Connect with us

New Jersey Devils

Devils GM Time to Act Past Due

Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald’s time to act on salvaging the 2023-24 season is past due.

Published

on

New Jersey Devils

NEWARK — Amid catastrophe with the New Jersey Devils this season, where is general manager Tom Fitzgerald?

If it could have gone wrong for the Devils this year, it did.

The 2023-24 season was derailed by injuries, poor play, and as of late, insufficient coaching from head coach Lindy Ruff. However, the Devils’ issues potentially started before the puck even dropped in October.

We hear a lot of “Fi-re Lin-dy!” However, perhaps we should also be hearing, “Where is Fitz-y!

When the Devils lost a significant cast of leadership this summer in Damon Severson, Ryan Graves, Miles Wood, Tomas Tatar, & more, Fitzgerald put his trust in some of the Devils’ youth to fill the roles of those who left. Such players include the likes of Luke Hughes, Kevin Bahl, and John Marino.

That hasn’t exactly gone as planned.

Overall the Devils’ defensive efforts this season have taken a nosedive. New Jersey is allowing an NHL 26th-worst 3.48 goals against per game, whereas last season they finished eighth-best allowing just 2.71 goals against per game.

The question is, is it the roster construction, or the coaching? There’s certainly an argument for both.

Looking at Fitzgerald, the Devils’ GM opted to walk into the 2023-24 season with the same goaltending tandem that he ended with in 2022-23, minus Mackenzie Blackwood. When that miserably failed by December, Akira Schmid made his way down to the American Hockey League and Vitek Vanecek remained in the Devils’ crease allowing nearly four goals per game. The Devils had suffered brutal losses to the likes of the San Jose Sharks, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Anaheim Ducks, all of which last season’s New Jersey team would have certainly collected all six available points.

That was the first sign that Fitzgerald failed to properly prepare the Devils for an encore this season.

Perhaps that was also Fitzgerald’s first indicator that it was time to provide his team with a boost, especially after they lost No.1 defenseman Dougie Hamilton for the entire season.

Fast forward to today, and the Devils’ list of injuries this season is long. However, now they’re mostly healthy again, sans Hamilton and Vitek Vanecek who are on injured reserve. Yet, the rest of the Devils’ best players are still in the lineup. Jack Hughes is present, Nico Hischier is front and center, Timo Meier is healthy, and Jesper Bratt has been one of the only constants this season.

So where are the results?

Over the last four games, the Devils dropped six crucial points to direct playoff competitors, the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Each loss was as brutal as the next, giving up a combined 15 goals as opposed to scoring just four in what was certainly the most important stretch of games this season.

Ruff already took responsibility for the lack of effort when it mattered most for New Jersey.

“I take full responsibility,” Ruff explained to the media Sunday afternoon. “I take full responsibility. You want to win. We’ve dealt with a lot. (The) players want to win. I’m responsible for the wins and losses and who gets on the ice and who doesn’t get on the ice. I’ve said this before, we’ve got a very passionate fan base. They want to see wins. I think, again, in a back-to-back (situation) and if you look at our home record, that part hurts. So I feel fully responsible.”

At this point, it’s on Fitzgerald to act. Quite frankly, it’s past due.

The Devils have been linked to goaltender Jacob Markstrom for a while as well as a handful of Calgary Flames defensemen, among other players that are potentially available ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline.

Further, reports were the Devils were quite close to making Markstrom a member of the Devils until that fell apart. If it was so close, can it not be revisited? Where is the pivot?

New Jersey has been middling all season and, in fact, the writing has been on the wall since before the calendar turned over.

They need something, anything that will light a fire under them. As bad as this has all been, the Devils aren’t out of the playoff picture sitting five points behind the Philadelphia Flyers in the Metropolitan Division playoff race and seven points out of the Eastern Conference wildcard. Whether it’s firing the head coach or making an impact trade, Fitzgerald owes the Devils some sort of boost.

The Devils GM was rewarded with an extension from ownership due to his work last season and over the summer to acquire and extend some core players in New Jersey. It’s time he justifies that extension by doing what needs to be done for his team.

For more Devils news, visit New Jersey Hockey Now and like our Facebook page.
Follow us on 𝕏:

@NJDHockeyNow@JamesNicholsNHL

And on Threads:

@JamesNicholsNHL

Get NJHN+ today!

Copyright © 2023 National Hockey Now LLC. NJ Hockey Now is in no way affiliated with the New Jersey Devils or the National Hockey League.