Sometimes I feel bad for Henrik Lundqvist. Sometimes those (seemingly annual) iconic photos of him laying face first on the ice as his incompetent defenseman and underperforming forwards swirl around the net like they are circling a net minder who is all-but-dead inside serve as a reminder of just how many years of a generational talent have gone wasted. Sometimes I think he's been taken for granted by a franchise that's somehow defied the allure of New York City to become a yearly postseason casualty in increasingly feeble fashion. Sometimes I even believe he deserves better than these 'Groundhog's Day'-esque endings to seasons that are tick-tick-tocking away as quickly as his biological clock, but then I ask myself..."what could be better than being the best?"
I'm not suggesting that Henrik Lundqvist will go down as the greatest goalie to ever live. That seat is currently being held by someone far, far more accomplished. However, if he continues this tragic career trajectory then he may very well be able to stake his claim as the greatest goalie to never win. That title might seem like one he's done anything and everything possible to avoid, but it's one that allows him to safely scapegoat others. He would probably deem his career unsuccessful if he left the NHL with no Stanley Cups to his name, but the next best thing besides success is not having to take responsibility for your failures.
If you really think about it, the New York Rangers have done him a favor by surrounding him with a helpless supporting cast that couldn't defend their own shadow. Just think of the elite company he is more than likely going to keep: Charles Barkley, Dan Marino, Henrik Lundqvist. Those are some eye popping names and they were able to achieve that notoriety without having to win on the biggest stage in their respective fields. Sure, raising the most prestigious trophy is all of sports would be a hell of an experience, but who is to say it would have the staying power of being the goaltender by which all exploited, snake bitten goaltenders are compared to for the rest of time? It probably sucks to be remembered as a perennial loser, but does it suck as much as being completely forgotten?
A sweepstakes, you say? One that will have multiple teams vying for the services of a Russian goal scorer late into his 30's and perhaps beyond? And it could - but probably (definitely) won't - end on July 1st? Man, oh man, that sounds so very intriguing...to any organization but the one that had an entire offseason and asset pool hijacked by the same guy's superficial need to see eight zeros on his now defunct contract.
I've already put way too much thought into this scenario playing out. I have spewed far too many words on the subject, and I simply don't have the stomach to do another deep dive on Ilya Kovalchuk's potential return to the NHL. Therefore, I'll leave it at this - I want the New Jersey Devils to sign him as soon as possible, and instantly flip the son of a bitch for anything that's worth so much as a damn to the future of the franchise. I have no idea what kind of return he'll command, nor do I particularly care as long as he is someone else's problem sooner rather than later. "Look at his KHL numbers..." this and ::insert Alexander Radulov comparison:: that, but if I have to experience another 'Summer Of Kovy' I will legitimately hit myself over the head with a baseball bat. As far as I am concerned, the highest bidder gets a 34 year old Russian with his fair share of character issues, an incessant desire to be fawned over, and a spine/skill set that will likely age quicker than the Devils' prospect pool. I couldn't be happier that the man who matters most appears to mirror that mindset, because the last two years have been dedicated towards everything that is anti-Ilya. Plus, who bothers entering a sweepstakes when they've already won the draft lottery?
Bear with me here, because it's inherently difficult to put speechlessness into writing. I am fully aware of how depressing the following is, but - barring the Taylor Hall trade - the Devils haven't given their fanbase a thrill like this since the 2012 Cup run. Five years and the most exhilarating moment was winning gold in the 'Special Olympics' of sucking by the literal bounce of a ball. Teams have certainly gone through worse droughts, but ask the one guy that has made New Jersey's woes seem slightly less cataclysmic (Cory Schneider) and I bet he'd tell you this feels like stumbling upon an open spring in the middle of the Sahara. As someone that probably spent well over $1,000 on overpriced beer in a half empty arena to numb the pain caused by pathetic hockey, I can certainly echo that sentiment.
So spare me with the "this draft sucks anyway" nonsense. Not because it's completely untrue, but because the ignorant falsehood that the Devils somehow lucked/sucked into a Connor McDavid-esque revitalization isn't what has me excited. Hell, the prospect of having an NHL-ready franchise center (whether it be Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier) get cooking without prep time isn't even what has me wishing it was October already. The thing that has me absolutely giddy is what winning the lottery does for the Devils' immediate future.
This offseason was already setting up to be more productive than anything that took place on 'Prudential Center' ice this year. By all indications, Ray Shero has been working up towards this summer and I don't mean he's been spending a little extra time in the gym on his glamour muscles. He's been shredding contractual obligations and bulking up on draft picks, and the expansion draft has provided him the perfect excuse to pop his proverbial top off and flex on those who have been a little too gluttonous in their roster construction. There were already lop-sided trades to be made and overpaid signings to be negotiated. Mix in a potential return of a Russian lightning rod and the Devils' wealth of assets was starting to look like it could render the most elementary ideals of Communism moot.
