Sympathy For The Devils

I think we’re all ready for the All-Star Game break. It’s been a roller coaster season for most of the writers here, your humbled editors (Let’s Go Caps) included, and certainly for Brian, our man on the Devils beat. Brian uses the break to take stock of where his boys are and where they may be headed, hopefully the playoffs.

“In any given NHL season, there are anywhere from four to ten teams with a legitimate shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

After 47 games, I’m fairly certain the New Jersey Devils (as currently constructed) are not one of those teams.

It’s likely they’ll make the playoffs, but I don’t see them making any kind of charge at the fourth Cup in franchise history.  “Why”, you ask.

They can’t beat good teams.  As noted hockey fan Theodor Geisel once said, “They can’t beat them at home, they can’t beat them in Nome. Their field service management is inadequate on the ice.  They can’t beat them on the road, they can’t beat them with a toad.”  (Really.  He said it to me at a Rangers-Leafs game a while back.)

Alexei Ponikarovsky

The trade for Alexei Ponikarovsky makes it seem like the Devils consider themselves contenders, which seems desperate – which isn’t surprising, when you consider the financial struggles (here’s a nice synopsis) and their strong desire to retain Zach Parise, who maintains that his primary requirement for his next contract is to play for a team that will compete for the Stanley Cup. 

It’s important that they put up a good front, but the proof is going to be on the ice and I just don’t think they have the team to make any kind of playoff run. “Why”, you ask again.  (Seriously, you’re like a 5 year old with all the “Whys”). Here’s why, ya rotten kid.

The Goaltending ain’t good enough.  Brodeur (2.84 GAA/.893 SV%) simply isn’t playing at an “elite” level (or even a “good enough” level) to lead a team through the playoffs.  No way, no how.  And Hedberg’s been good (2.45/.909), but he’s probably not the answer here, either. The Devils are not a good 5-on-5 team.  According to behindthenet.ca, the Devils are the 5th worst team in the league at full strength.  The four teams below them?  The Oilers, Sabres, Blue Jackets and (sorry Vinny) Islanders – not exactly playoff teams.  This might not be so bad, except… The Devils are downright awful when they have the man advantage.

Adam Oates

So awful that behindthenet says that if the Devils were 5-on-4 for an entire 60 minutes, they would only outscore their opponents by 1.9 goals (Vancouver, by comparison, would outscore their opponents by 7.6 goals).  They’ve managed to cut down on the shorthanded goals against recently, now it’s time to score more PPG.  There’s too much offensive talent on this roster for this power play to be so bad.  Some have repeatedly called for Adam Oates to be relieved of his PP coaching duties (cough, cough, ILWT, cough) and it’s hard to argue with them.

Zach Parise

Hopefully, the Devils will continue beating on the weaker teams and make the playoffs.  Considering their financial status, the bonus money (tickets , concessions, etc.) provided by two (or, fingers crossed, more than two) home playoff games would mean a lot to the franchise.

The Devils continue their longest home stand of the season (6 games, they’re 1-3 so far) with a shoot out loss against the Sabres Tuesday, ugh.  If you’re local, you should get to The Rock -  these may be the last chances to see Zach Parise in a red and black sweater.”

Brian looks good in any color sweater so follow him on twitter: @trot71

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