The end of the 2021-22 National Hockey League season is upon us. By Friday, it will be all over for the New Jersey Devils and most of the league. Half of the league will be in the playoffs. For the fourth straight season, the Devils will not be involved in postseason activities. For the fourth straight season, the Devils will finish in the bottom ten of the league standings. For the fourth straight season, the next event for the fans to look forward to will be the NHL Draft Lottery – which will be on May 10.
The season is not actually over since the Devils do have three games left to play. However, the Devils’ season has been effectively done for months from the perspective of having any meaningful games to play in the Spring. They did not have any for themselves. The next three games, win or lose, will have not much of a bearing on the Devils. Their lottery odds may marginally improve or get worse. It sure would be nice if they could win a couple of the next three games. Particularly the season ender at the Rock so the team can say they did not go winless at home in April. Still, there is no realistic possibility that the next three games will really change much. The 2021-22 Devils were a Bad Hockey Team that Lost A Lot of Games and for several reasons which have been Beaten Into the Ground on this site and other platforms where the People Who Matter – Devils fans – converse about the team.
With that stated, I got the other writers together together for the annual tradition of recognizing the standout players and moves from this past season. We have our major awards focusing on the players. They are similar to the major ones the NHL hands out each season. We have minor awards which does cover team decisions and include more opinions. We even have some offbeat superlatives that goes over what we noticed in the last 79 games of this 82-game season. I do intend on having a Month in Review for April as this season’s April was more than just a week and a half of games. This is still a way to look back at a season filled of some silver linings amid many dark clouds of losing.
Team MVP: Jesper Bratt
Jesper Bratt blew up in a massive way this season. Bratt went from a career high of 35 points to at least doubling it this season as he has 70 in 73 games. He won Devil of the Month multiple times. Bratt has been an absolute force in 5-on-5 with 20 goals, 47 points, 161 shots, an on-ice CF% of 54.05%, a SCF% of 55.98%, an xGF% of 57.68%, and an actual GF% of 53.85%. In fact, his xGF% was so high, only 32 players (min. 400 minutes) in the entire NHL had a higher rate per Natural Stat Trick – and they include some of the best skaters in the world. Whenever Bratt was on the ice, the Devils were simply a better team. Whether he was with Dawson Mercer, Jack Hughes, Yegor Sharangovich, or Nico Hischier among other Devils. If the Devils needed to improve a line, help someone out, or get something going on offense, then #63 was often the choice to get involved. Regardless of how disappointing and dismal this season went, Jesper Bratt was clearly someone that can be generally relied on to make something happen. Bratt was the Devils’ best player and provided the most value throughout the season. Bratt is the MVP of the Devils for this 2021-22 season. Now go get paid, young man!
Voting Commentary: This was a near unanimous decision at 8-2. One dissenter went with the captain Nico Hischier and another went with Jack Hughes. Both had very good seasons in their own right. But I do not think those two would complain about Bratt.
Best Goalie: Jonathan Bernier
Goaltending was the team’s biggest weakness of the season. It was their most glaring issue since December 2021. It was the one area that held the Devils back more than anything else. How could we name a best goaltender among the seven to go in between the pipes when all of them got lit up at one point or another? Not easily. But the votes broke in favor of Jonathan Bernier. Yes, he only appeared in 10 games. Yes, he was expected to be the backup or 1B to Mackenzie Blackwood. Yes, he was ruled out for the season months ago. Still, per Natural Stat Trick, Bernier is the only Devils goaltender to post a save percentage in all situations above 90% at 90.2%. Assuming Blackwood does not become a brick wall on Tuesday and Friday night, that may hold up to be true. Bernier is also the only Devils goaltender with a 5-on-5 save percentage above 92% at 92.2%. (Nico Daws was in second at 91% and no other Devil was above 90% in 5-on-5 situations, although Blackwood could crack that mark with two good games.) For his ten games, Bernier did his job quite well overall. Alas, he suffered a significant injury just as the Devils’ wheels started to fall off for the season.