That was before they had a ready made talent - that will hopefully be a seamless fit in the middle of their top six - fall right into their fucking lap. Last year's first round pick - Mike McLeod - is on an absolute tear in the OHL playoffs, seems destined for an expedited NHL arrival, and has been regulated to the back page of the organizational news. As far as icing a team that is leaps and bounds closer to contending than the hopeless, defenseless debacle that was this year's New Jersey Devils, having the first overall pick - even in a "meh" draft - is a goddamned God-send. I would pull all caution from the wind and say that these next few months could create the "perfect storm", but with the sky looking a little bluer, the sun shining a little brighter, and the birds chirping a little louder...I think I'm just going to take the day to revel in hockey-induced happiness that seems long overdue.
Let's save the never-ending Nolan/Nico debate for a later date. Not only because I have changed my mind on the matter about 25 times in the last 12 hours, but because I think I speak for a majority of Devils' fans when I say that my head isn't exactly clear. It's clouded by the number crunching necessary to understand the defiance of 91.5% odds. 8.5% baby, eight point fucking five percent.
P.S. Special thanks to Taylor Hall. That's the type of guy you need with you at the craps table. The haunting feeling of deja-vu probably awoke him from a dead sleep in a cold sweat upwards of a dozen times last night, but hopefully Ray Shero uses the leverage at his disposal to put a rabbit's foot in the rear of his PTSD...
P.P.S. Realllllly makes ya think...
As If The Postseason Wasn't Depressing Enough For Devils Fans, Adam Larsson Became A Playoff Hero Last Night
Welp, that'll do it. You can put down your pencils and pass your scorecards to the front, because I think we all know what this means. Adam Larsson is the second coming of Paul Coffey, Taylor Hall is 'Patient Zero' of a locker room epidemic that has temporarily poisoned every team he's ever played for out of playoff contention, and - most importantly - the Edmonton Oilers won the trade. No context necessary. Connor McDavid may have had 100 points during his first full NHL season, but even he can't score one for his former teammate here. The Devils made an irreparable mistake last summer, and - after last night - there is not a single thing that can be done by any of the parties involved to change that in the near or distant future. Trading their second most dynamic offensive player alone would have pushed the Oilers into the playoffs, but getting the most reliable player on the worst defense in hockey in return is what's currently pushing them through the playoffs. If you think otherwise then I would suggest you leave your nuance out of a clear-cut, black-and-white debate.
In all seriousness, I'm happy for Adam Larsson. From crawling out from under the heavy heel of Peter Deboer to evolving into such a versatile, reliable defender that he was deemed worthy of being moved - straight up - for an elite offensive playmaker. He deserves this success, even if it does allow baselessly salty Edmonton fans to rag on their 2nd best draft pick in the last decade while completely ignoring the impact of their best draft pick of the past decade.
Sometimes I think I would trade my left testicle to get him back in New Jersey. Then again, sometimes I think I undervalue my left testicle, because I definitely wouldn't undue the original deal. Regardless, a wry smile - similar to that of the Swedish stalwart that prided himself on busting Kyle Palmieri's balls - instinctually came across my face when Adam Larsson potted two last night. Though it was quickly followed by shockingly disparaging expletives about the entirety of Western Canada, that says a hell of a lot about player who just had his playoff coming out party.
And Now For Totally Original Breaking News, Ilya Kovalchuk Is Reportedly Looking To Make A Return To The NHL
Look, I understand the fascination that some have regarding the prospective return of Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey. I just simply don't agree with it. The sledding has been undeniably tough since he officially decided he was made physically ill by the idea of remaining in America throughout the entirety of the insanely problematic contract that he spent a shitty, never-ending soap opera of a summer negotiating. Maybe watching the Devils continuously fail to ice any sort of consistent offense since their loss in the Stanley Cup Finals has deluded fans into thinking that all you need to create some is a star left winger in his prime (it's preferable if he wears #9, of course) and a 'For Hire' sniper to place alongside him. That must be what has people longing for the addition of an aging mercenary who is on the downside of his career, and - despite having a 'C' stitched above the crest of his jersey - was recently benched during a championship run in an inferior league.
If the underlying message in the previous paragraph somehow went over your head then let me make this one thing perfectly clear; I still harbor resentment for Ilya Kovalchuk. I am man enough to admit that immeasurable spite could be clouding my judgement just as the highlights from the athletic equivalent of an eternity ago could be clouding the judgment of those that think the Devils are one signature away from scooping up a point-per-game workhorse.
I know the timing of his exodus was a blessing in disguise considering the odds of him dying of old age while on the Devils' payroll were equal to that of him actually playing his way off it. I also know there's a strong likelihood that his abrupt departure was premeditated and mutually agreed upon by Lou Lamoriello. Those circumstances, however, didn't soften the blow when the New Jersey Devils' organization had a pretentious, Russian rug pulled out from underneath them on the heels of losing their captain to free agency. Regardless of whether I am forced to root for him again or not, I will never forget the sinking feeling of dejection that overcame me when I discovered the moronic retirement rumor I kept reading about really was true. Kovalchuk's narcissistic need to be the NHL's first 100 million dollar man somehow cost the franchise that offered it to him more than money. It cost them a lottery pick that - ironically enough - could have eased the pain caused by a grown man's "homesickness".
