The New Jersey Devils are seven points out of a playoff spot with 18 regular season games remaining. While teams in this situation have made the playoffs in the past, the Devils season is over. They have raised the white flag.
The team cashed it in last Thursday when they traded veteran forward Jaromir Jagr to the Florida Panthers. Some have praised the move, stating that the Devils have stolen a second and third round draft pick from Florida while giving them in return a forty three-year-old with an expiring contract. But, for others, it’s about the principle.
If you’re in the midst of turning your season around, like the Devils were, having won four in a row prior to the Feb. 25 loss to Calgary, you do not suddenly decide to deal the most recognizable player on your team.
He’s clearly not the best offensive player on the Devils, but aside from goaltender Cory Schneider, the Czech Republic native has emerged as the face of the Devils franchise, with the now-retirement of Martin Brodeur.
According to Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello, Jagr never approached him to discuss a trade, amidst multiple reports that the forward wanted out of Newark. The same was also true when Lamoriello and the Devils front office decided to send Jagr down south. Jagr was not involved in the process that led to the final deal that made him a Panther.
While I agree with Lamoriello that players should not be involved in the trade process, this is a special situation. A ninteen-year NHL veteran does not come into your organization willingly every day, like Jagr did in July of 2013. The Devils blindsided the sure Hall of Famer with the trade.
I doubt Jagr cares about how the situation played out, because he is now playing for a team that is only two points out of a playoff spot, but as a Devils fan, I thought the Devils organization would have a little more class.
The writing was clearly on the wall as Jagr’s ice time had steadily decreased from 20 minutes per contest to about 15 minutes a game under the new coaching staff. So, why not bring Jagr into the mix a little bit more? Why send a shocking jolt through your organization and fan base?
I never thought I would say this, but maybe it is time Lamoriello retires before he soils his Hall of Fame career, like Martin Brodeur nearly did earlier this season in Saint Louis. If the Devils miss the playoffs this year, it will mark the fourth time in the past five years that there will be no playoff hockey at the corners of Lafayette and Mulberry. Prior to this stretch, the Devils, under the tutelage of Lamoriello, qualified for the postseason 19 times in 20 seasons, winning three Stanley Cups.
In the end, I enjoyed having Jagr on the Devils for just under two seasons, although it was pretty pathetic that a forty-two-year-old led the team in scoring last season. At this point, I just wonder how much longer he can go.