Stan Fischler is a hockey historian, journalist, and has a giant stack of books he's written under his byline or ghosted higher than many writers of his time. He knows a ton about hockey and so when he has an opinion on a player who is as important of a piece to the Devils future as Jack Hughes is, you listen.
Fischler thinks year three is when high-end players should seriously be judged on their performance. To prove his point, Fischler invoked the name of the late, great Jean Béliveau.
"Expectations come with all the publicity," Fischler said of the 2019 first-overall pick, Jack Hughes.
"This is his second year. He needs a third year. I'll tell you a bit of history that people don't realize. You've heard of Jean Béliveau, arguably the greatest center of all-time.
"Jean was playing in the Quebec Senior League. He did not come up to the Canadiens when they wanted him because he had such a great deal with the Quebec Aces that he stayed with them for two years. He was making big bucks there. And he was the biggest hero in Quebec City. So, he finally agrees to come to the Canadiens. Béliveau was a flop! He was a flop in his first year and in his second year."
In his first full season with Montreal, Béliveau had 13 goals. He made progress his second with 37, which is nothing to really laugh at, but scored 47 in his third. The difference from year one to three?
"Toe Blake said to him, 'you know what your problem is? You're a cushion! And people are pushing you around. You've got to start getting tough."
In his third year, Béliveau jumped from 58 penalty minutes in his second season to a whopping 143 in his third as he took the criticism to heart.
"This guy had two years in the top minor league, two with the Canadiens and he still wasn't used to it. He needed a little more time."
Hughes is just 19 years-old, and has made big strides his sophomore season. He's second on the club in scoring and drives play in a lot more spots than he did last year. He's also in the team's leadership core.
"He needs more patience and he'll be fine."
Fischler joined our Speak of the Devils Podcast presented by RWJBarnabas Health and we discussed many topics, from the aforementioned Hughes to Fischler's start as a journalist, to his late-wife Shirley who was a pioneer for women journalists, to his thoughts on the most influential women in hockey history and much more.
As for his thoughts on this Devils team?
"They're a team in transition," he said. For more of his thoughts you'll just have to listen.