The Oilers are mired in an awful start to the season, while the New Jersey Devils are doing what the Oilers did last year. It looks like fun, and I’ll admit, I’m quite jealous of their early season success. Will it last?
Here to answer all of my questions is Mike Stromberg from SB Nation’s All About The Jersey.
Editor’s note: you’re not going to enjoy this.
COPPER AND BLUE: I've got to ask about the hot start. 9-2 ain't too bad. Is it sustainable?
ALL ABOUT THE JERSEY: I would love to say that it is entirely sustainable, but given that 9-2-0 is roughly a 135-point pace, well, I'd say they're due to return to earth a little bit at some point. I mean, 125 points maybe, but 135 could be a bridge too far. In all seriousness, though, I don't think most Devils fans have any delusions about this team taking home the President's Trophy this season. Their possession stats are middling-to-not-great and given the amount of youth on the team and the overall lack of ability on the blue line, they are due for a little bit of regression. They are definitely far more dynamic a team than most expected, though, and as long as the recent rash of injuries at forward doesn't linger, I think you will see a competitive team that is actually quite a bit of fun to watch going forward (I know, I know, it's new to us, too).
COPPER AND BLUE: Taylor Hall is beginning his second season since being dealt from the Oilers during the summer of 2016. Fifteen points in eleven games (3-12-15) and a somewhat low 8.6 S%, is he doing it all in New Jersey right now?
ALL ABOUT THE JERSEY: I apologize in advance for this answer as I'm not sure if this is still a sore subject in these parts. (Editor’s note: HAHAHAHAHAHA) Put simply: Taylor Hall has been an absolute wrecking ball this season and, particularly of late, he's been damn near unstoppable. He had a good (if not outstanding) 2016-17 for New Jersey and was probably the best player on what was a very crummy team. But he has taken it to another level thus far this season. Beyond even just the production, he seems to be everywhere on the ice and right now, he's just creating plays non-stop. The Devils have some great young talent and have had some surprising standout performances this season, but Hall is head-and-shoulders above everyone right now and it shows.
COPPER AND BLUE: Cory Schneider's .921 all-situations SV% is miles away from his 2016-17 where he finished with .908 SV%. Was 2016-17 just a blip on Schneider's career?
ALL ABOUT THE JERSEY: I guess this one depends on who you ask. I happen to be very much in the pro-Schneider camp and think that the fact that he was perhaps a top-3 goalie in the entire league from 2010-16 gives him a little slack for the bad season in 2016-17. However, there are a surprising amount of Schneider non-believers in NJ. He's had a good start, though, and I expect him to be much more 2010-16 Schneider than 2016-17 Schneider over the remainder of the season. The game he stole against Vancouver on Wednesday (you're welcome) was vintage Schneider and definitely a good sign.
COPPER AND BLUE: Tell us about a Devil who's ready for a breakout season.
ALL ABOUT THE JERSEY: Well, there are already a couple Devils who seem to be very much in the midst of a breakout season. Nico Hischier was obviously the first overall pick and has had a solid start. Will Butcher has had a great start as a puck-mover/PP QB on a defense that badly needed it with 11 assists in 11 games. The real breakout story in New Jersey right now, though, is Jesper Bratt. The 2016 6th-round(!) pick has been unbelievable thus far and probably as big a surprise any player in the league. He's put up an impressive 10 points in 11 games, but he's been doing so much more than that. He has gotten big minutes on the PK and has been a major factor in all three zones. Despite being a 19-year-old 6th-rounder, he appears to be here to stay in New Jersey and has arguably been the best forward not named Hall.
COPPER AND BLUE: Finally, we're only a dozen or so games into the new season, but is there any situation you can see where the Devils will be playing hockey past the regular season?
ALL ABOUT THE JERSEY: Well, as I said above, this team is surely due for some regression, but they have a pretty talented group of forwards (particularly if they can get healthy) and a very good goaltender to go along with it. The defense is going to continue to be a weak point, but I think there's enough here to cover for that and stay in most games going forward. And given that they've already banked 18 points in 11 games, they really only have to be okay-ish the rest of the way to get into that 95-point range where a wild card is possible. Far from a guarantee, but I certainly think the playoffs have become plausible for the Devils, which is not necessarily a thing I was expecting to say about a month ago.