First and foremost, hats off (almost literally) to Nico Hischier. Not only was it awesome to watch him go from somewhat snake bitten to a point-per-game player in one single game, but it's a credit to how involved he's been from the first drop of the puck. The goals are great and hopefully they keep coming in bunches, but they are simply a statistical pay off for a kid that was playing above his numerical production. The first overall pick officially arrived well before last night, but he finally announced his presence by pocketing back-to-back goals in the tough areas of the ice.
So yeah, I'm with Taylor Hall in thinking it might be time to take his online coat off and stay awhile...
As for the Devils as a whole? Well, they keep cooking up a recipe for disaster, so I'm not entirely sure how it's been so consistently palatable. Unnecessary penalties and a subpar penalty kill generally aren't ingredients that compliment a victory, so I guess that makes a shockingly formidable offense a culinary crutch that would comparatively make bacon look like an unflattering addition. Saying that the Devils are only winning because they are scoring a lot reads like a pretty piss poor dad joke, but it's as true as it is unsustainable. If this team wants to continue to give themselves an opportunity to win games over more experienced teams then they absolutely have to stay out of the box, because I don't need to be an analytics expert to tell you that recent results will serve as the outlier sooner rather than later. It's exciting that they proved they are resilient enough to overcome handing out a half dozen power plays while losing a large majority of face-offs, but - long term - there's not a team in the league that is talented enough to keep pushing the right buttons while turning all the wrong keys.
All that pessimism aside, it's been surreal to watch this team take their inevitable mistakes in stride without letting them effect their work ethic. The game tying goal came on a play that even the most biased of fan would have to consider a lucky bounce, but those bounces don't go your way without a relentless forecheck. You can treat Guy Boucher's postgame praise as nothing more than coach speak, but the fact that it reads like a goddamn Ray Shero press release or the transcript of a John Hynes press conference is unbelievably encouraging...
I'm not one to blindly repeat the company line, but the commitment to being fast, attacking, and supportive through the 60th minute has served as the anti-venom to the kryptonite that is undisciplined hockey . Young teams are prone to playing stupid, but if this young team can cut down on the self inflicted wounds then they'll stand a much better chance of continuing to make their detractors - of which there was no shortage - look even more stupid.
Taylor Hall - Hopefully those that were overly concerned with last year's point totals are learning how much easier it will be to surpass them now that he has a handful of capable players to pass to...
Will Butcher - Consummate beaut...
John Moore - Extra time extraordinaire...
Cory Schneider - Whew, breathe it deep...
Let's assume the biggest pitfall of having a young team is the likelihood with which they tarnish an otherwise promising performance by sprinkling in a couple dumb, almost unforgivable mistakes. If that's the case, then the fact that the Devils were able to bear down and overcome what likely should have been fatal errors in toppling one of their conferences most formidable foes must make them a pretty damn good young team.
Between gift wrapping a go-ahead goal for someone who has never needed to be done any favors in the offensive zone, to taking thee most egregiously unnecessary offensive zone penalty with two minutes left in a tie game, to going down a man in overtime and giving an absolutely lethal powerplay even more room to maneuver, the Devils easily surpassed what was a small margin for error. The fact that it didn't cost them one single point is not only a credit to their resilience, but also a credit to their uncanny maturation process.
Most fans who are rooted in reality are still waiting for the other shoe to drop in what is - objectively speaking - supposed to be another rebuilding year, but I'll be damned if the Devils haven't kept that shoe lodged deeply in our throats with what has been nothing short of a stunning start. The season is still young, but a youthful roster that's been completely remade appears wise beyond it's years. To be 5-1 with contributions coming all throughout the entirety of the lineup had to be considered a pipe dream, and it's been a goddamn blessing watching them actively avoid their wakeup call.
Sooner rather than later they are going to stop facing backup-"quality" goaltending, but it's been encouraging to watch them light it up quicker than whatever Miles Wood smokes before he speaks publicly. Going toe-to-toe with a talented Tampa Bay team that's been on a tear would have been no small feat - no matter who was in net - and the Devils somehow managed to pull a victory out of the jaws of defeat. Six games into the season is still far too early to make any declarative statements about long-term potential, but I feel pretty confident in saying that this team has a far stronger mental makeup than the one that missed every branch in their abrupt plunge into the abyss of NHL irrelevance.
Pavel Zacha - I don't want to pile on the guy because I think his struggles are overblown, but he's only digging himself deeper by trying to make up for those struggles. Theoretically, I appreciate him doing what this team has made a point of doing in sticking up for a teammate. In practice, dropping the gloves with two minutes to go in a tie game as retaliation to a missed high stick is not the time, place, or circumstance to prove your worth. Especially since it was almost guaranteed to result in taking an offensive zone penalty for the third straight game when the second straight game earned you a two period benching. Whatever shrink made Jesper Bratt's balls drop quicker than his now-egregious descent to the 6th round could easily earn his commission with Pavel Zacha, because his worst enemy has been whatever has been going on in his own head. It's not abnormal for a 20 year old to have confidence issues, but he has to stop letting them put his team in bad spots.
Steve Santini - Not sure even the most eternal of optimist could have drawn up a better start for him. When it became painfully clear that filling the holes on defense was going to be more costly than tearing down your entire house just to add an extra bathroom, the organization appeared to cross its fingers in hopes that giving someone like Santini more responsibility would aide in his development. That prayer - as well as the begging and pleading that convinced Will Butcher to sign in New Jersey - has paid off in spades.
Andy Greene and Damon Severson - They are obviously in over their head as a top pairing against a top line like Tampa's, but they have to do a better job making it harder on them than they did last night. In essence, they are expected to contain players like that as opposed to completely stopping them. However, Damon Severson did neither in dry humping Cory Schneider's net like he was trying to get rid of his red rocket on the back of the couch as Andy Greene left a loose puck sitting casually in his own crease.
Nico Hischier - Doesn't need to change a single thing. Just got to get his first one out of the way before his luck changes, and - like Rick Pitino in an Olive Garden bathroom - it's coming...quickly.
