m never going to tell you who to play, but Will Butcher is (expletive) playing. Alex Kerfoot is (expletive) playing. One guy picked us and the other didn’t?” (He said), “Uh, got it.” If we were playing someone else, who the hell knows?

    I say this with due respect to Alex. Alex Kerfoot, I have all the time in the world for him. He was a really good player and so honest and upfront with us. If we hadn’t maybe won the lottery and picked Nico at center or obviously we had picked McLeod and Zacha and he was a center. It was a hell of a process we went through with him. I respect him and it was so funny. On Friday after they played the Rangers — Alex was, “Mr. Shero, Mr. Fitzgerald” the last time meeting we had with him was here with me, John and Fitzy before Aug. 15 trying to get him (signed).

    Shero: Here is what we see.

    Kerfoot: But you have (these centers).

    Shero: Listen, I’ve never ever told anybody they were guaranteed a spot here. Never told Nico. Not anybody. You’ve got to make the team.

    Kerfoot: Oh, but I’m a center.

    Shero: Alex, I’m going to tell you something. Guys like Datsyuk and Zetterberg, Malkin, Jordan Staal scored 29 goals for us on the wing and he’s a center, right? Good players like to play with good players.

    Anyway he goes to free agency and signs with Colorado. Again, I respect the way he did it and have all the time for him. So they play the Rangers that Thursday and they win. Then they’re skating here that Friday. There were only a few guys left on the ice and I saw him and he saw me, so he comes over.

    Shero: Hey, congratulations.

    It was the first time I had talked to him since Aug. 15.

    Shero: You guys had a great game. You looked good.

    Kerfoot: Yeah, I can’t believe it. It all has happened so quickly.

    Shero: Hey Alex, I was watching the game and who did you play with last night?

    Kerfoot: Oh, I was playing with Matt Duchene and …

    Shero: Yeah, Matt Duchene the center-ice-man. You were playing wing, right?

    Kerfoot: Yeah

    Shero: I told you! Good for you, congratulations.

    He’s a really great kid.

    On organizational culture

    We tried to establish that (culture) the first year, and that goes to your people that work here. They are proud to work for the Devils. You have players that play with pride. OK, the second year (mimes looking up a word in the dictionary) … yeah, culture, we ain’t got that. That’s not what I do, but I said during training camp, maybe three weeks in — I said, “This is turning. I’m telling you I feel it. I’ve been through this before. This is different. I feel it.” But that is culture. You feel it. I don’t know what it says in the dictionary, but I felt it. This is changing. This is a really good group. They care. We have people that love to work here for the Devils. We told them you need to know what’s going on. You need to know what we’re trying to do. And you know what, I know we suck right now — in ‘16-17 — but I want this to be a place … I mean, let’s be honest, it’s a lot of kids and it’s pro sports and these kids could probably make more money somewhere else, but they’re doing it for a reason and I need to give them a good reason to do it.

    So when you go to a party on a Friday night, your Rangers buddies aren’t shitting on you. And right now they are shitting on you, and I want you to be proud to work here and proud to play here. It’s part of the foundation I talked about with Josh and David. I think after that first year in ‘15-16, we probably had about $5 million less on the ice the second year. I don’t think I needed more money, right? At that point, I didn’t want it. I needed to build a foundation for the organization, from assistant general managers to scouting to development people, sports psychology, everything you talk about and they were all in. I don’t think you (see what happened) last year without that. Not a chance. You make the decisions, whether its players, whether it’s girlfriends and spouses. It doesn’t mean a guy is staying here. Trust me. But if you don’t do it that way for that, you do it because it’s the right way to treat people, you care about them and I’ve got to make decisions that change their lives.

    At the end of the day, there’s not a GM lasts forever but after eight years in Pittsburgh, I’m proud of the fact that so many of those people are still there. That was the foundation that’s still there. There’s three (phrases) that are still up in the locker room on the wall that we put there (NOTE: Those phrases are passion, accountability and work ethic). It’s important.

     

     

 

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New Jersey Devils News & Clips: Dec. 19, 2018

  1. SUMMARY
  2. LOCAL PRINT/WEB
  3. TV/VIDEO LINKS
  4. RADIO LINKS

NATIONAL PRINT/WEB

1) SUMMARY

 

The Devils fell to the Maple Leafs, 7-2, in their second head-to-head contest of the 2018-19 campaign last night at Prudentail Center. New Jersey’s goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood made his NHL debut, coming in to start the third period in relief of Kinkaid, stopping 8 of 10 shots faced.

Abbey Mastracco, The Record, spoke to Devils captain Andy Greene about the teams inability to string together consecutive wins.

“It’s something that’s been kind of plaguing us all year and we’ve got to find a way to fix it,” Greene said. “You can’t do that in this league. You can’t sit there and take one or two steps forward and then three backward, especially with the position we’re in. It would be one thing if we had banked a lot of equity and had a lot of points early but we didn’t, so now we’re trailing and every point is critical.”

Mastracco also spoke to Devils head coach John Hynes about calling up center John Quenneville from Binghamton and what he needs to prove on the ice.

“Sometimes it’s tough to find room for guys to get on the power play,” coach John Hynes said. “He’s a strong power play player, he understands it. But we’ve got a lot of those guys so he may or may not get some opportunity there.”

“He’s one of those guys we needed to see that consistently, like having an affect on the game positively whether or not he’s on the power play,” Hynes said. “I think he’s done that the last two games.”

“We did like his game, I thought he had some real quality chances 5-on-5 and when he was on the power play he made good decisions and he was responsible defensively,” Hynes said. “So it’s nice to see his game continue to grow.”

Mastracco also spoke to Hynes about the team’s 7-2 loss to the Maple Leafs last night.

“Tonight was unacceptable,” Hynes said. “We’ve got to review it tomorrow, we’ve got to talk about some things, we’ve got to work on some things and we’ve got to make sure that we are, for sure, a better team against Columbus.”

Chris Ryan, NJ.com, spoke to Devils forward Taylor Hall about the teams recent struggles.

“Our group in here, we can’t take nights off,” forward Taylor Hall said. “Tonight wasn’t our best, and for us, when we don’t play our best, unfortunately right now, we’re not going to get wins. We have to play very, very well to get wins. That’s got to be our focus for the next game.”

“We’re all fighting in here and we’re all trying our best, sometimes it’s hard,” Hall said. “We have good group of guys in here, a team that competes, but tonight we were late on plays. Tonight we were a little bit tentative, and teams like that are going to make you pay.

“We respected them a lot, but sometimes we gave them too much time and space and didn’t play the way we wanted to. At the end of the day, that’s all we can really do, is play the way we want to. Can’t say we did that tonight.”

Ryan also spoke to Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood about what it felt like to make his NHL debut, coming in to relieve Keith Kinkaid to start the third period.

“It’s cool to play, an experience I’ll never forget,” Blackwood said. “It sucks losing, but at the same time, I’ve just got to take this opportunity and learn from the little bit of the game I did play and practice here with these guys, take that moving forward and try to develop myself.”

Amanda Stein, newjerseydevils.com, wrote her 10 takeaways following the Devils 7-2 loss to the Maple Leafs last night at Prudential Center.

2) LOCAL PRINT/WEB

 

1. Maple Leafs steamroll Devils in another ugly loss

By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/18/toronto-maple-leafs-steamroll-nj-devils-another-ugly-loss/2353427002/

NEWARK — The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs were at Prudential Center, the Devils were skating off the ice as a playoff team.

How times have changed.

There were bad bounces and bad breaks for the Devils, but ultimately they dug themselves into a hole too deep against one of the best teams in the league in a 7-2 loss.

Mackenzie Blackwood made his NHL debut, taking over for Keith Kinkaid at the start of the third period but he didn’t exactly have a clean slate to work with. The Devils were already down 5-1 when Blackwood took over after Morgan Reilly scored with one second left in the second period. He was left untouched at the top of the circle and beat Kinkaid with a one-timer.

Blackwood stopped eight of 10 shots in the third period, including a breakaway by Zach Hyman.

“Gets you into the flow of play,” Blackwood said. “Whenever you get into a game and you’re thrown in you start to make a couple saves it gets you into the rhythm.”

Kinkaid made just 16 saves over 40 minutes.

“I thought Keith had had enough at that point,” coach John Hynes said.

Kinkaid has been shouldering a hefty load for the Devils all season with Cory Schneider struggling and now injured and the skaters in front of him didn’t make his job any easier in the first period. The Leafs scored twice in the first eight minutes with former Islanders’ forward John Tavares opening the scoring and the Devils lost a challenge on the second goal.

Auston Matthews finished off a goalmouth scramble to make it 2-0 at 7:58, but the Devils challenged the call saying the Toronto center interfered with Kinkaid by shoving Damon Severson into him. But the NHL Situation Room determined, “Matthews’ contact with Severson did not by itself impact Kinkaid’s ability to make the save,” and the call on the ice stood.

New Jersey fell behind 3-0 at 13:38 in the first after Patrick Marleau slipped a rebound from a shot by Nazem Kadri under the pad of Kinkaid. It was almost too easy for Marleau, who was right on the doorstep

Sami Vatanen cut the lead to 3-1 with 16 seconds left in the first when he rocketed a point shot past goalie Frederik Andersen, his former Anaheim Ducks teammate. But Mitch Marner scored 1:45 into the second period and the Devils never recovered.

Nico Hischier made it 5-2 with 5:13 left but, Tyler Ennis scored twice to push the game well out of reach.

After rallying to tie their last two games (an overtime win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 14 and a shootout loss in Nashville against the Predators the following night) the Devils were sure they would be able to do the same against the Leafs. But they’re own bad puck decisions led to their undoing.

“We knew that if we could get the puck back we’d have some momentum going,” captain Andy Greene said. “But it seemed like every time we had a good shift or two, all of the sudden we’d have a breakdown and we’d let the momentum get away.”

It was yet another ugly loss that followed a streak of two good games for New Jersey, highlighting their inability to string together consecutive wins.

“It’s something that’s been kind of plaguing us all year and we’ve got to find a way to fix it,” Greene said. “You can’t do that in this league. You can’t sit there and take one or two steps forward and then three backward, especially with the position we’re in. It would be one thing if we had banked a lot of equity and had a lot of points early but we didn’t, so now we’re trailing and every point is critical.”

Notes

This was the second time this season the Devils gave up six or more goals to Toronto. … Brian Boyle celebrated his 34th birthday with the helper on Vatanen’s goal. … The Devils allowed three goals in the third period for the second straight game, doing so for the second straight time at home. According to NHL Stats, the last time the Devils allowed three goals in the first period in two consecutive home games was December 19, 1986, against Washington and December 26 of the same year against the Rangers. … Tavares had two points to register his fourth career multipoint game against New Jersey. … The Devils scratched Drew Stafford, Egor Yakovlev and Steven Santini.

2. What NJ Devils’ John Quenneville needs to prove in NHL

By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/18/what-nj-devils-john-quenneville-needs-prove-nhl/2349988002/

NEWARK — While Devils fans have been familiar with John Quenneville for a few years now, the rest of hockey caught up with New Jersey in September, when the burgeoning forward was featured heavily on NHL Network’s version of “Hard Knocks” called “Behind the Glass: Training Camp with the New Jersey Devils.”

The gregarious and confident Quenneville was featured early and often, mic’d up on the ice during the early days of training camp and touted as the Devils’ next big thing. Quenneville made the team out of camp, making the Devils, and NHL Network to a lesser extent, look smart.

But it wasn’t Quenneville’s first rodeo and it wouldn’t be his last. Yet again, he failed to stick with the big club and was sent back to Binghamton of the American Hockey League for some seasoning, this time with the notion that he was closer than ever to becoming a full-time NHL player.

Quenneville produced at a rate of a point per game during 19 games in Binghamton, more than earning this most recent call-up. He played so well in his first game back from the minor leagues the Devils promoted him to the top power play unit, giving him a chance to flex his muscle and show his best assets.

“I’ve got a good shot, I can score from different angles and make plays,” Quenneville said. “I try to manipulate the penalty kill and make the right play. I like to capitalize and be a threat.”

The Devils want him to do that as well, but the problem is they may not have room for him on the power play, especially with Taylor Hall returning after a two-game absence.

“Sometimes it’s tough to find room for guys to get on the power play,” coach John Hynes said. “He’s a strong power play player, he understands it. But we’ve got a lot of those guys so he may or may not get some opportunity there.”

Now, back up with the Devils again, he needs to prove that he’s more than just a power-play specialist. He needs to prove that he can use all of his tools to play a two-game at any strength.

Quenneville can’t be a “passenger,” to steal a term from Hynes.

“He’s one of those guys we needed to see that consistently, like having an affect on the game positively whether or not he’s on the power play,” Hynes said. “I think he’s done that the last two games.”

The Binghamton version of Quenneville showed that he’s capable of producing at any strength. Only two of his nine goals came with the man-advantage.

“I’ve been trying to dominate offensively,” Quenneville said. “I’m trying to have the puck on my stick and make plays.”

Though it’s improved in recent games, the power play isn’t exactly winning any games for New Jersey right now. So maybe Quenneville could be a boost. But until they find room for him, he has to show that he can produce at even strength.

“We did like his game, I thought he had some real quality chances 5-on-5 and when he was on the power play he made good decisions and he was responsible defensively,” Hynes said. “So it’s nice to see his game continue to grow.”

Trainer’s room

The Devils still do not have a firm timeline for Cory Schneider (strained abdominal). Stefan Noesen remains on injured reserve with an illness, though he has practiced in full with the Devils this week.

3. 3 takeaways from NJ Devils’ ‘unacceptable’ loss to Maple Leafs

By Abbey Mastracco, Fire and Ice

https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/nhl/devils/fireandice/2018/12/18/3-takeaways-nj-devils-unacceptable-loss-maple-leafs/2353431002/

NEWARK — John Hynes didn’t have much to say after the Devils’ 7-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night but he had one word that effectively summed up his impressions of the game: Unacceptable.

Coming off two hard-fought games against Vegas and Nashville, Hynes clearly expected his team to look different than they did Tuesday night at Prudential Center. But a somewhat listless performance had the coach upset with the outcome and promising better for Thursday night against the Blue Jackets.

“Tonight was unacceptable,” Hynes said. “We’ve got to review it tomorrow, we’ve got to talk about some things, we’ve got to work on some things and we’ve got to make sure that we are, for sure, a better team against Columbus.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss.

Shooters need to shoot

The opening goal scored by former Islander John Tavares was a direct result of a turnover. Mistakes happen but this one could have possibly been prevented if Nico Hischier had just shot the puck on a developing 2-on-1 instead of passing off to Sami Vatanen.

The puck was intercepted and Tavares capitalized after a slick passing sequence by Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri.

Hynes often preaches about having a “shot-first mentality.” If Hischier had just shot the puck it may have led to offensive generation in the form of a rebound or a tip. The Devils don’t have the same offensive firepower as the Maple Leafs so they need to be advantageous when using their speed in situations like the one Hischier found himself in.

