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.
There's Something Depressingly Funny About The Fake James Harrison Quote That Made It's Way Around The Internet
Look, there's nothing funny about attributing a fake quote to a professional athlete. Especially when the professional athlete in question happens to be African American, and the fake quote is in reference to a polarizing, racially charged subject. It's honestly depressing that someone writing under the cowardly pseudonym of a fictitious hockey player turned golfer that pioneered the idea of taking off his skate in an attempt to stab an opponent was able to so easily spread such a blatant lie. That said, the thought process that allowed him to do so is at least mildly - if not morbidly - funny.
I mean, just take a second to stop and think why James Harrison - of all people - was used as the target of this online deception. I definitely don't want to put myself in the mind of someone that cares so strongly about athletes taking a seat in the name of equality that he mocks up baseless articles in hopes that old white people that aren't familiar enough with the internet to accept it's content as anything less than gospel share it. However, based on my familiarity with ignorant idiots like him, I think I am at liberty to say that there's a reason why he chose the black athlete that's most capable of putting the fear of god in every single one of his peers. There's no chance an NFL player would have their convictions swayed by something they came across on the petri dish of prejudice that is Facebook, but - if they were so inclined to do so - then the most effective threat would probably come from the guy that dick presses 600 pounds during the offseason.
Honestly, if there is something that could undo the entirety of a grown man's potty training then it's one scowl from a pissed off James Harrison. That's why an NHL analyst whose loose lips might as well be attached to an uncontrollable bladder wants faux-James Harrison on his team of "Super Patriots" that are more annoyed by peaceful protests than they are by violent, neo-nazi gatherings on American soil. I feel pretty confident in saying that because the alternative is that Jeremy Roenick actually wants to play alongside a guy that is willing to hypothetically hospitalize his teammates for having a differing opinion, and - based on his track record of spewing stupid shit - I doubt that would work out in his favor.
Jeremy Roenick and his braindead band of retweeters believe that black athletes don't have the right to express their displeasure with the state of race relations in this country while also believing that they have the right to use the made-up words of the biggest, most intimidating black athlete to scare them into standing up straight. If you don't consider that hilariously hypocritical then I would imagine you're capable of getting baited by the very same bullshit.
The Red Wings Had To Publicly Dismiss Their Logo's Unfortunate Affiliation With A Group Of Pun-Happy White Supremacists
There are far too many unenviable jobs to go as far as claiming that public relations is the most thankless profession. However, I can certainly think of at least one person that could formulate a pretty compelling argument that covering the tracks of an extremely successful, well respected organization is something that isn't for the faint of heart. Seriously, imagine being tasked with relaying to the public that the professional hockey franchise that's older than all-but-three in the entire NHL is - in fact - not related to the group of neo-nazi's running rampant through a fascist gathering with signs depicting a similar, yet bastardized version of their logo. If that's not enough to make you reconsider your career path then it's clear that you chose the correct one.
Admittedly, I don't know who conjured up this statement. Regardless, I am fairly certain he/she choked on his/her breakfast when their summer Saturday was interrupted by their employer calling to tell them they had to promptly extinguish an unfortunate affiliation with a group of people that are convinced they are the modern day reincarnation of the 'Hitler Youth' before it set the internet ablaze. I only took an introductory course in PR, but I would venture to guess there is no amount of 'Higher Learning' that can adequately prepare you to distance your company's insanely recognizable emblem from the white supremacists that are using it to turn the name of their racist cult into a pun.
The author in question probably considered the job of being a metaphorical fire fighter for an NHL team to be a dream gig, but he/she damn sure didn't realize those fires were going to be attached to the end of Tiki torches held by the people that were using a proud franchise in a predominantly white sport to proudly declare white dominance. I don't want to speak for the nameless person behind the abject dismissal of white supremacy, but I'm confident that - in the moment - they damn sure didn't consider being given the responsibility of carefully crafting it a white privilege.
A lot of people are going to get caught staring slack jawed at the backwards juggling act that served as the grand finale to this ice capades-esque training clip. Considering the fact that even a good portion of NHLers would wake up in the net after having concussed themselves in an attempt to pull off something similar, there's very good reason for that sequence to be the subject of shock and awe.
That said, I would be lying if I said that high maintenance party trick was what I found most impressive about a video that I could have sworn was stuck in fast forward. That pissed off feeling that you get when you misjudge and zoom a little too far past the commercials? That's the same anxiety I felt while trying to understand about 75% of what Mitch Marner did - with ease - throughout those highlights. Honestly, if there was someone narrating every single move made then it probably would have sounded like I had accidentally turned a podcast up to 2.5x the normal speed. I would likely be lucky to catch every 4th word, because I only completely comprehended every 4th move after first watch. I must have said "wait, what?" at least three times in a 39 second video and it would have been more if I didn't find myself stunned silent by him heel-toeing around the entirety of the neutral zone in what appeared to be overdrive.