The "Vets" - The youth movement has been getting a ton of praise - and rightfully so - but Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, and Taylor Hall have undoubtedly made it easier on them. You need your best players to play like your best players when your other players are still learning how to best groom the hair on their balls. Henrique has made noticeable contributions in every game, which is something you definitely couldn't say last year. Palmieri has honestly looked like a player possessed since the preseason. Hall has given them what the rest of the roster partly prohibited him from giving them last year. Watching the latter two continue to abuse the seam worse than an overweight woman in yoga pants has been glorious since it begun when they switched wings on the powerplay last season.
I'm Not One To Complain About A Win, But The Devils Looked Positively Dreadful In Their Victory Over The Rangers
How did I feel after watching the New Jersey Devils get back in the win column less than 24 hours after taking their first loss of the season? Well, somehow much, much better about a goaltending situation that I was already extremely confident in. That said, Keith Kinkaid must be feeling pretty damn lonely on that list of positives...
I mean, there's only one reason to be anything less than completely pessimistic about a performance in which 1/3 of the top six played their way onto the bench for 2/3's of the back end of a back-to-back. That reason is that the early season optimism that preceded it has afforded me the opportunity to not blindly praise the team after every win. In recent years, I may have given that piss poor display of passing aptly known as "the first period" some empty compliment simply because it ended in a tie. However, after seeing that this team is capable of better and - more importantly - smarter hockey, I can't wave my pom-pom's in good conscience knowing that Keith Kinkaid stole a victory from a team that had no business being as dominant for long stretches as they were. Every good team grabs a couple victories that they don't deserve, but - current record aside - the Devils damn sure aren't good enough to be relying on talent to make up for a disparity in effort. Especially when that disparity in effort is coming from some of those who have been gifted with the most talent.
Now, I don't expect the Devils to apologize for beating the Rangers in their own building, because I don't plan on apologizing for walking out of said building with a smirk on my face after they did. I just hope the fact that they did win doesn't take away from the impact of the lesson John Hynes tried to teach by turning Pavel Zacha, Marcus Johansson, and Jimmy Hayes into spectators. Luckily tired legs didn't cost them the game, but - even if they did - that would have more acceptable than losing due to careless offensive zone penalties and mind numbing defensive zone turnovers. It's disappointing that some of the most trusted players on the team required a benching so early into the season, but it's promising that this team finally has the depth to hold it's players accountable without it resulting in sure defeat.
Credit to the man who has been disproportionally criticized by fans despite not being given the horses (or as I call it, has received the 'Cory Schneider treatment') for realizing that he now has enough horsepower to leave those that aren't quite hoofing it in the stable. Being a scapegoat is in John Hynes job description, but he deserves a proverbial pat on his (hard) ass for flashing the same balls that he did in sitting Ben Lovejoy for the season opener.
Also of note:
- Will Butcher has actually looked pretty solid defensively in his sheltered minutes, but even if he brought nothing more to the table than the threat of this needlepoint pass that he made to Drew Stafford then he'd already have given this team something it hasn't had in a long, long time...
- I don't envy the position John Hynes will be put in when Brian Boyle (fingers crossed) makes his return to the lineup, because Blake Coleman has given the Devils everything they could possibly want out of a bottom six player. Whether it was calmly breaking the zone, laying out to block a shot in an odd-manned situation, or winning puck battles, he stood out as one of the better player on the ice without even getting on the scoresheet. That doesn't even take into account that he selflessly made the conscious choice to get his ass kicked by that scumbag Tom Wilson on behalf of his teammate just one night earlier. If all that isn't enough, then the fact that he's got an endearingly weird quirk - that is apparently now sponsored(?) - must be considered when decided his role going forward...
- This isn't exactly newsworthy, but John Moore's physical tools (mainly his skating) are far beyond his implementation of them. If we are going to be mean about it, he moves like a pro and thinks the game like a pre-teen. Look no further for proof of that than the goals that have put the Devils in a hole the last two games.
- Adam Henrique owns the New York Rangers. That shouldn't be something that you didn't already know, but - to be quite honest - it's fun to type out.
Two days late and two points short, but the Devils finally learned a valuable lesson; It's really fucking hard to win hockey games against top heavy teams when you take unnecessary penalties. That was an easy flaw to brush off when literally thee most unlikely of shorthanded goals, a couple posts, and Cory Schneider's insane ability to remain conscious while standing on his head were able to help offset the gifting of EIGHT extra man opportunities to a team as spoiled with offensive riches as the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not so much when you give the most dangerous power player in the game 4 minutes to go to work in a closely contested third period.
I don't want to be too hard on Pavel Zacha because anyone that's played the game knows that sometimes your stick instinctually gets away from you, but that double minor served as the blood drawing dagger in the innocence of a team that's been a little too guilty of playing undisciplined.
Now, of course, the Devils were otherwise unquestionably outplayed by one of the best teams in the conference. Much more importantly, however, they weren't outclassed. Aside from the careless turnover (looking at you John Moore) that led to Oshie's first goal and the sloppy puck work that led to the back breaking insurance goal to end the second, the Devils were in last night's game up until the fateful high stick.
They could certainly benefit from playing a better brand of hockey tonight, but I don't think too many dramatic tweaks to be made to give them a pretty good chance to win a battle of the backups that - comparatively speaking - makes Keith Kinkaid look like the second coming of the man immortalized in bronze outside the Prudential Center. Let's hope they take advantage of that chance, because I think a struggling team like the Rangers is vulnerable to a fast, hungry team that should be eager to prove that their first three games were no fluke.
Also of note:
- I think getting his first goal out of the way would do wonders for the psyche of Nico Hischier. I don't exactly have an undeniable command of the body language of professional athletes. Luckily, the inherent inability of a teenager to hide his displeasure with himself through his facial expressions has made it clear - to me anyway - that he's mildly frustrated. He has by no means looked out of place, but he also hasn't been playing with the same creative fearlessness that had fans salivating after one game. Something tells me getting on the scoresheet will change that.
- You know that feeling when you're absolutely crushing a date before one awkward silence ruins the whole thing? Like, she's laughing at your jokes, there is obvious chemistry, things seem to be progressing, and then your mind goes blank, there's an awkward silence for a few seconds, and next thing you know you're overthinking everything that comes out of your mouth?
