“Remember the feeling right now and work toward turning that ship around again.”

Those were some of the parting words that captain Nico Hischier left the locker room with heading into the off-season. It's what he hopes fuels his team through the summer and into next season as they turn the page on a season that left them on the outside looking in. 

The past two days have been a bit of a whirlwind, hearing from each player, general manager Tom Fitzgerald and interim head coach Travis Green. There's a lot to go through and in this week's 10 Takeaways, the final of the 2023-24 Devils season, as we try to unpack the last two days. 


It was a very, very long day on Wednesday as players came and went, packing up their gear for the summer, and getting ready to head to their respective off-season homes. And with that comes player exit meeting, where coaches and GM sit down with each individual player to outline expectations, gather thoughts and review, among other things. 

While each discussion remains private between GM/Coach and player, there was an overarching theme to some of the discussions that happened behind closed doors. At Tom Fitzgerald's end-of-season press conference, I asked him what some of those themes were and how he approached them with his team: 

"It's nice to hear some thoughts, Im very curious on where their mindset was this year, where it’s at now and where it needs to go. I asked a lot of questions, different questions for different people (…) but really, I just wanted to see truly and sincerely how dissapointing this season is for everybody in this organization, starting with me. We don’t want this to happen again. With tha tbeing said, there’s a lot of things that have to happen. We do have a lot of talent on this team, an extraordinary amount of talent. We are a fast team when we think and play quick, but the maturity of this team has to continue to grow and that’s everyone. It’s challenging themselves, it’s taking the next step in leadership, I’m not just talking about the guys who wear letters, but there’s another level that we have to get to and I’m not just talking about on-ice. I’m talking about off-ice, leading the way off the ice. Doing things in the weight room is as important as things you do on the ice, whether it’s D drills, faceoffs, wall play for wingers, it’s all encompasing and we’ve got to get there. We’ve got to value those things to make the next step.”


We heard from Dougie Hamilton for the first time in months on break-up day. It was good to see him in good health, although disappointed that the runway ran out to be able to join his teammates on the ice. Hamilton has been skating for the last little while and had hoped to rejoin the team if the playoffs were still on the horizon. The good news is that Dougie was that close to returning, which means less a summer of continuing to rehab and more a regular summer of getting ready for next season.

Hamilton was limited to just 20 games this year, an eye-opening experience.

“I think very tough, physically, mentally, everything,” Hamilton said of his recovery process. “It’s hard not being out there with the guys, win and lose, and going through it with them. Definitely makes you realize you can’t take things for granted and makes you appreciate stuff, learn from it, and have more of a realization and appreciation of everything that we have. For me, just now trying to get healthy and be the best player I can be come September.”



One of the main themes coming out of the Devils locker room on the final day of the season was from the veteran voices in the room. Both Ondrej Palat and Erik Haula expressed different areas where they hope to see things change heading into the 2024-25 NHL season.

“Accountability and structure is a big thing for our group, on and off the ice,” Haula said, “Especially when you have young players and a team that’s not accustomed to, it’s not like we just won here years upon years lately. I think those are two big areas and I’m sure they will be addressed.”

Interim head coach Travis Green, who will be considered for the full-time job, amongst other candidates, expressed his belief in accountability.

“You don’t want excuses; I think the worst thing is for the coach to expect something out of a player but he doesn’t understand what is expected out of him. And there’s different levels of accountability. There’s accountability by talking and teaching. Maybe a player isn’t old enough to really understand certain things. At the end of the day, how you keep players accountable changes, there’s ice time, you diminish ice-time, you sit out games, or you whisper into their ear and talk about certain scenarios, it’s not always tough love either. And I think the best coaches have a feel for what players need and the coaches bend to the players to make sure you get the best out of the players, that you don’t always have players bending to the coach. I think there’s give and take in both those areas. But the players having a strong understanding of what’s expected is vital to having accountability and that dialogue, that communication is one of the ways of players knowing what’s expected of them. There’s video, there’s numerous ways you show players how to play the game, and I’m a big believer in that, or else it’s hard to have accountability.”


Ondrej Palat was brought into the club two years ago in part because of the experience he had with Tampa and his every-shift commitment to the defensive part of the game. He has been a big-game player in his career, particularly in the playoffs, but his experience is vital. He has, with his two Cups, been through it all.

His message on break-up day was clear. He’s been through a huge disappointment when Tampa won the President’s Trophy only to be swept in the first round by Columbus. He gets it.

“Sometimes you need to lose to learn and be better," he said, "That’s exactly what we did in Tampa, we had a terrible playoffs, we got swept, we looked ourselves in the mirror and made some changes. Coaches made some changes in the structure, and we took the defensive part of the game as No. 1 that’s going to help us to succeed in this league. That’s what happened the next couple of years.”

What Palat didn’t mention was “the next couple of years” was hoisting the Stanley Cup twice. Commit to the defensive side of the game, and that doesn’t mean sacrificing the offensive talent but commit to that 200-foot game, and the sky can be the limit.

