Governor Murphy Allows For 10% Capacity for Devils Games

Today, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced a plan to allow for ten percent capacity for sporting events in the state. This will include the New York Giants and Jets of the NFL, the New York Red Bulls of MLS, colleges, minor league baseball and, of course, the Devils.

The Devils put out a release today on their official app that described how fans will be allowed back into Prudential Center to enjoy Devils hockey.

The ten percent capacity announcement goes into effect on March 1 but will begin to affect the Devils starting on March 2 for their game against the New York Islanders.

The Devils wrote that they are as an organization, “incredibly excited to welcome people back to New Jersey’s premier sports and entertainment venue in a safe and measured way.”

The team will partner with RWJBarnabas Health to “make sure that [they] are implementing the most effective practices to keep everyone safe at” Prudential Center. The protocols for fans will “be on full display” and will be there to ensure the safety of Devils fans.

Jake Reynolds, President, New Jersey Devils said in the release: “This is a day toward which our entire staff has been planning, working, and looking forward to for the past 11 months. Those who enter the building will feel confident that our process and protocols are focusted on making their safety the number one priority. That includes maximizing social distancing, minimizing contact, and using products and technology to ensure the wellbeing, safety, and enjoyment of our fans and attendees. The fan’s journey has been developed to provide consumer confidence from the street to the seat, and we can’t wait to feel their energy welcome them back to the Prudential Center and celebrate Devils’ victories in person.”

What all of this entails is that fans will be responsible for acting in a manner serious to the situation. That includes wearing masks – covering their noses – at all times while in the arena, social distancing and generally keeping to their own party.

In turn, the Prudential Center and the Devils will keep things clean and safe as much as they can for us, the fans.

Tickets will obviously be very limited and will be available first to Season Ticket Members according to the Devils.

Ten percent of a 17,000 seat arena is not much, but at least it is a start and a step towards normalcy. We have been unable to watch Devils hockey live for so long and this great news!

2015-16 Devils: Season in Review

For the Devils, at least, another NHL hockey season has come and gone, but there is still a lot to talk about. The Devils have some business to attend to before hitting the ice for 2016-17, but we also need to take a look at 2015-16 and how they can go about dealing with that business. You cannot know where you are going unless you can clearly see where you have come from.

The Devils were not supposed to be playoff contenders in 2015-16. Most prognosticators had them out of a running for an Eastern Conference playoff spot by Christmas, if not sooner. But the team surprised everyone by competing, not being mathematically eliminated until the final week of the season. And, were it not for some ill-timed injuries (which, admittedly, every team needs to deal with) to some key members of the team, we may be preparing for a first round playoff matchup right now.

Losing leading scorer Michael Cammalleri to an injury did hurt the team, but in his stead, both Kyle Palmieri and Adam Henrique did all they could to pick up the slack, each ending the season with 30 goals. Of course, the man who took over the scoring lead when Cammalleri went down, Lee Stempniak, was traded to Boston at the trading deadline, hurting the team’s offense a little bit more. But the Stempniak trade was made to strengthen the Devils’ future. The draft picks obtained for him shores up the Devils’ stockpile and gives them room to maneuver in terms of trades or drafting. I come back to it time and again, but the Devils, last season, basically flipped Jaromir Jagr (who was not getting the ice time he wanted in New Jersey) to Florida for the draft picks that became Palmieri. Not a bad return there.

This brings us to our next topic: free agency. Kyle Palmieri is the most pressing signing for the Devils. He is a restricted free agent next season according to the website GeneralFanager.com and someone the Devils seemingly need to re-sign and want back as well. He is a local kid and brings a lot more value to the team than just his scoring ability. He brings marketing opportunities and other avenues for the Devils.

But beyond Palmieri, the Devils have five other RFAs, including forwards Sergey Kalinin, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jacob Josefson, Reid Boucher and defenseman Jon Merrill.

Add to that their unrestricted free agents: forwards Stephen Gionta, Jordin Tootoo, Tyler Kennedy, Bobby Farnham, Tuomo Ruutu and Patrik Elias and defensemen David Schlemko and David Warsofsky. In addition, Jiri Tlusty (who missed the majority of the year with injury) will also be an UFA. And that is just the main roster, as there are a slew of free agent-to-bes in Albany.

How will the Devils balance who they want to resign and who they want to poach from other teams? Among the big free agents available this July 1, according to GeneralFanager.com, are Steven Stamkos of the Lightning (of course, this would be a pipe dream as it would take a lot to reel in one of the big superstars of the game), Milan Lucic of the Kings and Kyle Okposo of the Islanders. Luckily, the Devils have made cap room and can afford to make a signing or two.

And then there is the Draft. The Devils have stockpiled a good amount of picks over the next three years: nine in 2016, seven in 2017 and eight in 2018. I would like to cover the Draft as we get closer to late June, but the Devils could also use many of these picks to make trades.

Back to the on-ice performance, the Devils made huge strides this season. The new regime has seemed to have settled in well. The coaching staff has successfully implemented their new system (we will see what they can do even more when they get more finely tailored pieces brought in) and the players seem to have bought in to it. Losing goalie Cory Schneider to injury late in the playoff drive was a major factor. Cory was the heart and soul of this team, its All-Star and one of its most important players outside of guys like leading scorers Cammalleri, Palmieri and Henrique and captain Andy Greene. Although backups Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood filled in admirably, especially so considering their young ages and relative lack of NHL experience, losing Schneider was a huge blow to the team.

The Devils are also young. The late season call ups showed the future of the club and the future is pretty good. Pavel Zacha came in and scored his first two NHL points with two assists in his first game. Think about Steven Santini and Miles Wood going from playing their final college game last Thursday to their first NHL game on Saturday and playing well to boot. The Devils have youth just coming into their own and veterans, like Adam Larsson, who are still young and just coming into their prime, making strides every game in improving. Joseph Blandisi was a breath of fresh air and guys like Damon Severson continue to grow.

But all of this is a building process. Yes, the Devils missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year and the fifth time in six is disappointing, but they are on an upward trajectory. With some experience comes knowing how to win the close ones, the ones which make the difference in the standings. A point dropped here or there in November or December could cost the team come April.

Although it is almost cliché (and a little bit futile) to say, should the Devils stay healthy next year, they could definitely make a run of things. In the situation they were in this year, they contended until the very end. A healthy team could do so much more it would seem. Add to that a little bit more secondary scoring to give Cory and the other goaltenders some “run support” and you could be looking at a playoff team next year. Are they going to be Stanley Cup contenders next year? Of course not, but they will be better and able to cope with issues like injuries much better than they did this year. They did not give up this season when the injury bug hit and the young guys made the most of the opportunity that they were given.

This is all a learning process, the Devils are a young team now and just need some more NHL experience under their belt to get things going.

Have a great summer everyone!