“Just use his speed and be more direct and be more assertive,” Hynes said. “He’s a real good player and he’s got great speed. Sometimes in those situations, you’d like to see a different decision made.”

Hischier did later score, but it was too little, too late.

Puck mismanagement

Smart puck management helped New Jersey rally in the two games prior to the one Tuesday but it was the mismanagement of the puck that gave the Leafs an advantage. Devils’ captain and top-pairing defenseman Andy Greene said he felt like he was going back to get the puck all night with the Devils unable to generate any sustained offensive pressure.

“If I have to do that every single shift, every single game, at the end you’re just kind of like, ‘Man, why am I still going back here? Can we force something else or do something better?’” Greene said.

The Devils, a speedy team with skilled puck movers, don’t like to dump the puck into the zone but they know it’s necessary at times. But despite the necessity, they’ve still been hesitant to do it.

Benefits of Blackwood

Using Mackenzie Blackwood allowed goalie Keith Kinkaid, who will have to play at least two more games this week, to get a reprieve and it also gave the Devils something to work with when it comes to their rookie goaltender. It was Blackwood’s NHL debut so he was able to see the speed of the game and get some video to learn from.

“It was an opportunity for Blackwood to get in the net, get his first action, get some saves and give us something to work with,” Hynes said. “Gets us some video with him so we’ll see if we can get something going.”

Worth noting

Prudential Center unveiled their new Lofts section Tuesday. The open-concept suites include two bars and multiple boxes with features like couches, replay monitors and the ability to turn a box into a private suite are already selling out throughout the Devils’ season and the Prudential Center concert season. The section is now open for all Prudential Center events.

4. Yes, the Devils are struggling, but they’re right to stick with their plan — and coach John Hynes | Politi

By Steve Politi, NJ.com

https://www.nj.com/devils/2018/12/yes-the-devils-are-struggling-but-theyre-right-to-stick-with-their-plan-and-coach-john-hynes-politi.html

It is a reflexive thing with this franchise, really. The moment the Devils go into any sort of prolonged slump, whether it’s a few weeks into a season or with the playoffs rapidly approaching, everyone expects the axe to land on the neck of the head coach.

Blame Lou Lamoriello for that. The longtime team executive has been gone for three and a half years and I still can’t walk through the bowels of the Prudential Center without expecting him to step out from behind a curtain and yell “BOO!” He kept people on edge, and that includes the 19 men — if you’re counting repeat appearances and Lamoriello himself — who had stints behind the bench during his 27 years in charge.

Well, this is not exactly a newsflash, but the management style around this team has changed dramatically. The Devils are off to a disappointing start one season after their surprise trip to the playoffs, but the men who run this franchise now are not about to scrap their plans and make panic moves about the future.

And that includes head coach John Hynes.

“Pro sports is an emotional business, but you need a clear plan,” Hynes told NJ Advance Media in a quiet moment Tuesday morning before a wretched 7-2 loss to Toronto. “Everything doesn’t go on a straight line to the top. There are dips, troubling times, good times, but it’s about the foundation we’re building here.”

That foundation, no matter what happens the rest of this season, is solid. It might be hard to see on nights like this, with the Maple Leafs out skating and outscoring them in every imaginable way. But the pieces are there.

Look: The 2017-18 season was a magical seven months given the recent doldrums. The team went from an NHL bottom feeder to looking like it might never lose a game early in the season, had the league’s MVP for the first time in franchise history and introduced a nucleus of young, talented players who looked like they might double as a boy band on their off nights.

They had at least a half dozen players outperforming expectations, including a career-best in goals (39), assists (54) and points (93) from Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, and they still only made the playoffs by a point. Growing pains were inevitable, and they were on display Tuesday night with the talented Toronto Maple Leafs in town. And that’s putting it kindly.

Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, passed up a shot on a two-on-one that deflected into an easy three-on-one goal for new Toronto sniper John Tavares. Soon, it was 2-0, and as has become the norm this season, the Devils were trying to climb out of a deep hole against a deeper and more talented opponent.

That will be the theme for the season now. They are too talented to be this deep in the standings, 15th in the Eastern Conference and just four points out of the league basement. But even with 50 games left, getting back into playoff contention will be difficult under the best of circumstances. Doing it with one goaltender, Cory Schneider, who has forgotten how to stop the puck, and another, Keith Kinkaid, who has only been marginally better will be next to impossible.

“For us, we want to build this into a consistently competitive team that can get into the playoffs and then consistently compete in the playoffs,” Hynes said. “We did it once. How do you build it to be there consistently? That’s the challenge.”

Hynes, just under three and a half seasons on the job, will become the longest-tenured pro sports coach in the New York market when, as expected, the Jets fire Todd Bowles. Told that, he offered up a “wow” before again expressing his gratitude that his bosses haven’t taken their eye off the blueprint.

Five NHL teams have already changed coaches this season, including all four of the teams with fewer points entering Tuesday than the Devils. Some of those moves were justified, but when you look at teams like the rival Philadelphia Flyers — their slogan should be “making desperate moves for four decades and counting” — it’s hard to know what, exactly, their longterm plans are.

That isn’t the case for the Devils.

“What I tried to do was hire someone that could grow with the team,” GM Ray Shero said on Tuesday in his first interview session with local reporters since the season started. He admitted to having some “hard conversations” with Hynes after the difficult 2016-17 season but said he saw a “different coach” last season, and nothing about the slow start has changed his belief.

If anything, Shero shoulders more blame for the short-term pain. He failed to make any significant moves to improve the team this season, especially to his suspect defensive corps. But was even that a longterm play? The Devils have the most projected cap space for the 2019 offseason, when anything less than an aggressive approach might lead to a fan revolt.

For now, though, the Devils have earned some patience, even after a loss that Hynes himself called “unacceptable.” The season is major disappointment so far, but don’t expect any emotional changes from this franchise now. Lou is not popping out from behind that curtain.

5. Devils’ Taylor Hall is our choice as New Jersey Sportsperson of the Year for 2018

By Steve Politi, NJ.com

https://www.nj.com/devils/2018/12/devils-taylor-hall-is-our-choice-as-new-jersey-sportsperson-of-the-year-for-2018.html

It isn’t easy being Taylor Hall these days. People expect heroics, and given what he accomplished last season for the Devils, can you blame them for having ridiculous expectations? He only threw what had been one of the worst teams in the NHL onto his back and carried it to the postseason.

“It is a bit hard. You expect the best from yourself,” Hall told NJ Advance Media on Tuesday morning. “At the start of the year, that’s something I may have struggled with a little bit. You might go into a game, you play pretty well and get a point or two, but you’re only happy when you get three or four points.”

Such is life after winning the NHL’s most prestigious individual honor. Hall is our choice as New Jersey Sportsperson of the Year for 2018, and to be clear, we recognize this distinction is just a weeeee bit less significant than the hardware he took home in June.

That’s when Hall won the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, chiseling his name in hockey history with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe. The Devils have three Stanley Cups to their credit, with three of their greatest players and their team architect enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto as a result of that run of excellence.

But Hall was the first player in franchise history to be deemed the league’s most valuable, and really, that last word is essential here. You could argue that a player might be more individually spectacular in the 2017-18 NHL season. But value to his team? That was Hall, without question.

He set career highs in goals (39), assists (54) and points (93) and finished 41 points ahead of rookie teammate Nico Hischier as the Devils improved by 27 points to grab a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. “Whenever it seemed like we needed something to happen,” veteran Brian Boyle said, “he did it.”

So Hall joins gymnast Laurie Hernandez (2016) and NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. (2017) as winners of our annual award, beating out brilliant Giants rookie Saquon Barkley (the winner of our reader poll), Rutgers wrestler Nick Suriano and Eagles leader Malcolm Jenkins, among others.

The Hart Trophy was enough to get this third-annual distinction, which was created to recognize a New Jersey native or a player/coach/executive on a New Jersey-based team who had the biggest impact on the national sports scene during the calendar year. This is arguably the biggest award for a professional team sports athlete since Lawrence Taylor was the pro football’s MVP in 1986.

Hall also gets the nod because of how he represented the team off the ice and the excitement he generated for a desperate fan base. He helped make the Prudential Center a destination again.

“The playoffs last year, I swear, when the games were in our building, it was amazing,” Hall said “I thought it was louder than (first-round opponent) Tampa for sure. You can tell the excitement in our fan base when we were going on that run, and when we clinched against Toronto last year, it was awesome. You have to get winning in order to feel that though.”

The current season hasn’t gone nearly as well with the Devils well out of a playoff position more than a third of the way through the season. But at least they know they have a cornerstone to build around, because Hall showed everyone what was possible in 2018.

“It’s a great privilege to be his teammate,” Boyle said. “He’s a leader. He’s a great example to the younger guys and the older guys. He demands a lot out of himself. He works really hard to go along with the ability to play really good hockey. That’s a character thing, and he’s got tons of it.”

6. ‘We can’t take nights off’: 4 observations from Devils’ loss to Leafs | Mackenzie Blackwood, Nico Hischier, more

By Chris Ryan, NJ.com

https://www.nj.com/expo/sports/erry-2018/12/1eeb7d23a83493/we-cant-take-nights-off-4-obse.html

The Devils didn’t have any miraculous comeback in them on Tuesday when the Toronto Maple Leafs jumped out to an early three-goal lead en route to a 7-2 win at Prudential Center in Newark.

Here’s what the Devils had to say about the “unacceptable” loss and what needs to be better going forward.

Devils can’t take nights off

The Leafs were fast. They were aggressive. They were physical.

The Devils were a step behind all night.

That led to the lopsided result on the scoreboard.

“Our group in here, we can’t take nights off,” forward Taylor Hall said. “Tonight wasn’t our best, and for us, when we don’t play our best, unfortunately right now, we’re not going to get wins. We have to play very, very well to get wins. That’s got to be our focus for the next game.”

Hall returned to the lineup after missing the past two games due to lower-body soreness, and the reigning NHL MVP said he felt good physically during and after the game.

But with him back on the ice, the Devils couldn’t replicate the efforts they put out in an overtime win over the Vegas Golden Knights and a shootout loss to the Nashville Predators.

It’s no secret the Leafs are among the NHL’s elite teams. They’re near the top of the standings for a reason, and even after a recent stretch where they lost four out of five games, the Leafs still presented a big challenge for the Devils.

Still, when the Devils have played and executed their game this season, they’ve showed the ability to play with any team. That didn’t happen on Tuesday.

“We’re all fighting in here and we’re all trying our best, sometimes it’s hard,” Hall said. “We have good group of guys in here, a team that competes, but tonight we were late on plays. Tonight we were a little bit tentative, and teams like that are going to make you pay.

“We respected them a lot, but sometimes we gave them too much time and space and didn’t play the way we wanted to. At the end of the day, that’s all we can really do, is play the way we want to. Can’t say we did that tonight.”

Blackwood’s debut

With the Devils trailing 5-1 heading into the third period, Devils coach John Hynes made the decision to end goalie Keith Kinkaid’s night early, leading to Mackenzie Blackwood’s NHL debut in relief.

Kinkaid was involved in a collision with defenseman Ben Lovejoy in the second period, but Hynes said the move wasn’t injury related. The coach was just ready to make a change to give Blackwood a chance.

“It was an opportunity for Blackwood to be able to get in the net and get his first action and get some saves and get himself going,” Hynes said. “And give us something to work with with him, some video on him, see if we can get him going here too.”

Blackwood entered the game and made a very memorable save to start his NHL career when he made a kick save to turn away Leafs forward Zach Hyman on a breakaway. Blackwood moved up to force Hyman wide, then reached his left leg back to the right post for the kick stop.

Blackwood did allow two goals to Tyler Ennis late in the third period, but his first appearance ended with eight saves.

The 2015 second-round pick will serve as Kinkaid’s backup for the time being with Cory Schneider on IR, and depending on the length of latter’s absence, Blackwood could be in line for some starts.

Kinkaid will likely start Thursday’s road game at Columbus, but with two more games at home on Friday against Ottawa and on Sunday against Columbus, Blackwood could see his first start soon.

Regardless of when that call comes, his main focus remains on learning as much as he can while with the NHL team.

“It’s cool to play, an experience I’ll never forget,” Blackwood said. “It sucks losing, but at the same time, I’ve just got to take this opportunity and learn from the little bit of the game I did play and practice here with these guys, take that moving forward and try to develop myself.”

Hischier’s decision to pass on 2-on-1

The Leafs’ opening goal by John Tavares came on a 3-on-1 rush that stemmed from a Devils decision on the other end of the ice.

On a 2-on-1 shorthanded push, Nico Hischier carried the puck up the left side, with Brian Boyle skating on the rush on the right.

Hischier had the lane to shoot, but he elected to make a pass to Boyle. That pass was broken up by Leafs defenseman Morgan Reilly, forcing a turnover and sending the puck the other way.

Hischier is usually a pass-first type of a player, and although he’s tried to put more emphasis on looking to shoot, this play was an example of the extra pass that hurt, especially given the shorthanded situation and the chance for a counter attack off a mistake.

Hischier is someone who can typically make the necessary adjustments to his game, so expect him to be more aggressive as he continues to develop,

“Just use his speed, be more direct, be more assertive,” Hynes said. “He’s a real good player, he’s got great speed. Sometimes in those situations you’d like to see a different decision made.”

Not one the Devils can just flush away

Sometimes lopsided losses or off nights are games teams just want to flush, forget and move past. Tuesday won’t be one of them.

Going against an elite opponent, the Devils made too many mistakes and lacked the execution to give themselves a chance. They’ll examine what needs to chance on Wednesday.

“We’ve got to review it tomorrow, for sure. Tonight was unacceptable,” Hynes said. “We’ve got to review it, talk about some things and we’ve got to work on some things, make sure we’re a better team against Columbus. Tonight is not something you can just look past. We’ve got to dig into it and get some answers.”

7. Devils rolled by Maple Leafs | Rapid reaction

By Chris Ryan, NJ.com

https://www.nj.com/devils/2018/12/devils-rolled-by-maple-leafs-rapid-reaction.html

The Devils ran into a Toronto Maple Leafs team that was struggling, losing four of its past five games.

That translated into the Devils getting an angry and motivated Leafs squad that dominated from the opening puck drop on Tuesday.

The Leafs struck for the opening three goals in the first 14 minutes of the game before cruising past the Devils, 7-2, at Prudential Center in Newark.

Goalie Keith Kinkaid allowed five goals over the first two periods, leading to Mackenzie Blackwood making his NHL debut in relief to start the third. His first save came on a Zach Hyman breakaway, where Blackwood reached out his left foot for a kick save at the left post. He finished with eight saves in 20 minutes of work, but he did allow two late goals.

Scoring plays

Toward the end of a Leafs power play early in the first period, Devils forward Nico Hischier started a 2-on-1 shorthanded breakaway with Brian Boyle, giving the Devils a chance for a dangerous shorthanded look.

Hischier attempted to make a pass to Boyle, but the pass was broken up by Leafs defenseman Morgan Reilly, leading to a 3-on-1 Toronto rush the other way. It ended with John Tavares taking a pass in the slot and burying a shot at 6:01. The goal came moments after Blake Coleman emerged from the box, making it a 5-on-5 score.