So yeah, excuuuuse me if I am a little reluctant to bend over and spread my proverbial cheeks for a guy who has gotten his and skirted the fuck out of town before. I liken the seducing mental image of Kovy ripping his patented, bar-down snapshot in a Devils jersey to sex with an ex. It's great in theory...until "giving it another try" proves to be a waste of time once you realize things have only changed for the worse. I said I would never again trust a Russian player, and I'll be damned if I am going to change that philosophy for the person whose actions had it implemented.
Now, as often as I have left grudges effect my opinion, I can't sit here and tell you that you one of the most physically gifted hockey players in history has completely run out of gas. He might not be every bit as fit, but he doesn't need an electronic wristlet to be able to count the amount of steps he's lost. The idea that shooting is the most timeless skill was concocted in basketball circles, but it holds true here as well. Ilya Kovalchuk still has a clapper that could add firepower to a struggling power play. He still has the creativity to give even the most dynamic team a scoring boost. He's still guaranteed to inject energy into a hapless building with a celebration that will probably be egregiously overzealous considering it's sure to come following a 2nd period goal during a Wednesday night loss in mid-November.
In essence, what I am saying is that Ilya Kovalchuk is an excellent...wait for it...asset, and that it exactly how he should be treated by an organization that's not going to be competing for anything - with him or without him - until after his transmission (i.e. back) has given out. Ilya Kovalchuk would be a younger, more unlikeable Jaromir Jagr. He would be a half-dedicated, less appreciative Scott Gomez. He would be a mildly productive player on a pretty bad team that serves as nothing more than a distraction to fans that are too goddamn impatient to fully invest in the big picture so they are easily amused by short term value in a vacuum.
You don't rebuild a team - from the ground up, might I add - by taking a a piece of the foundation that proved unreliable in the first place and trying to reuse it 5 years later. This isn't just an indictment on Ilya Kovalchuk's relative worth to a young, inexperienced Devils' locker room. It's an indictment on the relative worth of any and all 34 year old, puck dominant wingers with limited leadership qualities to a young, inexperienced Devils' locker room. Ray Shero has yet to piss away money and opportunity on a player whose role would be to play the dangling set of keys to the babies that can't stop crying about the Devils going through a long-procrastinated down period for the first time in two plus decades. I hope he wouldn't switch his view for someone who fancies staring at himself in the mirror a hobby, because - at this stage of his career - Ilya Kovalchuk can help a winning team win a little more but he's certainly not capable of turning a losing team into a winner.
For comparison's sake, there's a reason a significantly younger defect like Andrei Radulov ended up in Montreal instead of talented-starved Phoenix or Buffalo, and it's not because the vodka is better distilled north of the border. Whatever a vulnerable team like the Devils would stand to gain from watching their season devolve into an outdated retread of the 'The Kovy Show' would easily be outweighed by the stunting of their developmental progress. Bringing aboard a polarizing player from the past is - in no way - a move geared towards creating a more successful future, and that's what New Jersey is ultimately trying to accomplish.
Granted, it's impossible to know whether or not the player/draft pick they could potentially trade him for fits the bill as a long term solution, but I'd be more than willing to find out as opposed to giving up my bad blood for a couple more charitable victories. Especially from a team that's at least two top-4 defensemen away from sniffing the postseason. Kovy might move the needle for some people but he doesn't move the puck from the backend, so - as far as I am concerned - he can take his eroding talents to a franchise that didn't already get hoodwinked into thinking they would be around forever.
And in the end, 'Patty's Last Lap' really was not all that much more than Patty taking his last lap. The week of relentless promotions leading to it may have made it seem like it was going to be a bigger event than it was, but - to be quite honest - I'm glad it wasn't. This is probably selfish of me to say seeing as I'll most definitely be in the building when #26 officially graces its rafters forever, but I'm okay with some fans feeling cheated by a relatively subdued celebration of the greatest forward in New Jersey Devils' history. That's mostly because I think the greatest forward - and arguably most selfless player - in New Jersey Devils' history deserves better than to be treated as a huge distraction from the merciful end to a merciless season.
There were a couple cool moments that created a couple timeless snapshots, Patrik Elias delivered a few quotes that tugged on the heart strings, and - in return - he received some tear-jerking appreciation via a handful of standing ovations. All in all, I think it served as the perfect appetizer for a jersey retirement that is going to leave everyone in attendance stuffed full of emotion. It never got to the point where it felt like it should have been a "win it for Patty" situation, and - considering the circumstances - that was a blessing in disguise. It felt good to see Patrik Elias - albeit casually - skate around for the final time in the uniform he's become synonymous with, but not good enough for fans to forget that it preceded yet another loss in a season that's long felt lost. I guess what I am trying to say is that I'll be glad when the player that never demanded attention with anything other than his play gets a night to himself, and I would hope that night wouldn't end feeling as crappy as this one did. Let's put it this way..."take a lap" couldn't possibly have different meanings for the newly retired player bidding his farewell to fans, and the rest of the bottom feeding team that he's leaving behind.