Voting Commentary: This nearly had a somewhat controversial conclusion. Bernier won this with four votes out of ten. Three voters went with Nico Daws, so it was not as if Daws was shut out. More interestingly, three people wanted no one. One person wrote in “Bernier or none,” I chose Bernier for them because I wanted to give the award to someone as opposed to no one. That ended up being the deciding vote. I can sympathize with you if you rather us give this to nobody. But it is going to Bernier.
Best Defenseman: Jonas Siegenthaler
When Tom Fitzgerald acquired Siegenthaler in the 2021 season, it was done with the idea that the team found a talented player who just needed an opportunity. Siegenthaler took the opportunity with New Jersey this season and absolutely made it his own. He broke his hand earlier this month, ending his season with 70 games played. He still ended up leading the Devils blueline in ice time per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 hockey with 17:33. Clearly a sign he earned the coaches’ favor (whatever that is worth). When he was on the ice, the Devils were better off in the run of play. Per Natural Stat Trick, Siegenthaler’s on-ice of CF% of 51.51% was second only to Dougie by a bit; a blueline-leading SF% of 51.4% with a best-among-regulars SA/60 of 28.69; an xGF% of 52.74% that is best among the regular defenders; and fantastically low SCA/60 and HDCA/60 rates to go with high on-ice percentages in both categories. Siegenthaler was a very effective defenseman for a team that was aggressive to a fault in both ends. On the penalty kill, Siegenthaler shined as he played shorthanded with an average of over two minutes per game. He finished his season with better shorthanded rates for shot attempts (CA/60), shots (SA/60), expected goals against (xGA/60), scoring chances (SCA/60), and high danger chances (HDCA/60) than Ryan Graves and Damon Severson – the two defensemen who played more on the penalty kill than Siegenthaler. If you wanted the Devils to have a defensive defenseman, then you got a good one in Siegenthaler. He fits the current way the game is played and contributes well to the run of play without being a negative on the puck or on offense. The Devils’ defensive woes seem more systemic to me, but the solution to them should definitely involve Siegenthaler given how well he did on this team with this coaching staff and their systems.
Voting Commentary: Siegenthaler ran away with this with seven votes. Two went to Damon Severson, the perennial defender who does pretty well overall, has a good skillset, and botches enough things to make you not want to fully trust him as a top defenseman. Dougie Hamilton did get one. He was super before the broken jaw. I will state that.
Best Offensive Forward: Jack Hughes
I have called Jack Hughes, The Big Deal, since he was drafted. I knew the super-skilled offensive-machine from the stupendous 2019 USNTDP U-18 team was going to become a point-machine in the NHL. Flashes were shown in 2019-20. The 56-game 2021 campaign converted more non-believers. This season was a statement of what was to come. Even with just 49 games played, Hughes put up a staggering 26 goals and 56 points. That is a point-per-game average of 1.14. A rate so high that only a handful of Devils have ever maintained it for at least a half of season. (Hughes is sixth all time.) Even with Hughes being shutdown for the season and missing half of October and almost all of November, his 20 even strength goals is only bested by Bratt’s 22, Nico Hischier only recently surpassed Hughes in total points, and only Yegor Sharangovich has a shot of jumping past Hughes’ 165 shots on net – which is third only to Bratt and Hamilton. When Hughes was on the ice in 5-on-5 per Natural Stat Trick, the Devils had a goal scoring rate of 3.44 per 60 minutes and an expected goal scoring rate of 2.97 per 60 minutes – which are fantastic rates. Only Jesper Bratt can claim to be more offensive, but he had the fortune of playing a majority of this season. If Hughes had the same chance, then I do not think it is unfair to suggest Hughes would be the team’s first 80+ point scorer since Taylor Hall’s Hart-trophy winning 2017-18 season.
Voting Commentary: This was a close one. Hughes won the voting 6-4 over Bratt. Personally, I think the case is stronger for Bratt based on his on-ice rates and his 5-on-5 scoring. Still, I am not going to complain too much about a forward who put up a staggering 1.14 points per game.