Auston Matthews doubled the lead at 7:58 when he cleaned up a loose puck in the crease. Matthews appeared to cross check on Devils defenseman Damon Severson into Kinkaid before scoring, but nothing was called. Devils coach John Hynes challenged for goalie interference and the call stood.

Patrick Marleau capped off the Leafs’ first-period scoring when cleaned up a pass in front of the crease at 13:38.

Sami Vatanen pulled the Devils within 3-1 at 18:44 with a blistering shot from the point, but Mitch Marner and Reilly scored in the second period to put the Leafs up 5-1 after two.

Nico Hischier pulled the Devils within 5-2 in the third period, but two goals by Tyler Ennis ended the scoring for the Leafs.

Next up

The Devils hit the road to start a back-to-back when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. They return home to host the Ottawa Senators on Friday before hosting Blue Jackets on Sunday. The team will then go on its three-day Christmas break.

8. Devils fall to Maple Leafs

By Amanda Stein, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/news/devils-fall-to-maple-leafs/c-303072424

For a second time this season, the New Jersey Devils were stymied by the Toronto Maple Leafs. This time, it happened on home ice.

Sami Vatanen and Nico Hischier scored for New Jersey Tuesday night, in the Devils 7-2 loss – the most lopsided home loss of the season. New Jersey has been outscored by Toronto, one of the league’s top tier teams, 13-3 in the two games played between the clubs this season.

Here are 10 takeaways from the game:

1. Taylor Hall returned to the Devils lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hall had missed the teams’ previous two-games with lower body soreness. The 27-year-old Hall took part in Monday’s practice and Tuesday’s morning skate before the determination was made he was healthy enough to play.

Against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Hall earned an assist on the Devils second goal of the game. In 14 career games against Toronto, Hall has three goals and six assists for nine points.

2. It is rare that one sees the number 13 for New Jersey sitting in the penalty box. Nico Hischier has been rather spectacular through the first 32 games of the season at avoiding the penalty box. Entering the game against the Leafs, he had a team-low two penalty minutes. On Tuesday night, Hischier took just his second penalty of the season, a holding-call against Toronto’s Zach Hyman at 10:20 of the first period. The Devils would go on to kill off the Hischier penalty.

3. After the Leafs had taken an early 3-0 lead on the Devils, New Jersey was on the board at 18:44 of the first period as Sami Vatanen fired home his second goal of the season, a rocket from the right point to beat Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen.

The goal was Vatanen’s first since November 1st at Detroit and came on the Devils seventh shot of the period. Brian Boyle added the lone assist, after fighting off two Leafs down low by the net to get the puck back to Vatanen. Boyle has three points in his last five games played (one goal, two assists).

4. As for Boyle, here’s a fun fact! His assist comes on his 34th birthday and marks his fourth career assist on December 18th (five games played). All those assists coming in the last two seasons with New Jersey. Credit: Craig Seiden, NJ Devils Radio Statistician

5. In a game that certainly didn’t go the New Jersey Devils way, coach John Hynes elected to replace Keith Kinkaid after two periods of play. Kinkaid played the opening 40 minutes, making 16 saves on 21 shots. For Mackenzie Blackwood – Kinkaid’s backup with the injury to Cory Schneider earlier this week – the final 20 minutes of the game against Toronto were the first of his NHL career. Not an easy thing to make your NHL debut in relief of another goaltender, but Blackwood handled himself in a tough situation making 8 of 10 saves.

In fact, Blackwood’s first NHL save was a beautiful toe-save on a breakaway shot.

6. Blackwood became just the second goalie from the 2015 NHL draft class to play in the NHL. Adin Hill was the first, with Arizona (13 games played).

7. Nico Hischier had the Devils second goal of the night, his eighth of the season. Hischier received a heads-up pass from Taylor Hall who was close to the goal-line, to cash in on catching Anderson off-guard.

Hischier tapped in the puck in the slot to cut the Leafs lead to 5-2 at 14:47 of the third period.

8. New Jersey’s power play has had a rough-go recently. After being shutout on the power play by Toronto, the Devils record in their last seven games is 3-for-22 with the man-advantage.

9. Devils captain Andy Greene played in career game 820 on Tuesday night, all with the New Jersey franchise. He now sits alone in eighth place in franchise history for games played, breaking a tie with former Devils Jay Pandolfo.

10. Before the holiday break, the Devils have three more games to play, two of which are against the Columbus Blue Jackets. They’ll be in Columbus Thursday night before hosting the Ottawa Senators on Friday. Then, the Blue Jackets are in town for a 12:30pm matchup on Sunday, December 23rd.

9. Devils overwhelmed by John Tavares and the Maple Leafs

By Staff Writer, Associated Press

https://nypost.com/2018/12/18/devils-overwhelmed-by-john-tavares-and-the-maple-leafs/

The Leafs put on a show for the Devils, and ex-Islanders captain John Tavares provided the opening act.

In a 7-2 rout of the hosts Tuesday night at Prudential Center, Tavares got the scoring started 6:01 into the first period. He added an assist in the second period and seemed right at home in his first game back in the New York City area since leaving the Islanders to sign with his hometown team in the offseason.

“I think tonight we came out ready to play,” said Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner, who also scored a goal. “We know they’ve got a good team over there … so we knew coming in here was going to be a hard match and I think we came in, got the puck behind them which is what we needed to, and that’s why we were successful.”

It wasn’t much of a game after Tavares, Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau scored in the opening 13:38.

Nazem Kadri matched his career high with three assists, Marner and Morgan Rielly added second-period goals and Tyler Ennis had two in the closing minutes as Toronto embarrassed the Devils for the second time this season. The win was their seventh in 11 games (7-2-2).

Sami Vatanen and Nico Hischier scored for the struggling Devils, who are 3-6-6 in their last 15 games. Keith Kinkaid gave up five goals on 21 shots before being lifted with New Jersey down 5-1 after 40 minutes.

“Our group in here, we can’t take nights off. Tonight was not our best,” Devils forward Taylor Hall said. “When we don’t play our best, unfortunately right now, we’re not going to get wins.”

10. New Jersey Devils bring holiday cheer to local hospitals

By Cheryl Makin, mycentraljersey.com

https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/local/outreach/caring-communities/2018/12/17/new-jersey-devils-bring-holiday-cheer-local-hospitals/2330631002/

SOMERVILLE – Chris Corra of Raritan saw Monday’s visit by New Jersey Devils’ Ken Daneyko to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset as a sign of “good things to come.”

After a long stay in the Paul R. Nardoni Oncology Pavilion, Corra was going home — but not before a chat about life and hockey with Daneyko.

“I heard that a New Jersey Devils player was coming today and I called my wife to tell her,” said Corra, a longtime hockey fan. “I thought it was one of the younger players. But then Ken Daneyko walked in. That just made my day. I’m in shock. This was unbelievable. That was great. It’s gotta be a sign.”

As the franchise has done for several years, Daneyko was one of several Devils players, alumni and staff who visited RWJ Barnabas Health sites Monday. At RWJUH New Brunswick and Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital in New Brunswick, current Devils players Will Butcher, Brett Seney, Damon Severson and Miles Wood made the rounds while Jesper Bratt, Sami Vatanen, Egor Yakovlev and Pavel Zacha visited RWJUH Rahway.

RWJBarnabas Health is the official healthcare provider for the Devils.

“It’s very gratifying to come here,” Daneyko said. “This time of year — the holiday season — to give back is special. To put a smile on somebody’s face for 30 seconds or a minute and if they happen to be Devils fans, that’s fantastic too, but more importantly, it’s just about spreading some cheer at this time of year to people that are going through a rough time.”

At RWJUH Somerset, Daneyko charmed patients and staff alike visiting several oncology units at both the Steeplechase Cancer Center and Paul R. Nardoni Oncology Pavilion of the main hospital. Patients and staff alike were excited to meet the three-time Stanley Cup winner, who now serves in the broadcast booth as a color analyst for the team.

A Canadian-American defenseman, Daneyko played his entire career from 1983 to 2003 with the Devils. Fans nicknamed him “Mr. Devil” as he continues to hold the franchise record for games played — 1,283.

“It’s great that the Devils have a partnership with our health system,” said Patrick Delaney, vice president of operations at RWJUH Somerset. “Having Ken here today to visit with some of our patients is just very special. It’s really nice for our patients to have that little extra touch, specifically around the holiday season and we are excited to bring him around and have him meet some of our patients.”

“It really has become a tradition that current players, since when I played way back, visit hospitals during the holiday season and spread cheer,” said Daneyko. “It’s a wonderful day and I know the players love it. They have a deep appreciation to give back to the community in this state and cheering people up who have had some tough circumstances and are battling. It’s always a special day for the organization. It’s always good to give back.”

Unplanned, Daneyko met up with old friends Eddie and Maggie Smith of Bridgewater in the infusion room. Eddie Smith is a retired policeman who was stationed where the players practiced. The two recognized each other right away.

“We used to hang at the same establishment back in the day,” Eddie Smith said. “We used to escort them. We had some good times. Small world. This is a great thing he does.”

Tony and Stella Gatti of North Plainfield and Elizabeth Villano of Hillsborough enjoyed chatting with Daneyko and agreed they found the renowned hockey player to be “very down to earth.”

“That’s the only thing we are going to agree on today,” said Tony Gatti laughing. “Really, bless him. This is a great thing he does. What a nice guy. He didn’t have to do this.”

Having made many appearances and given many speeches in his career, Daneyko said he often asks himself what he could “possibly say that would have an impact?”

“But, if you touch one person, it makes it all work it,” said Daneyko, who said he has an admiration for those battling diseases such as cancer.

11. Devils players bring holiday cheer to JCMC

By The Jersey Journal

https://www.nj.com/jjournal-news/index.ssf/2018/12/devils_players_bring_holiday_c.html

New Jersey Devils players stepped off the ice for the day to visit Jersey City Medical Center yesterday to sign autographs and take photos with fans.

Players Nico Hischier, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson, and Keith Kinkaid brought some holiday cheer to patients at the hospital and fans who came out to get photos and autographs.

3) TV/VIDEO LINKS

 

1. WATCH: NJ Devils’ captain Andy Greene on loss to Leafs

By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

https://www.northjersey.com/videos/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/19/watch-nj-devils-captain-andy-greene-loss-leafs/2359037002/

2. 12/18/18 Postgame: John Hynes

By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/121818-postgame-john-hynes/t-277437418/c-64087003

3. 12/18/18 Postgame: Taylor Hall

By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/121818-postgame-taylor-hall/t-277437418/c-64086503

4. 12/18/18 Postgame: Blackwood

By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/121818-postgame-blackwood/t-277437418/c-64086403

5. 12/18/19 Pregame Preview

By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/121819-pregame-preview/t-277437418/c-64060003

6. 12/18/19 Players to Watch

By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/121819-players-to-watch/t-277437418/c-64059803

6. HALL: WE CAN’T TAKE NIGHTS OFF

By MSG Networks

https://www.msgnetworks.com/videos/hall-we-cant-take-nights-off/

7. BREAK DOWN OF MACKENZIE BLACKWOOD’S NHL DEBUT

By MSG Networks

https://www.msgnetworks.com/videos/break-down-of-mackenzie-blackwoods-nhl-debut/

8. JOHANSSON DISCUSSES WHY HE’S PLAYING SO WELL IN RECENT GAMES

By MSG Networks

https://www.msgnetworks.com/videos/johansson-discusses-why-hes-playing-so-well-in-recent-games/

10. Back in the Devils’ lineup, Hall aims to tame high-powered Leafs
By tsn.ca

https://www.tsn.ca/nhl/video/back-in-the-devils-lineup-hall-aims-to-tame-high-powered-leafs~1567670

11. Devils visit hospital patients | Jersey City Medical Center

By FIOS News

https://www1.newsdataservice.com/Player?ClipId=,S,201812,AC7F3989-B957-4297-8D07-DE94F1659108&ReqServer=NDS5%5CNDS5&QueryName=RWJBarnabas%20Health%20System%20-%20RWJ%20Email&Offset=1632&rai=91629e00-4f88-11d7-80a6-00b0d020616e&ran=MetroMonitor&roi=91629e00-4f88-11d7-80a6-00b0d020616e&ron=MetroMonitor&run=&rut=0&E=12gP27Hlb7vc(7IqH7_qHiHS2Wzcrl&Time=12gq2Vvf(74f(74f2V302V4f(74f(i4fHi&Related=PV_5&pbp=Y

12. The Devils visit RWJBarnabas Health hospitals

By WNBC News

https://www1.newsdataservice.com/Player?ClipId=,S,201812,7BD5F7C4-911D-4632-AAA8-6B527B864B2B&ReqServer=NDS5%5CNDS5&QueryName=RWJBarnabas%20Health%20System%20-%20RWJ%20Email&Offset=1793&rai=91629e00-4f88-11d7-80a6-00b0d020616e&ran=MetroMonitor&roi=91629e00-4f88-11d7-80a6-00b0d020616e&ron=MetroMonitor&run=&rut=0&E=12gP27Hlb7vc(7IqH7_qHiHS2Wzcrl&Time=12gq2Vvf(74f(74f2V302V4f(74f(i4fHi&Related=PV_6&pbp=Y
 

4) RADIO LINKS

 

1. Devils GM still likes his team despite a rough go thus far

By sportsnet.ca

https://www.sportsnet.ca/590/hockey-central-at-noon/devils-gm-still-likes-team-despite-rough-go-thus-far/

2. TSN 1050 National with Gord Miller.

By tsn.ca

http://chumam.streamon.fm/listen-pl-12487?smc=91

5) NATIONAL PRINT/WEB

 

1. Maple Leafs score seven against Devils to avoid third straight loss

By David Satriano, NHL.com

https://www.nhl.com/news/toronto-maple-leafs-new-jersey-devils-game-recap/c-303061410

NEWARK, N.J. — Nazem Kadri had three assists for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 7-2 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday.

It was the first three-point game for Kadri since he had a hat trick and two assists against the Columbus Blue Jackets last season on Feb. 14 (a 6-3 win).

“For us, we hadn’t been getting the results we’ve wanted to get over the past week, week and a half, and it was about time for us to stand up and I thought we responded well,” Kadri said. “I don’t gauge whether I play well or not depending on the point system.”

John Tavares and Auston Matthews each had a goal and an assist, Connor Brown tied his NHL career-high with three assists, and Frederik Andersen made 27 saves for Toronto (22-10-2), which avoided losing three straight games for the first time this season.

Sami Vatanen and Nico Hischier scored, and Keith Kinkaid made 16 saves for the Devils (11-14-7) before he was pulled after the second period. Mackenzie Blackwood made eight saves in his NHL debut for New Jersey, which lost for the 12th time in 15 games (3-6-6).

“Our group in here, we can’t take nights off,” Devils forward Taylor Hall said. “Tonight was not our best. When we don’t play our best, unfortunately right now, we’re not going to get wins. We have to play very well to get wins and that has to be our focus for the next game.”

