Shifting Philosophy Is Welcome Sign Going Forward By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
“Next year, if we’re standing here talking before the playoffs it would be a huge disappointment.”
That was the quote from Damon Severson during the first day of the Devils’ two Breakup Days. And it’s a telling one. For the last couple years the Devils were a team in a rebuild. It was and is a known fact. But Severson’s statement shows the players and organization no longer view the “rebuild mentality” as acceptable. The “rebuild excuse” is over. Now, it’s time to win.
“We had a couple of really good games against Colorado and Carolina,” Yegor Sharangovich explained. “If we’re playing more games like that next season, we’ll have success and we’ll try to make the playoffs.”
IF the Devils can play a consistent brand of uptempo, defensively responsible hockey, then and only then will they take that next step forward. They also need to get solid goaltending, but that goes without saying.
One of the things the Devils can do – without yet knowing what the roster will look like for next season – is to not just prepare physically for the coming season, but mentally as well. And that starts with each player accepting that a year like this one can’t happen again.
“You can look at our season, obviously we want to be in a different situation next year at the end of the year,” Dawson Mercer said. “We understand we’re a young group, but we’re all talented players, we all have a lot of confidence in ourselves. We believe we can be a good team. And I think that starts right from, we started off strong this year. But we want to make sure that we continue that on. And you keep in touch with the guys in the summer. When we come back we want to make sure that we keep those winning percentages up.”
“You want to be playing meaningful games at the end of the year,” Mercer continued. “That’s every team’s mentality…As a group we want to grow. We want to make sure that we can be a team out there that will lead us to the future of what we want in this organization.”
As a player who’s now been through multiple rebuilds with several teams, Jimmy Vesey is well qualified to talk about how he and his teammates are currently feeling.
“Whether you’re in a rebuild or not, if you don’t make the playoffs, it’s a tough feeling at the end of the year,” Vesey explained. “This team has a lot of good pieces and definitely a lot of high end skill to get back on track pretty quickly. This year, I think in the beginning we showed a lot of promise and as the year went on, it got away from us. But with a young team, I think that’s expected. It’s a tough feeling for everyone right now, but I think the future’s bright.”
“We are in a quote, rebuild,” Vesey continued. “But I think it’s getting to the point where the team wants results.”
One way the Devils can start getting results is to copy some of what has worked for the teams who are currently in the playoffs. After all, as the saying goes, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” And that’s one thing Jesper Bratt plans on doing to help his team turn things around.
“If I can bring some routines, some knowledge, from those players playing in the playoffs and also watching it, it’s going to be huge,” Bratt said. “I think that’s something that you need to see it; to want to be part of it.”
Perhaps Head Coach Lindy Ruff summed it up best. When asked about whether it’s time for the rebuild mentality to be a thing of the past and if the Devils have to contend next season, Ruff emphatically said, “Yes. The answer to that is yes. Just a flat out, yes.”
The time to win in New Jersey is approaching and next season will mark the beginning of a new philosophy for the Garden Staters.