Sidney Crosby May Have Stumped The Entire Devils' Roster With An Absurd Assist, But The Joke Is On Him
Would you look at that. The best player in the world may have thought he was doing best player in the world things by trying to stunt on a team whose season has been over for weeks (ha, more like months), but - in reality - all he did was provide party tricks for Tank-A-Palooza. I might be embarrassed by the fact that all five Devils' were following an invisible puck if this game took place in November, but with New Jersey sinking like a stale turd I think I speak for most fans in attendance when I say that I was encouraging of that magic show. I'd like to thank Sidney Crosby for playing the puppet in the circus that has become the end of the Devils' season. He may have had the puck on a string, but it sure felt like he was suspended upright by them when he was the catalyst behind an entertaining 7-4 contest that simultaneously kept fans awake, gave them some reasons to cheer, and let them with very little worry that their team would undermine their draft position. So I would like to thank the Pittsburgh Penguins and their testicle tickling captain for dancing like monkeys in a Devils' loss that felt like a huge win. They may have helped their case for home ice in the playoffs, but they ever so slightly increased their opponent's chances of getting their sooner rather than later. Thanks for the snipe, suckers...
LATE BREAKING NEWS: Taylor Hall might not hate New Jersey with the fire of 100,000 suns. Stay tuned, more to come...
I'm going to try my best to avoid giving Patrik Elias the most thorough of ball-washings here. That's mostly just due to the fact that he's a clean-cut European so he likely does a good enough job of that himself, However, it's also because the pessimist could argue that there's an ever-so-slight amount of self-servitude in him agreeing to not play another game and going out "on top" with a goal that somehow made last season's meaningless closer seem special.
Still, even the most distrusting of Devils' fans would have to admit that Patrik Elias' inclination to prioritize the best interests of rookies that he has yet to play with over a final appearance in an NHL game is actually the perfect farewell from what's soon to be a forever memorialized career. If there's anything that keeps New Jersey's all time leading scorer out of the 'Hall Of Fame' - and there absolutely shouldn't be - it will be his proclivity to sacrifice himself for the good of the logo on the front of the jersey that he flawlessly represented more proudly than the name on his own back.
For the longest time Patrik Elias compromised his tantalizing offensive potential by sticking to the oft-infuriating defensive scheme that helped to make him Stanley Cup Champion multiple times over. Invoking that same type of selflessness in closing out a criminally underrated - and somehow understated - career with a casual, celebratory skate instead of a game played at the highest level all because he doesn't want to cost one youngster the experience provided by 10-15 minutes of NHL ice time? That may be the most symbolically "on-brand" decision that's ever been made.
Patrik Elias isn't merely beloved because never took the opportunity to venture elsewhere throughout his professional journey. It's also that during his two decades as a member of the New Jersey Devils he never failed to do right by those he shared a locker room with. Turns out that not even nearly a full year out of said locker room could change that team-first mindset. Let's hope Patty laps it up in more ways than one come Saturday, because - as much as it makes him uncomfortable - he deserves to soak in all the attention that a player of his star power miraculously managed to avoid for all these years.
P.S. Absolutely love that the schedule worked out in such a way that the preeminent 'Flyer Killer' was able to drop the ceremonial puck against the franchise that he's given more fits than their forever unresolved goaltending situation...
Trust me, I know how overly dramatic the following is going to read. Fortunately, with the final and most underrated connection to the Devils’ glory days having officially called it a - potentially ‘Hall Of Fame’ - career, I just don’t give a shit.
The retirement of Patrik Elias feels like the passing of a lifelong friend that finally conceded his fight with father time. It’s worthy of just as much relief as it is mourning. He may have gone relatively silent into the night when he potted a meaningless goal in the dying seconds of the otherwise unimportant game, but it really was the most fulfilling finale possible. I think I speak for a majority of Devils’ fans when I say that no one was ready to pull the plug on the potential return of New Jersey’s all-time leading scorer, but - ultimately - he probably laid his skates to rest with the perfect timing you'd expect from the guy whose no-look, backhand pass initially made him a Stanley Cup champion. I have very little doubt that Patrik Elias could still contribute to a lineup that is - to put nicely - void of his skill set, but the risk of him becoming an annual, late season novelty/storyline as opposed to the consummate teammate he’s always been just never seemed like it would have been worth it.
Simply put? As it pertains to the legacy of a player that was instrumental in making the only franchise that he’s ever known as proud and successful as it is, there was nothing good that was to come over the next year. That visual of him embracing teammates that were watching cartoons while he was raising banners and putting the down payment on his eventual home in the ‘Prudential Center’ rafters provided the picturesque farewell that fans of any aging player on an incompetent team would kill for. This was the right time for him to go out, no matter how selfishly we wanted him to continue battling the rigors of age, injury, and fleeting interest in honor of nothing more than nostalgia.