I feel like that situation is the career of Damon Severson in a nutshell. I don't feel comfortable continuing with that analogy and hoping that Damon Severson develops into hockey's Harvey Weinstein, but if I were to do so then the outlet pass he made to spring Kyle Palmieri on this breakaway would compare favorably to whipping his dick out and placing it on the dinner table....
Let's hope he continues to play with the confidence required to make that pass, because if he does then there's no reason the Devils shouldn't end up very happy in the 6 year (rape and harassment free) relationship they just committed to.
SportsNet- It’s literally been decades since we’ve seen a player get selected in the sixth round of the entry draft one year and make his NHL debut the next – at least until the 19-year-old winger stormed on the scene with the New Jersey Devils these last few weeks.
While we might easily point to Bratt’s size (five foot 10, 175 pounds) or his circumstances (playing in Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-tier league) as reasons for why he was previously overlooked, the teenager points at himself.
He readily admits that he struggled with focus and preparation in the past. He would get anxious and overthink things. There was very little consistency in his play.
“Last year was a pretty tough year for me,” Bratt said in an interview. “It was tough for me to be confident on the ice and I was always nervous before games. So I never performed at my highest level. I didn’t know how to make myself ready for the next day and that’s something that I worked on a lot this year to play on my highest level every night.”
Bratt credits the decision to start working with mental coach Andy Swärd as the moment where his potential was truly unlocked. Swärd’s client list includes athletes in various sports, including a handful of Swedish Hockey League goalies, and his message immediately resonated with a player who had scored just 14 goals in 94 games for AIK over two seasons.
“He makes me feel very comfortable,” said Bratt. “He’s a very well-known guy in Sweden. He’s a great guy and he’s one of the biggest reasons I’m standing here.”
Honestly, the only thing that makes less sense than a 6th round pick from a year ago making the roster and working his way up to the top half of it while amassing six points in the first three games of his career is that 6th round pick ever having dealt with a lack of confidence. It's straight from the workhorse's mouth so I guess I have no choice but to treat it as the truth, but before five minutes ago I would have been more likely to believe that Jesper Bratt had six nipples and a goddamn tail than a self esteem issue. The kid has been an absolute terror to each and every professional power play he has faced thus far, and he's one summer removed being unsure of himself?
Metaphorically speaking, going from being a role player in some random (bush) league in Sweden to taking the NHL by storm is the developmental equivalent of been a wallflower at homecoming to finger banging the hot chaperone in the middle of the dance floor at prom. Assuming puberty didn't just randomly hit him about 4 years too late, this unforeseen boost in big dick syndrome is radically uncharacteristic of any 175 pound Swede.
Now, all the credit goes to Jesper Bratt for having the endless potential that needed to be unlocked like throwback uniforms in a video game, but who is this goddamn gatekeeper and why is not already employed full-time by the Devils? Pretty sure the 18 year old first overall pick who - for the first time in his young career - looked mildly overwhelmed last night could benefit from the services of Andy Sward and his mental wizardry. Shit, Jesper Bratt basically became Henrik Zetterberg overnight so who is to say that this Swedish witch doctor couldn't tap into Nico Hischier's inner-Pavel Datsyuk after 5 minutes on a leather couch? I've been pushing for Damon Severson to start playing like his proverbial nuts dropped for years now, and we're just going to leave hockey's Mr. Miyagi coaching up players who are destined for SKA (KHL) when the S-K-Y is apparently the limit in New Jersey?! The guy who made the following play happen was apparently sitting in some 8 square foot locker room cringing at the idea of touching the puck a year ago. They better get his shrink to the states so this team can blow up, and I mean STAT(S)...
I know this seems like an odd place to start given the fact that last night's game finished with a score of 6-3, but to prioritize praising anyone else prior to Cory Schneider would simply be disingenuous with how good he's been early in this young season. I understand that the mind of the average, offensively depraved Devils' fan wants to immediately jump to the fact that they have somehow already doubled up their amount of 6 goal games from last season. However, without a 47 save effort from the top tier goaltender who became the scapegoat for the entirety of an (a)pathetic roster last year, we would be forced to talk about the team's defensive woes just as much as their apparent offensive enlightenment. Simply put, every single person that suggested trading Cory Schneider or implied that his admittedly porous numbers were this team's biggest problem can choke on their own foot, because the differential in the last three games has been a glimpse into just how easy he makes it look when he has goal support.
And what unbelievable goal support it has been. I didn't think it was possible to find myself more impressed with a Devils' team that's lit the lamp more often than a teen who has yet to have worried about an electricity bill, but then I realized that a grand total of ZERO goals have come from the stick of Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, or Nico Hischier. I don't expect the Devils' to drop touchdowns on every team they play, but if they are going to continue to get substantial contributions in secondary scoring then I'm much more likely to believe that this early season offensive outburst is an undeniable sign of significant improvement up front. Non-facetiously speaking, this team would have considered themselves lucky if their bottom-6 tallied 4 goals in the longest month of last season, and they were able to casually hit that number last night alone.
Miles Wood didn't even crack the opening night lineup and he got on the board twice in a period. Blake Coleman might not even be in New Jersey if it weren't for Brian Boyle's unfortunate cancer diagnosis, and he ripped a bar-in laser that could only be described as a goal scorer's goal. There's literally not one single person outside the organization (or his immediate family) that thought Brian Gibbons was anything more than training camp roster fodder, and he potted a shorthanded goal while down two men to keep his PPG pace alive. Pavel Zacha was the most likely person to get on the scoresheet (twice), and he had all of 8 goals last year. The depth of the roster has been on full display, and top of it hasn't even fully gotten going yet.
Now, the Devils' aren't going to win games this consistently if they continue to give up 40+ shots while marching to the box 8 times per night. Still, the fact that they were able to overcome some pretty piss poor first period passing to win this particular game, on the road, over an extremely talented team should be enough to differentiate this '3-0' from the '3-0' that turned into the unceremonious, midseason dismissal of Peter DeBoer in comically quick fashion. I don't know that their superb special teams play (from multiple guys who weren't expected to be on the team a month ago) is sustainable, and they certainly aren't going to be able to lean on the luck of the iron as often they did last night, but there was nothing fluky about the amount of chances they were able to create with their collective speed and relentless forecheck.