Tavares gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 6:01 of the first period on a 3-on-1 with Kadri and Matthews for his Toronto-leading 21st goal.

Matthews made it 2-0 at 7:58 putting in a loose puck from the crease for his 17th goal. The Devils unsuccessfully challenged for goalie interference.

“I thought we started good tonight,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t know if we maintained it for 60 but we really started good, came out, got on the cycle and scored some big goals. Good win for our team.”

Patrick Marleau scored to give Toronto a 3-0 lead at 13:38 on a rebound. It was his 544th NHL goal, tying Maurice Richard for 30th, and his 106th game-winning goal, which ranks seventh.

“Growing up, I used to always look at all the hockey cards, read all the books and read about the great players, and I think it’s pretty cool to be in that same company,” Marleau said. “It’s always nice when a milestone like that comes with a win.”

Vatanen made it 3-1 on a slap shot from the slot at 18:44 of the first.

Mitchell Marner scored at 1:45 of the second period off a Tavares shot that hit the post to make it 4-1. Morgan Rielly scored with three seconds remaining in the second period for a 5-1 lead.

“They were a lot better than us in the first, the second and third,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “Tonight was unacceptable. … Tonight is not something you can just look past. We have to dig into it and get some answers.”

Hischier made it 5-2 at 14:47 of the third period. Tyler Ennis scored at 16:28 to make it 6-2 and again at 18:30 for a 7-2 lead for Toronto, which scored at least four goals for the eighth time in its past 11 games.

“I think our four lines in general, when we get it in (the offensive zone), we play well, anyone can score,” Marner said. “We are a deadly lineup like that.”

They said it

“544 to tie [Maurice Richard], 106 game-winners, not bad. It’s incredible, actually, when you think about it.” — Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock on Patrick Marleau

“We are all trying our best. Sometimes it is hard. We have a good group of guys, a team that competes, this was a night we were late on plays and we were a little tentative, and teams like that are going to make you pay.” — Devils forward Taylor Hall

Need to know

Marleau needs four goals to tie Michel Goulet (548) for 29th, and five to tie Ron Francis for 28th. … Hall returned to the lineup after missing two games with lower-body soreness. He had an assist and one shot on goal playing 17:19. … The Maple Leafs were 0-for-3 on the power play and are 1-for-25 in their past seven games. Toronto entered the game with a penalty-killing percentage of 78.2 percent and went 3-for-3. … The Devils won six of the prior seven games against the Maple Leafs at Prudential Center.

What’s next

Maple Leafs: Host the Florida Panthers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, SNO, FS-F, NHL.TV)

Devils: At the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, MSG, NHL.TV)

2. Beyond the broadcast: A wild weekend on the road with Devils radio icons Matt Loughlin and Chico Resch

By Corey Masisak, The Athletic

https://theathletic.com/720908/2018/12/18/beyond-the-broadcast-a-wild-weekend-on-the-road-with-devils-radio-icons-matt-loughlin-and-chico-resch/

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “Good show. We’ve got 12 minutes to get to the bus.”

“Oh boy, that’s all?”

Matt Loughlin and Chico Resch finish their postgame show Saturday night, after the Devils lost in a shootout to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena and, after all the preparation to put together two hockey broadcasts in about 28 hours, the time left to catch the team bus becomes the most important number of the moment.

Loughlin and Resch sign off from New Jersey’s digital radio broadcast at 10:33 p.m. and, after a couple of quick thank yous to the two local men who helped engineer the show, it’s time to navigate the 300 levels of the arena and find the quickest route downstairs to the bus.

“They will wait for Taylor Hall, but they won’t wait for Matt Loughlin or Chico Resch,” Loughlin says.

Loughlin became the radio voice of the Devils 13 years ago and has been around the team for a quarter of a century. Resch was the starting goaltender when the Colorado Rockies moved to New Jersey in 1982 and is in his 20th season as an analyst for the club — the first 18 were on television before a three-year retirement and a return to the radio booth with Loughlin last season.

This past weekend was a unique one on the Devils’ schedule, and for the team’s broadcasters. New Jersey played the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday at Prudential Center, before a quick trip to Nashville for a Saturday night on Broadway.

NHL teams have plenty of back-to-backs each season, but the Devils don’t have many that include a trip to a Western Conference city. Even the home game against Vegas provided a wrinkle for Loughlin and Resch because it’s only the third game in Devils history against the sophomore franchise.

The Athletic spent the two days shadowing Loughlin and Resch to witness up close how they handled the weekend, and how they are settling in as broadcast partners in their second season working together.

Loughlin is a New Jersey native and a proud Seton Hall alum. His career path led him away from radio and into television and, while he spent the better part of 15 years hosting pre- and postgame shows for the Devils, Mets and Nets, his desire to be a play-by-play announcer did not go away.

He had chances to fill in, particularly with the Devils when Mike “Doc” Emrick had national network responsibilities, but when the New Jersey radio job opened in 2006, Loughlin saw it as an opportunity for his big break. That meant an interview with the Devils general manager at the time, Lou Lamoriello.

“It’s not intimidating, but I can’t count on one hand … well, maybe both hands … in the 25 years I’ve been associated with the Devils that I was in his office,” Loughlin said. “I was walking into the inner sanctum, so to speak. The door closes behind you and Lou doesn’t B.S. It was, ‘Why do you think you can do this? You’ve done TV mostly and radio only early in your career.’ He had some questions. I guess I answered them well enough.”

A couple of days later, Lamoriello called Loughlin and asked for another meeting in his office.

“I walk in and he says, ‘I want to offer you the job,’” Loughlin recalled. “I said that’s great and we talked about some terms, which were all agreeable on his end. But he said, ‘You can’t leave without telling me yes or no.’ I said, ‘Well, this is a pretty big change I’m making’ and he said, ‘You should have thought about that before you applied. I’m offering you the job.’ He also tapped a pile of resumes, or what I assumed were resumes, and he goes, ‘I’ve got to let these people know, one way or another.’

“Of course I took it, but I walked out of there wondering, ‘Does he do that with players, too?’”

One of Lamoriello’s stipulations when he was in charge of the club was that the broadcasters did not fly on the team’s chartered plane. With that restriction now lifted, traveling is a much easier and less stressful part of the job, other than the times when they need to hustle to reach the bus.

On this day, the Friday of the back-to-back, Loughlin wakes up at 7:45 a.m. and leaves home for The Rock two hours later. His drive to the arena sometimes includes a stop at Dunkin Donuts, depending on time and traffic. The Devils’ morning skate starts at 10:30 and afterwards both Loughlin and Resch are in the locker room chatting with players and collecting intel for the night’s game against the Golden Knights.

Resch sits down with Pavel Zacha and then Nico Hischier. Loughlin interviews Marcus Johansson and joins the Cory Schneider scrum, because the goaltender is making his first home start of the season and that’s going to be a prominent storyline.

After the skate is over, Loughlin shoots a pregame video. Typically for home games, he goes home for a few hours to complete his preparation. On this day, he stays and works in the media room at Prudential Center. He’s got a to-do list:

Listen back to the interviews from the skate and send the audio to Josh Lachot, who works for Skyview Networks and produces the Devils broadcast from Phoenix

Make notes to use from the audio that won’t air on the pregame show

Go over the plan for intermission interviews (the Vegas game includes a pre-recorded segment with Rob Lippolis from the Binghamton Devils)

Proof the ad reads he’ll need to do at specific times in the broadcast

Read through the game notes and check on any league news/trends that might mean late additions to his game charts

Find power-play/penalty-killing numbers from the past five games, because Resch likes recent special teams data more than season numbers

Loughlin then has to make a quick adjustment because Vegas announces at 1:20 p.m. — well after the morning skate and coach Gerrard Gallant’s media scrum — that Max Pacioretty is not going to play in the game that night.

Every broadcaster has game charts, a way to organize loads of information that can be accessed in real time on the air. Loughlin has a template he uses for every game, but he likes to write down the information instead of just typing it up on a computer and printing it out.

He typically spends two-and-a-half to three hours creating the charts for each game, but that’s usually spread out over a couple of days. The charts for the game Saturday in Nashville have to be done in pieces ahead of time because of the back-to-back, so he works on it when he can — like Friday afternoon and later that night when the team is at the airport waiting for the chartered plane to be ready for them.

Between completing the written and audio preparation for the pregame show and the game broadcast, Loughlin and Resch spend a lot of time talking to people. They meet up with each other to go over their own talking points, but they’re also chatting with broadcasters from the other team, other members of the media, and just about anyone else they might run into in the media room when dinner is being served.

The pregame show starts at 6:50 p.m., but Loughlin likes to get to his seat well before that to clear his head and go over everything one last time, as the fans begin to fill up the areas down by the ice for warmups.

Loughlin and Resch start the pregame show with a quick recap of the California road trip and update the lineups for the game. Taylor Hall is out for the Devils and Paul Stastny is returning for the Golden Knights.

“Sometimes it sets up where the odds are so stacked up against you, but that is just when you win,” Resch says.

Before the game, Resch had taken part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with members of the Devils ownership group in honor of the opening of the William Hill Sports Lounge, a sports betting haven connected to the Prudential Center. The duo discuss the impact of Hall’s absence on the Devils and Schneider’s first home start.

Their location at Prudential Center — at the back of the lower concourse — provides them with a great view of the game. It also gives fans sitting in the sections nearby or hanging out behind them the type of access they wouldn’t typically get, if Loughlin and Resch were up in the press box above the seats.

“He’s a man of the people,” Loughlin says of his partner. “And they all want a piece of him. They’ll come to our booth and we’re on the air, but it’s OK. They’ll yell, ‘Chi-cooooo,’ and he’ll acknowledge them so that’s cool.”

Vegas opens the game with the first five shots on goal and a 1-0 lead. Then the Knights also score on shots Nos. 6 and 7, turning this first period into what’s become an all-too-familiar situation for Schneider this season.

“This is the worst-case scenario,” Resch says. “If I had asked you this morning what could be the worst-case scenario, this is what you would have said.”

Blake Coleman fails to score on a 2-on-1 in the second period and, when Resch notes during a commercial break that Coleman could have passed to Miles Wood, Loughlin immediately tells his partner they’re going talk about that.

Resch breaks down what he thinks Coleman could have done coming out of the break and, in a fateful twist a few minutes later, Coleman passes to Wood for a goal.

“Well, it didn’t work the last time, but Coleman found Wood on that one!” Loughlin says.

After a second intermission interview with Jesper Bratt, Loughlin has time during the commercial break to say hello to his son and son’s friends who are at the game and have come over to their booth. Resch also has family at the game and spends some time with them during the intermission.

The Devils rally to tie the game in the third period and send it into overtime, where Nico Hischier seals one of the biggest wins of the season with a highlight-reel goal. It’s the first time this season the Devils have won a game after regulation.

“A miracle has just happened at the Prudential Center!” Resch opines.

During the postgame show, Loughlin and Resch talk with Brett Seney, who scored the tying goal. Seney tells them his linemates, Drew Stafford and Brian Boyle, probably have more combined NHL experience than he has years alive.

Following the interview, Loughlin notes that Stafford is in his 13th year and Boyle in his 12th.

“By my grammar school math, that’s 25 years and Seney is 22, so I think he’s correct,” Loughlin says.

“Brett knows the analytics on that one,” Resch responds. “That was a great answer.”

After airing highlights and part of Devils coach John Hynes’ press conference, Loughlin recalls their pregame discussion about Hall being out and other players needing to step up.

“The best bonding is winning,” Resch says. “This is the type of win that creates bonding.”

The bus is leaving for the airport at 10:30 p.m., and there is plenty of time to reach it. The Devils get to Newark Airport at about 11:10 and take off for Nashville right around 11:45.

Loughlin and Resch sit next to each other on the plane.

“Chico and I are old school. We actually talk to each other,” Loughlin says.

They discuss the Vegas game and which parts to work into the pregame show or the game broadcast the following day in Nashville. Loughlin gets to his room at the Nashville hotel at 2 a.m. CT.

Loughlin’s first radio partner was former Devils player Tom Chorske. Both were new for the 2006-07 season, but Chorske decided to return to Minnesota with his family after just one year. Sherry Ross, who had worked as an analyst for the team from 1992-95 before joining the New York Daily News, returned to the booth to join Loughlin in 2007.

“Sherry came in, and she had done it previously,” Loughlin said. “It worked out really, really well in terms of her professionalism, her knowledge of the team, her knowledge of the medium.”

Resch then came out of retirement to join Loughlin last season. What’s quickly become evident about their chemistry is how expressive they are during game action — and not just on the airwaves. That shared trait has helped them develop on-air rapport to match their off-air friendship.

“(Working with Chico) has been awesome. His knowledge of the game is superb,” Loughlin said. “He knows everybody. He’s been in the game forever. There was a little bit of a transition from TV to radio because there’s nobody talking in your ear, no producer. But he’s picked it up well. He’s got some good stories. He’s self-deprecating. The thing I love about him is he’s all about stories and people. It’s been a blast. I’ve learned a lot about hockey history from him, and we get along really well.”

Loughlin awakes at 7:30 a.m. CT on Saturday. He listens to a local podcast about the Predators and then goes for a walk to get some coffee. He runs into Devils general manager Ray Shero, who’s also enjoying the slightly warmer Tennessee morning after a few cold days in New Jersey.

They chat informally about Shero’s old boss, Predators GM David Poile, who’s going to be Loughlin’s intermission guest that night. Poile was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame three days earlier, and Shero was at the ceremony.

“I try to recognize when it’s time to talk to business and it’s time to just say, ‘How are things going?’” Loughlin says.

After a coffee and some more work on his game charts, Loughlin heads over to the Predators’ morning skate. The Devils do not skate because of the quick turnaround, but Loughlin takes in Nashville coach Peter Laviolette’s presser before speaking with a few players in the Predators’ locker room.

He talks with Nick Bonino about growing up in Connecticut, and with Kevin Fiala about his Swiss roots. There will be five Swiss players in this game, including Hischier and Mirco Mueller from the Devils, which is an anecdote Loughlin wants to work into the broadcast. That Fiala says one of his idols growing up was ex-Devils forward Jaromir Jagr is an added bonus.

Loughlin also waits for goaltender Pekka Rinne, who isn’t playing Saturday night so he stays out on the ice longer with the other scratches. Rinne is one of the goaltenders who had the same hip labrum surgery that Schneider had this past summer, so Loughlin seeks out his insight on the procedure and potential reasons for Schneider’s current struggles.

After the skate comes lunch, and this one has a little extra meaning. Loughlin is reading a book called “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement.” One of the co-authors of the book, Civil Rights advocate John Lewis, went to college in Nashville and helped stage a famous sit-in at Woolworth’s diner on Fifth Avenue to protest segregation.

The department store is long gone, but Woolworth’s on Fifth has reopened as a diner replicated from that era. The walls feature many photos from when Lewis was there and there’s a sign outside recognizing the sit-ins as important moments in Nashville’s history.

Loughlin’s post-lunch routine on the road usually includes last-minute alterations to his charts or notes for the night and time spent walking around. The Devils skipping the afternoon skate gives him an opportunity to explore some of the places he’s read about in Lewis’ book, but also adds a little extra work for him just before showtime.