Best Defensive Forward: Nico Hischier
Nico Hischier as the best defensive forward? For someone who is not on the top penalty killing unit? I say: Yes. Starting with the shorthanded play, Hischier did play quite a bit on it given his 1:42 per game average per Natural Stat Trick. While the shorthanded run of play was not as great as, say, Jimmy Vesey or Michael McLeod with Hischier, it does point to his abilities. They stood out much more in a more important situation: 5-on-5 hockey. For Hischier, his rates were among the lowest among forwards for CA/60 (54.97), SA/60 (29.14), and xGA/60 (2.35). Additionally, the Devils actually allowed goals at a rate of 2.6 – a mark only bested by Nathan Bastian among regulars. (And better than Pavel Zacha, who had similar on-ice rates against the Devils.) But unlike Bastian, the Devils were usually pushing the play forward more with Hischier given his CF%, SF%, and xGF% percentages all finished above 50%. Much better than Bastian, Vesey, and especially McLeod. Further, Hischier played 13:41 per game in 5-on-5 and often against good competition with varying linemates. He had to do a lot and Hischier did it quite well. Throw in his 59 points in 69 games and it is clear the captain gets it done in both ends.
Voting Commentary: Hischier earned the majority with seven votes. Two did select Bastian, who actually has some solid 5-on-5 rates for a fourth-line winger. One did pick McLeod, who was quite good on the penalty kill.
Best Rookie: Dawson Mercer
The Devils had ten skaters and two goalies listed as rookies per NHL.com this season. Most of them were a called up player with a few games with the team. The exception was Dawson Mercer. The young man impressed the Devils so much in preseason and training camp that he made the NHL team right away after his 2020-21 season in major junior hockey. Mercer has been an every-game player and given significant minutes on a nightly-basis. Believe it or not, he is actually second on the team in 5-on-5 ice time per game among Devils forwards after the Detroit game with 13:43. Sure, injuries and the end of a lost season helped, but Mercer has honestly worked his way up to where he is. He started the season as a center, he is now used more as a winger, and he has found ways to keep contributing. While most of his 5-on-5 on-ice rates are hovering around the breakeven mark, he is up there with Johnsson (32), Sharangovich (31), and Hughes (31 in 49 games) in 5-on-5 points with 31. In fact, Mercer’s point total of 41 puts him in the top ten among rookie scoring. While the league will be more impressed with Michael Bunting blasting the scoresheet in Toronto, Trevor Zegras in Anaheim (much to the ire of Jay Beagle), Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider being amazing for Detroit since game #1, and Matt Boldy with a bonkers 37 points in 39 games, there should be no shortage of praise for Mercer. He made the jump from the QMJHL to the NHL and established himself as a scoring forward. That is a big accomplishment! Especially for a team that could use more offensive skill beyond the big names of Hughes, Hischier, and Bratt. His future is bright in New Jersey and I look forward to what he does with the Devils.
Voting Commentary: This was unanimous. 10-0. It helped that no other rookie Devil played even half a season with the Devils.
The Sergei Brylin Award for Versatility: Nico Hischier
Nico Hischier has been asked to do a lot of things this season. Be a top center while Hughes was/is out? Yes. Be OK with playing less than Hughes in 5-on-5 when he was healthy? Yes. Be on a power play unit and do your best in spite of Mark Recchi’s terrible plans? Yes. Be on a penalty kill unit? Sure. Take more minutes on special teams based on availability? You bet. Take on tough competition as one of the team’s top players? Already used to it, so yes. All this while producing, making plays, and trying to keep games alive in all three zone. This award is meant for someone who can do it all and do it all well. Hischier fit that to a ‘T’ in 2021-22.
Voting Commentary: This one did get a majority of votes with seven. The dissenters included one picking Bratt (presumably for jumping from line to line while producing loads of points), one picking Damon Severson (presumably for taking the big minutes and power play unit #1 with Hamilton out), and one picking Mercer (presumably for playing both center and wing and moving up and down the lineup as well).
