The New Jersey Devils are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They recently broke their franchise record for longest consecutive winning streak. Before the last game, the Devils won 13 games in a row. While the Devils have plenty of talent, there is one area that still needs improvement: toughness. Today’s NHL has changed a lot in recent years. So the term “enforcer” is a bit different in the modern game. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Devils need a player who’s willing to stand up for his teammates and engage in fights.
In one of the Devils’ more recent games against the Ottawa Senators, Nico Hischier was the victim of a cheap cross check by Austin Watson. It was totally inappropriate because it was on open ice. Hischier was blind and wasn’t even involved in the play. This led to Hischier running to the bench, favoring his ribs, hips and lower back. Miraculously, Hischier avoided a serious injury and was ready for the next game. However, no one on the Devils list avenged him.
Brendan Smith was rumored to be attempting to fight Watson but it never came to fruition. The devils are known for having great defenders, but none have shown any interest in fighting. As the Devils get stronger, their opponents will target their top players. That could be dangerous given Jack Hughes and Hischier’s injury histories. The Devils need a player who takes no prisoners and prevails. I had the pleasure of interviewing two former Devils enforcers: Cam Janssen and Kurtis Gabriel. Both players might not have been the most talented hockey players, but they knew how to stand up for their teammates and earn their place in the league.
Many people are critical of Mason Geersten. However, his aggressive nature could have been used a few games ago. Because last season, during the second game of the year, Hughes was sidelined for a few months because of a shoulder injury he sustained after suffering a nasty hit from Jeremy Lauzon when the Devils played Seattle Kraken. Geersten was able to avenge Hughes, and it earned him the respect of his teammates and head coach Lindy Ruff. Because his name was on the deployment card quite a lot after that. Nikita Okhotyuk could have done the same. Because during the training camp he showed hints that he is an aggressive player.
I discussed the matter on a recent episode of Locked On Devils
Many people could call Miles Wood the Enforcer of the Devils. However, while Wood isn’t afraid to tangle his opponents’ feathers, he’s more of a “pest” than an enforcer. As the Devils continue to improve, more opposing players will play dirty. So finding some shelter wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.