Three reasons to be pessimistic about the New Jersey Devils in 2023-24
As has been the case since The Stone Age, goaltending remains at least a moderate concern. What else could hold the Devils back from reaching their potential?
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Let me preface this by saying I, like most, am very high on the New Jersey Devils next season and beyond. There is a ton to like and I believe they are ready to contend.
Having said that, there is no such thing as the perfect team and the Devils are no exception. There are still a couple of holes on the roster, as well as things out of their control, that could hinder the Devils and prevent them from reaching their full potential.
I recently looked at three (of the many) reasons you should be optimistic about the Devils next season – I certainly am.
But there are two sides to every coin. Today I’m going to take a look at the other.
The tandem of Vitek Vanecek and (eventually) Akira Schmid was very good much of last season. The tandem of Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid may not be good enough next year. Both things can be true.
Vanecek stopped ~13 goals above expected in his debut season with the Devils. That’s a very strong number and directly in line with that of Connor Hellebuyck the two seasons prior to last.
It was also a career best – Vanecek finished with a negative GSAx in 2020-21 and 2021-22 – and it may be ignorant to believe that’ll become the norm.
If Vanecek is going to take a step back during regular season hockey, and there are concerns with his playoff history, then a lot of weight is suddenly falling on the shoulders of Schmid.
It is possible Schmid can handle it; he sure did a good job down the stretch and in the playoffs last season. But goaltending is perhaps the highest variance position in major sports.
If established goaltenders can see their level of play swing drastically on a year-to-year basis, what is stopping that from being the case with a 23-year-old who has played 33 NHL games?
I am personally not overly concerned in the goaltending. The Devils have a couple decently weighted dice rolls on the team and can always make a trade at or near the deadline if an upgrade is needed.
But, by that point, it is possible goaltending holds the team back a little bit and prevents the Devils from the kind of seeding they’re capable of earning.
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