Best Comeback: Jesper Boqvist
This is a controversial one in that I had to make the decision given the tie in the voting. Both Jesper Boqvist and Hughes received three votes each. The remainder was split between two for Hischier, who did struggle to produce early on in the season; Andreas Johnsson, who was on fire in the first two months which is more fire than he had in all of the 2021 season; and Miles Wood, who impressively made a comeback to play at all. On the one hand, Hughes coming back from an injury where he lost a month and putting up monstrous numbers qualifies for this. With significant injuries, one has a worry about how that would impact the player long term. With Hughes putting up production at a rate among the best in franchise history, the worry was erased. However, I think the better case goes to Jesper Boqvist. No one seriously doubted whether Hughes was a NHL player or could be a contributor at this level. The doubt was real for Boqvist. Both in terms of production and on-ice rates in 5-on-5, Boqvist was a middling player at best for his 35 games in 2019-20 and 28 games in 2021. It seemed more likely that Boqvist would be a tweener – someone who could take charge in the AHL but not quite cut it in the NHL. Given that the Devils were (and are) a bad team, that did not bode well for the 23-year old forward. By the way, being 23, he is close to being what he is as a player; there is not much room for development. To that end, getting into 53 games (so far), putting up 9 goals and 20 points in 5-on-5 (10 goals and 22 points in total), and raising up his on-ice rates from the ~45% range to the ~48% all points to a player who has figured some things out. Boqvist has recognized to use his speed and trust his hands a bit more to attack. Boqvist has been able to handle a center role more than just on an as-needed basis. Boqvist still could stand to gain some strength, hone his off-puck positioning, and modify some his shooting mechanics – but these are more tweaks than wholesale changes. After two seasons of not showing a whole lot of growth or reason to play regularly in this league outside of a need for bodies, Boqvist has shown enough to prove he belongs in the NHL. I think that is the bigger comeback story than Hughes.
Voting Commentary: See above.
Best In-Season Move by the Devils: Claiming Nathan Bastian on Waivers
Tom Fitzgerald did not do a lot during the 2021-22 season to really improve the team. That said, claiming Nathan Bastian on waivers was a good move. The Devils lost Bastian to Seattle in the expansion draft. By claiming him at all on November 25, 2021, they essentially lost nothing but about two months of his services. Bastian has since been a mainstay on the fourth line as a right winger. He has been a netfront presence when the power play was hot in February – and only in February. Bastian’s on-ice rates in 5-on-5 were not too bad; even if he was below 50% in percentages, the against-rates were fairly low and he was far better than his Superbuddy, McLeod. In Bastian’s second full season with the Devils, he has 11 goals and 15 points – which is not too shabby for a fourth-liner. As well as career highs. Given that it cost the Devils nothing to add him, it was a smart move then and looks like one now.
Voting Commentary: This one was not unanimous. Six people voted for this. The remainder were interesting. Two chose the Jack Hughes contract extension, which does look pretty sweet now. One chose the decision to keep Mercer in the NHL. That may technically be an offseason move as it was before the start of the 2021-22 season, but I can see it. One voter went with the Jon Gillies trade in that it was just for future considerations. Sure, I guess.
Worst In-Season Move by the Devils: Trading Nathan Schnarr for Andrew Hammond
Tom Fitzgerald accomplished one thing at the 2021-22 NHL Trade Deadline on March 21, 2022. He traded Nathan Schnarr of Utica to the Montreal Canadiens organization for goaltender Andrew Hammond. I was not happy that this was the only move. I was not happy that Fitzgerald said he liked this team otherwise. I was curious about a statement about how he owed this team to make this move. Only after the deal was made did I learn that Andrew Hammond was injured. So he could not play right away. When he did, he was absolutely terrible. Hammond’s first game was in the infamous meltdown to Florida on April 2. Seven goals allowed and many in a Jon Gillies-fashion. Way to debut. He then gave up six to his former organization, Montreal, on April 7. He was actually OK in Colorado on April 14. He was excellent in Las Vegas on April 18. Then he filled his pants against Buffalo on April 21. Hammond certainly was not the problem in a sleepy 0-2 loss to Detroit yesterday. Still, this man is rocking an 87% save percentage in all situations in just six appearances – which could have been more if Fitzgerald traded for someone who wasn’t hurt. This was not good and not helped the team outside of one or two games. Which is still astonishing. At least trade for someone who could play right away. That is at least my beef; not so much the loss of Nate Schnarr – although Utica fans may disagree.