This was the Devils' first true "test" and - while not exactly acing it - they somehow still managed to set the curve higher. I hope they are prepared to start living up to expectations as opposed to setting them, because since the drop of the puck in their first preseason game they've been making it insanely hard for their fans to continue managing them.
P.S. Absolutely loved watching Adam Henrique jump in to dry hump Matt Martin when he took a late game run at Jesper Bratt. I'm sure it had a lot to do with losing on a bi-weekly basis, but this team lacked that type of attitude last year. John Hynes wanted the Devils to become hard to play against and there is nothing more difficult then trying to pry a grown man who is desperate not to get punched in the face from a top you...
P.P.S. Someone check on Lou Lamoriello. I'm concerned as to whether or not his heart could handle watching a young, dynamic player wearing a recently altered Devils' uniform embroidered with the number 13. Hey Lou....BOO!
I know that headline reads as over confident, but - more than anything - it's tone should be considered suspicious. I know the wins came over a hopeless Avalanche team and a Sabres team whose superstar is probably already trying to find an opt-out loophole in the 8 year extension he signed last week, but it's the fashion in which they came that really has me scratching my chin. The last time the Devils scored ten goals in a two game stretch was probably right around the same time they won two afternoon games in one season, and - without doing a single second of research - that had to be during the era in which wearing a helmet wasn't a requirement.
Obviously the schedule is about to get a hell of a lot harder in Toronto, but I was led to believe that I shouldn't read too far into a dominant preseason, only to see that same type of performance carry over once the games started counting. It's one thing to ride a 40 save performance from Cory Schneider to victory over a bad team in an emotional home opener, but beating the brakes off Buffalo in Buffalo with a depleted lineup that was even more heavily dependent on rookies? It's impossible not to get excited about this team's ability to put up points out of the gate, even if a step up in competition undoubtedly makes those points harder to come by.
There honestly aren't enough good things that could possibly be said about Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Will Butcher, and their NINE combined points in two NHL games. Coming into the season, most Devils' fans were just looking for proof of a better tomorrow and they already got it as of yesterday.
Never mind that Taylor Hall has been all over the ice, because somehow the Devils' best forward has been an afterthought. Never mind that Marcus Johansson had three points yesterday, because the most proven acquisition of the offseason has basically been a footnote. Cory looks like Cory. Adam Henrique seems rejuvenated after a disappointing season. Kyle Palmieri appeared to have gone through the adult version of puberty before going down to leg injury temporarily. The defense seems deeper and improved (although it would be pretty impossible for it to be any worse). Yet, all that seems secondary to the fact that this team's future has arrived, even if the road to relevance only stands to get rougher from here on out.
Starting 2-0 shouldn't be giving anyone (d)illusions of a potential playoff berth from a ludicrously deep division, but the manner in which it was achieved should solidify the preseason promise of exciting hockey in New Jersey. I'll be damned if that's not a massive step in the right direction after the nightmare that was almost the entirety of last season.
Stop The Presses: Chico Resch Is Back In The Organization And Officially A Member Of The Devils' Radio Broadcast!
I think I speak for most, if not all, Devils' fans when I say that I love Chico Resch like family. Everyone needs a mildly senile (but insanely friendly) grandfather who has a bottomless appetite (RIP 'Chico Eats!'), a wealth of stories, and - most importantly - an undying need to share them. That's what he brought - in all it's glory - to each and every New Jersey Devils' television broadcast that he was a part of, so it's great to hear that he's back in-house where he belongs.
Unfortunately, that's why I am going to jump on the grenade here and say exactly what everyone else is feeling too sentimental to say...
Chico Resch doing radio is a logistical nightmare. Take the emotions out of the decision and it couldn't possibly be a worse idea. I'm talking like a "Helen Keller as your babysitter"-esque hire. The beauty of Chico was that he was comic relief. He had the uncanny ability to watch the same damn play that you were simultaneously viewing on television, and describe something wildly different than what actually transpired. That was unbelievably endearing when it was aided by the 'Hall Of Fame' help of Doc Emrick and the emergence of 35 different indisputable video replays. Something tells me that quality doesn't quite translate to painting a second-by-second picture for people trying to focus on literally anything other than driving off the road and ending it all while sitting in standstill traffic.
That last paragraph wasn't meant to be a buzz kill, because I - for one - am willing to sacrifice having any idea what who has the puck and/or what they are doing with it a couple times a year just to get the comforting presence of New Jersey's favorite homer back in my life. Seriously, hearing that a warm, familiar face will be back within the Devils' organization gave me that fuzzy feeling that I assume the regulars had while waltzing into 'Cheers'. From the fans to the front office to the staff to the players, Chico knows everybody's name and - with opening night right around the corner and my dedication to watching games on TV having peaked - that seems more important than knowing if the puck is in Cory Schneider's glove, the back of the net, or the 23rd row.
Devils' Forward Brian Boyle Has Been Diagnosed With A Treatable Form Of Leukemia, And Is Hoping To Be Ready To Start The Season
NorthJersey- The Devils announced on Tuesday that veteran center Brian Boyle, signed as a free agent this summer, has been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a bone marrow cancer.
“It’s largely treatable and it appears to be early in the disease,” said Dr. Michael Farber, the medical director of executive health at Hackensack University Medical Center and the Devils team internist.
There is no immediate timetable for Boyle to begin treatments – Farber said Boyle’s CML can be “largely treatable with medication” – but Boyle said he’s hoping to be in the Devils’ lineup for their Oct. 7 regular-season opener against the Avalanche at Prudential Center.
Boyle said he has been feeling fatigued this summer but chalked it up to having a 2-year-old and an infant while traveling between Florida, Boston and New Jersey. But bloodwork taken on Thursday when Boyle reported to Devils’ training camp for medical testing produced the diagnosis.
Still, Boyle, 32, was very upbeat on a conference call to announce the news.
