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MHH Previews the Lesser 29: New Jersey

Welcome to a new installment where we will preview each of the other NHL teams who simply make up the bulk of the league the Avalanche play in. Today, we look at the New Jersey Devils.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Their head coach: John Hynes. Most known for, and really, only being known for being the youngest coach in the NHL at 41. I was saddened when the Devils announced they were going to hire anyone as head coach last year, after playing much of the 14-15 season with TWO coaches behind the bench who weren’t really head coaching the club. As Doc Emrick would say, “OH, WHAT MARVELOUS CHAOS!” It went about as unsuccessfully as using their previous full-time head coach Peter DeBoer had gone.

Their captain: Andy Greene. Andy “Blue Meets Yellow” as I like to call him, is one of the better undrafted players currently playing in the league. After going through the 2006 draft without hearing his name called, the Devils picked him up and have come to enjoy his services. He’s a solid defenseman that doesn’t generate a lot of noise or headlines, but that’s what you want in a good defensive leader. He’s right around the middle of his career at 33 and entering the third year of a five year deal.

Their 15-16 season: Not much was expected out of the Devils, and they played about as well as anyone expected. They finished 7th in the Metropolitan division and acquired a respectable total of 84 points. They’ve clearly been on the rebuild ever since Martin Brodeur retired, but they seem to be on their way out of the hole, as last season evidenced.

How did they do against the Avs? Well, maybe they’re not climbing out of the hole. They lost to the Avs twice. How bad do you have to be to manage that?! Colorado took the game at Prudential 2-1 and Calvin Pickard earned a shutout in a 3-0 triumph at The Can in December.

When do they play the Avs this season? At New Jersey on February 14th, and in Denver on March 9th.

Will they be good? They will be right around average. In an easier division, I’d give them a shot to make the playoffs. Having to play the Rangers, Penguins, Islanders, Capitals, and Flyers as often as they do, however, won’t help their cause at all. I wouldn’t completely rule them out of the playoff mix, but I see it as an unlikely feat.

3 Questions with their SB Nation blog, All About The Jersey:

-Can you believe you actually got Taylor Hall for just Adam Larsson? How much of a steal was that trade in your eyes? I'm still a little surprised that Peter Chiarelli was willing to give up Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson.  As much as I like Larsson and appreciate the big role he had on the Devils blueline - lots of defensive zone starts, tough competition, and first choice on the penalty kill with Andy Greene - that's a steal of a deal.  Larsson is a very good defensive defenseman, but he's a 'B' compared to Hall, who's an 'A.'  Hall is legitimately one of the best wingers in the entire NHL and very difficult to play against himself.  Those players don't come along very often, even with plenty of lottery picks like Edmonton has had for the last ten years. Is getting a player with his talent and pedigree worth the hole on defense? Absolutely.

-After years of success with Brodeur, the last few years have been a far cry from the Devils of the 90s and 00s. This offseason seemed to be a step in the right direction though. How long til New Jersey is in contention for Lord Stanley again? I've been pleased with what Ray Shero has done so far.  Most of all, he avoided the temptations of believing last season's team - which was on the bubble in the standings for longer than expected - was close to the postseason. He knew the re-building effort needed more time and far more talent.  This was apparent through dealing Lee Stempniak, then the team's leading scorer, for picks; picking up Marc Savard's contract; going forward-heavy in the 2016 draft to address the dearth of forward talent in the system; making the trade for Hall; and signing Ben Lovejoy as his sole "splash" in the free agency market. The team remains well below the salary cap and while they have several holes to still fill from a talent perspective, he's established that the team will be built around Hall, Kyle Palmieri, and Cory Schneider at a minimum.  So I do agree the team's heading in the right direction.  How he can get the team to be more offensive and get away from being a very low-event hockey team, will determine how long will it be before they're playing beyond early April again.  I think they'll be back before the decade's done.  We'll see.

-Having to play in a division with Pittsburgh, the Rangers, Isles, Washington, and Philly is tough. So, do you think they reach the playoffs this season. Why or why not? It's definitely a tough out in the Metropolitan Division. The Devils hung around in part last season because the Islanders, Pittsburgh, the Rangers, and Philly never really took that "next step" in the standings for a couple of months.  Only Washington really dominated throughout.  Eventually the cream rose the top, and the Devils fell closer to where I thought they would end up.  I don't think that's going to happen again in 2016-17.  I don't think the same breaks will come.  More importantly, I don't think much has changed within the division in terms of quality. I don't think Pittsburgh or Washington became any worse or any less of a contender.  The Rangers' "window" may be just about shut, but they're unfortunately still too good to not make the playoffs.  Likewise, while I wasn't a fan of what the the Islanders did this summer, I don't think they'll fall out of the postseason picture. I thought the Flyers overachieved last season, but they're another obstacle presumably in the Devils way even if they don't make it.  And don't sleep on Carolina.  With better percentages and average goaltending, they can be a tougher team to play against. They were one of the league's better possession teams; they just need to stop getting done in by Ward's & Lack's play. This all points to my belief that the 2016-17 Devils not only won't make the playoffs but they could very well finish in seventh place again.

Thanks to John Fischer for taking the time to answer!