Unfortunately, the 2021-22 New Jersey Devils said ‘yes’ to Sherman Abrams
As you may or may not know, I caught the flu last week. That’s why there was no message last Monday. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have any content. Oh no. I received a letter from Alpine, New Jersey. I was too sick to do anything about it at the time. So he sent me something after yesterday’s “experiment”. It still makes me uneasy to watch it now. Still, I can’t deny the point after the Devils suffered a disastrous 1-8 loss at Boston, choked disastrously against Florida to lose 6-7 in overtime at Newark, and were dropped by a New York Islanders team backed by Cory Schneider on the force of a Kyle Palmieri insurance goal that stood in a 3-4 game. The point: The Devils said yes to Sherman Abrams — the personification of losing for (likely) better draft pick chances. I don’t know exactly when, but at some point they followed his direction of futility.
On January 24, 2022, I pleaded for the Devils to say no to tanking. From this post, the Devils went 9-19-1. Only Detroit has gained just 19 points since then, and even their point percentage was better than New Jersey’s. Hard to say they are not resigned to losing when they have lost 20 of their last 29 games. Therefore, and with great regret, I will let Mr. Abrams speak. Here is the letter.
Dear John and people who matter,
Nice article from January. You forgot one thing: I am endless.
Of course, property taxes in Alpine are no fun. But I’m entrenched in the New Jersey Devils organization. How else to explain this season? You had this nice idea that the Devils shouldn’t tank because the draft class wasn’t that good. That there were too many players playing for contracts beyond this season. That the Devils couldn’t catch up with the last teams in the NHL. Watch the leaderboard now. The Devils moved six points ahead of 29th place to just behind the Flyers for 29th place. The Devils went from 11 points ahead of Montreal then 32nd to just five points ahead of them – who are now 30th. Ottawa has passed the Devils, Chicago remains ahead of them, and even Detroit with its magnificent collapse is still far ahead of New Jersey. Devils are among the bottom five teams again. I have two words for that: nothing!
Of course, I can’t take all the credit. I have to thank the wonderfully smart people behind the bench. A terrible power play that brought in the most shorthanded goals? Thank you, Mr. Recchi, for doing your part. A defense that gets harassed despite their overloaded ways? Doing the least of Dougie Hamilton and turning former CHL Defenseman of the Year Ty Smith into someone who plays like Colton White? Mr. Nasreddine, the honors go to you. I’m sure you have big plans in mind for Luke Hughes. Mr. Taylor, well, I don’t know what you’re doing. But you are part of the staff so I will include you. The goalkeeper was a dumpster fire and Mr Rogalski helped ensure the flames would continue to burn. Thanks, young man.
Then there is the best man. Mr Lindy Ruff. Salute, sir! With over 700 wins, I was afraid he would help the Devils learn to win. Then I realized you also had over 600 losses. He demonstrated brilliant ways to keep the Ls coming. Playing an injured Mackenzie Blackwood as he lights up? Changing the penalty but none of the other areas despite sinking? Tossing Michael McLeod for draws while ignoring the game is on next? Calling time outs for a team obviously not hearing what you had to say at intermission? Run Nico Daws back to back then keep him on the bench when Jon Gillies or Andrew Hammond get pounded to ensure losses? Getting crushed in games on the road to the point where the team went a month without winning one away from the Rock? Dress Mason Geertsen for 24 games and it counts? I love it! TO LIKE. There are so many things that I probably miss. But the last week or so has been an art form. Calling the Boston game a playoff game then lose by 7? See the team flounder in the third period against Florida and let it all fall apart, calling them “a young and scared team?” Coming back from 1-3 to lose 3-4 to the Isles and calling the team he’s preparing to have a “pity party” from the first period? That’s how we lose seasons! Ruff gets Abrams’ stamp of approval.
Of course, I can’t ignore the good work of Tom Fitzgerald. Given how active he was in moving fringe players for marginal gains in previous deadlines, I was concerned that he would replace some of those smaller players with players hungry for AHL minutes. Fortunately, Fitzgerald only traded for an injured Hammond. Who was then lambasted by Florida as Ruff & Co. stood wide and just let him stay in the net. Wonderful. The goalkeeper has been a major blemish since December. Fitzgerald could have taken a big step to remedy this. Luckily, all he did was trade nothing for Jon Gillies, get the guys from Utica called, and then trade a minor league player for a minor league goaltender. Approach the position of need with just surface-level movements? It is GMing that helps get lottery balls in June instead of empty winnings from February to April. To say he loved this team after the deadline warmed my heart. I knew this man would follow in the shoes of his old bosses to keep the losing tradition alive in Newark.