“I’m expecting to live my life, to live a normal life,” Boyle said. “I believe I’m in good hands."
“My mindset is on Oct. 7,” Boyle added. “I don’t like missing games. I feel as close to normal as you can feel."
To be honest, I'm not too sure how I am supposed to feel right now. Somber? Relieved? Some extremely uncommon combination of the two?
Like, obviously I am glad that they caught this early on so that neither Brian Boyle's career nor - much, much more importantly - his life are likely to be in serious jeopardy. However, it's pretty damn rare that you simultaneously get news that someone has a form of cancer annnnd will also potentially be ready to resume athletic competition at a professional level in no more than three weeks. I suppose it's better this way, but it's certainly odd to digest a diagnosis of one of the most debilitating diseases know to man...at the same time as finding out that that the person stricken with it is could already be well on his way to triumphantly beating it.
If I don't come off as sorrowful right now then it's solely because Brian Boyle's shockingly casual and overwhelmingly positive outlook - from both a personal and professional standpoint - leads me to believe that I shouldn't be. That's surely the hard-nosed, irrationally confident hockey player in him showing itself, but it's also probably a reflection of the timeliness of the medical testing that ultimately uncovered an insanely hazardous health issue. Either way, thoughts and prayers go out to Brian Boyle and his family, and let's hope there's no reason to feel anything other than unbridled optimism until he can get back to officially living a cancer-free life both on and off the ice.
For what it's worth...
If those who weren't in attendance asked me what they missed last night with about 5 minutes remaining in what was potentially a candidate for the most nauseatingly "preseason" game of all time, I probably would stared back at them blankly until they walked away. Sure, Will Butcher looked the part. Stefan Noesen and Joseph Blandisi teamed up for a give-and-go goal that could have passed for chemistry on a team that's been biologically inferior as of late. Kyle Palmieri flexed what appeared to be a little added offseason muscle, but was probably just the result of him being closer to mid-season form than the rest of his peers.
However, all of those observations were made during what was basically the intermission entertainment for what turned out to be a night class in obnoxiously overbearing officiating. I get that the NHL is trying to increase scoring by adding more stupid, nonsensical penalties, but - boy, oh boy - did calling a bunch of face-off violations against players that apparently had no idea what the fuck a face-off violation is make last night's contest largely unwatchable. It wasn't so much a hockey game as it was a whistle blowing competition...until one person took it upon himself to remind everyone why they were watching it in the first place...
That's it. That's all I needed. Just a proverbial key bump of the good stuff from the end of an 18 year old 'Swiss Army Knife'. I don't think anyone should have expected Nico Hischier to step on the ice and dominate from the first drop of the puck, and - due in part to the choppiness of what could more accurately be described as a scrimmage - he was mostly held in check. Except for that time late in the game where he surgically stripped the puck while splitting the defense only to swoop in on net and casually slide the puck 5-hole like he's been doing it all his life. Throw in the fact that there was a '13' on his back and I would have been liable to think the Devils collected Datsyuk as Kovalchuk collateral if I was squinting from the cheap seats after about a dozen $10 beers.
Yeah, it was just one meaningless goal in one meaningless game, but it was meaningless goal in a meaningless game that required more talent than about 95% of the Devils' "meaningful" goals in "meaningful" games. If nothing else, Nico Hischier flashed the skill-set that got Nolan Patrick pushed down the draft board and regulated to the professional purgatory that is Philadelphia, and you honestly couldn't have asked for much more from his first preseason game. The kid came as advertised, so I think - at the very least - the Devils' organization can take a deep breathe and forget about having buyer's remorse anytime soon.
I'm not going to lie to you. As excited as I am about the prospect of Damon Severson blossoming into two-way, top-4 defenseman on the Devils' watch, him signing on the dotted line didn't exactly have me bumping my skull on the ceiling. After all, hearing that the only young, proven member of your defense came out on the other side of restricted free agency unscathed is kind of like hearing that the foundation of the house you're building managed to survive a windstorm. That's not to take away from how imperative it was to lockup Damon Severson long term, but it's not so much great news as it is an avoidance of demoralizing news.
Now, doing so at a figure that is almost guaranteed to be a bargain for the next six years? That's a reason for excitement. His excessively negative plus/minus on a dreadful team might cloud the memory of some, but Damon Severson started last season playing a brand of hockey that was easily worth $4.1 million. The following might say more about the market value of young, mobile defensemen than it does about the true development of a 23 year old that was basically thrown in the deep end without floaties when asked to anchor an awful blue line. However, even if he doesn't follow the ascending career trajectory of the last right handed defenseman to get an eerily similar financial commitment from New Jersey, we are talking about a guy that should make a fairly compensated second pairing defenseman for the foreseeable future. If he comes into his own like most promising players at his age and position then the money he's due will only become a laughable underpayment, but - even if he doesn't - he'll likely earn every cent of his 25 million.
Just another example of Ray Shero pulling a 'Shero' if you ask me. Now if he could just find a way to sniff out more competent defensive talent without making a move that equates to cutting off the franchise's nose to spite it's face then we would really be on to something.
First and foremost, I'm painfully aware that my level of excitement regarding the addition of a player that has as much NHL ice time on his resume as I do is irrational. I'm objective enough to realize that that can be directly attributed to the depressing dearth of talent that the Devils currently have at said player's position. My giddiness may scream otherwise, but I know that Ray Shero didn't just convince a future Norris Trophy candidate to willingly come to New Jersey.
However, relative to the state of the blue line that he's joining, adding the Hobey Baker winning captain of a National Champion is more significant than just adding a 22 year old that was made available by his inability to crack a lineup that was somehow worse than the one he's now a part of. The bar may have gotten set lower than a 'Fisher Price' basketball hoop with each passing day that the Devils didn't address their backend, but I'll be damned if they didn't posterize other suitors by windmill dunking all over that bar in the waning seconds of their offseason. They satisfied the blind hopes and deafening prayers of literally everyone that has a vested interest in their improvement, even if those dreams became easier to fulfill than Jon Merrill's vacated spot in the lineup.