Hynes speaks with the media just before 5 p.m. and Loughlin interviews Kyle Palmieri, leaving little time for Lachot in Phoenix to have sound from both conversations ready for the pregame show.

Resch and Loughlin both catch up with Pete Weber, the longtime Predators announcer, before the game. Resch might be a master storyteller, but Weber has one for him that he doesn’t know, from the days when Weber was working for the Los Angeles Kings and Resch was a goaltender for the Islanders. They begin discussing the 1980 trade that brought Butch Goring to Long Island, considered one of the signature moments in franchise history that helped launch a dynasty.

“This is how different things were back then,” Resch says. “Pete told me he was the one who drove Butch to the airport in Montreal after the trade happened. I had never heard that before.”

During the pregame show, Loughlin plays part of his pregame interview with Palmieri and part of Hynes’ media scrum before they recap the wild Friday night at the Rock.

“I called it the Miracle on Mulberry Street,” Resch says. “Not just because of the comeback, but because they also finally won a game in overtime and they might have needed a miracle to do it.”

Once the game starts in Nashville, it’s clear it’s going to be a very different type of contest to broadcast. Loughlin and Resch didn’t need much filler material the previous night because Schneider’s struggles dominated the first period and the wild comeback win filled the rest of the evening.

Saturday becomes the type of game where they need to rely on their research and rapport a little bit more. Resch notes that Keith Kinkaid seems to be freezing the puck more, likely to give his teammates extra time to get their legs up to speed with Nashville looking like the quicker team.

One of Nashville’s best early chances goes off the right post.

“The bells are ringing for Keith again,” Resch says. “That tip had him beat but the post said, ‘I’ll take care of that, Keith.’”

“That’s all Keith gave him, right?” Loughlin replies. “Isn’t that what you goalies always say?”

“You are learning, Matty” Resch retorts.

Hischier is the first guest during the intermission. Loughlin ties in parts of his talk with Fiala from earlier in the day, discussing with Hischier the rise of Swiss hockey and former Islanders captain Mark Streit leading the charge. Then Poile joins him in the makeshift radio booth for a chat about his Hall of Fame induction and the growth of hockey in Tennessee.

For Resch, if you think the travel means he doesn’t have admirers stopping him or shouting to him like he does in New Jersey, think again. At one point during the second intermission, Resch is standing near the entrance to the section where their booth is located, talking to a man with a customized Predators jersey that reads “Predxican” on the back.

“Oh, that’s Ivan,” Resch says afterwards.

“Here is the best thing about Chico,” Loughlin says. “He is a man of the people, but many years ago he mentioned that everyone has a name and everyone likes to be called by their name. He tries to learn everyone’s name and talks to everyone from the top organization down to someone who may be very important but is a ticket-taker or an usher. He wants to know what their day has been like and talk about their kids. That’s one of his great traits.”

At one point early in the third period, Loughlin notes that the crowd is pretty quiet, but that it won’t be on Broadway after the game.

“It was buzzing over there before the game,” Resch says of the honky-tonk filled street.

They talk some more about how great Nashville is as a city. Then, Loughlin points out something Hynes had told him earlier in the day, which he said he’d read somewhere — that Nashville is host to a crazy number of bachelorette parties each month.

“When it’s a 1-0 game, you get into these kinds of discussions,” Loughlin tells the audience.

Later, the Devils have a great chance to tie the game but Marcus Johansson fails to connect with Hischier on a pass. The duo immediately dives into a discussion about how Johansson was in a great position to shoot, but after seeing a replay they come back from a commercial break and Resch points out that Hischier got caught watching Johansson and not driving to the net as hard as he could have.

It evolves into an exciting game, with Brian Boyle scoring a 6-on-5 goal in the final moments of regulation, back-and-forth overtime and a shootout. It was the moments before that when Loughlin and Resch found ways to be insightful and entertaining during a game that, by Loughlin’s own admission “was not exactly a barnburner” in terms of displaying their talents and chemistry.

In the aftermath of the Devils’ 2-1 shootout loss, the two have to improvise a bit during the postgame show because they don’t have a player to interview (that happens sometimes after a loss on the road). Plus, there aren’t a lot of highlights to break down from this one.

They focus on the Devils getting three out of four points during a weekend without Hall, and look ahead to a critical upcoming stretch of the season.

“Saros is one of the smallest goalies in the league but he came up big tonight,” Resch says. “I don’t think the Devils coaches will find much fault in their play from this one.

“Someone has to be a hero every night. Last night it was Nico. Tonight it was Ryan Johansen and he wears the wrong jersey for the Devils.”

After that, Loughlin signs off and the race to catch the bus is on.

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New Jersey Devils News & Clips: Dec. 18, 2018

  1. SUMMARY
  2. LOCAL PRINT/WEB
  3. TV/VIDEO LINKS
  4. RADIO LINKS

NATIONAL PRINT/WEB

1) SUMMARY

 

The Devils will face-off against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Prudential Center (7 pm, MSG+, TSN4). Tonight’s game is the second of three contests between New Jersey and Toronto.  On November 9th, the Devils fell to the Maple Leafs, 6-1 in Toronto.  The Devils are 3-7-2 against Atlantic Division opponents so far this season.

Chris Ryan, NJ.com, spoke to Devils head coach John Hynes about goaltender Cory Schneider being placed on the IR and what it means for him going forward.

“Sometimes it’s just trying to take things in stride and trying to help him make sure he gets better physically to perform,” coach John Hynes said Monday after practice at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House. “And when he does, we’ve got to find ways — and he has to try to find ways too, with us helping him — to get back to the level we need him to be.”

“In talking with him and working with him it’s been a battle to try and get through just where the inconsistencies of his game are,” Hynes said. “It feels like the first parts of the games, for whatever reason, have been hard for him, but then he kind of settles down and plays if he can get through that. Unfortunately, the other night he didn’t and now there’s an injury.”

“He’s a very athletic goalie, very competitive,” Hynes said. “His size has to be a factor when competing on the puck. Similar to Keith where he’s very athletic and very competitive, but being composed at the same time and making sure the competitiveness and battle doesn’t take you out of position, you use it to be in strong position.”

Chris Ryan, NJ.com, spoke to Devils forward Marcus Johansson about why the team has been so effective on their 6 on 5 play this season.

“Whenever you get guys and bodies to the net, we’re driving the net and getting pucks there,” Johansson said. “Even on the goal, (Jesper Bratt) was driving the net, and I saw a chance for him to get the rebound, and then Boyler coming in on the second wave. It just gives you that many more options, and it’s tough for any goalie to handle goals like that.”

“That’s the mindset you’ve got to have no matter what,” Johansson said. “I think that’s why we’re out there and there’s only one goal when you do that, and that’s to tie up the game. We’ve been successful lately, and that helps with the confidence as well. It kind of shows you that you can score, and lately we’ve been doing the right things.”

2) LOCAL PRINT/WEB

 

1. NJ Devils, Brian Boyle try to pay it forward in holiday hospital visit

By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/17/nj-devils-brian-boyle-pay-forward-holiday-hospital-visit/2334186002/

NEWARK — Boston Children’s hospital has become a place Declan Boyle dreads.

The 3-year-old has been poked and prodded countless times since his diagnosis in the fall of 2017. It’s difficult for his parents, Lauren and Brian, to watch him struggle and his demeanor turn from that of a typical, bubbly three-year-old to scared and confused.

But one of the prime features of the hospital is a pair of 500-gallon saltwater glass aquarium tanks. Those tanks and the fish that live within them have a way of making kids like Declan smile in a place where happiness comes at a premium.

“Going to the hospital last year in Boston, going through the doors, Declan would be so bummed out and scared,” Devils’ forward Brian Boyle said Monday afternoon at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “But you take a turn and you walk in and there’s this big aquarium. There’s fish in there and they look like Dory and Nemo and immediately it distracts him and he gets excited.”

Boyle was at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital as part of the Devils’ annual visits to RWJBarnabas Health facilities system- and state-wide. Each member of the Devils, as well as coaches and mascots, visited a facility and handed out gifts, t-shirts, autographs and tickets.

Every hospital visit is meaningful no matter what the situation, but for Boyle it was different. The veteran NHL forward was trying to pay it forward to children and their families after a year in which he and his family had to overcome their own health issues.

The 2017-18 Masterton Trophy winner spent countless nights in hospitals last year while undergoing treatments for chronic myeloid leukemia at the same time Declan was undergoing treatments for his own health issues. The Boyle family was the recipient of gestures big and small from their hospital community, so it’s important for Boyle and the Devils to reach out to other patients going through difficult times in their New Jersey community.

“I just remember being in the hospital with (Declan), with my wife. We’re drained, it’s tiring. We don’t know what the next step is and we don’t know what it’s going to be like the next day. thinking, ‘Are we going to get out?’” Boyle recalled. “And then people would show up with pizza from down on the first floor or something like that and it was more uplifting than I probably realized.”

While the kids, parents, doctors, nurses and hospital administrators were certainly excited by the appearances of Boyle, Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri, it may have been Boyle himself who was uplifted. He was able to hand out posters, toys and game tickets, the latter of which he handed out like candy after he realized how many the team had allocated for the visit.

While touring the newly-renovated Valerie Fund Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders — which was renovated with the proceeds from the Devils’ 2017 Hockey Fights Cancer Night — the group came across one child who wanted to go to a game. After Hall gave him some tips on how to dye his hair to look more like Giants’ receiver Odell Beckham (he wanted blonde tips, but his mother said no), Boyle asked him if he wanted to go to a game. Two tickets materialized, then three when his mother mentioned his brother. Then a fourth when the child said, “Another one!”

“That was really cool,” Boyle said. “That shows you what the team is willing to do. This is an event that the team takes seriously since every guy is out somewhere today trying to do the same thing.”

Perspective is what you hope to gain from charitable visits, but it came in many forms on Monday for many players. Boyle was finally on the other side of things, trying to make other people as happy as they once made him and his family. His teammates got a glimpse of what the Boyle family endured since the double diagnosis of 2017 and they followed in his lead, trying to make an impact on people who needed it.

“You saw the smile on his face and that’s as genuine as it gets,” Palmieri said. “He’s making sure that even just for a few minutes, we put a smile on their faces. I’m sure there are people who came and visited him that lightened the load for him.

“Even if it’s only for a couple minutes, it helps keep you fighting.”

If anyone knows how to fight, it’s Brian Boyle. And if anyone knows how to inspire one to fight, it’s Brian Boyle.

2. NJ Devils’ Cory Schneider dealt another blow with abdominal strain

By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/17/nj-devils-cory-schneider-dealt-another-blow-abdominal-strain/2334185002/

NEWARK — Cory Schneider has been struggling to find his game all season but he’ll have to put that on pause while he deals with an abdominal strain. The Devils placed the struggling goaltender on injured reserve Monday morning and called up Mackenzie Blackwood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.

It’s a disappointing blow in a year full of them for the veteran goalie, who was seeing the doctor during practice on Monday, but the Devils are still counting on him to figure out his game when he returns.

“Sometimes it’s just trying to take things in stride and trying to help him make sure he gets better physically to perform,” coach John Hynes said Monday after practice at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House. “And when he does, we’ve got to find ways — and he has to try to find ways too, with us helping him — to get back to the level we need him to be.”

Schneider returned from offseason hip surgery in October and has played in nine games (seven starts) without results. He’s been the recipient of some awful play in front of him and his own teammates have scored on him four times, three times in one game. He was pulled from the Devils’ game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 14 after dropping a puck underneath his legs. He allowed three goals in 9:36 but the Devils rallied to overcome the deficit and win in overtime.

Schneider, whose contract is worth $6 million AAV through the 2021-22 season, has not had a regular season win since Dec. 27, 2018. He could go the entire calendar year without one, as it’s unclear when he will be back in action. The 32-year-old is 0-5-1 with career-worst numbers in save percentage (.852) and GAA (4.66).

“In talking with him and working with him it’s been a battle to try and get through just where the inconsistencies of his game are,” Hynes said. “It feels like the first parts of the games, for whatever reason, have been hard for him, but then he kind of settles down and plays if he can get through that. Unfortunately, the other night he didn’t and now there’s an injury.”

The 22-year-old Blackwood joined the Devils for practice at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House on Monday before the team departed for their annual hospital visits. The 6-foot-4 goalie has been enjoying a bounceback season in Binghamton with a 2.69 GAA and a .911 save percentage in 15 games.

“He’s a very athletic goalie, very competitive,” Hynes said. “His size has to be a factor when competing on the puck. Similar to Keith where he’s very athletic and very competitive, but being composed at the same time and making sure the competitiveness and battle doesn’t take you out of position, you use it to be in strong position.”

Trainer’s room

Forward Taylor Hall (lower-body, day-to-day) practiced in full with the Devils on Monday before heading to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey on one of the team’s annual statewide holiday visits. Hall will be a game-day decision Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Devils will wait to see how he responds to the morning skate.

Forward Stefan Noesen (illness) also practiced on Monday, scoring on Keith Kinkaid during shootout drills. He remains on injured reserve.

3. Why Marcus Johansson and Devils’ 6-on-5 unit have been so productive

By Chris Ryan, NJ.com

https://www.nj.com/devils/2018/12/why-marcus-johansson-and-devils-6-on-5-unit-have-been-so-productive.html

Last-ditch efforts to tie games have been paying off for the Devils.

Through 31 games, the Devils have scored six times while skating 6-on-5 with their goalie on the bench. Four of those goals tied games in the final two minutes of regulation and forced overtime.

Only one such goal came during the entirety of the 2017-18 season, when Taylor Hall netted an equalizer in an eventual shootout win over the Flyers.

Of the Devils’ six 6-on-5 goals this season, five had forward Marcus Johansson directly involved. He netted three of the goals and assisted on two more.

The Devils aren’t running any complex schemes or plays to find the net with the goalie pulled, either. When Brian Boyle tied Saturday’s game against the Nashville Predators with 1:31 left in regulation, Johansson got the assist by simply putting the puck on net.

“Whenever you get guys and bodies to the net, we’re driving the net and getting pucks there,” Johansson said. “Even on the goal, (Jesper Bratt) was driving the net, and I saw a chance for him to get the rebound, and then Boyler coming in on the second wave. It just gives you that many more options, and it’s tough for any goalie to handle goals like that.”

Here’s a look at that basic philosophy at work and paying off when the Devils scored 6-on-5 to tie the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 9:

The play starts with Kyle Palmieri holding the puck along the goal line in the left corner. Boyle and Johansson already converged on the crease, so Palmieri finds a gap and funnels the puck there. He’s obviously not shooting to score from that angle. He’s shooting for chaos.

The puck gets lost between four skaters, and as the scramble begins, Palmieri, Nico Hischier and Hall, plus three more Duck defenders, collapse on the slot. When all is said and done, 10 skaters are standing within mere feet of Ducks goalie John Gibson, and when Johansson gets his stick on the puck for a shot, he uses that traffic to tie the game.