Voting Commentary: The Hammond deal took this award with five votes. The other half were split up. Two voted for trading future considerations for Jon Gillies. Gillies and his 88.3% save percentage clearly has rubbed some the wrong way. I do not blame them. Speaking of goaltenders, one voted for the decision to put Scott Wedgewood on waivers, one voted for the decision to have Mason Geertsen kept over Scott Wedgewood (which is basically the same thing), and one voted for how Mackenzie Blackwood’s injury was handled this season. All goalie-related choices. But the Hamburgler stole this one from the pack.
Best 2021 Offseason Move by the Devils: Signing Dougie Hamilton
I understand that the bloom has been off the rose for Dougie Hamilton in recent weeks. He returned from his broken jaw and has not been the dominant defender he was prior to his injury on January 2. That stated, he is up there with Siegenthaler in terms of good on-ice rates in 5-on-5. Hamilton has always been a big shooter and, thanks to Lindy Ruff’s greenlight for defensemen to attack, he remains the team’s leader with 190 along with Bratt. The production may not be gaudy but he is just a bit under averaging half of a point per game, which is quite good for a defender. If you are of the opinion the Devils are moving on from P.K. Subban and should/will move on from Damon Severson, than acquiring Hamilton becomes that much more crucial in retrospect. It is not like the Devils have called up anyone with a right-handed shot for the blueline in preparation of a future without either RHD. Hamilton remains a big-minute player for the team and he is being paid like one. Out of the signings made in the offseason, this one remains the best – as it should be.
Voting Commentary: This one won 8-2. The exceptions were one voter selecting the decision to draft Luke Hughes at fourth overall in 2021; and one voter selecting the decision to keep Mercer in New Jersey. With the latter, one can nitpick if that was an offseason move or not, but I get it. Still, Hamilton’s signing with the Devils was the one that won this one in a walk.
Worst 2021 Offseason Move by the Devils: Claiming Mason Geertsen Off of Waivers
When the Devils decided to claim Mason Geertsen off of waivers, it was seen as a move for the Devils to add a “tough guy.” Someone who can “throw down.” Someone who can provide the “threat of intimidation.” This was a throwback to Lou signing goons that fans like myself did not like because, by and large, these goons sucked at actually playing hockey. If you missed Andrew Peters, then you got an updated version of him in Mason Geertsen. Slow as molasses? Check. Goes for hits and often misses due to that lack of speed? Check. About as offensive-minded as Tim Sestito? Check with 0 goals, 0 points, and 10 shots on net in 24 games. A surprising number of games played despite his total lack of talent? Check. Picked on in the run of play so much that he cannot be trusted with more than minimal minutes? Check with a heinous 43.7% CF%, a heinous 43.8% xGF%, and 31.25 actual GF%. Failed to intimidate anyone? Check – just ask Pat Maroon. Bizarrely has vocal members of the People Who Matter stick up for him or the concept of him? Check. It has been a while since the Devils had such a useless player on the ice. No, he is not why the Devils are a 28th place him. But claiming him before the season was a bad idea that made little sense then and compounded by actually giving him 24 appearances.
Voting Commentary: Geertsen being claimed won this award with a plurality of four votes. There were a several options brought up. One voted for the decision to retain all the coaches from last season. One voted for the decision to draft Chase Stillman in the first round in 2021. Three people were colder than that. Two voted for the decision to sign Jonathan Bernier out of free agency, and one voted for Tomas Tatar being signed. It’s cold blooded in the AAtJ Award voting.
Best Surprise: Jonas Siegenthaler
The man who won Best Defenseman also won this prize. I think the People Who Matter were hopeful Siegenthaler could be a part of the blueline for this season. I do not think many expected him to play and contribute as much as he did on defense. I went over Siegenthaler’s season in summary earlier in this post. To reiterate, Siegenthaler is what a defensive-minded defenseman should be in today’s NHL. As such, this was a very pleasant surprise.
Voting Commentary: This one was another winner by a plurality. Four votes took it for the Swiss defender. Jesper Bratt and his monstrous season garnered three votes. Dawson Mercer making the NHL and having a good rookie season earned two votes. One chose Yegor Sharangovich on the basis of turning around what looked like a rough sophomore slump into a 20+ goal season.