Will Butcher admittedly doesn't have all that much competition, but he just instantly became the Devils' best defensive prospect. Considering the astronomical market value that NHL teams placed on anyone that's ever successfully executed one single poke check, paying peanuts for a guy that could potentially top out as a second pairing, offensive defenseman was about as good of a return as you could possibly hope to get on a minimal investment. The Devils just bought themselves a lucky lottery ticket, and though the payout isn't the NHL equivalent of the Powerball, this team could benefit if it ends up being worth significantly more than it's $950K salary for the next two seasons.
Perhaps even more encouraging than the fact that New Jersey picked up a defensive prospect whose promising future isn't at least three years away from coming to fruition is the fact that they were able to convince someone to voluntarily pick New Jersey. Will Butcher may have just chosen to join the Devils' to increase his odds of looking better by comparison, but hopefully impending free agents don't see it at that way when looking at the state of a rebuilding franchise. It possibly could have been out of pity, but Ray Shero just left the ghosts of lost sweepstakes past (Jimmy Vesey and Alex Kerfoot) in the rearview on the road to turning the Devils' into a preferred destination. That doesn't mean they any closer to being a playoff team today than they were yesterday, but they are slightly closer to icing competence in their own end. Honestly, that's really all that rational fans were asking out of this offseason. It just so happened to come at the proverbial buzzer in a fashion that this organization definitely can't say it is used to.
Hey Jim Montgomery, do me a favor and quiet down so that I don't need another cold shower? Much appreciated...
Devils' fans, it's time to consider not changing our underwear...
This Year The Devils Cheap, Expendable, Veteran Addition To Their Forward Group Will Be Named Drew Stafford
My initial thoughts on this deal are pretty much the same as the initial thoughts I would have on any one year deal worth less than a million dollars that was agreed upon in late August.
To put it simply? Meh, can't hurt.
Drew Stafford certainly had his struggles last year but he proved to be a welcomed deadline addition to the Bruins. In comparison to that of Boston, the proven talent on the right side of the Devils roster...well...let's just say that if it were a dick measuring contest then New Jersey would be the team complaining that it's too cold. I don't want to put a floor on the level of disappointment given the on-ice product recently, but the worst case scenario is that Drew Stafford follows up his extremely underwhelming season with one that is eerily reminiscent. If that's the case he would still easily be worth $800K to a team that would consider any warm body with an NHL resume a relative upgrade at right wing.
Maybe he shocks everyone and regains his 20+ goal form a la Lee Stempniak, or maybe he just casually reminds Devils fans he exists by potting a meaningless goal every 10 games or so a la P.A. Parenteau. Whatever the case may be, his cap hit in literally a drop in the bucket of their cap space, and a guy that - at his worst - was worth a fourth round pick will almost definitely be getting flipped for an asset come late-February.
I suppose the argument could be made that the New Jersey Devils should have saved that spot in the lineup for a young, promising prospect, but I'm pretty sure they still have more vacant spots in the lineup than they have young, promising prospects. This signing makes the Jimmy Hayes PTO more of a 'shot in the dark' than 'a hope and a prayer', and thus guarantees they'll have one more veteran presence amongst a group of forwards that are in desperate need of someone to buy them beer.
Travis Zajac Is Out 4-6 Months With A Torn Pec, Annnd The Devils Are Officially Out Of The Playoff Race
I'm not saying that Travis Zajac needs someone to babysit him during his offseason workouts, but - from here on it - it might be wise of the Devils to invest in an overly cautious spotter...
Annnnyway, it's pretty depressing to have your eyes painfully held open to just how blind your optimism might have been before training camp even starts. A potential playoff berth was already a pipe dream, but that pipe just burst with the news that the New Jersey Devils will be without their most well-rounded, defensively responsible forward for half the season.
For all the criticism that he gets from fans that don't understand anything that takes place outside of a box score, Travis Zajac's presence is more important to the Devils' success than any one thing he does on the ice. Whether it be winning face-offs, killing penalties, or letting his linemates play it a little faster and looser in their own end, the guy just makes the jobs of those around him that much easier. It's that type of two way, versatile play that allowed him to anchor a surprisingly dominant line (Hall-Zajac-Palmieri) - albeit on a terrible offensive team - while only putting up 45 points. It was undeniably evident how important he was to the lineup when his injury coincided with the Devils crash back to earth two seasons ago, and it will be just as obvious when his extensive absence has the locker room looking younger than that one shitty college bar that doesn't check ID's.
If you really wanted to look on the bright side then this terrible, awful, no good, very bad news doesn't really do all that much to derail the Devils' unrealistic hopes of being relevant. The influx of youth - however promising it may be - was already going to have them fighting an uphill battle. Expecting rookies to carry the workload of a #1 center (even if he's probably better off as a #2 center) isn't going to make that hill any less steep. That said, this all but guarantees that New Jersey will get to see what they have in Michael McLeod (and potentially Blake Speers) sooner rather than later, and featuring Nico Hischier in a role he might not be ready for will show exactly how far away he is from being the player they thought they selected first overall. If nothing else, Pavel Zacha will get every opportunity to flourish in what should be a season that's very telling of his development.
In a way that won't come anywhere close to translating to more wins, this could make the Devils somewhat more exciting. Assuming, of course, that an injury on offense can't be all that disastrous to a team that is still without a blueline, Travis Zajac's newly vacant spot in the lineup is going to give a bunch of unproven guys the chance to sink or swim. Losing a versatile player who is better at defense than the actual defense for an extended period of time is never good, but at least the roster hopefuls know that they'll have to work their way out of floaties by the end of training camp.
You know what, I'm happy for John MacLean. I'm genuinely glad that he's getting another shot behind an NHL bench. That's partially because that NHL bench doesn't belong to the New Jersey Devils and partially because I think MSG could do better in terms of on-screen personalities, but mostly because I think he's a good guy that can be successful in a limited coaching role. I'm not sure I would want my team to test that last theory after the traumatizing debacle that was 2011, but I have no problem applauding another team's decision to do so from a distance.