“It’s getting rebounds and second chances and third chances,” forward Travis Zajac said. “It’s really hard to defend when you get an extra guy, and there’s just too many unknowns defensively, where pucks can go. We’ve been getting in some of those rebound lanes and burying our chances on them.”

While the strategy may sound simple, having Johansson in the fold has been a big deal for the Devils. One of the other keys to 6-on-5 play is possession. Once the other team gets the puck, they can clear the zone and potentially end a game with an empty-net goal.

With Johansson, the Devils can control the puck and set up in the offensive zone.

“He can skate the puck up, he can hold the puck, and then he can wait for help,” Zajac said. “He’s good at buying time and waiting for guys to come up and traffic there. He’s not afraid to make a play, and he’s a great passer. He’s got great vision, so he’s been playing really well for us.”

And like any aspect of the game, the Devils’ 6-on-5 play has the benefit of confidence right now. All six of the team’s 6-on-5 goals have come since Nov. 1, and three have occurred in December, where they all tied the game.

“That’s the mindset you’ve got to have no matter what,” Johansson said. “I think that’s why we’re out there and there’s only one goal when you do that, and that’s to tie up the game. We’ve been successful lately, and that helps with the confidence as well. It kind of shows you that you can score, and lately we’ve been doing the right things.”

 

 

3) TV/VIDEO LINKS

 

1. Practice: Mackenzie Blackwood

By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/practice-mackenzie-blackwood/t-277437418/c-64038403

 
4) RADIO LINKS – N/A

5) NATIONAL PRINT/WEB

 

1. Devils goalie Cory Schneider has abdominal strain, goes on IR

By Staff Writer, Associated Press

http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/25559348/new-jersey-devils-place-goalie-cory-schneider-injured-reserve

NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils have placed goaltender Cory Schneider on injured reserve with an abdominal strain.

The Devils announced the injury Monday and recalled goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood from Binghamton (AHL).

Schneider, who lost his starting job to Keith Kinkaid last season, has struggled this season after offseason surgery on his left hip in May. He has a 0-5-1 record with a 4.29 goals-against average and a .862 save percentage.

Schneider was lifted in his last start Friday after giving up three goals on seven shots in less than 10 minutes against Vegas. The 32-year-old goalie is working under a seven-year $42 million contract signed in 2014.

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New Jersey Devils News & Clips: Dec. 12, 2018

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The Devils will face-off with the Golden Knights on Friday, December 14th, at Prudential Center (7 pm, MSG+, ATTSN-RM) in their first of two matchups of the 2018-19 regular season.

Four New Jersey Devils prospects have been invited to national team selection camps for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship starting later this month in Vancouver and Victoria. The four prospects invited are: Ty Smith (Canada), Fabian Zetterlund (Sweden), Aarne Talvitie (Finald) and Akira Schmid (Switzerland).

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1. Four Devils prospects invited to selection camps for IIHF World Juniors

By Julie Robenhymer, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/news/four-devils-prospects-invited-to-selection-camps-for-iihf-world-juniors/c-302824364

Four New Jersey Devils prospects have been invited to national team selection camps for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship starting later this month in Vancouver and Victoria.

Ty Smith, the Devils’ first round selection this past June, will report for Canada. Fabian Zetterlund, who won a silver medal in last year’s event, will report for Sweden. Aarne Talivite, who captained his team at the World Junior Summer Showcase, will report for Finland and Akira Schmid, who served as the third goalie as a 17-year-old last year, will be one of three goalies for Team Switzerland. Training camps start this week and exhibition games get under way next week before final rosters are submitted on December 24th. The tournament starts the 26th.

Smith was captain of Canada’s U18 squad this past spring and was mentioned by most – if not all – of his teammates as the player they’d want to bring back to play for their club team. He brings international experience, leadership qualities (he’s also captain of the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League), smooth skating, a great first pass to support the transition game, creative vision from the blueline and a high hockey IQ to know when to jump into the play and when to stay back.

He is currently 2nd on his team with 39 points (3G, 36A) in 28 games, which puts him in the Top 15 for scoring in the WHL. Beyond the regular season with their respective clubs, Hockey Canada also utilizes the summer showcase in early August, where he scored two goals in four games, and the CIBC Canada Russia Series in November, where he notched a goal in two games. He is expected to play a big role as Canada looks to defend last year’s gold medal while on home ice.

Zetterlund suffered an injury in late October and his availability for the WJC was in doubt, but when the doctors told him it wasn’t torn and that his recovery would be about six weeks, he did the math and knowing world juniors was still a possibility, he got to work.

He was back on the ice practicing with the team exactly six weeks later and earned a spot in the line up in Farjestad’s next game. Being back in the line up and playing well was reward enough for all the hard work he put into his return, but the goal he scored to help his team erase a two-goal deficit to win the game was the cherry on top. It was his second goal of the season for a total of three points in 13 games thus far.

Last year, Zetterlund was an unexpected addition to Sweden’s WJC roster, but immediately made an impact with his gritty net front presence, especially on the power play, with two goals and a silver medal to show for it. He also participated in the summer showcase and notched two more goals there. He’s expected to fill a similar role this season and, with his extensive international experience, should step into a leadership position for Team Sweden as well.

Talivite was left off last year’s Finnish squad and it’s unlikely they’ll be making that mistake again. He’s got five goals and 11 assists for 16 points in 17 games so far in his freshman season with Penn State. He’s a mucker, grinder and loose puck finder with a heck of a wrist shot, who’s already adjusted to the smaller NHL-sized sheet of ice and the quicker pace and physical nature of the North American game.

He was captain of Finland’s U18 team two years ago and, as mentioned earlier, was their captain at the showcase in August. He brings a tremendous work ethic to the ice and a magnetic personality to the locker room. According to Penn State head coach, Guy Gadowsky, Talvitie is like the Pied Piper. He leads by example on and off the ice and his teammates step in line right behind him and could very well find himself wearing the C for Suomi in a few weeks.

Schmid had a rough start to the season after being waived by Lethbridge (too many imports), but found a home with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. He was on last year’s WJC team (no games played) and participated in the U18s twice. All three Swiss goalies named to the team are 18 years old and, although Schmid was the only one on last year’s squad, the starting position is still very much up for grabs.

He’ll have to shake off some tough performances this season and step into his potential to earn time between the pipes for Switzerland, but nothing beats the experience of representing your country on an international stage.

Reilly Walsh was one of the last players cut from Team USA before last year’s tournament and many expected him to earn the invitation to USA’s selection camp this year and potentially play a big role on their blueline, especially on the power play. Despite a stellar start to his sophomore season at Harvard (5G, 7A for 12 points in 11 games), he was ultimately not invited to their selection camp.

Rosters will be trimmed before the exhibition games start next week, but the final rosters are not due until the 24th. The tournament starts on the 26th with select games available on NHL Network.

2. Can Islanders, Devils & Rangers cash in on Golden Knights trend?

By Jeff Fogle, New York Post

https://nypost.com/2018/12/11/can-islanders-devils-rangers-cash-in-on-golden-knights-trend/

Did last year’s historic hockey run from the Vegas Golden Knights annoy the rest of the country so much that now everyone is their hated rival?

VSiN had a lot of fun covering the expansion miracle on our Vegas-based broadcasts last season. But we could see why hockey fans in other sports-crazed cities were less enthused. That must get old after a while — watching the national media gush about a new team making a deep playoff run when your team didn’t make the playoffs or hasn’t made them in a long time.

The magic was slow to start in VGK’s second season. Vegas dropped four of its first five games in October, and was still below .500 at Thanksgiving. Though wins have been more frequent lately, the following interesting dynamic might still be in play:

Vegas has a horrible 4-10 record this season when its “first look” against a team in the 2018-19 season is in hostile territory. Its only first-look road victories have come against Chicago, Arizona, Edmonton and Minnesota. The 10 “first-look” road losses were in Los Angeles, Calgary, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, St. Louis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg and Buffalo (those gaudy opening ceremonies during last season’s playoffs could be viewed — and despised — in all time zones).

Vegas is 13-4-1 in all other games, reminiscent of last season’s dominance.

That could be an important backdrop for New York-area hockey fans this week. Vegas will be playing first-look road games against the Islanders (Wednesday), Devils (Friday), and Rangers (Sunday). Can the metro area sustain intense anger about the Elvis-ization of hockey over five days? Is “the rest of the NHL” still trying to send a message to the Vegas franchise?

The Islanders are up first, off a 2-1 shootout loss Monday night to Pittsburgh. New York (+115 on the money line) lost faceoffs 30-22 and giveaways 21-15 despite being at home in a quick-turnaround revenge spot off a 6-2 loss in Pittsburgh last Thursday. The Isles are 2-5 their last seven games, but with two of those losses coming in shootouts.

Once all the first-looks are out of the way (and possibly sooner), Vegas might offer sustained betting value similar to last season.

That strong home-ice edge still appears to be in play (10-3-1 thus far, including eight wins in the last nine tries … a 39-13-3 record in Vegas since inception).

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is still a magician (Knights are 17-10-1 in his starts, 0-4 with Malcolm Subban).

Depth of talent is still a big plus, not some sort of one-year magic wish that was granted.

If Vegas outshines the neon lights this weekend, it may be ready to surge back toward first place in the Pacific Division. Even if first looks on the road continue to be a hazard, there aren’t many more. Second-half investment potential looks very promising for last season’s profit powerhouse.

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New Jersey Devils News & Clips: Dec. 11, 2018

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The Devils fell to the Sharks, 5-2, in their second and final head-to-head contest of the 2018-19 campaign last night at SAP Center. Last nights contest concluded the Devils fourth set of back-to-back games. New Jersey is 0-3-1 in second games.

The Devils will face-off with the Golden Knights on Friday, December 14th, at Prudential Center (7 pm, MSG+, ATTSN-RM).

Abbey Mastracco, The Record, spoke to Devils captain Andy Greene about the teams struggle to close games and what needs to be fixed.

“We came out really well but it’s been the same thing we’ve had throughout the season,” captain Andy Greene said. “We have really good spurts and then all of the sudden one thing and two things happen and we wilt. I don’t know why. I don’t understand it. That’s something we need to fix and fix very fast.”

Mastracco also spoke to Devils head coach John Hynes about why he believes the team needs to have more effective puck management.

“When you look at what it is and what we’re going to continue to work with these guys on is understanding that when there’s no time and space and the other team has numbers on defense, the puck needs to be put behind them,” Hynes said. “That’s how you can maintain your momentum.”

“We’re getting to the hard areas on the ice,” Hynes said. “We’ve had opportunities for tip goals, rebound goals and ones where it’s difficult to defend the net area. That’s how you have to score.”

Chris Ryan, NJ.com, wrote his newest edition of NHL power rankings.

Amanda Stein, newjerseydevils.com, wrote her 10 takeaways following the Devils 5-2 loss to the Sharks last night in San Jose.

Mike Morreale, NHL.com, spoke to Devils general manager Ray Shero in NHL.com’s weekly edition of
“Five Questions With.”

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1. NJ Devils keep ‘wilting,’ and other takeaways from their California trip

By Abbey Mastracco, Fire and Ice

https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/nhl/devils/fireandice/2018/12/11/nj-devils-keep-wilting-and-other-takeaways-california-trip/2274197002/

SAN JOSE, California — A few years ago, hockey’s West Coast swing was often referred to as the “Bermuda Triangle” trip or “Death Valley.” The Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks were among the best, not only in the west but in the league itself.

The timezone, weather and entertainment options meant teams would come in looking like one version and come out looking like another.

But times have changed in the Western Conference, and the trip isn’t what it used to be. The Devils used their three-game California swing to gain confidence in some areas and earn some much-needed points, though not as many as they had hoped to come away with. They went 1-1-1, defeating the Kings, losing in a shootout to the Ducks, and dropping the Golden State finale 5-2 to the Sharks on Monday night.

The frustrating part is the Devils couldn’t sustain any success. They made too many small mistakes that added up to bigger mistakes of the game-changing variety.

Here are three things we learned about the Devils in California:

They ‘wilt’

Just when the Devils thought they’d be able to string together a point streak, they let a bad 10 minutes derail them in San Jose. They kept the Sharks in their own end for the first 10 minutes of the game and outshot them 7-0. New Jersey went up 1-0 on a fluky shot by Drew Stafford but then suddenly the ice tilted, and the Sharks were up 2-1 by the end of the period.

“We came out really well but it’s been the same thing we’ve had throughout the season,” captain Andy Greene said. “We have really good spurts and then all of the sudden one thing and two things happen and we wilt. I don’t know why. I don’t understand it. That’s something we need to fix and fix very fast.”

It’s not that resiliency is an issue. The Devils showed it one night prior in Anaheim when they came back from scoring three times into their own net to tie the game and send it to overtime.

The problem is the resiliency isn’t showing up on a nightly basis.

They’re not maintaining momentum

All three west coast games were characterized by wild momentum swings. Coach John Hynes wants to see more effective puck management in the neutral zone in order to combat this.

“When you look at what it is and what we’re going to continue to work with these guys on is understanding that when there’s no time and space and the other team has numbers on defense, the puck needs to be put behind them,” Hynes said. “That’s how you can maintain your momentum.”

Scoring chances are coming

This trip saw the Devils going to the net and being rewarded. Greene’s goal against San Jose was a rebound he cleaned up from right in front. Marcus Johansson’s game-tying goal in Anaheim was a 6-on-5 goal from nearly the same spot.

“We’re getting to the hard areas on the ice,” Hynes said. “We’ve had opportunities for tip goals, rebound goals and ones where it’s difficult to defend the net area. That’s how you have to score.”

When the Devils are in the offensive zone, they’re doing the right things. The problem seems to be getting into the offensive zone and staying there.

2. NJ Devils finish California swing with 5-2 loss to Sharks

By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

https://www.northjersey.com/story/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/10/nj-devils-finish-california-swing-5-2-loss-sharks/2273498002/

SAN JOSE, California — The good news is that the Devils scored two goals into the correct net.

The bad news is that the San Jose Sharks scored three more than them to hand them a 5-2 loss on Monday night at SAP Center. One night after a shootout loss in which they scored five goals and three into the wrong net, the offense was sparse.

The Devils, the owners of the fewest road wins in the NHL, were aiming to finish their three-game California swing with five points but they finished with just three as their road record slipped to 3-11-2.

“We didn’t reach our goal,” Devils’ alternate captain Travis Zajac said. “That’s for sure.”

It was a frustrating game that saw New Jersey (10-13-6, 26 points) looking like the best team in the league through the first 10 minutes of the period to a team all out of sorts the rest of the way through. The Sharks (16-11-5, 37 points) were without a shot on goal for the first 10:33 of play and the Devils went up 1-0 less than two minutes later when Drew Stafford, who re-entered the lineup after being scratched 14 of the last 15 games, beat Martin Jones from a sharp angle.

But the Devils seemed to wilt shortly thereafter and they went into the first intermission down 2-1. It was the seventh time this season New Jersey has given up multiple goals in the first period of a road game.

“I think that’s pretty accurate, unfortunately,” Devils’ captain Andy Greene said. “We had a really good start, a really good first 10 minutes or so and then we got one and we were a little unsure of ourselves for whatever reason.”