Obviously a kid who would be lucky to weigh 170 pounds after feeding him cake and throwing him in the pool fully clothed at Mitch-A-Palooza needed some quickness and creativity to put up 60+ points as a rookie. Still, seeing the extent of it up close without a defender in sight really puts things in perspective.
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....
Am I Supposed To Feel Bad For The Predators Fan That Found Out He Won Free Tickets To The Stanley Cup Final A Month Too Late?
Look, I'm not so far trapped in own bubble that I expect every single person to spend the hours between 9AM and 5PM scouring the cesspool of opinions that Twitter can often be. I know some people have jobs that are more important than the versatility of the latest meme.
That said, you just aren't going to convince me that a die hard fan who entered an online contest for some of the most elusive Stanley Cup Finals tickets in recent memory just forgot to check twitter for a full month. Andrew Fudge might be a Predators fan, but he's not a Predators fan that was deserving of seeing them play their most important game in franchise history live if he didn't have his phone glued to his hand during work hours during their entire cup run.
Hell, by the time the time the Devils finally got knocked off by the Kings in 2012 I'm pretty sure my boss knew to only disturb me when I was doing company related work, because the only times I looked truly focused were when I was turned into a paranoid schizophrenic by up-to-second line decisions and injury updates. Being a slave to social media isn't exactly a good thing, but i'll be damned if isn't a sign of how invested you are in your team come playoff time. That's not to say there's a direct correlation between twitter activity and fandom, but there is when the person that tries to use twitter activity to get free tickets doesn't even remember doing so. I guess I can applaud him for using a "woe is me" attitude to get some future freebies, but I'm not shedding any tears for the guy that should have been sweating while staring at his phone screen until he saw double while checking up on Ryan Ellis' playing status...
A lot of hockey fans are going to let this clip bunch their panties worse than running to catch a train on a humid summer day. After all, a lot of hockey fans are oversensitive ninnies that take offense when not every single person in the continental United States has the NHL box scores from the previous night memorized.
Now granted, the panel that just came to the agreed upon conclusion that the Atlanta Thrashers moved to a completely differently country than they did about a decade and a half before they did should know better considering they are paid handsomely to discuss sports on a national broadcast, but your outside of your mind if you think if you think it surprises me that they didn't.
ESPN has made no bones about their lack of interest in the NHL. Whether that was justified or not given their lack of financial incentive to cover the sport is irrelevant, because they made it pretty clear that they aren't going to do so in any respectable way when they laid off every employee that knew what a puck was (sans Buccigross) the second they started cutting staff.
If anything, hockey fans should treat this incredibly inexcusable slip up the same way they treat that Instagram photo of their ex tongue kissing the guy that she left them for. It's a undeniable sign that they can stop looking for signs. It's over. No matter how hard you plead, ESPN doesn't care about your sport and they don't care that they don't care about your sport so trying to shame them for it falls on ears so deaf that would make Hellen Keller look like she has the hearing of a Jack Russell Terrier. You want to start mapping out the miles between Winnipeg and Nashville to send some message then be my guest, but you might as well stick that message in a bottle and send it out to sea, because it would have just as good of a chance of reaching an unwilling recipient.
Ah, hockey. The only sport where a competitive athlete can be ready to give the person whose teeth his fist just whizzed by shoulder to lean on before that final punch has even finished hitting nothing but air. That may look like not-so-friendly fire to you, but I see team building. After all, what's a bonding experience is it doesn't have the potential of requiring a dentist's visit? I don't know a damn thing about Zach Saar or Jared Wilson, but I do know they just beat some mutual respect into one another. You see that hug? That was essentially an agreement to only fight on another's behalf for the rest of their careers. May have been a pretty aggressive way to get to such an adorable understanding, but I'll be damned if it didn't give them something to laugh about over dozens upon dozens beers.
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.
Over the years I have learned that people that enjoy hockey more than they understand hockey are most likely to rear their ugly heads and open their verbal vomit-filled mouthes when goaltending is being discussed. Something about the inability to comprehend that the last line of defense isn't always at fault really brings out the worst in the unknowledgeable.
That's why I wasn't too surprised to learn that some Devils' fans were disappointed to see a reliable, steadily improving backup goaltender get signed to a relatively cheap, two-year contract that pays him accordingly for his largely successful spot duty. After all, how could I be? They are probably the same damn people that thought Cory Schneider's admittedly subpar season was the reason that a defenseless team had a harder time getting the rubber out of their end than a girl that got a little too aggressive while having protected sex with the world's largest cucumber.