At the end of the day, he's a guy that's been around the game for decades and has won a Stanley Cup in multiple capacities as a player and an assistant. His legacy should only be mildly tarnished in the eyes of even the most young and naive Devils' fan, and it's a legacy that makes him an integral figure in the franchise's history. Hopefully he can continue coaching long enough to make people forget about the one disastrous season he had calling the shots, because - with a career as great as his - he deserves at least one mulligan.
::checks bank account::
::looks in mirror::
Well shit, it appears that I didn't get caught up in some 'Freaky Friday'-esque scenario and morph into one of the best left wings in the entire NHL over night, but I'll be damned if Taylor Hall and I aren't temporarily sharing a brain. In fact, I think it's safe to say that the unbridled optimism of the Devils' forward who is most desperate to expedite the rebuilding process falls in line with that of every fan that has gone on the offensive in repeatedly checking Twitter for that inevitable defensive upgrade.
With each passing day it becomes ever-so-slightly less likely that it's coming, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't breathing easier knowing that someone inside the organization has the confidence that I have started to lack. Taylor Hall could very well be trying to speak a competent blue line into existence and he very well may be using his rectum to do so. That, however, is certainly a better source than the wall that Devils' fans have been using as a sounding board in an effort to sooth their concerns about the upcoming season.
Honestly, it's just good to know that someone far more in the know than myself hasn't given up hope/delusionally convinced themselves that Severson-Santini are on the verge of channeling their inner Niedermayer-Stevens. Taylor Hall could be setting himself up for disappointment, but not as badly as he would be if he expected last year's defense to be making any drastic strides going into next year.
Here's to praying that Ray Shero does what Ray Shero does and makes this summer even more exciting. If not for us fans then for the mental health of Taylor Hall who - I would have to imagine - is only saying exactly what Cory Schneider is thinking as he wakes up in a cold sweat having relived the defenseless nightmare that was last season.
TSN- Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick in last month's draft, has been sidelined again, this time by an infection in his face.
The Flyers confirmed Thursday Patrick would be held off the ice due to the issue.
Patrick was unable to take part in on-ice activities at the team's development camp earlier this month due to his recovery from a second abdominal surgery.
The 18-year-old played in only 33 games in the WHL last season due to a misdiagnosed sports hernia, leading to his second surgery in late June.
The Brandon Wheat Kings centre was also unable to appear in the WHL playoffs due to a leg injury. He's broken his collarbone twice and underwent the first sports hernia surgery last summer.
I don't want to question the words of the late, great Tupac Shakur because revenge very well may be the sweetest joy next to getting pussy, but I do wonder whether he passed away before getting a taste of true vindication. I suppose it's inherently wrong that I laughed maniacally when I saw that an extremely talented 18 year old kid had to be kept off the ice with a facial ailment. I just feel less bad about doing so since the 18 year old in question happens to be a Philadelphia Flyer who had the most punchable face on the planet before it got invaded by a mystery bug.
Maybe the day will come where I'll feel empathy for Nolan Patrick due to the fact that his brittle body is only surpassed in vulnerability by an immune system that rivals that of a toddler. That day, however, damn sure ain't today. Not when the proud members of 'Team Nico' are too busy celebrating the fact that their preferred prospect has taken a commanding lead before a single meaningful puck has been dropped. I like to think I have the ability to be compassionate towards members of organizations that I loathe, but pity isn't currently my top priority after spending two months touting Nico Hischier as the future #1 center that isn't a pimple away from being physically unable to perform.
Seriously though, isn't about time that everyone else follows my lead and dismisses this notion that a player can't be injury prone at such a young age? The Flyers are like one more health problem away from investing in a padded quarantine that leads right onto the ice just so the #2 overall draft pick can participate in warmups, and I don't even blame them. Maybe the team doesn't want to disclose the nature of the "facial infection" because it's really just pink-eye that was obtained from breathing the air in Philadelphia, but if it's not then Nolan Patrick's body is such a liability that it's managed to discover an unknown illness. As if having yet another hernia surgery that brought his yearly total of exposed groins to a number that's only seen in the most widely attended of gang bangs wasn't a bad enough sign, now he's become patient zero for a nameless virus. It's totally possible that the kid starts drinking his milk, gets shot up with enough vaccinations to send Jim Carey screaming towards his apocalypse bunker, turns things around, and has a lengthy, successful career. However, let's not act like that isn't far less likely due to his genetic predisposition to watching Nico Hischier highlights from the trainer's table.
We should probably let him play an NHL game first, but I'm pretty close to suggesting that the Swiss phenom drop that mic....
PuckDaddy- Shero glanced down at the text message. Someone was inquiring about a rumor they had heard: That Shero, the Devils’ general manager, had been offered a first-round draft pick from the New York Rangers in exchange for Kovalchuk, and that Shero turned them down.
“That was a lie,” said Shero on Thursday.
“I never turned down a first-round pick. I never turned down a seventh-round pick. I never turned down anything. Why? It’s really simple: There was nothing to turn down.”
“It wasn’t my job to negotiate a contract with Kovalchuk,” said Shero, “and I can’t trade the guy unless he’s got a deal somewhere.”
As July 1 approached, Kovalchuk didn’t have a concrete offer from another team. But Grossman had enough interest from three teams to take these potential matches back to Shero in the hopes that they could transition from contractual discussions to the compensation talks.
Shero reached out to all three in the last week. All three determined they weren’t in on Kovalchuk.
One team was a definite “no.” Another team had something cooking with Grossman, but never circled back to Shero.
The last team traded a few text messages with Shero, before informing the Devils general manager that there were other areas of need they wanted to address ahead of adding Kovalchuk. They were going to circle back with Grossman, but Shero said they never did.
So the market for Kovalchuk had become the Sahara.
“I was never presented a deal,” Shero said.
“Get a contract with the team. Then that general manager calls New Jersey. That’s all that had to happen. And it never did,” said Shero. “So that’s the end of the story.”
Alternate Headline: 'HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA'
Picture it this way, and - please - take a deep breath prior. Ilya Kovalchuk made himself available for auction to the entire NHL, didn't get one single professional team to raise their proverbial paddle, and had to get bought back by the "original seller" (the KHL) to save face.