Of course I am sad that Patrik Elias’ career is over, but I truly couldn’t be happier that it happened. There’s no amount of fan appreciation that can fully repay the soft spoken scorer of an oft-defensive minded team for his decades of selfless service in creating a wealth of unforgettable memories, but I’ll be damned if our best attempt at reimbursement doesn’t feel like a long time coming. That final skate is gonna touch on all the feels, and when it's over it will inevitably give #3, #4, #27 and #30 the offense they've been desperately looking to add to what will be one of the most formidable 5-somes in NHL history.
Thank you, Patty. For all this, and so, so, so much more...
I'm well aware that you'd have to own an entire rack full of tinfoil hats to consider it a possibility that a rookie who is still fighting for a regular spot while getting acclimated to the NHL actively threw a game late in his first professional season. I don't think I actually believe that Steve Santini had the standings in mind when he relentless tried to give a Dallas Stars' forward scoliosis. I'm pretty sure I am too smart to accuse a proud, hard nosed competitor of intentionally taking a penalty with less than a minute to go in a tie game against a team that was damn near guaranteed to score on the resulting powerplay.
Unfortunately, I just can't think of a single reason - other than lottery-fueled sabotage - that someone would respond to getting away with damn near a dozen crosschecks only to take a second to think about it before rearing back and delivering a final, fateful one. I was sitting in Prudential Center and as Steve Santini drifted towards the hashmarks I thought to myself "I can't believe he didn't get a fucking penalty the..." and before I could even finish the sentence in my head he had taken the penalty that ultimately cost the Devils the game. I don't know what sparked his lack of subtlety, but I will say that it looked a hell of a lot like he wasn't going to stop committing borderline penalties until one of them landed him in the box.
I want to make this clear. I don't think that professional athletes do stupid shit to increase their chances of defeat. I'm pretty positive that even the shittiest of teams - and the Devils are pretty close to just that - are more worried about their job security than giving their organization the opportunity to draft a mildly more talented teenager. That being said, I wouldn't even mind if Steve Santini came forward and said "I tried to turn Cody Eakin's spine into an accordion because getting a 2nd point in overtime could only be detrimental come June". Not because I want the New Jersey Devils to (purposefully) tank, but because it would make more sense than whatever the fuck was really going through his head at the time.
P.S. I'm not suggesting that Blake Coleman retire on top, but he should know that (as long as he's in a Devils jersey, anyway) goals probably won't get much prettier than the first one of his NHL career...
As far as blueprints go, a 4-2 loss to a borderline playoff team that was close, yet never really in doubt is a pretty fucking depressing one. The best thing you can say about the Devils' humdrum effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs was that it was watchable, and - to be quite honest - watchable works for me as long as it results in ZERO net points. I wasn't sure I meant it when I said that I wanted that overtime win over the Rangers to be their last win of the season. After ever-so-contently watching the young'ns battle to an inevitable defeat that would have been excessively frustrating if not for the Devils increasingly stagnant spot at the bottom of the standings, I can happily say that I have got my scuba gear and am ready to back this team in their plunge to the furthest of depths.
With the way they were somehow able to suck even Cory Schneider into their midseason slump they've finally put themselves in a position to get a blue chip prospect. It figures that it's in a pretty mediocre draft, but it's a pretty mediocre draft that the Devils absolutely need to take advantage of. If sliding even one more spot into obscurity can increase their likelihood of adding a future game changer than I couldn't be more okay with treating the remaining schedule like it's the pre-(off)season.
Obviously the back-to-back against the Flyers will feature at least one obligatory shit-kicking, but that's just the cost of child support when you play 'Daddy' to an entire franchise. Unfortunately Philadelphia is New Jersey's slump buster, but the best case scenario for this team is to have a slump to be busted. Here's to hoping they don't fuck themselves out of top three pick in the process, and go back to impotently increasing their chances of having their next most important victory comes via the draft lottery.
One memorable win. One glimpse into the potential brightness of the future. One reminder of the greatness of Cory Schneider. One more reason to cheer for something other than draft position. One "fuck you" to an insufferable, entitled fan base with the most fictitious superiority complex in all of professional sports. One overtime gut punch to the New York Rangers.
That's all that was needed. Back to your regularly scheduled tanking please. As far as I am concerned, the season ended last night and it ended on the highest of notes. These next ten games might technically "count", but I certainly don't need them to be treated that way.
No feeling will top the feeling of watching the Devils turn the tables by oh-so-narrowly grasping victory from the clutches of defeat. Nothing will best the thrill of watching the spirit of Martin Brodeur possess the body of Cory Schneider as he threw a flawless poke check in a pressure packed situation. Nothing will stop the heart quite like the net mouth scramble that - for what seems like the first time all season - didn't end up in the back of their net. Nothing will be quite as exhilarating as two talented young kids outlasting the laws of endurance to lead a game winning odd man rush. The joy that I - and most Devils' fans - felt as Joseph Blandisi slid the puck over the goal line and started letting out the frustrations of his entire franchise on a pane of glass can't be topped, so let's hope that they don't play their way into a worse pick by trying to recreate it.