Timo Meier scored twice for San Jose and Jones made 22 saves.

Keith Kinkaid made 29 saves for New Jersey.

Meier tied the game for the Sharks at 15:51 in the first period and Joe Pavelski made it 2-1 when he tipped in a rebound from a Brendan Dillon shot past Kinkaid with just under two minutes left in the period. It was the Sharks’ captain’s 20th score on the year.

Radim Simek scored his first NHL goal 7:19 into the second period when he put a point shot through traffic. Kinkaid may not have even seen the puck. The Devils knew what was coming but they couldn’t stop it.

“It’s exactly what we anticipated,” Greene said. “We’ve got to have better coverage there and get more traffic down on their end too.”

There was new life breathed into the Devils when Greene cleaned up a rebound for his first goal of the season at 8:59 in the second, cutting the lead to 3-2. If there was a chance to tie, it came at 12:35 in the same period when Sami Vatanen drew an interference penalty on Joonas Donskoi. But the power play went nowhere and right after time expired Meier came down and banked one off the crossbar off the rush to make it 4-2.

A broken stick somehow led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at 14:14, giving the Sharks a late power play. There was some confusion over the penalty, which was initially called a delay of game penalty on Vatanen, and coach John Hynes was visibly upset with the officials. Miles Wood served the penalty but he wasn’t in the box for long.

It took Tomas Hertl all of nine seconds to capitalize.

“It’s the wrong call,” Zajac said. “But we obviously couldn’t change his mind. We needed a kill there and we couldn’t do it.”

While there’s no doubt the effort was there on the part of New Jersey, breakouts were bad, decisions were questionable and the goaltending was shaky once again. The Devils came up north after going 1-0-1 against Los Angeles and Anaheim confident that they were trending in the right direction. But it seems as though every time they start to gain some ground they get stuck in neutral, unable to string wins together consistently.

“It’s been a challenge,” Hynes said. “That’s something that we’ll continue to dig in and work with this team on and eventually it will click.”

Notes

The Sharks saluted Devils’ assistant coach Mike Grier during the second period. Grier played three seasons in San Jose. … The Devils finished the season series with San Jose 1-1-0. … Kyle Palmieri extended his point streak to three games and has six points in his last five. … New Jersey scratched former Sharks’ defenseman Mirco Mueller as well as Steven Santini and forward Stefan Noesen.

3. What GM Ray Shero said about Devils’ start to season and where team stands in rebuild

By Chris Ryan, NJ.com

https://www.nj.com/devils/2018/12/what-gm-ray-shero-said-about-devils-start-to-season-and-where-team-stands-in-rebuild.html

The Devils’ 10-13-6 start is a far cry from the team that finished with 97 points en route to a playoff berth in 2017-18, and even if the Devils weren’t ready to take the next big step toward being a contender this season, they aren’t getting similar results that led to a wild-card spot last season.

Since taking over as general manager in 2015, Ray Shero has preached rebuilding the Devils the right way, without any shortcuts. The Devils made a huge leap in 2017-18, going from last in the Eastern Conference the prior season to making the playoffs. Now they’re facing adversity.

Here’s what Shero told NHL.com about the Devils’ results this season and where the team stands in its rebuild:

“Last year gave both hope and optimism. There was light at the end of the tunnel. Our fan base finally saw the vision we talked about my first two years through drafting, developing, and making proper trades; you could see it start to come together. We established something where you could see more talent, more belief and a commitment to hold each other accountable, whether they were younger players or veterans.

“I know we have a ways to go, not just to get to Game 82 (this season), but over the course of the next two or three years. It’s all really the start (of our build) I envisioned when I came here. I said last November (2017), that I felt like this is turning. I know it, I’ve been through this before with Nashville and Ottawa (as assistant GM). With Josh (Harris) and David (Blitzer), we have stayed true to our plan, no shortcuts. There will be speed bumps along the way, but this is the right way to do it.”

Shero continued to say he wants to build the Devils into a team that competes for a playoff spot every season, and the team will continue to look for ways to make that happen in the short and long term.

4. NHL power rankings: Steven Stamkos’ Tampa Bay Lightning or Auston Matthews’ Toronto Maple Leafs No. 1? Predators, Capitals, Sabres falling

By Chris Ryan, NJ.com

https://www.nj.com/expo/sports/erry-2018/12/3411b74dd41545/nhl-power-rankings-jack-eichel.html

December hockey is in full swing, and if the 2018-19 NHL season has proved anything so far, the Atlantic Division is going to be a battle until the very end.

Following a 10-game winning streak, the Buffalo Sabres came back down to earth with a five-game losing streak that did include defeats against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Lightning have surged to a big lead atop the NHL standings with their own six-game winning streak, while the Leafs are at full strength with Auston Matthews and William Nylander in the fold. The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens have also played well in pursuit of the top three teams.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks continued their plummet to the bottom of the standings, while the Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks have also struggled.

Here are NJ Advance Media’s NHL power rankings entering the week of Dec. 10. Last week’s rankings can be found here. Records reflect games played through Sunday, Dec. 9.

31-Chicago Blackhawks

Record: 9-17-5 (23 points)

Last week: 29

The Blackhawks have lost seven straight games, all in regulation. Chicago was 6-6-3 when it fired Joel Quenneville, and they’re 3-11-2 since.

30-Los Angeles Kings

Record: 11-18-1 (23 points)

Last week: 31

The Kings dropped game to the Devils and Coyotes, but they ended the week with a 5-1 win over the Golden Knights.

29-St. Louis Blues

Record: 10-14-4 (24 points)

Last week: 30

Despite grabbing a 1-0 road win over a good Jets team, the Blues ended the week with a 6-1 home loss to the Canucks. A coaching change hasn’t helped much here, either.

28-Ottawa Senators

Record: 13-14-4 (30 points)

Last week: 27

Following two losses in a home-and-home against the Montreal Canadiens, the Senators won in overtime over the Penguins before losing in extra time to the Bruins.

27-Vancouver Canucks

Record: 13-16-3 (29 points)

Last week: 26

The win over the Blues gave the Canucks their first two-game winning streak since Nov. 2, and it helped them bounce out of a stretch where they lost 12 of 13 games.

26-Arizona Coyotes

Record: 13-13-2 (28 points)

Last week: 28

A win overt the Kings to start the week pushed the Coyotes’ winning streak to four games, but they dropped home games against the Capitals and Sharks to end it.

25-New Jersey Devils

Record: 10-12-6 (26 points)

Last week: 25

A win over the Kings snapped a six-game losing streak before the Devils dropped a wild 6-5 shootout to the Ducks on Sunday. The Devils have lost seven of eight, but they have picked up six points in that stretch, going 1-3-4. They’re winless in six games that have gone past regulation this season.

24-Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 12-13-3 (27 points)

Last week: 24

After hiring Chuck Fletcher as the team’s new GM early in the week, the Flyers rallied for a 6-2 win over the Sabres on Saturday. They were then lit up in a 7-1 road loss to the Jets on Sunday.

23-Florida Panthers

Record: 11-11-6 (28 points)

Last week: 23

A 5-0 win over the Bruins marked a strong start to the week, but the Avalanche and Rangers beat the Panthers to knock them back down to .500.

22-Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 12-10-6 (30 points)

Last week: 22

The Penguins had their best week since early in the season by going 2-0-1, which included convincing home wins over the Avalanche and Islanders.

21-Detroit Red Wings

Record: 13-13-4 (30 points)

Last week: 20

The Red Wings grabbed an overtime win over the Maple Leafs, but Detroit lost three of four overall last week.

20-Carolina Hurricanes

Record: 13-11-4 (30 points)

Last week: 20

A win over the Ducks snapped a three-game losing streak for Carolina and salvaged two points on the team’s California road trip.

19-New York Rangers

Record: 14-12-3 (31 points)

Last week: 17

The Rangers played only one game last week, taking 5-4 shootout win over the Panthers on Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak.

18-Montreal Canadiens

Record: 15-10-5 (35 points)

Last week: 18

Since a five-game losing streak, the Habs have won four of five games, including all three they played last week.

17-New York Islanders

Record: 14-11-3 (31 points)

Last week: 14

The Islanders topped the Red Wings, 3-2, to snap a two-game slide after losses to the Penguins and Jets earlier in the week.

16-Minnesota Wild

Record: 15-12-2 (32 points)

Last week: 11

A 7-2 loss to the Oilers gave the Wild their fifth loss in six games. Since moving to 11-4-2, the Wild are just 4-8-0.

15-Edmonton Oilers

Record: 16-12-2 (34 points)

Last week: 21

Here’s a look at a coaching change that appears to be working. The Oilers have won six of their past seven games, including three straight. Under Ken Hitchcock, the Oilers are 7-2-1.

14-San Jose Sharks

Record: 15-11-5 (35 points)

Last week: 13

The Sharks snapped out of a four-game losing streak by winning three of four games. For a team many expected to contend for a Stanley Cup, the Sharks have been very up and down this season. They still have plenty of time to piece things together.

13-Dallas Stars

Record: 16-11-3 (35 points)

Last week: 12

The Stars had a four-game winning streak snapped with a loss to the Golden Knights on Sunday.

12-Vegas Golden Knights

Record: 17-14-1 (35 points)

Last week: 16

Winning three of four games last week helped the Golden Knights’ continued surge up the standings. They’ve won eight of 10 games overall.

11-Anaheim Ducks

Record: 16-11-5 (37 points)

Last week: 15

Outside of a loss to the Hurricanes on Friday, the Ducks have been rolling, winning six of seven overall.

10-Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: 16-11-2 (34 points)

Last week: 10

The Blue Jackets had a big chance for a statement win over the Capitals, but the Stanley Cup champions won emphatically, 4-0.

9-Boston Bruins

Record: 16-10-4 (36 points)

Last week: 9

Wins over the Leafs and Senators ended a three-game slide for the Bruins. Sitting at 36 points would be enough for a divisional playoff spot in three other divisions, but they’re in fourth in the Atlantic.

8-Buffalo Sabres

Record: 17-9-4 (38 points)

Last week: 4

The hottest team in hockey cooled off very quickly. Following a 10-game winning streak, the Sabres lost their next five games, though they did take the Leafs to overtime.

7-Calgary Flames

Record: 19-10-2 (40 points)

Last week: 8

A 1-0 loss to the Oilers snapped a five-game winning streak. Outside that, the Flames have established themselves as one of the top teams to beat in the Pacific.

6-Washington Capitals

Record: 17-9-3 (37 points)

Last week: 7

Back-to-back losses to the Ducks and Golden Knights ended a seven-game winning streak, but the Caps rebounded to beat the Coyotes and Blue Jackets to end the week.

5-Colorado Avalanche

Record: 16-6-5 (37 points)

Last week: 6

The Avs went 2-2-0 on a four-game Eastern Conference road trip that included stops to play the Penguins and Lightning.

4-Winnipeg Jets

Record: 18-9-2 (38 points)

Last week: 5

The Jets appear to be rounding into championship form. Despite a 1-0 loss to the Blues, they

have won five of their past six games.

3-Nashville Predators

Record: 19-10-1 (39 points)

Last week: 2

Injuries have caught up with the Preds a bit, and they have quietly lost four of six games.

2-Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 20-9-1 (41 points)

Last week: 3

With Auston Matthews and William Nylander now in the lineup, the Leafs are finally at full strength. They’re going to stay near the top of the standings all season.

1-Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: 23-7-1 (47 points)

Last week: 1

The Lightning ended the Sabres’ 10-game winning streak, and that sparked their own six-game winning streak. The Lightning have, as expected, established themselves as the NHL’s elite.

5. Devils can’t contain Sharks in loss to end road trip | Rapid reaction

By Chris Ryan, NJ.com

https://www.nj.com/devils/2018/12/devils-cant-contain-sharks-in-loss-to-end-road-trip-rapid-reaction.html

Leaving Timo Meier open on two rushes turned out to be a bad idea.

Meier scored both of his goals when he kept the puck for himself on pushes down the ice, and the Devils let a first-period lead go to waste as the San Jose Sharks cruised to a 5-2 victory on Monday at SAP Center in San Jose, California.

That 1-0 lead on a first-period Drew Stafford goal was flipped into a 2-1 deficit before the first intermission, and Keith Kinkaid ended up allowing five goals on 34 shots.

The Devils ended their three-game California swing at 1-1-1 and moved to 10-13-6 on the season.

Scoring plays

Stafford gave the Devils a lead with his first goal of the season 12:05 into the first period. He sent an innocent shot toward net from the right wall and it managed to sneak past Sharks goalie Martin Jones.

The Devils built a sizable shot advantage over the first half of the first period, but the Sharks managed to flip the ice and the scoreboard with two goals before intermission.

Meier tied the game with his first goal off a Sami Vatanen turnover at the offensive blue line. That led to a rush the other way, where Meier kept the puck and snapped a shot past Kinkaid at 15:51. Joe Pavelski then made it 2-1 when he popped in a rebound for his 20th goal of the season 2:12 later.

Radim Simek pushed the Sharks’ lead to 3-1 at 7:19 of the second period when his shot from the point weaved through traffic to beat Kinkaid for his first NHL goal.

Defenseman Andy Greene jammed in his first goal of the season to pull the Devils within 3-2 at 8:59, but Meier’s second goal off another rush at 14:52 served as a tough blow.

Tomas Hertl put the game away for the Sharks with a power-play goal at 14:23 of the third period.

Next up

The Devils return home for two of their next three games, though the schedule doesn’t get any easier. They will host the defending Western Conference champion Vegas Golden Knights at 7 p.m. on Friday at Prudential Center in Newark before finishing a back-to-back on the road against the Nashville Predators.

They will return home again to host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

6. Devils defeated by Sharks

By Amanda Stein, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/news/devils-defeated-by-sharks/c-302808706

SAN JOSE, CA – Two goals in quick succession by the San Jose Sharks in the first period put the New Jersey Devils playing catch-up on Monday night. Despite an early 1-0 lead on the Sharks, the Devils gave up two goals in a span of 2:12 that forced New Jersey to play from behind the rest of the game. Unable to capitalize on power play chances, the Devils closed out their three-game road trip with a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

Here are 10 takeaways from the game:

1. As a fun note, both San Jose and New Jersey have players who go by the nickname ‘Pickles’. Of course, for New Jersey that honor goes to forward Blake Coleman – who has a habit of drinking pickle juice – while in San Jose, defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic goes by the nickname ‘Pickles’ after his last name, which is of the famous pickle variety.

2. Drew Stafford was back in the lineup for just the seventh time this season. The Devils veteran took the place of Stefan Noesen on the fourth line with Brian Boyle and Brett Seney. Stafford has had a knack for playing against the Sharks in his career. Heading into Monday night’s game, Stafford had 14 points (3-11-14) in 17 career games against San Jose.

Stafford would add to those numbers Monday night. On his third shift of the game, Stafford lightly tossed a puck towards Sharks netminder Martin Jones from the right wall that squeezed through Jones’ skate and the goal post. The goal was Stafford’s first of the season, on which the Devils took a 1-0 lead at 12:05 of the first.

