The New Jersey Devils have come a long way in the last few years.
Two seasons ago, they were the worst team in the NHL. This is the same franchise that won Cups in 1995, 2000, and 2003 and also went to the Final in 2012 when they lost to the Los Angeles Kings.
After 2012, however, things went downhill. Their big-time players like Patrik Elias and Martin Brodeur either retired or moved on and it was clear that the team needed to be smashed up in order to rebuild.
Things began to look up for the franchise when they got the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and used it on Nico Hischier. The team had a great piece to start with and a piece that would help establish the new identity of the Devils.
That new identity worked wonders for this team last season. They made the playoffs for the first time since 2012, had a Hart Trophy winner as the league’s most valuable player in Taylor Hall, and were a much different team to watch.
This team was actually fun to watch. They were fast, they forechecked hard, they were aggressive, they took chances, and they were more of a free-flowing hockey club rather than a static one.
While the roster certainly helped the club play this way, a lot of the credit should go to their head coach John Hynes. Hynes became the coach of the Devils in the 2015-16 season and in that time, he has truly made the club his own.
This is the reason why the team went and signed Hynes to a multi-year contract extension on January 3. It’s nice for Hynes in that the new deal provides him with some job security and it’s great for the franchise because under Hynes, this team has been moving in the right direction.
Believe it or not, Hynes is actually the team’s second-winningest coach in franchise history. He’s only been with the club for three-and-a-half seasons so it is clear that he is establishing consistency again for the franchise.
It should also be noted that his team works hard for him. He demands excellence, but does so in a respectful and motivating way, which the players have responded to in kind.
The Devils may be out of a playoff spot right now but in terms of the big picture, this franchise is back moving in the right direction and on its way to becoming a contender in the next few years.