P.S. I suppose you could add "one NHL goal for John Quenneville", and "one pummeling from the enraged hands of Miles Wood", because those moments were pretty awesome as well...
I'm Not Sure If NHL Referees Are Aware, But The New Jersey Devils Do NOT Need Their Help In Losing Games
No Penalty Shot-
I can't say I expected to have to do this. With Cory Schneider's ability to use his gift as a curse and keep the New Jersey Devils out of prime drafting position the last few years, I haven't had to actively root for the team to lose games down the stretch. It's unfamiliar territory that you would think would have me appreciative of the obvious collusion that's taking place between NHL officials. With that #2 pick in the draft potentially up for grabs, I should be happy that the referees have started handing out complimentary breakaways to the Devils' opponents. I should be thankful for the completely inconsistent whistle blowing that sent two of the best teams in the league to center ice three different times and refused one of the worst teams in the league that same leniency. I should be pleased that the Penguins and the Blue Jackets were gifted penalty shots like they were JV teams scrimmaging against their own varsity team and the coaches were actively trying to keep it close. Unfortunately, as a man of principle I have a hard time accepting the handouts.
I don't want to sound ungrateful here, but if the Devils' are going to plummet in the standings then I want them to cliff dive on their own accord. If they are going to beat the Arizona Coyotes in a race to rock bottom - considering Colorado is sub-terranian at this point - then I would prefer they do so on their own merit. What I am trying to say is that the New Jersey Devils don't want - nor need - the help of bullshit, one-sided officiating to lose game after game after game. I think I speak for the entire fanbase when I say that I want to look at the uber talented, foreign teenager they get in exchange for their complete and total incompetence and feel confident that they "earned" his services.
I know NHL referees are doing their best to expedite the rebuilding process of a once proud franchise, and on behalf of the New Jersey Devils I would like to say thanks, but no thanks. Do us a favor by not doing us any favors. If Taylor Hall is going to draw a penalty on a breakaway then he should be privy to the same over-exaggerated hand signal that sent his opposition in on an undeserved one-on-one just seconds prior. I don't even care if the result is inevitably self depreciating come the draft lottery, because if the Devils are going to lose their way to winning a high profile prospect then I prefer they do so legitimately. This team has forever been criminally underrated, and for the first time - maybe since the early-90's - I want the futility of their efforts to be recognized free of third party interference on what should simply be two minute minors for interference.
That should have been it. That seemingly inevitable one-timer into the wide open side of the net turned untimely stick break should have resulted in no more than an extremely symbolic failed opportunity. Against literally any other other team in the NHL, 'Retro Night' would have been a harrowing call back to the Devils' teams of the early 80's. That's not even hyperbole. Before last night the Devils' had lost TEN(!) straight games which included fruitless efforts against the Colorado Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes. For those of you paying attention to the bottom of the standings (i.e. the draft lottery) at home, those are the only two teams in the entire league with worse records than New Jersey, and New Jersey just got done out-sucking both of them in back-to-back games. So when I say that sequence of events wouldn't take place against a franchise other than the Flyers I am speaking as someone with a strong command of recent history.
If Philadelphia wasn't Philadelphia I would almost feel bad for Philadelphia because what the New Jersey Devils did to the Flyers last night was complete and total emasculation, and that goal was just the microcosm of it. The 'Broad Street Bullies' didn't just get taken for their lunch money, they hardly even put up a fight. They didn't just play down to their competition they somehow soared past a team that was already in free-fall.
How do you suffer a 6-2 bludgeoning at the hands of a team that - prior to last night - had the same amount of goals in the month of March as Brad Marchand? I can't even wrap my head around the fact that this already truly unbelievable stat became even more unbelievable...
As if getting totally outplayed by a team whose interest in winning is fleeting at best wasn't painful enough, Taylor Hall summoned the skillset of Peter Forsberg to literally and figuratively add insult to injury. Stiff-arming Shayne Gostisbehere through the ice before dancing Steve Mason's groin into another zip code while casually sliding the puck past him with one hand? Providing the insurance of a two goal lead while also putting a rival's health insurance to use? If that doesn't prove that the Flyers are immune to the dire state of the Devils' - no matter how many AHL players and waiver wire pickups they are rostering - then this hilarious little tidbit right here will...
