I’m not sure if fans of the New Jersey Devils will be happy or appalled by this comparison, but the 2023 Devils are the 2022 New York Rangers.
A lot of the talk in the Eastern Conference this year and in recent years revolves around the aging, experienced teams trying to hold on for one more run. The secondary story, which is more intriguing, involves the young teams taking steps toward contention.
What’s made the latter extra exciting is the fact that these young teams are arriving on the playoff scene earlier than anticipated. In 2022, the Rangers surprised people with an impressive regular season and then won their way to the Eastern Conference Final.
Now, New Jersey is not only in a playoff position, but they are contending for the Metropolitan Division crown, and they approached the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline like true contenders.
The Devils of 2023 are the Rangers of 2022.
Add in the obvious win that is acquiring forward Timo Meier from the San Jose Sharks, and you’ve got a Devils team that went from non-contender to potential Metro favorite.
So, like the Rangers last year, the Devils have suddenly appeared on everyone’s radar and cannot be ignored. What also makes these two teams similar is the fact that they’re playing with no pressure.
While the likes of the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes expect to win a championship this spring, the Devils are playing with house money. They’re not supposed to be here and this good yet, so they can play freely while rivals are gripping their sticks a little too tightly.
Sure, they’ve adopted the mindset that winning is realistic this season, but it won’t be a wasted year if they don’t hoist the Stanley Cup.
Like last year’s Rangers, the Devils are here, whether the NHL world is ready for them or not. They’ll leave their mark on the 2023 postseason, but this team is built to last, and the journey is only just beginning.