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New Jersey Devils
Title track: T23
Fan relations: 45
Stadium experience: 50
Bang for the buck: 54
Change from last year: +23
The Devils are back on track after a rough 2015 that saw them fall 27 standings spots from two years ago. New Jersey's current status remains lower than it was in 2013 and '14, and a far cry from the elite company they kept following a Stanley Cup finals appearance in 2012, when they ranked 13th overall. Still, there's no question that things are looking up in Newark.
Let's start off of the ice. Under the leadership of first-year GM Ray Shero -- who replaced club icon Lou Lamoriello, now in the same capacity in Toronto, in 2015 -- the Devils made huge strides in terms of mending fences with their fans, who had been stung by the defections of Lamoriello and stars like Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise in recent years. It worked. Fan relations soared 28 spots over 2014-15, and seeing a game at Prudential Center (aka The Rock) became more enjoyable, with stadium experience jumping 25 places. On the rink, the team missed the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year. But the summer arrival of powerful left winger Taylor Hall, acquired from Edmonton in exchange for blueliner Adam Larrson, has the die-hards optimistic that that streak will soon end.
They're not the Rangers, but it's still relatively expensive to be a Devils fan, with affordability ranking in the bottom half of our standings. And New Jersey's benefactors, David Blitzer and Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris, get low marks three years after purchasing the financially troubled club from Jeff Vanderbeek, with ownership also coming in at a dismal No. 63 (along with affordability, the Devils' worst rating). The struggles at the gate continue, too, with the Devils finishing in the bottom third of the league in attendance for the 13th season in a row.
Hall, still just 24, has the potential to be a franchise player. Jersey-bred right winger Kyle Palmieri is coming off a career year. Goaltender Cory Schneider is among the league's best. So even with a suspect defensive corps that will miss Larsson, the players ranking leaped 30 spots. And fans love John Hynes' coaching: The NHL's youngest boss -- who replaced Adam Oates and three-time Cup-winning-Devils captain Scott Stevens in June of 2015 -- is responsible for a massive 53-spot boost in that category.