Yes, the Devils are at rock bottom. Yes, they've lost nine games in a row. Yes, the only goals that they have scored in the last three games came during the third period of a loss to a team that is so far and away the worst team in the league that if their season was turned into a sports parody it would simply have to be called 'A Minor-League Of Their Own'. Yes, watching them is a chore and elicits such a lack of feeling and emotion that I have to do so with one hand on my dick to make sure I still have sensations in my body. Yes, the current state of the New Jersey Devils makes the former state of last year's New Jersey Devils look like heaven on ice. Yes, Cory Schneider is having a down year, Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri have regressed to the mean statistically, Taylor Hall is fondly dreaming about the days in which his career was incinerating in a Western Canadian dumpster fire, and there is almost no positives for even the most optimistic of fan to blindly nit pick. Key word...almost.
You see, playing hopeless, listless hockey as they all but plummet into the sunken place may not seem like a step forward, but it's just as positive of a development as picking 11th in the draft for what seems like the 11th time in a row. I don't root for draft position and I never will, but organizational turnarounds are a lot easier to come by when you have the chance to select players that are more likely to contribute to it.
Ray Shero's goal from day one was to collect assets and with each passing, increasingly demoralizing loss those assets are getting better. I didn't even have to do my due diligence/required fawning over teenagers to know that. So while it sucks that trading Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall didn't accelerate the rebuilding process in a way that only spoiled, irrational Devils' fans would imagine that it would, it did inevitably give the Devils a better chance of filling the void left by doing so. Those picks are more valuable and it's all but a certainly that more than couple of them (they have ELEVEN) will be moved for players that can help now. Everyone that is invested in this team is feeling the growing pains that they should have felt last year if they weren't dulled by the aspirin that was Cory Schneider. That doesn't change the fact that this offseason is an important one, and - while it didn't feel like it in the moment - getting embarrassed by a team that has approximately 7.5 wins on the year can only make it a more productive one.
I never thought I would ever have mixed feelings about a player that means as much as Patrik Elias does to the Devils' franchise potentially returning to their lineup. Then again, I also never thought that the only thing to get excited about with 19 games remaining would be the possibility of a 40 year old lacing up his wheels in an NHL game for the first time all season, so I guess I should get acclimated to this previously unchartered territory.
The truth is that my heart wants to see Patrik Elias play again, but my mind is (hardly) wiser to how much better that idea seems in theory. By all accounts, the Devils' all-time leading point getter would essentially be the professional equivalent of the guy that shows up to the beer league game juuuuust when you had thought he finally hung up his skates for good. He's basically the uncommitted dude on the last branch of the telephone tree that only gets the call when you might not have enough guys to play. That's a crazy thing to say about someone whose name and number will eventually grace the rafters, but that's the vibe I have gotten from his sporadic, mid-season quotes that have reeked of uncertainty.
I don't blame him at all, but he's quite obviously unsure about playing and I have my doubts as to whether that mindset lends itself to competing at a competent level. Watching him take the Prudential Center ice in the jersey he helped make relevant would be so nostalgic that it would give my feels the feels, but if it's going to be followed by a performance that has even a slightly negative impact on my forever glorified view of his career then I would be happy to wait until the next alumni game.
If this is being done to add veteran savvy and skillful nuance to a team that wouldn't know the importance of those intangibles if they became tangible, grabbed them up the ears, and screamed "pay attention to detail you assholes!" then I'm all for it. If it's being done to distract the fanbase from another awful finish by parading a legend around in front of them like they are toddlers staring in bewilderment at a set of car keys then I'll probably fall for it, but I sure as shit won't feel good about it.
Considering his last game - whether he's officially played it or not - will be completely and utterly meaningless, Patrik Elias already got a (relatively) flawless sendoff. If they are going to ruin that then it better be to add some experience to the locker room and not to simply guarantee themselves some cheap applause to round out another year of flatlining early.
Let This 'Enterprise' Commercial Featuring Marty Brodeur In A Devils Jersey Put A Smile On Your Face
Welp, it's that time of year folks. The dog days of hockey season. A part of the calendar that used to be full of endless possibilities is now just a barren wasteland of annual hopelessness that makes the complete unknown that is the offseason seem enjoyable. At least in April you can trick yourself into cherishing the final games of the year, but March? March is the month when the trade deadline passes (gas right in your damn face) and the 'Growing Pains' of finally deciding to rebuild a proud franchise from the ground up truly set in.
I suppose that's why a much needed sense of comfort came over me when a familiar face showed me that smile again. The visual of Marty Brodeur casually stopping electronically inserted pucks in his Devils jersey instilled in me just the type of nostalgia I needed to know that everything is eventually going to be alright. Watching him drink out of a Stanley sippy Cup reminded me to appreciate the banners I do get to look up to instead of greedily pining for more. So fuck the springtime Blues, because Devils fans have a lot to be thankful and we should remember that...for the next few hours until we angrily watch a loaded Capitals team pack the Devils' shit tighter than 'Enterprise' will need to do to fit Marty's endless myriad of accolades in to one full moving truck...
I want to make one thing clear. That headline isn't as much of a criticism of their General Manager as it is an undeniable and disheartening fact. The New Jersey Devils tried to pull a rabbit out of their ass by moving a waiver claim and a slow-footed depth defenseman for something/anything of value and they ended up holding a bunny carcass with one smelly ass hand. Simply put, the Devils' deals produced complete and utter shit. The trade deadline walked in, pissed on their leg, and was gone before the stink even set in.
