Six games in and a giant goose egg in the W column.
A zero that grows exponentially now, with every loss.
I'll preface these thoughts with this statement: No matter what has happened so far, by the end of this week, there will either be a full-on tailspin or the team could be back in the playoff picture in the Metropolitan Division. It's troubling to say that the season hangs in the balance on October 14th, but with three days off before the final leg of their road trip in Ottawa, then a home game against the Rangers, this could be a defining week for this team. Win both, everything suddenly doesn't look so bad. Lose both and head into the fourth week of the NHL season in disarray.
So, where does the blame lie six games in? Let's take a look at some of the different pieces in this organization.
2. The assistant coaches - It seems like everyone is ready to jump off the Dave Barr bandwagon already. It's six games, learning a new power play system with a plethora of new bodies. Is Barr's power play any different than it was at any time over the last few years? There have been plenty of coaches running the Devils power play over the last few years, all with the same results. To me, that points to personnel over coaching. Doesn't matter the system if the players just aren't getting the job done. Their current 6.7% on the man-advantage is good for second worst in the league. As for Scott Stevens, he has a lot to prove. There's no doubt that #4 was an incredible player and leader during his playing days, but so far the Stevens-led defense has not shown anything to suggest that he's doing well. Sure, you can easily blame personnel, that the defense is too slow, etc. The biggest area of concern is that Adam Larsson almost seems to have regressed since last season. He has been beat numerous times on plays that have resulted in a goal. Larsson should be able to learn from Stevens right? As for the penalty kill, that hasn't been strong either. Though they're middle of the pack at 81.2%, their record setting number of two seasons ago seems like eons away at this point.
3. The goaltending - Cory Schneider and Martin Brodeur were supposed to be one of the best tandems in the NHL. So far, it's been almost the opposite. Yes, the defense has left both netminders out to dry, but good goaltenders steal games. How many times have we seen the Rangers look lost in years past, just to see Henrik Lundqvist stand on his head to get a win. Brodeur has done that many times in the past when this team needed a big-time performance. With all the struggles that this team has had, a dominant goaltending performance might be what it takes to get a win and that hasn't happened so far. Yes, Schneider was very good against the Jets last night, but in the end, it wasn't enough. In a game like Sunday's contest, he had to make the save on Evander Kane's sharp angle goal that made the game 1-0 Jets. At some point, if this team is going to go anywhere, one of these two needs to step up their game and put the team on their back, rattle off a stretch where they give up one or two a night for 4-5 games.
5. The offense - Everything looked like it'd be okay with this unit, but the wild inconsistencies are hurting them. Shut out twice so far in six games and no game where they were able to score a big goal to protect a lead. 1.83 goals for is not going to get it done, despite some of the promising things we've seen from this unit. Something that can't be overlooked is the team's faceoff win percentage. The Devils are second to only the Florida Panthers for the WORST faceoff percentage in the league at 44.1 percent, which must get better. When faceoff numbers are that low, you're not only limiting your offensive chances, but also creating many more chances for the opposition in your own end. That number must be better. Damien Brunner, Michael Ryder and Jaromir Jagr have been nice additions and have shown some early scoring touch. As for the two Devils who have inked long-term contracts in recent years,
Pick your poison. You can find blame just about anywhere with this team, but when you're 0-3-3, that's not hard to do. With a few days off before the Ottawa game, a good stretch this week can begin to put all of this in the rear-view mirror. If not, we'll be looking at a potential make-or-break week for this team in the final full week of October