It’s a tradition at this point. Look at this piece of puff about The Athletic’s analytics department. The Devils are so happy with their expected goals, but no one there (Athletic included) seems to know the flaws of such a model. Or that the actual goals show that the team has many other problems; and the Devils not doing anything serious about it suggests they may not want to fix it. You might hate it, but I think it’s cool! The happiness linked to the Devils to make the cover of The future of The Hockey News also made me happy. I know very well that the full potential is not always realized. But it’s so enticing that fans will accept lost causes for more 18-year-old guys. I also found it thrilled that people recognized that The Hockey News still exists in 2022. Either way, as long as there are enough fans who buy into the fact that the future is bright and it will happen certainly, absolutely, 100%, I will continue to be in the heads of the decision-makers at the Prudential Center. Shout out to all the fans who want the Devils to be bigger, badder and grittier instead of doing things that can help them score and prevent goals. I’m not saying you’re right, but I, Sherman Abrams, like you.
And I will continue to hang out in New Jersey for this season. Believe me, the losses will likely continue this month. Think the Devils will beat Rangers 7-4 again tomorrow? They spat one last minute to tie in Montreal, which comes on Thursday. Then there’s a five-game road trip: to Dallas, Arizona, Colorado, Seattle and Las Vegas. Three of these teams have something to play for; and the Devils haven’t won a road game since Feb. 24. After that, there are six games to come against Buffalo, Ottawa, Detroit (x2) and Carolina (x2). All teams are ahead of the Devils in the standings. All teams that could help lock in the final five (or four! Or three! Do I mean two?) finish. Of course the devils can win some of these games. But with a 9-19-1 record since Jan. 24, they’re probably not going to win many others. This is what I want. I want everything! I want a Gillies-Hammond couple! I want McLeod to get almost as much 5-on-5 ice time as Hischier on some nights! I want more Geertsen! More lottery balls! More Chances at Shane Wright’s Draw! What is that? Winner would the 2022 lottery keep the Devils out of the 2023 lottery? I do not care. (JF Aside: Not true, the rule is no more than 2 wins in a 5 year period, so a lottery win in 2022 would not disqualify them from entering the Bedard contest in 2023. SA aside: I still don’t care.) This is the problem of the future Sherman. Just keep losing to top prospects and BAM a Stanley Cup will come someday. Ask Edmonton. I’m sure they have at least one now, right?
So write your messages about how the Devils need to get away from me. Write your comments about how devils have to take a step toward being mediocre before they take a step toward actually being good. Continue on how the Devils need to improve in many positions, if only not to spoil what Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier are doing. Explain how the Devils need to change their coaching staff and many other positions. Allow me to spoil you: nothing is going to change.
There have been enough injuries, bad luck and other excuses that Lindy Ruff and Tom Fitzgerald are going to give to the media that doesn’t cover this team and therefore don’t challenge them. Get ready for Recchi’s 1-3-1 in 2022-23. Get ready for Alain Nasreddine’s apologists talking about the PK facing a 5-on-5 defense that’s great for giving up a low chance rate, except what they’re giving up was entirely avoidable. Get ready to wonder what Chris Taylor actually does. Get ready for Dave Rogalski to coach a squad of goalies. Get ready for Tom Fitzgerald to talk about a good game about next season’s expectations, do something you love in the offseason, and then stare into space when the season begins and reality hits. Prepare for more Pavel Zacha maybe turning a corner, Miles Wood skating hard to crash into one, and a few other moves. Get ready for another season where you’re looking for Adam Fantilli, Brayden Yager and Will Smith in December 2022. Get ready for more of me, Sherman Abrams, influencing the Devils organization. Never forget that I am endless.
PS I know you don’t like them, but I’m happy to say my methods are working hard in Philadelphia and I’m starting to get some wins in Detroit after two young guys decided not to listen to me. My ways are global.
Thanks, I hate that, Mr. Abrams. Almost as much as I’ve hated the Devils’ last three games.
Anyway. What do you think of Mr. Abrams’ proclamations? Even though you write that the Devils aren’t technically tanking, it’s hard to argue with the results of their play. Do the Devils seem destined to keep losing? Will the Devils lose most of their remaining games this season? Do you trust Fitzgerald to take the right step forward after this season? When will the Abrams cycle stop? Please leave your answers and other thoughts related to tanking, Abrams and the seemingly constant losing culture the Devils have developed? Thanks for the reading.