It looks like the 2018 - 2019 National Hockey League regular season will kick off with a bit of a disappointment for fans of the New Jersey Devils.
Although there has been rampant speculation for weeks now regarding the status of Devils' star goaltender Corey Schneider and more specifically regarding his availability for the start of the regular season, today's news will still come as a significant let down for Devils organization. Speaking with the media on Sunday Devils head coach John Hynes officially announced to reporters that Schneider would in fact not be prepared to go for the start of the regular season.
This marks the first time that the Devils have officially acknowledged that Schneider has fallen behind schedule in his recovery from offseason hip surgery, although as I mentioned already there has been plenty of speculation regarding his status up until this point. I suspect that this means veteran backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid will get the net to start the regular season and that will also likely bump up veteran goaltender Eddie Lack into the backup position. It will be interesting to see how much leeway Kinkaid get's in goal after an ugly postseason collapse during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, although Lack himself has not fared much better between the pipes as of late.
Schneider continues to recover from offseason hip surgery that was designed to permanently fix a nagging hip injury that has reportedly plagued him for a considerable length of time now. Schneider's performance dipped considerably over the past two seasons and, although it's impossible to tell exactly how much of that can be attributed to the hip injury, there's no question that his hip injury did play some factor in that decline. That being said though after losing the starting job to Kinkaid and receiving some temporary treatment Schneider bounced back in a major way during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs recording a .950 save percentage and 1.78 goals against average over 4 playoff appearances for the Devils.
Unfortunately his stalwart performance was not enough to get the Devils back into the series after a number of blunders from Kinkaid, but it was enough to give the organization some signs of hope regarding Schneider's status as their starter moving forward. It also helped make the surgery a no brainer for both sides, although the short term risk are now evident the long term gain of having a healthy Cory Schneider back in net could drastically outweigh that risk.
Schneider himself seems to realize this and although he is taking the patient approach at this time you can tell by his choice of words that he has his eyes set on reclaiming the Devils' net for foreseeable future.
"You have to practice and practice hard for a lengthy period of time before you're ready for a game," Schneider said as per NHL.com. "The goal (of the surgery) was not only for this season, but I want to be healthy and effective for many more years, so it's not just a short-sighted thing I had done to get back for this season. I want to make sure that throughout my duration in [New] Jersey that I can get back to being as effective as possible. We're keeping the long-term goals in mind here as well, so nobody is trying to rush or hurry things up."
Schendier was expected to be healthy by now and no doubt his absence for the start of the season is a let down, but the long term gains may yet still prove to be worthwhile.