Most Disappointing: Ty Smith
Ty Smith was the runner up to the Best Rookie award last year, which went to Sharangovich. Smith has fallen off hard since that rookie season. I cannot fully explain it. He is both slower in movement and, worse, slower in reacting on defense. When he makes a decision, he is sometimes guilty of hesitating or taking an extra second – which is enough to get beat on the situation. Smith has not provided the offense to make up for the defensive miscues similar to Severson. It is not like the coaching staff or the main defensive system changed from 2021, so I do not get what happened with Smith. Still, the 5-on-5 on-ice rates dropped from his rookie season. He only just passed his 2021 production (1 goal, 14 points; 5 goals and 15 points this season) but needed an extra 16 games to do so. Smith has been healthy scratched. Some have wanted him to go to Utica to figure it out. I think he needs a different voice to help him. The young defender is just 22. He can and should and better have an improved this season. How to do it, well, I wish I knew. That I am typing all of this out really speaks to how dismal Smith’s 2021-22 season has been.
Voting Commentary: Another winner by plurality with four votes. This may shock you but there is no shortage of disappointment on the 2021-22 Devils. Three voted for the goaltenders as a collective group. One voted for Janne Kuokkanen, who also declined big time after a promising 2021 season. One voted for Pavel Zacha, who continues to turn back and forth around corners and leave one wanting. One curiously voted for Dougie Hamilton – despite also voting for Hamilton being signed as the team’s best 2021 offseason move.
Best Utica Comet: Alexander Holtz
The Utica Comets have had a banner first season as the New Jersey Devils’ affiliate. One of the standout players among that group is 2020 first round pick Alexander Holtz. While Holtz did not do a ton in a short call up to New Jersey, he has been putting pucks away for the Comets. The AHL rookie is second in the league in goals with 26 and he is just behind Jakob Pelletier’s 27 with two games left to play. Holtz is a top-ten scorer among rookies in the AHL, which includes prospects on his level like Marco Rossi and Jack Quinn. Among the Comets themselves, Holtz has worked his way up to be among their leading scorers: Chase De Leo, Fabian Zetterlund, and A.J. Greer. He leads the team in goals and is behind the currently-called-up Zetterlund in shots with 167. Some of those 26 goals have been absolutely filthy. This is a guy with real skill on the puck and the seasoning he is getting now will absolutely help him in New Jersey in the near future. As it stands, he is a reason why Utica won the North Division this season and why they can contend for the Calder Cup this season.
Voting Commentary: Holtz won this one with six votes. Zetterlund, who was also among the scoring leaders in Utica all season long, did get three votes. His performances there led to his current call up, where he is showing he can be energetic and attack at the NHL level. One voted for Chase De Leo, the AHL veteran who is currently leading the team in points for the moment. Just two ahead of Holtz and Greer and one ahead of the now-unavailable Zetterlund. Should you want a more local perspective for this one, check out Steve Jones’ and Ben Birnell’s picks for the best Comets in this article at the Rome Sentinel. For this one and the next award, I give more weight to Brian’s vote as he covers these players regularly. This is to explain the next choice.
Best Prospect: Luke Hughes
Fans were ecstatic when Luke Hughes was selected at fourth overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. So was his brother, Jack Hughes. But despite the claims from a bitter ex-employee, Hughes was not selected by the marketing department or had a major character flaw. No, Luke followed in Quinn Hughes’ footsteps in going to Michigan and, there, Luke shined. As a freshman, Luke Hughes stunned the college hockey world and delighted the Devils and Wolverine fans with 17 goals and 39 points. I think many expected him to be good but that good? For perspective, Quinn has 10 goals total with the Wolverines in two years. Luke smashed that. Yes, Michigan was a powerhouse team with plenty of top NHL prospects on it. Luke was one of the reasons why they were a powerhouse. Why they went to the Frozen Four finals. Luke showed off his dangles, his puckhandling, his speed, his cuts, his shot, and his offensive sensibilities. Does he have more to work on? Sure. What prospect doesn’t? Will he? Yes, at the University of Michigan where he has the chance to lead the blueline all season now that Owen Power is with Buffalo. Luke Hughes more than justified his pick and the People Who Matter are salivating as to when he comes to Newark and show off what he can do at this level.