When presented with Palat’s comments, here’s what Tom Fitzgerald had to say:

“For sure, that’s growth. When things, I don’t want to say were easy for them, because they won X amount of games, it wasn’t their goal. Their goal was to win the Stanley Cup, they fell short, I can’t speak to what happened there other than I’m sure they were pissed off, angry, upset but also understanding that it wasn’t good enough for however they were doing things. Pushing individually and pushing one another every single day to be the best player you can be, I’m looking for guys who want to drag people into the fight on the ice and I’m looking for guys who want to drag people into the weight room, because that’s important. That’s what I’m looking for.”


When we talk about accountability, that has to start from the top and Fitzgerald knows it. And while he’s asking his players to self-evaluate, to look in the mirror, he knows that he has to do the same of himself. When asked about what type of changes he feels he needs to make of himself, Fitzgerald is tightening things up.

“To be honest,” he said, “I have probably let my guard down on a lot of areas that may not matter upfront, but the looser you get… it may just be the dress code with people. You loosen it up a little bit, you know the old saying, you give an inch, they take a yard, you give a yard… be a little tighter. The potential of just keeping people accountable that way for me, I can do a way better job in that. I think that will help create an everyday professional player and an everyday professional Hockey Ops department that understands that when you loosen some things, people take advantage of it, versus being the nice guy, things are going to change that way.”


I know fans have been excited about the prospect of Seamus Casey joining the Devils organization after his couple of years at Michigan. Well, while nothing is set in stone, Tom Fitzgerald did reveal if he “was a betting man, I would say he’s probably leaning towards turning pro.”

We shall see...



The coaching search will be a priority for Fitzgerald as he enters his summer schedule and the Devils general manager revealed he would like to have his head coach in place before the upcoming NHL Draft, which begins on June 28.

“That gives me flexibility with the available candidates, including Travis," Fitzgerald said, "You don’t know what could shake out after the first round either, I want to take my time with this. But I have specific areas that I want to check boxes.”

Fitzgerald went on to briefly outline what some of those boxes are:

  • They have to be an excellent communicator, with both negative and positive feedback, but constant feedback. “The players crave it, they want it.”
  • Communication upwards with management, being able to communicate with our managing partners, and feel comfortable in that situation.
  • Someone who is collaborative with all areas of the organization. “I’m not a dictator, I am very collaborative with information and use all that information to try to make the best decisions I possibly can.”
  • Someone who is using all the information at their fingertips. Fitzgerald pointed specifically to sports science and figuring out what type of practices the group needs, using the technology at their fingertips. “When we can push and when we have to pull back.”
  • A coach who is going to keep every player, not just a handful of guys accountable. If you don’t have accountability you really don’t have the building blocks to a championship team you want to get to. With that being said, we need players who understand accountability and want to be held accountable.


When it comes to the draft the Devils will be picking somewhere in the Top 10. And while that certainly wasn't the original plan at the beginning of the season, that is ultimately where the cards landed. A Top 10 pick can also be a huge bargaining chip as well, as Fitzgerald continues to build around his core. 

So what can we expect on the draft floor? Fitzgerald is not opposed to putting it out there as a carrot. 

"I'm not looking to give it away but I'm also willing to use it if it helps this team take the next level with a strong player who can really fill a need of where we want to go," he said, "If that doesn't happen, then you're banking you know a future NHL player that you feel that can make an impact in your lineup."


I know first-hand what it’s like to move from somewhere else to New Jersey and get a feel for what this state and area has to offer. I really didn’t know much about it when I moved here in 2017 from Canada to take this job with the Devils. But very, very quickly this became home and I was immersed in all that the area has to offer. It really is a great place to live. And that has been very much a part of Fitzgerald's job as anything, making sure that the rest of the league understands what it truly means to live in the area and be a part of the organization.

And that's not always easy and there can be reluctance, as we saw earlier this year with Jake Allen, but that is part of the job, and Fitzgerald has been doing an excellent job at it and has members of his team to show for it.

“Jake Allen had some hesitation in coming to New Jersey," Fitzgerald said, "and I think part of my responsibility as I became the manager of this team is to shift the mindset of, this is a really good place to play, and we’ll show you. You have to come, and experience it to understand it. And now that we’ve attracted the Dougie Hamiltons, the Palats, and held on to Timo Meier, a guy like Jake Allen sees this place differently and is extremely excited about moving his family here and understanding where we are as a group and he’s super excited. I think my group, internally, has helped create New Jersey as a destination and our players are obviously a big help there.”

Tomas Nosek, an unrestricted free agent, also mentioned how great New Jersey is when it comes to team facilities and the practice and game rink all being in one place.

“I like the setup here," Nosek said, "I’ve never had the practice rink and game rink at the one place, which is awesome. When you get older, you appreciate it more and more, you don’t have to travel around, it was great. The organization was good. Perfect.”

There is certainly something to be said for knowing you're going to the same place every day. Plus what a bonus for the equipment staff not to have to lug gear back and forth between two facilities.


As I do every year, I want to take this final takeaway of the season, No. 10, to thank everyone for reading this article every week. I have so much fun putting them together, especially when we have funny interactions between the players and bringing you closer to your favorite team. It's one of my favorite things I get to do all year round and without everyones support it wouldn't be the same. 

So thank you all for reading each and every week! And thank you all for the support all season long! I truly appreciate it from the bottom of my heart! 

I hope everyone has a great summer and that we all reconvene here next year for so much more!