Ryan Graves has a really unique perspective on what's being built as a team in New Jersey.
When he joined the New Jersey Devils, he had a pretty good idea what hockey life might be like when he was traded from the Colorado Avalanche to the New Jersey Devils.
"It didn't come as a huge surprise," Graves said, having made the realization that he would likely be left unprotected in the Seattle Expansion Draft. Instead of potentially leaving him to Seattle for no compensation, the Avalanche traded Graves to the Devils, a team and an area that Graves knew little about and no familiar new teammates.
But what wasn't unfamiliar was the situation the franchise was in and building towards.
"We're a young team that's trying to find how to be consistent in this league and to find ways to win every night," Graves shared on the Speak of the Devils Podcast. "It's just kind of finding your way and guys are finding their own ways, as well as just as they are as players and what their role is going to be and things like that."
Graves could have easily been talking about the Colorado Avalanche of five years ago, in the same way he was analyzing the situation he stepped into in New Jersey.
"I think if you compare this roster for me, that's kind of where the (Avalanche) were even four years ago. Where you seem I think they finished almost last, what, five years ago. And then the year after that they snuck into playoffs as they had that tiebreaker game with St. Louis. So that's kind of where we're at right now."
The learning to win phase, the on-the-up phase, and watching young talent grow is a group Graves is part of once again, and he has the perspective of being a part of both to know the potential and opportunity in front of this Devils team.
"You can make comparisons, you see, I think Nico (Hischier) a lot of comparisons to like a (Gabriel) Landeskog. And then Jack (Hughes) can kind of be your star, what (Nathan) MacKinnon is for them," Graves said with the utmost sincerity.
Knowing that it's not just about two stars of the calibers of Hischier/Hughes, Landeskog/MacKinnon, just as Graves watched the Avalanche improve, himself included, away from the typical big names, he sees that too right here in New Jersey.
"You can see comparisons of where teams are and how they're growing," he shared. "And that's obviously, it's one that I was there to experience. I kind of see how that comparison is, but I think if the fans want to look for something, you can see how the rosters growing.
"Jack's already better this year than he was last year, and guys like (Jesper) Bratt, who's better this year than he was last year, and I think (Andreas Johnsson) is playing better than he was last year. Then guys like (Dawson) Mercer comes in, it's his first year, you don't really know what to expect but he's obviously had a really good start and showing that he could be an effective player and a game changer in this league."
Perspective is a true and valued commodity because it affords a player and a team an ability to see themselves through the good and rough times with an even-keel demeanor. The most recent six-game slide is a perfect example of staying the course and using that perspective to benefit the long-term success.
Off that six-game skid, the team now has a three-game win streak, going for four on Tuesday against Boston.
"You see what it's like right now, guys are just kind of getting better. That's kind of how it works when you're younger, you just keep getting better every year. And obviously, we're going to add pieces as well. You're not going to have the same roster year after year and you just keep adding and getting better, then your core gets better. And before you know it, you have a dominant team."
He's seen it and says it with such conviction because he's lived through it before with the Avalanche and seen it work.
And now he's ready to play a part of it one more time.
"We're not out of it by any means. So, I still believe we could be that team that sneaks in the last couple spots and then gets a little bit of experience and tries to make some noise and playoffs."