An early season West Coast road trip should afford the Devils the opportunity to soak in some sun, sand and great weather along the California coast. The players could scope out Disneyland in Anaheim, and maybe do some sightseeing in Vancouver and Chicago.
But this early-season road trip will allow for none of those off-day activities. The Devils need to pull together as a team, and they hope the next five games signal a turnaround for their abysmal start.
It's been a well chronicled 2-6-1 start for the New Jersey Devils. There were stretches of great play (the two shutout wins), but it's been mostly low points throughout the first nine games. Defensive struggles, questionable goaltending and a lack of finish characterize the Devils play, and the team hasn't figured out how to break their slump.
The lack of success has already created frustration within the locker room.
"I think we’re all really frustrated with the start that we’ve had and the results we’ve had," Zach Parise said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. "We’ve got a lot of frustrated guys in here."
To say the five game swing against Western Conference opponents, beginning tomorrow night against the Sharks, isn't important would be a gross understatement. The Devils need to improve their play significantly, and they can use the time away from home to focus on hockey and not their terrible home record or lack of scoring.
Martin Brodeur believes the road trip will help develop chemistry, which can lead to better performances and, hopefully, better wins.
"We don’t know much about each other," Brodeur said to Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger. "On the road trips (during which) we spent a little time together, we won both games. The Washington (trip) we didn’t spend any time, so this will help us build chemistry and to play for one another.
"Not winning isn’t fun, but guys are getting along and I think this road trip hopefully will help us bond and get that little extra you need to build a team."
The Devils problems are numerous, and there isn't one concrete issue that will lead to a turnaround. Developing better chemistry should help better team play on the ice, as Brodeur hints too. Several communication breakdowns, especially in the defensive zone, cost the Devils. Having the ability to spend time with teammates and get to know their tendencies, etc. better should begin to alleviate this problem.
Team-bonding wouldn't just help on the ice. If players feel comfortable with each other off the ice, it goes a long way into building a successful team. Not every guy will invite the team over for beers and bar-b-que during the offseason. But knowing how to talk to the other plays in the room helps the team leadership determine the best way to deal with the locker room. Team chemistry always tiptoes a fine line between well-balanced and train wreck, and a more comfortable locker room can lead to more well-balanced New Jersey squad.
There's plenty of issues the Devils need to work out to right their season, but team chemistry has been talked about a ton throughout the struggles. The Devils finally have the time to develop the chemistry several players are seeking. It could help make teammates more accountable and help them to play for each other.
The bottom line isn't about team chemistry, it's about wins and losses. If the Devils come back from this road trip with a less than stellar record, team chemistry won't be the only issue the team will face.
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