The GM says the Devils “got the message” during their end-of-season meetings

Newark, New Jersey – Tom Fitzgerald believes the New Jersey Devils are still an extraordinarily talented group, but he made it loudly clear this week in their end-of-season meetings that nothing is served on a silver platter in becoming a consistent contender in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“They got the message,” the Devils general manager said Thursday. “We have curious mentalities in that room. They want to get better, and sometimes you have to hit people on the nose to realize: ‘Oh, this is it.’ What we got this season is what we deserve.”

New Jersey (38-39-5) failed to reach the playoffs for the 10th time in 12 seasons after qualifying in 2022-23, when it had the most wins (52) and points (112) at Devils/Colorado Rockies/Kansas City. History of Scouting.

Sure, injuries played a role, and the goaltending was below average at best, but the Devils “just weren't connected this year,” Fitzgerald said. He's looking forward to what's expected to be busy.

“I'm actually very excited about this (season) because I know exactly what this team needs,” he said. “I know exactly what these individuals need. I know what they want, what they crave. They crave that excellence.”

At the top of Fitzgerald's to-do list is hiring a coach before the 2024 NHL Draft on June 28. Travis Green, who was named interim coach after Lindy Ruff was fired on March 4 after four seasons, went 8-12-1 in 21 games.

“Travis would be [interviewed] “Also, but I want to take my time on this because I have certain boxes I want to check,” Fitzgerald said. “The next coach has to be an excellent communicator, someone who wants to collaborate with all different areas of the organization and understands where I think the team needs to go. Someone who uses the things we have at our fingertips, analytics to make decisions or strategy, how we want to play, sports science. Measuring where our players are in practices and what kind of practices we need when we can push and when we have to pull back.

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“Finally, a coach who will keep every player accountable and not just a handful of players.”

The Devils finished the season with five scoring 20 goals: Timo Meier (28), Jack Hughes (27), Jesper Bratt (27), Nico Hischier (27) and Dawson Mercer (20). They saw improvement in rookie defensemen Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec and gained finesse performances from defenseman Brendan Smith and forwards Curtis Lazar and Erik Haula.

Smith, forwards Thomas Nosick and Chris Tierney, and defenseman Curtis McDiarmid are pending unrestricted free agents. Fitzgerald said he intends to submit bids to each of New Jersey's four restricted free agents: Mercer, forward Nolan Foote and goaltenders Niko Dawes and Akira Schmid.

Jack Hughes was sidelined twice this season for a total of 16 games before it was announced on April 9 that the center would miss the final four games to have shoulder surgery.

“Jack remained in Vail, Colorado, a few days after surgery to do some rehabilitation, but he returned to Michigan and will make a full recovery,” Fitzgerald said. He added: “The time frame is different because everyone recovers differently, but I expect a player to come back with a lot of energy, excited for the season, and stronger.”

Although Fitzgerald did not reveal a pecking order of positional needs, he stressed that only one of the five goaltenders who will play for the Devils this season is under contract for 2024-25, Jake Allen. Kaapo Kahkonen is a pending UFA.

“It's an area that I will definitely continue to explore,” he said.

Fitzgerald said he is committed to running the phones to find players known for their work ethic.

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“I want passionate hockey players, who love the game, to come in every day, punch the clock, go to work and actually enjoy it,” Fitzgerald said. “Our fans deserve this type of player… players who want to block shots, feel comfortable in the confrontation, understand that physicality is part of the game and create an identity.

“Maybe we get back to having a momentum line, a line or two that can change the momentum of the game. That's what I'm looking for. I think our fans deserve that. I think our fundamental skill players deserve that. Those are some areas I think we need to improve on and that's up to us.” for me.”

“It doesn't really matter what kind of system we play. I want people to actually follow directions, stick with them and actually do them. Breakdowns happen when people don't want to do it, or make a mistake, but we know this is a game of mistakes. The coach comes up with a game plan. The soldiers will follow it. If they don't, we will collapse.

The most respected soldier on the list is Captain Nico Hischier.

“The belief in this room hasn’t changed for anyone,” Hischier said. “I think we have to believe that we want it more. You have to work hard. Now, you have to deserve it. I think this year proved that, so obviously the belief is still there 100 percent. But we didn't do it.” Have a great year, and we'll go from here and do it next season.”

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