Devils Need Veteran Players to Step Up

Photo: AP

By Allison Dawe

The first half of the 2021-22 NHL season has been a roller coaster. With rescheduling and cancellations due to Covid-19 protocols this has seemed to take its toll on some organizations more than others. You have to think that after practicing all week, and playing games sometimes multiple days in a row, this not only impacts a team’s play, but also brings a team closer together. With even stricter Covid testing this season it seems like this starting and stopping of practice and playing due to players’ and even whole teams testing positive, is starting to take a toll. 

If there was ever a time when teams’ turned to veteran players for leadership and overall a morale boost, it’s now. One team in the Eastern Conference who needs to bank on the veterans on their roster is the New Jersey Devils. The start of the season started strong for the Devils, they looked like a real threat and played with a something to prove attitude that became very clear out of the gate. 

Some would argue it starts with leadership from the captain, Nico Hishchier and he absolutely needs to push his teammates. But there are others who also need to step up, according to general manager Tom Fitzgerald, “I need to see the experience gained over the years they’ve played and parlay that into consistency,” Fitzgerald said. “They’re the leaders.

The young guys follow the older guys. We don’t have a very loud room and I respect that but saying the right things and then doing the right things are what tight teams do.” Forwards Pavel Zacha, Tomas Tatar, and Jesper Bratt and on the defense  Dougie Hamilton, P.K. Subban, and Damon Severson are all players who have a huge impact on the younger players both on and off ice.

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The Eastern Conference is arguably more competitive this season then it has been in many. The Florida Panthers held the #1 ranking in the Atlantic Division for several weeks and have since dropped to the #3 spot while the Tampa Bay Lightning have moved to #1.

It’s a tough division and conference to be in, and general manager Tom Fitzgerald believes that a big piece of changing the way the Devils play the rest of this season comes from the locker room, “I don’t know what was said during training camp or said the first 15 games of the regular season (when the Devils started 7-5-3) but we need to find those words and say them again…” We might just be seeing this shift come into play now. 

In their first game since the league Christmas break the Devils won against the Sabres with a final score of 4-3. The second line was the reason for this win, scoring three of the goals. Dougie Hamilton had the first goal which was a one timer. Tage Thompson, Jack Hughes, and Yegor Sharangovich had the other goals of the night. This game might have just been the shift and wake up call that the Devils needed, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“The results usually come from teams that are consistently doing the right things and playing the structure they’re supposed to play. We did that the first 15-16 games. We all liked the team we had then; I want my team to keep each other accountable in that locker room.” Stepping up and being accountable is exactly what these veteran players need to continue to do if they want to avoid being on the outside looking in during the playoffs.

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December 31st, 2021



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