I suppose that was to be expected with them offering up a freshly injured, journeyman forward and someone who likely won't even play for the playoff team he was acquired by. That said, late season roster cleanses of years past have given me a false sense of security in this front office's ability to push oregano at purple haze prices. The addition of Dalton Prout (yawn) and the acquisition of a 6th round pick shouldn't be huge disappointments, but - in large part due to the job Ray Shero has done thus far - they sure feel that way relative to last year's purging of the Bruins in exchange for Lee Stempniak (a training camp tryout). I don't doubt that the underwhelming return was a product of a porous market, but let's just say that it didn't take any pressure off what should be/needs to be/hopefully is an eventful offseason. March 1st certainly didn't fatten up the wallet, but summer is right around the corner and with the Devils plethora of picks and wealth of cap space it damn well better be considered cutting season.
Former (Useless) Devil Andrew Peters Planted A Kid On His Ass During A Youth Game, And Some Folks Aren't Too Happy About It
My reaction to this video?
I know that coaches should probably refrain from lending their knuckles to physical squabbles between hormonal teenagers. That being said, that kid doesn't seem too much worse for the wear so I'm not going to pretend that an enraged, pubescent monster that tried to take on an entire roster is some sort of helpless victim.
More importantly, why have Andrew Peters on a youth hockey bench if he isn't going to make himself look like a complete jackass in coming to the aide of youth hockey players? Knocking that rabies-stricken lunatic on his ass and saving one of his kids from taking a stick across the sternum is literally the only thing that Andrew Peters can provide young, inquiring minds. We are talking about a dude that had SEVEN points in SIX seasons. He wasn't just an goon. He was the goon that true enforcers looked at and said "this fucking blockhead is going to get us phased out of the sport". When I tell you that he was as useless a professional hockey player as I have ever seen I mean the most he ever contributed while wearing a Devils jersey was getting tossed early for failing to tie down his Devils jersey by the fight strap. He only laced them up for 28 games that season and likely only played a handful of shifts each time, but I swear I still have PTSD from watching him try to handle a goddamn puck. I wouldn't trust Andrew Peters to pass my hypothetical child the mashed potatoes, never mind teach him/her the intricacies of a game he somehow bullied his way to the top of. I didn't think - before this very moment - that having a guy with NHL experience tutor the youth of tomorrow could be a bad thing, but if the only team available for my future son is coached by Andrew Peters then I'm tossing in the towel and letting him take ballet lessons.
Damon Severson with his hands up in dumbfounded confusion and Cory Schneider staring off into space desperately dreaming of the day that he's blessed with enough defense to make it to the promised land of exploratory playoff appearances. I know the Devils' backbone has nowhere to look but in the mirror after giving up a backbreaking overtime goal to Mika Zibanejad, but that doesn't mean that this picture isn't depressingly symbolic of what has ailed his team this year.
I suppose it was just a matter of time before the lights got shot out on another lost year, but it would have been nice to have a relative meaningless comeback win against the Rangers to hang their hat on before the season all-but-faded to black. Instead - for the second time this season - New York turned a late lead into a soul crushing defeat, and reminded those in attendance that the home team is just not on their level as of yet.
I don't think one campaign that fell short of expectations is all that disastrous to a team that outperformed expectations in the first true year of their rebuild, but I do think it's sign that the work in progress isn't close to completion. The current blue line makes Adam Larsson look like Nicklas Lidstrom, and it's inability to create any consistent offense whatsoever makes their already struggling forwards look even worse. That's pretty impressive considering they have recently managed to botch chances that would have Tuomo Ruutu believing he still has a place in the league.
We've gotten glimpses of youthful promise (Wood, Zacha), shades of the 30 goal scorers that came into their own last season (Rico, Palms), and a pretty good look at why the Taylor Hall trade was one that absolutely had to be made. That said, this team needs to turn their cap space into players that don't cap out at being space eaters if they want to keep building on a core of forwards that are in their prime and reasonably priced on long term contracts (i.e. not Mike Cammalleri).
There probably should have been a bit more apprehensiveness entering the season with glorified veterans/certified pylons like Ben Lovejoy and Kyle Quincey manning nightly roles. Hell, throw John Moore into the rotation and John Merrill's performance has looked half decent, and I KNOW John Merrill can only look half decent by comparison. That lesson, hopefully, has been learned because going without a serious upgrade on the backend won't translate well to future positivity throughout the fan base or it's starting goaltender.
This season hasn't been as dejecting as the immediate aftermath of the loss to the Rangers made it seem, but it sure has been close. I'm ready to jump aboard the tank and lock-and-unload any impending free agent that's worth a damn. I just pray Ray Shero is ready to do what Ray Shero has already proven adept at doing in turning "a damn" into contributors, because the Devils sure don't have enough of those at the moment.