Do you believe in ... never mind

Things haven't gone as planned for the New Jersey Devils this season. John O'Boyle/US Presswire

It's been a bad season for the New Jersey Devils. Now how's that for an understatement?

Think about this: Even with a perfect 33-0-0 record for the remainder of the season, the NHL's current last-place team (16-30-3, 35 points, .357 points percentage) would still fall two points short of last season's 103 points. That is what you would call digging a hole.

More to the point, New Jersey would have to play absolutely dominating .803 hockey over its remaining 33 games (25-5-3, or an equivalent record) merely to reach 88 points, the lowest point total of any playoff qualifier in the post-lockout NHL (last season's Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers). Only one team has matched such a commanding stretch this season -- and only exactly so -- and that was the scorching-hot Vancouver Canucks of Oct. 22 through Jan. 7. Not even the Pittsburgh Penguins, with their 13-game winning streak chronicled in HBO's "24/7," can compare. Their best 33-game stretch was 23-7-3 (.742). And even if the Devils do get to 88 points, they still have only about a 20 percent chance of advancing to the postseason because everything else has to break right.

So there's no need for beating around the bush: The Devils' 2010-11 season is effectively over.

Where did it all go wrong? Where can it get better in 2011-12? Well, lots of places: