When New Jersey rang in the new year on Jan 1, 2010, the Devils found themselves a top the Eastern Conference and tied for 2nd overall in the NHL with 57 points. Yes, they were dealing with injuries as Zubrus, Clarkson and Martin were out but as a whole the team was responding well to the game plan that Jaques Lemaire was laying out for them.
On January 17th, Patrice Cormier, a highly regarded prospect of the New Jersey Devils viciously elbowed Mikael Tam in a QMJHL game and found himself suspended for the remainder of the season. He was a player that was getting a repuatation for being physical and often times a little dirty but had a great hockey sense. The Devils never really weighed in with their thoughts until a few weeks later.
By the time February had rolled around, the Devils had fallen a bit in the Eastern Conference and were trailing the Washington Capitals by 8 points but were still leading the Atlantic Division and everything seemed to be going in the right direction. Pittsburgh was pressuring NJ for the Division lead but the Penguins couldn't find a way to beat NJ all season. As a fan, you couldn't complain at the product that was on the ice but had to be a little concerned that NJ was starting to not score goals.
I decided that in the best interest of following the Devils, that I would step away from this team for a few days. Who am I kidding, it was Christmas and I've been a bit busy wrapping gifts, unwrapping gifts, hanging a new TV and playing with toys and Wii games that I didn't have time to jump on this blog and write about the Devils. BUT, that time has ended so here we go, strap in!!
* Thoughts on the John Maclean / Jacques Lemaire situation: The Devils gave John Maclean the pink slip on Thursday, making it the worst thing to happen to a John Maclean at Christmas since Hans Gruber ruined the Nakatomi Corporation Christmas Party in 1988. I'll admit, I wasn't surprised NJ let MacLean go but extremely shocked Lemaire is back, again. Oh wait, no I am not..it's just what we do. We take back players and coaches that have repeatedly quit on this team and give them another chance.
The only thing obvious about Lemaire taking a spot behind the bench is that the Devils will once again be looking for a coach this summer. I can't see Lemaire staying after this season.
* Lemaire's First Two Games: Granted he had about an hour to prepare for the game against the Islanders but the Devils didn't even find any kind of spark with the coaching change. They were flat, they made a ton of mistakes and the Islanders handed it to the Devils in a very bad way. In fact, this game bugs me more now that I watched the Rangers completely destroy the Islanders last night.
The game against the Leafs wasn't any better. In fact, once that game was done, I realized there is no making excuses for the Devils, they are just a BAD hockey team. In one years time they've gone from first to worst. Believe it or not, this time last year, the Devils owned the best record in the NHL, now they own the worst. Their passing is awful but they are able to put shots on net, its just that their shot selection is about as bad as their passing. There isn't a guy on the team that I wouldn't trade right this minute.
* Time For Lou To Go: He can go upstairs and remain President of this team but as far as his GM duties, he needs to give those up. I don't think he was ever for signing Kovalchuk, I think that came from the owner so I am not saying step aside for that. It's the other things, like the constant retreads we get in NJ. It has happened over and over. Mogilny, Rolston, Arnott, the list goes on and on. To be honest, I am shocked that Bill Guerin wasn't offered a contract with NJ before retiring. On top of the retreads and overpaying those retreads, his ability to find the right players is gone. He used to have that ability. Think back to 2003 when he traded Petr Sykora for Jeff Friesen and Friesen had an incredible Spring, helping NJ to win the cup. Or when he originally brought in Mogilny who helped NJ to a cup in 2000 and back to the Finals in 2001. Now, we sign guys like Zubrus, Tallinder and Volchenkov who do nothing but fill a roster spot and collect a paycheck because lets be honest, that's all they are doing.
* Marty Brodeur: Truth, your goalie is only as good as the guys in front of him but Marty looks old this year. He lets in too many goals on too few shots and does so while he has a good look at the puck. If goals where being scored through screens, I'd say OK, the D need to clear the lane a little better but that's not the case. Marty, please retire...I beg you. You've done so much for this team but we don't want to see you play like this.
* Brian Rolston: Assigned to Albany this morning... Good, oh wait, he's over 35 and we are still on the hook for his salary. What's that?? Lou plans on putting him on re-entry waivers later this week hoping someone takes his old, decrepit ass off our hands?? Fat chance that happens. See my Lou rant above.
The Devils better figure out whats wrong and do so in a hurry or someone might be throwing around the name of that cartoon character with those big ears and fun World to visit real soon!!
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (9-21-2) at the Washington Capitals (19-12-4)
Season Series: Third of four meetings this season. Each team has won on home ice in a rout. Alex Ovechkin scored twice, once on a penalty shot, in Washington's 7-2 victory on Oct. 9, while Johan Hedberg stopped all 30 shots he faced for his 15th career shutout and Jason Arnott had a pair of goals in a 5-0 triumph by New Jersey on Nov. 22.
After the performance the Devils put on the ice Friday night, I shut the TV off in disgust and didn't feel like writing a recap because I wouldn't have been able to say anything positive. The Devils played so poorly on Friday night that it took NJ almost 50 minutes to put more than 10 goals on net. They got beat and they deserved every part of the beating they got.
I thought for sure that they would come out on fire against the Thrashers, especially since Kovalchuk was returning to the place he called home for so many years. I was wrong. They didn't just get beat, they got embarrassed. In fact, even when the Thrashers had this game in the bag and pulled up a little, they still got a lot of shots, a lot of chances and even more goals.
I thought the 2-0 loss to the then win-less in 14 games Islanders and the embarrassing show they put up at home a week later against the Canadiens were the lowest points of the season, I was wrong. This weekend, the Devils didn't even look like they cared to be out there. They've given up and its very clear. The worst part of the game last night was that the Thrashers entered the Devils zone with basically a 2 on 5, found a little room in the middle to complete a pass to the left side of the ice and Ladd ripped one, top corner right over Marty's glove. AWFUL!!
Clearly the Devils need something more than waiving a player and continuing to put that player in the lineup after he clears. David Clarkson is a non-factor on this team. Trade his ass. Jamie Langenbrunner isn't a leader this season. Trade his ass as well. Marty seems lost out there, like he can't find the puck. When John MacLean became coach in June, I thought he was planning on implementing a system that demands offense from every player. That CLEARLY has not happened.
Most people get on me because I am complaining after years and years of making the playoffs. That's where I tell them they are wrong about me. Sure, I don't like losing but NJ has been good for so long, so if a losing season is in the cards, fine. But I can't take watching a team just not try. If you go out there, give it your best and still lose, fine but going out there, not competing and giving up 7 goals on 22 shots in UNACCEPTABLE. If you don't want play, please if you have a NTC, give it up and lets ship you out of town.
This team doesn't have much hope of climbing back into the playoff picture, even though its only December but lets just try to change the image this team has at the moment. Right now, EVERYONE is laughing. At the Kovalchuk signing, at the way the Devils play, pretty much everything surrounding this team. Lou, DO SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT!!
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (9-19-2) vs. the Nashville Predators (16-8-6)
Season Series: This is the first and only meeting of the season between the teams. The clubs split two games in 2009-10. The Devils earned a 5-2 victory in New Jersey on Feb. 12 when Ilya Kovalchuk scored his first goal as a Devil to snap a 2-2 tie at 8:24 of the third period; the Predators came away with a 3-2 shootout decision in Nashville on Nov. 19.
The Devils Last Game: The Devils put together what I thought was an entire team effort for a full 60 minutes and skated away with a 3-0 shutout of the Phoenix Coyotes. It was certainly one of the best efforts this season.
The Predators last Game: The Predators won their fourth straight and seventh in their last eight (7-0-1) on Wednesday following a 3-2 victory over San Jose in Nashville.
Tonight's Game: It's all about building something for the NJ Devils. They had an outstanding game the other night where Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice Wednesday to record his first multiple-goal contest in 61 games as a Devil, including playoffs. It's time for the Devils to start putting together some wins and getting consistent production for their top guys. Devils center Travis Zajac is finally beginning to heat up with 5 assists and 6 points over the last five games, another player we'd love to build some momentum off of.
The Predators are hot but beatable if the Devils just believe in themselves. One of the key's to Wednesday nights victory was the Devils ability to successfully forecheck. This is something they havne't done a lot of this season. It forechecking gets W's on the board then they better be ready to forecheck tonight.
After the game that Kovalchuk had the other night, I would expect to see a lot of Shea Weber and Ryan Sutter on Kovalchuk all night long. This mean the other lines are really going to have to contribute tonight.
As far as defense goes, Kostitsyn is riding a career-high seven game points streak (3 goals, 6 assists), marking the longest by a Predators' player this season so NJ will have to certainly pay attention to him tonight.
Injury report: The Devils are without defensemen Mark Fraser (broken hand), Bryce Salvador(concussion) and Matt Taormina (high ankle sprain) and forwards Zach Parise (knee surgery) andJacob Josefson (thumb). … Rinne (knee) and forwards David Legwand (lower body) and Matthew Lombardi (concussion) are still out for Nashville. Hornqvist was a late scratch against San Jose on Wednesday with an undisclosed upper-body injury and is day-to-day.