Voting Commentary: This one was not actually won by majority. It was 5-4 between Holtz and Hughes. However, Brian’s vote was for Hughes and as I weigh his vote more for this award, I am using that to justify this as the winner. Plus, Holtz did get the Utica Comet award so it works out that both get their shine. The one dissenter from this divide voted for Arseni Gritsyuk. A fine choice as broke out for Avangard Omsk with 16 goals and 28 points in 39 games as well as 6 goals and 10 points in 13 playoff games in the KHL. Hopefully the winger will be interested in signing with New Jersey after his KHL contract with Omsk ends after next season.
These are offbeat awards by the individual writers, identified by their initials. They’re not binding. They are for fun. It is how these award posts are closed out. Initials indicate who came up with what.
The “I’ve Seen Enough” Award (JM): Pavel Zacha. Predictably, Zacha turned back into a pumpkin who doesn’t provide anything defensively and doesn’t score nearly enough to make up for it. I’ve seen enough of Pavel Zacha in almost 400 career games to tell me he’s not a guy the Devils are ever going to win with.
The Hüsker Dü Prize (JF): Frederik Gauthier. Jimmy Vesey was not the only veteran in camp on a PTO for the Devils to earn a contract. Gauthier played in eight games, showed that his limited skillset and lack of speed was not going to help much, and the Devils demoted him to Utica. He apparently has been a good fit there. But you likely forgot he even played in eight games for New Jersey at the beginning of the season until you read this.
Ken Daneyko Award for Most PIMs (AP): P.K. Subban. 80 PIMs with enough calls to edge Mason Geertsen’s 77 PIMs. Way to go!
Worst Week in Devils history (for This Season) (SS): March 31st to April 7th. Yes, I know that is eight days. Still. They started things off with an 8-1 loss to Boston; then blew a 6-2 lead at home against the Panthers; lost to the Islanders the next day and lost Jack Hughes for the rest of the season in that game; continued the losing streak against the Rangers; and then capped things off with a 7-4 loss to one of the few teams actually worse than them in the standings, Montreal.
Worst Visiting Fans (MC): Rangers on April 5. Duh.
Most Likely Owner of a T-Shirt of Arnold Schwarzenegger Saying “Come With Me if You Want to LIFT” (JF): Fabian Zetterlund, the Swole Swede of the Devils organization.
Best Goal of the Season (CF): Nico Hischier’s Game Winning Goal on April 10 at Dallas. (Note: I broke this goal down in great detail in this post. -JF)
The “It’s Not Me, It’s You” Award (JM): Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton’s first year as a Devils was somewhere between average and a disappointment, as he hasn’t scored nearly at the same rate post-injury as he did earlier in the year. Yet, I’m going to mostly give Hamilton a pass. He hasn’t looked great defensively, but I think he’s more a victim of poor structure, poor coaching and poor goaltending than someone we should be concerned about 1 year into a 7 year deal.
Shootout Cheers and Jeers (JF): Cheers to Jesper Bratt for going 4-for-8 on shootouts to lead the team in this area barring any future shootouts this season. Cheers also to Tomas Tatar (2-for-5) and Dougie Hamilton (2-for-4) for helping. Jeers to Bernier and Blackwood in shootouts, who have each put up sub 66.7% save percentages in their two shootouts this season. The shootout was not a major issue for the Devils this season if you could believe it.
Best Funny Faces on Camera (MC): Jesper Bratt.
The Nikita Gusev-Ozzie Smith Springfield Mystery Spot Award, for the player who’s production fell into a black hole, never to be seen or heard from again (JM): Janne Kuokkanen. Kuokkanen looked like a potential future piece riding shotgun with Jack Hughes and Yegor Sharangovich for stretches of the 2020-21 season, but was injured this year, all over the lineup, in and out of the lineup, and looked like an afterthought.
The “It’s a Metaphor” Plaque (JF): The 2021-22 New Jersey Devils third jersey. From how it was “designed” to what it is, it is a great representation for how this season went for the Devils organization.