Now, should we be absolutely stunned that a 34 year old flight risk that is four years removed from the highest level of hockey and was reported asking for a long(ish) term deal at a cap hit that would make the most open minded of General Manager choke on their chicken salad didn't garner interest?
Does the wacky, desperate shit that teams tend to do in hopes of improving their roster during free agency leave me a bit a surprised that the entire NHL treated Ilya Kovalchuk's outcasted ass like he was the smelly kid in class?
Slightly, but boy is it nothing shot of hilarious that they did.
The news that Ilya Kovalchuk had to head back to the homeland with his tail between his legs makes me smile equally as obnoxiously as him potentially getting shipped anywhere stateside for a second round pick. You can me petty or spiteful, but knowing that Ray Shero was sitting on his hands because the rest of his peers were treating a selfish, greedy, overly presumptuous athlete like they walked in on him with his thumb in his ass during office hours brings me an endless amount of joy. It would have been delightful to receive some reparations for the player that acted like a middle schooler at sleep away camp by using "homesickness" as an excuse to go swim in a pool full of rubles in Eastern Europe. However, getting to watch one of the most self centered athletes in all of sports get humbled - if only temporarily - is quite the fucking consolation prize.
I said yesterday that I would rather New Jersey Devils miss out on a middling asset than be made to look like assholes, and little did I know that the person who should really feel like an asshole is the 400 goal scorer that couldn't even achieve asset status. Either way, the ongoing, tumultuous "relationship" between Ilya Kovalchuk and his former team has finally faded to black, and - amazingly - it's not the organization that gave him a 15 year fucking contract that is staring off into space while sitting alone at the negotiating table.
You know what's crazier than the fact that Ilya Kovalchuk, after yet another summer of nauseating unnecessary deliberation, decided to run from a return to the states on the most American day of the year? The fact that I can't place it outside the realm of possibility that he set the whole goddamn thing up as an epic troll job to the NHL that was designed at getting the KHL to streamline (almost literally) their entire net worth to his bank account.
Obviously I'm being (at least mildly) facetious. However, I think we can all agree that there truly isn't any amount of two-faced selfishness and greed that can be out past the guy that fled the country 3 years into a 15 year deal only to attempt returning four years older thinking he was worthy of the nearly the same exact cap hit...
As much as I wanted the Devils to recoup something in exchange for what was a devastatingly costly contract even before it went unfulfilled, I'm glad that this soap opera has finally reached a series finale that was more anticipated than the day 'The Big Bang Theory' gets taken behind the proverbial barn and mercifully shot in the head. Not just because I'm tired of hearing about a 34 year old Russian that's more fickle than a teenage girl trying to stay under budget in her like totally favorite store in the mall, but because the concept of being a Kovalchuk apologist can officially rot in pieces.
I don't care if his departure ultimately saved the New Jersey Devils from salary cap purgatory, because this awfully familiar "will he, won't he" routine that reached an eerily similar conclusion is proof positive that the person behind it is incapable of doing anyone any favors. A 3 year, 6.5 million per demand from someone that's been playing in a league that's less mindful of it's players than one that encourages you to drink beer in the locker room prior to games? That's about as valuable in an exchange as the rubles he's currently being paid with.
Hell, even if the previous report that Ray Shero enabled or encouraged his decision by playing hardball is true, I'm still putting the onus on the entitled mercenary that's never felt loyalty to anyone but himself. If that means I value years of spite over whatever steaming piles of dog shit teams were willing to offer to take on a hefty long term deal for a relatively unknown quantity then so be it. Personally, I think the right to tell Ilya Kovalchuk to go fuck himself and letting him become someone else's incredibly high maintenance problem was more important to the Devils' organization and their fans than getting bent over the barrel and being forcefully fucked into accepting a 4th round pick for him. I'd rather this franchise miss out on a middling asset than yet again be made to look like assholes by the guy that has hammered and sickled home the message that he's insufferable narcissistic. Especially since it allows my unbridled hate for him to go uncompromised.
And that, my friends, is why it's never safe to doubt the man that built the entire foundation for a organization that has won back-to-back Stanley Cups before coming to New Jersey and working laughably lopsided trades in back-to-back offseasons.
I'll admit, letting a cheap, reliable option like Beau Bennett hit the open market when the Devils have a lack of capable right wing talent that rivals the current Presidential administration was a bit disconcerting. Opting out of going all-in on the Kevin Shattenkirk sweepstakes was probably the smart move in the long term. That said, it left me feeling so queasy about the abomination that is currently their blue line that signing Brian Boyle - a solid 4th line center that can contribute in multiple facets of the game - couldn't even settle my stomach.
Then, like a thief in the night, an NHL GM with a proven track record of success reminded us that we are just a bunch of assholes spouting off baseless opinions that only pass the eye test of the visually impaired. The snake is at it's most dangerous when it's prey is vulnerable. Ray Shero lunged from the tall grass to sink his frugal fangs into the ass of the Washington Capitals before the reverberations of impatient Devils' fans that were undoubtedly stomping their feet had completely subsided.
A top 6 winger like Marcus Johansson for a second round pick that resulted from the stashing of dead money and a third round pick that resulted from the departure of the man who I'll love always and forever, but a man whose stubbornness made a full rebuild necessary in the first place? That deal in an of itself might not be a heist - per se - but the collective transactions of Ray Shero since his arrival can certainly be viewed as such.
Obviously these moves will have to start returning players that can keep pucks out of the net before we start talking about the person behind them like he's orchestrated 'Ocean's Eleven' on behalf of a team that somehow sucked their way into having the first overall pick. However, if there's anything we have learned over the last few summers it's that they shouldn't be judged until they've reached their conclusion. The New Jersey Devils suddenly have something that would have been considered a pipe dream less than three years ago, and that is the makings of what one could possibly confuse as forward depth (if they drank way too much over the holiday weekend). Maybe that gets flipped for some defensive help, or maybe they hold serve and dedicate August to helping Cory Schneider find the cape we was wearing in 2015-2016. Whatever the case may be, the person making those decisions still has my trust after flashing his mojo with the "no fucking way, really?" acquisition of MoJo.