3. Damon Severson and Andy Greene were credited with the assists on Stafford’s opening goal. For Severson, the assist was his 14th of the season as well as his 18th point. In 76 games last season, Severson had 15 total assists and 24 points. The 24-year-old defenseman is on his way to surpassing his numbers from last season.

4. New Jersey held the San Jose Sharks to 11 shots on goal in the first period. It really was a tale of two halves for the Devils in the shots on goal department in the first period. New Jersey outshot the Sharks 7-1 through the first 10:35 of the first, while the latter half of the period, the Sharks outshot the Devils 10-2.

5. Greene had his first two-point night of the season, after he scored the Devils second goal of the night. Greene cleaned up a rebound in front of Jones, off a shot from Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri used his size and strength to fight off a Sharks defender and skate the puck low for a sharp angle shot. The rebound went directly to Greene in the low slot where he tapped it home for his first of the year at 8:59 of the second period.

6. Greene’s goal was also his first tally since January 18, 2018, and his first road goal since November 12, 2017. (Credit: Craig Seiden, NJD Radio Statistician)

7. Greene had quite an eventful night for himself to go along with his two points. Midway through the third period, Greene got in the way of a Brent Burns point shot – and those carry some major velocity! The puck struck Greene in the skate so forcefully that his skate blade dislodged from his skate and went flying across the ice surface.

Greene remained on the ice with the Sharks in the offensive zone, though he wasn’t able to move. The Devils captain waited until Kinkaid gloved the puck for a stoppage in play to have his skate fixed on the bench.

8. Palmieri and Nico Hischier assisted the Greene goal. For Palmieri, it was his fifth point (four goals, one assist) on this current three-game road trip, and for Hischier it was his sixth point in his past six games.

9. Keith Kinkaid was back in net, with Schneider playing the night before in Anaheim. Kinkaid’s 24th game played did not go as he would have hoped, giving up 5 goals on 34 shots. His season record drops to 10-8-5.

Making his first start at San Jose since November 21, 2016, Kinkaid record on the road against the Sharks is now 1-2-0.

10. The Devils completed their three-game California road trip with a record of 1-1-1, worth three points in the standings.

 

 

3) TV/VIDEO LINKS

 

1. WATCH: NJ Devils’ Travis Zajac breaks down loss to Sharks

By Abbey Mastracco, The Record

https://www.northjersey.com/videos/sports/nhl/devils/2018/12/11/watch-nj-devils-travis-zajac-breaks-down-loss-sharks/2274146002/

2. 12/10/18 Postgame: Andy Greene

By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/121018-postgame-andy-greene/t-277437418/c-63842703

3. 12/10/18 Postgame: Travis Zajac

By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/121018-postgame-travis-zajac/t-277437418/c-63842603

4. 12/10/18 Postgame: John Hynes

By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/121018-postgame-john-hynes/t-277437418/c-63842803

5. 12/10/18 Pregame: John Hynes

By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/121018-pregame-john-hynes/t-277437418/c-63834803

6. 12/10/18 Players to Watch

By New Jersey Devils, newjerseydevils.com

https://www.nhl.com/devils/video/121018-players-to-watch/t-277437418/c-63834603

7. GREENE: WE HAVE TO TURN THIS AROUND, IT’S EMBARRASSING

By MSG Networks

https://www.msgnetworks.com/videos/greene-we-have-to-turn-this-around-its-embarrassing/

8. HYNES PINPOINTS WHAT DEVILS NEED TO WORK ON

By MSG Networks

https://www.msgnetworks.com/videos/hynes-pinpoints-what-devils-need-to-work-on/

9. STAFFORD, GREENE NET THEIR FIRSTS IN LOSS TO SHARKS: HIGHLIGHTS & ANALYSIS

By MSG Networks

https://www.msgnetworks.com/videos/stafford-greene-net-their-firsts-in-loss-to-sharks/

10. DANO’S DIARIES: JIM MCKENZIE & THE DUMB-OFF

By MSG Networks

https://www.msgnetworks.com/videos/danos-diaries-jim-mckenzie-the-dumb-off/

4) RADIO LINKS – N/A

5) NATIONAL PRINT/WEB

 

1. Meier scores twice for Sharks in win against Devils

By Eric Gilmour, NHL.com

https://www.nhl.com/news/new-jersey-devils-san-jose-sharks-game-recap/c-302797420

SAN JOSE — Timo Meier scored two goals for the San Jose Sharks in a 5-2 win against the New Jersey Devils at SAP Center on Monday.

Meier has seven points (three goals, four assists) in four games since returning to the lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury. The Sharks went 1-2-0 with him out of the lineup and are 3-1-0 since he returned.

“He’s a critical guy,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “He’s on pace for probably 40 goals right now. Critical piece for us. Gives us power and speed and energy and possession. You take that type of player out of anyone’s lineup and you’re going to feel the effects. It’s nice to have him back.”

Radim Simek scored his first NHL goal, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl each had a goal and an assist, and Martin Jones made 22 saves for San Jose (16-11-5), which has won four of its past five games.

Drew Stafford and Andy Greene each scored his first goal of the season, and Keith Kinkaid made 29 saves for New Jersey (10-13-6), which has allowed at least four goals in eight of its past nine games (1-4-4).

The Devils, who lost 6-5 in a shootout to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, completed their California road trip 1-1-1.

“It’s tough to win when you keep finding ways to beat yourselves,” Devils forward Travis Zajac said. “We just miss consistency in some areas of the game and that hurt us tonight. We keep finding ways to hurt our game. We can’t consistently string together any momentum.”

Stafford gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead at 12:05 of the first period on a wrist shot from along the right wall.

Meier tied it 1-1 at 15:51, scoring blocker side from the right circle on a rush.

“It’s always a shot that I like, coming down that wing,” Meier said. “It’s one of my strengths. It’s been working for me. It’s part of confidence, too. But it’s definitely something I try to work on, finishing some plays off, and it’s been working out.”

Pavelski gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead at 18:03 with his 20th goal of the season, getting the rebound off Brenden Dillon’s point shot at the left post. Pavelski has seven goals in his past eight games and 15 in his past 19.

“I think I said right from Day One here, I don’t think he’s dropped off at all,” DeBoer said of the 34-year-old Pavelski. “I think age is just a number for a guy like him. He works so hard. His game isn’t about speed, it’s about all the other things, and you don’t lose those things as you get older.”

The Devils had the game’s first seven shots but were outshot 11-2 the rest of the first period.

“We had a really good start for the first 10 minutes or so,” Greene said. “They got one and then they started to push us, and we didn’t push back and they got the second one. … We know [San Jose] is very good at home (10-3-2), they have quick starts. We came out pretty well. We had really good spurts and all of sudden things begin to happen and we wilt.”

Simek extended the lead to 3-1 at 7:19 of the second period on a slap shot from the point, but Greene cut it to 3-2 at 8:59.

Meier scored his second goal at 14:52 on a snap shot from the left circle that caught Kinkaid leaning the wrong way to make it 4-2.

Hertl scored a power-play goal at 14:23 of the third period to make it 5-2.

They said it

“We had the game totally in control and then we had the turnover at the offensive blue line. That gave them the first one and that gave a little bit of momentum. Puck management is something we keep talking about. The challenge with this group is getting them to understand the important parts of those situations. Early in the game we were breaking out and eventually they took over. It comes down to execution, moving the puck quicker, to accept the pass, and there are times in the game when we do a really good job of it and then there are times it’s like a grenade.” — Devils coach John Hynes

“I feel like we’re playing better. Tough stretch in that Dallas game aside (3-2 loss), I think we’re on a good streak right now.” — Sharks center Logan Couture

Need to know

Meier has 16 goals this season, five shy of his career high he set last year in 81 games. … Pavelski has scored at least 20 goals in a season 10 times, including in each of the past six. … Stafford was in the lineup after being scratched the previous three games and replaced Stefan Noesen on the fourth line. … New Jersey is 3-11-2 on the road. … Sharks forward Lukas Radil had his first NHL assist on Simek’s goal.

What’s next

Devils: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV)

Sharks: Host the Dallas Stars on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; SN1, SNE, NBCSCA, FS-SW, NHL.TV)

2. Five Questions with Ray Shero

By Mike Morreale, NHL.com

https://www.nhl.com/news/five-questions-with-new-jersey-devils-gm-ray-shero/c-302796080

A little adversity to begin the season isn’t going to force Ray Shero from deviating from the plan he laid out when named general manager of the New Jersey Devils on May 4, 2015.

The Devils made a 27-point improvement in the Eastern Conference last season and earned their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2012, but have struggled with consistency out of the gate this season (10-13-6) and are last in the conference with 26 points.

While the start may not be what the fan base expected, Shero remains confident that a little patience will go a long way.

“I’ve said all along, with the support of managing partners, Josh (Harris) and David (Blitzer), that you don’t build a team that’s rebuilding through free agent signings that would handcuff you in 3-to-4 years,” Shero said. “Doing something for the sake of getting a little bit better, or to just say you’re doing something, is patchwork and not a plan. There’s only one way to do this. The idea is to build something that once you do build it, you’re in a good position each year to have a chance to make the playoffs and at a certain point you’re considered a Cup contender.

“We talked about being a fast, attacking and supportive team and we knew it wouldn’t happen overnight, but you have to come in with a mentality and a direction. You have to have something you believe in, a vision.”

In three-plus seasons on the job, Shero has taken a club that averaged 30.5 years in age in 2014-15 to 26.5 years this season. He acquired forwards Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Marcus Johansson and defensemen Sami Vatanen and Will Butcher for a total of five draft picks (none in the first round), defenseman Adam Larsson and forwards Adam Henrique and Joseph Blandisi. Even with the movement of picks, the team still had 20 at their disposal. The once bare prospect pool has been replenished, they have salary cap flexibility and a new identity and culture is present under coach John Hynes.

Now in his fourth season as GM, Shero spoke on several key issues in a Q&A with NHL.com on Monday.

Here are Five Questions with … Ray Shero:

What do you say to those emotionally invested fans who want to see improvement over last season?

“Last year gave both hope and optimism. There was light at the end of the tunnel. Our fan base finally saw the vision we talked about my first two years through drafting, developing, and making proper trades; you could see it start to come together. We established something where you could see more talent, more belief and a commitment to hold each other accountable, whether they were younger players or veterans.

“I know we have a ways to go, not just to get to Game 82 (this season), but over the course of the next two or three years. It’s all really the start (of our build) I envisioned when I came here. I said last November (2017), that I felt like this is turning. I know it, I’ve been through this before with Nashville and Ottawa (as assistant GM). With Josh and David, we have stayed true to our plan, no shortcuts. There will be speed bumps along the way, but this is the right way to do it.

“Rebuilds are not for the weak. (New York Islanders GM) Lou Lamoriello once said, ‘I have a five-year plan and it’s changing every day’ so you have to be prepared and have an idea what you want to do for the short- and long-term. We want to be a team that competes for a playoff spot every year and not just by chance or luck, and then from there become more of a contender.

“Our fans have shown their passion. We all felt the excitement last year, as we had a great run at the end of the season and witnessed how electric the building was when we clinched the playoffs at home. We built this the right way and our fans, other teams and the League noticed. We were selected to do the first-ever behind the scenes all-access training camp series, and obviously picked as one of the teams to go to Europe (for the NHL Global Series). That is on- and off-ice progress which we should be proud of.”

Your thoughts on Taylor Hall in his third season with the Devils, and how do you think he handled his recent benching by coach John Hynes?

“I once told Taylor that he can’t expect to be on his game all the time, but it’s how he helps the team win when he’s not on. I sent a text to coach Hynes after he benched Hall for the final seven minutes of the second period in our loss to Tampa Bay (on Dec. 3) and asked how Hall was doing.

“[Hynes] said he was fine. He said Hall apologized for putting him in a situation to sit him. He respected what [Hynes] did, and he still played him 16:17 and [Hall] said that was more than enough for him to get his game back. [Hall] appreciated the way we treated him and how we held him accountable and knows he has to be better and wants to be better. [Hynes and Hall] have a healthy respect for each other and Hynes was confident Hall would be OK. Hynes told me it was really a reset for him and Taylor’s response was great.

“That’s the kind of player and person Taylor is. He wants accountability for himself and those around him. What does he do after that conversation with John? He goes out the next day and is the best player in practice, he leads by example. These are the kind of things that prove how driven he is, how much he cares.”

Hall, who won the 2018 Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, has one season remaining after this one on his seven-year contract he initially signed with the Edmonton Oilers. The earliest you could sign Hall to an extension is July 1, 2019. How soon will you begin talks on a new contract?

“Taylor and I had dinner at the end of the 2016-17 season, and it ended up turning into this enlightening four-hour conversation covering so many different topics. Taylor was determined after that season. I met with all the veterans at the end of the season and it was clear they all shared their disappointment.

“Based on what his response was, the conversation could have lasted just five minutes. But he said to me this was the right fit. I told him that his legacy is important to me and that I cared about it. When I asked him about Hynes, he told me he was the best coach he’s ever had. Once you hear those things, you know you have something together. Taylor came in and transformed this franchise.

“We will definitely talk after the season, and he is a priority, but an announcement, if any, won’t come until after (July 1), per league rules. Our feelings haven’t changed about Taylor. He’s an incredible addition to our team and franchise. Like I said before, he has come in, bought in and transformed this franchise. This is a faster, younger and more exciting team in part because of Taylor. We made a trade for a player that became the MVP which is only the second time NHL history that has happened (Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks). I think we have a lot of unfinished business and it’s been a great fit for both sides.”

Why does John Hynes remain the clear choice as coach moving forward?

“The three areas important to me in a coach are an ability to teach, inspire and discipline. There’s a fine line between being a friend and establishing a relationship and John has done that with his players. You’ve got to hold everyone accountable and can’t defer to veterans. In three seasons he’s shown great growth in how he’s dealt with our veterans and young players. John’s growth path has mirrored that of our team, and I like to see that. He’s taken hard-working teams and helped them accomplish more. He coaches to his players’ strengths and helps them find a gear or aspect to their game and brings it to the forefront. He’s coached an immensely talented player to become an MVP. Everyone had a great inside glimpse into John with the Behind the Glass all-access series as a communicator, motivator, and his direction as a coach. You have to be honest with yourself as a coach, and sometimes that’s not comfortable, but John has matured in that regard, too.”

Can you offer your assessment of goalies Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid?

“Cory has worked really hard and he’s physically fine. There are things we can help him with, but at the end of the day if Cory wants the net back he needs to be the best goalie in practice and that will help him become sharper when he gets into the game. He’s got to push Keith and continue to be supportive, too, just as he was for Keith during his run last year. He’s been great in that regard. Sometimes it comes down to the player and the player needs to make a difference.

“I tried to hire (goalie coach Roland Melanson) when I was in Pittsburgh (as GM) because I knew of his reputation. Rollie has worked hard with both Cory and Keith. He’s helped Keith develop and take the next step and continues to work with Cory, day-in and day-out.”

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