The “Thanks for Nothing, Jon Gillies” Award (JM): Jon Gillies. The Devils literally gave up nothing and still lost the trade
I’ll Take That (AP): Jimmy Vesey. Vesey had 53 takeaways in 66 games played. However, if you want a per game pace, Jack Hughes had 49 in 49 games played. But that is a strong contribution from Vesey as a bottom-six guy.
The Off-Ice Person Over Like “The Bluechipper” Rocky Maivia (JF): Joe Tolentino. You know him as the public address (PA) announcer at the Rock for this season. He is also the one person more people complain about the Rock than anything else. Food? Security? Prices? Nope. The new PA Announcer has been a flop to the ears of many of the People Who Matter.
The “This Guy Played WAY Too Much on a Team Going Nowhere” Award (JM): Jimmy Vesey, who did not do anything in 66 games that AJ Greer or Fabian Zetterlund could not have done.
Physicality Award (AP): Nathan Bastian. Nate had 188 hits. However, if you want someone who had all of their hits for NJ, that award would go to McLeod with 136 hits. No other Devil (as of this writing) is over 100.
The Leah Hextall Memorial Award for Respecting One’s Identity (JF): This is somehow a tie between Thomas Novak and Tomas Tatar. Surely, the wise play by play commentator for one of the biggest sports networks in the world would not mix up these two very different individuals.
Worst Goon Since Andrew Peters (MC): Mason Geertsen.
Biggest Waste of a Roster Spot for 2021-22 (CF): Mason Geertsen.
The “I Don’t Blame You, I Blame the Person who hired you” Award (JM): Mason Geertsen, who somehow made his way into 24 NHL games despite not being very good. I blame Lindy Ruff and Tom Fitzgerald for putting him on the roster for the entire season, not the player for not being good.
The ‘Keep Chopping Wood’ Ribbon for Baffling Coaching Decisions (JF): Lindy Ruff and the whole coaching staff can share this one. One of the smartest things the Devils did in this season was recognize that their passive diamond formation on the penalty kill was bad and changed it back to a more successful wedge-plus-one formation by the end of October. Good on them to recognize something was clearly not working and changing it. This award is for seeing all of the nonsense on the power play, the high-risk-not-much-reward aggressive approaches on offense in 5-on-5, and the overloading/flooding strong side approach to defense and changing none of it despite it not working on the ice against all kinds of opponents.
Most Incompetent Member of the Devils Coaching Staff (SS): Tie between Dave Rogalski and Mark Recchi.
Worst Coach of 2021-22 (CF): Mark Recchi.
The ‘Wait, What?’ Certificate for Most Surprising Results (JF): Would you believe me if I told you that the Devils went 2-0-0 against the St. Louis Blues this season? And that they were the only team the Devils went undefeated against this season? It is true. Devils won 7-4 in St. Louis on February 10, 2022 and won 3-2 in overtime on March 6, 2022.
Dikembe Mutombo Award (AP): Ryan Graves. 130 shots blocked. Next best is Siegenthaler at 106.
Most Likely to Have Placed a Curse on the Franchise so No Goalie is Ever Healthy or Effective for this Franchise Ever Again (SS): Martin Brodeur
The “Sickos” Award (JM): Me and everybody else who watched every second of every game of this awful team this season.
The Best Readers (JF): You. The collective ‘you’ remain as the People Who Matter. At least here you do.
Thanks to Jared, Alex, Nate, Stephen, Matthew, Dan, Chris, and Gerard for their contributions to this season’s award voting. I thank all of the writers for contributing to this site throughout this disappointing-at-best season. The next few weeks will be more of a post-mortem about the season that just happened and what may or should happen next. I will have more details about the next set of events to pay attention to after Friday. Plus, there will be an April Month in Review on Monday. Before you know it, we will transition to the previewing prospects in the 2022 Draft class and free agency. As ever, hockey never stops at All About the Jersey.
Once again, thanks to you for reading this site throughout the 2021-22 season and I hope you continue to visit All About the Jersey in months to come. Please have your say about this year’s awards in the comments, whether you agree or disagree with them. Thank you for reading.