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Are the Devils legit Stanley Cup contenders?

We break down New Jersey’s hot start and whether or not they should be high up on the Stanley Cup odds board on DraftKings Sportsbook.

Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils celebrates his goal with the bench in the second period of the game against the Washington Capitals on November 26, 2022 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Photo by Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils face their rival across the Hudson River on Monday night when they travel to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Rangers. The Devils are one of the most polarizing stories in hockey this season. New Jersey sits atop the Metropolitan Division at 18-4-0 with 36 points through the first quarter of the 2022-23 season. That’s tied with the Boston Bruins for most points in the NHL. As a result, the Devils’ odds to win the Stanley Cup have skyrocketed. Here we’re going to break down their run and whether or not the Devils are legit Cup contenders.

Stanley Cup odds 2022: New Jersey Devils

As you can see, the Devils are up to +1100 to win the Cup on DraftKings Sportsbook. New Jersey entered the 2022-23 season +5500 to win it all. That is a massive jump and one that can only be described as incendiary. So are the Devils legit? Yes. Why yes they are. Are they Cup contenders? We’ll get into that a bit.

This isn’t because I’m from New Jersey and have been a Devils fan most of my life. I’ve watched some pretty bad teams in the past decade. This team is not bad. The Devils almost set a franchise record win streak but fell short, the streak stalling at 13 games (because I was in the building). Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier are becoming a dynamic 1-2 punch down the middle. Hughes could get into the Hart convo while Hischier could end up being a Selke Trophy finalist this season.

Goaltender had plagued the team in year’s past. The addition of Vitek Vanecek has been a coup. He almost stood on his head on Saturday in a 5-1 win over his former team, the Washington Capitals, making 37 saves. The defense is deep and Dougie Hamilton is playing like a top defenseman after dealing with injuries last season. Jonas Siegenthaler has turned into a top-pairing guy. The trade for D John Marino may end up winning GM Tom Fitzgerald Executive of the Year.

What really sticks out is the Devils relentless style of play. They are second in the NHL in shots per game at 36.4 and are first in fewest shots allowed per game at 25.8. That number has more to do with the Devils spending most of their time in the offensive zone. This has boosted the offense and goaltending. Really, it’s had the biggest impact on goaltending. New Jersey was among the worst at the position last season. Not only are the Devils getting average goaltending, but above average in certain games. That goal prevention coupled with the relentless effort from all four lines has led to the big turnaround in only a season.

So can the Devils win the Cup? Sure. Every team can win the Cup so long as they qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Back in 2012, the Devils made the Cup as a 6-seed and faced the 8-seeded Los Angeles Kings. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are unpredictable and teams can get hot/cold. As of now, the Devils are Cup contenders and should get into the postseason barring a historic collapse.

Once the Devils are in the playoffs, that’s where things get a bit iffy. You’ve got a lot of young players with little playoff experience, which is important in hockey. The goaltending, same deal, little playoff experience. So you’re going into the postseason with a lot of unknowns. It’s one thing to beat up on teams in the regular season. It’s another to translate it to the playoffs right away.

If we look at some past teams who emerged and became Cup contenders, the Chicago Blackhawks in the mid-to-late 2000s stick out. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith formed that core. Their first season together was 2007-08. It took a few seasons for that team to start going deep into the postseason, though not that long after success came around.

Teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kings, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche, many of the more recent champions, took a bit to get there. The Lightning spent almost a decade losing in the playoffs before breaking through for two straight Cups before this past season. Nathan MacKinnon and the Avs spent eight seasons of losing before winning the Cup last season. It takes time and development, chemistry and experience to build a championship team.

For that, I wouldn’t be going to the window or my phone or betting website to throw a ton of money on the Devils just yet. New Jersey has a very, very good young core who are figuring it out and playing well. The Devils will almost certainly be around come April/May. Can they make a run at it? Of course. But it feels naive to expect this Devils team to put it altogether right away without adversity. Especially when it means going through some of those teams mentioned (Bruins, Lightning, Penguins) in order to get there.