I guess what I am trying to say - in extremely crude fashion - is that Keith Kinkaid should be universally welcomed back with open arms. That's not to say he's a capable second starter, but he's not being paid - or asked, for that matter - to fill that role. This team goes as far as Cory Schneider takes it, but being able to trust the guy that was - at times - the best goalie on the roster last year is quite the luxury to have.
Sure, I have a soft spot for Keith Kinkaid because he's a lovable sweetheart with pinchable cheeks who I half expect to work "awwww, shucks" into every postgame interview he gives. More importantly, however, he's a guy that's ready to go when called upon and doesn't complain if that proverbial phone doesn't ring for awhile. When your roster rides on the back of one of the five best netminders on the planet, that's exactly the type of affordable insurance policy you need.
Forty five years old. Forty five goddamn years old, and still able to facetiously fret that his final playing days are behind him. There are people that he easily could have fathered that actually are sweating profusely while anxiously tapping their fingers near the phone, and his old ass is probably doing laps in a weighted wetsuit while knowing his immediate future isn't even close to in question. Most men his age are fondly reminiscing (i.e. exaggerating) their glory years, and Jaromir Jagr basically gets to decide when he wants his to end.
Seriously, I don't know when he is going to hang them up for good, but I'm pretty sure that it will be on his own volition seeing as he'll die before reaching an age where he can be easily stripped of the puck. The league is literally trying to put down his career with a style that is more-than-less predicated on speed, and the old dog is still using his asinine work ethic and veteran savvy to be productive despite having no new tricks. He may not have anymore 60 point seasons in him, but he's still got enough je ne sais quoi (fancy term for an ass that could pressurize the contents of a shitty kid's Christmas stocking into an engagement ring) to bait a team into getting him on the line and paying him to fish around the offensive zone with his dynamite dumper. There's no shortage of talented kids that weren't even born when he entered the NHL that can't say the same.
The Devils Have Bought Out Mike Cammalleri And Devante Smith-Pelly Giving Them The Most Cap Space In The NHL
My instinctual reaction to this news was probably the same as that of every single fan that watched either of them play (when could actually get on the ice) last season. Simply put, I can't - in good conscience - hide the fact that I fist pumped when I saw that two players who largely underperformed were bought out in an effort to give the Devils' more financial freedom than they know what to do with (and I mean that last part literally). It's been made very clear that this team is being built on youth, speed, and promise, and - unfortunately - neither Michael Cammalleri or Devante Smith-Pelly possess anything more than a shred of those qualities.
Now, that doesn't mean I don't feel bad for them.
Michael Cammalleri was a pretty accomplished player when he voluntarily decided to board a sinking ship, and he continued to be just that through the first few Titanic-esque years of a contract that was all-but-bound to become an anchor. His struggles through injuries - while trying to crawl out of a scoring slump that seemed to defy the odds of puck luck - were cringeworthy, but it shouldn't be forgotten that it wasn't too long ago when he was one of the few people worth watching. Hopefully he latches on somewhere and contributes, because - despite not currently being right for this team - I can't imagine his tank is as empty as it appeared to be last season.
Devante Smith-Pelly might not have all that many great memories in a Devils' jersey, but who can forget his two to three week stretch of the most meaninglessly productive hockey in NHL history? If nothing else, the dude worked his ass off and made Devils' fans temporarily forget that their favorite team wasted a first round pick on Stefan Matteau, and the importance of the can't possibly be overstated.
Anyway, now that we have gotten the oh-so-tearful goodbyes out of the way, is anyone ready for free agency?! I don't know what Ray Shero has up his sleeve, but securing the league's biggest wad in in his back pocket leads me to believe that it's more than just an itch to get rid of all Lou Lamoriello's wrongdoings. I've done enough discussing of the potentially prodigal son of a bitch that's wading in neutral waters trying to choose which continent he wants to play on, but - even besides that inevitable disappointment - the Devils look to have a busy next few weeks on their hands.
As polarizing as the idea of giving a laughably large contract to a defensemen who is a defensive liability is, I can no longer see a world where the Devils don't back up the 'Brinks' truck up to Kevin Shattenkirk's doorstep. I don't expect people to love the decision to give a long term deal to a guy that doesn't perfectly fit a window that's not even cracked yet, but you'd have to be one sadistic psychopath not to like it more than watching Dalton Prout or Ben Lovejoy play meaningful minutes. If the expansion draft proved anything it's that you better be ready to give up both organizational kidneys if you want to enter the trade market for a top-4 blue liner, and Kevin Shattenkirk - on his worst day - is a second pairing guy that can breath life into a deadbeat defense. If there's a team that can afford to throw caution (in the form of wasted years and committed money) to the wind then it's the one that is a LTIR visit away from having 32 million dollars at their disposal.
The rebuilding process inherently isn't a quick fix, but it damn well better come faster than the end of Taylor Hall's contract or the construction team could easily become even more overwhelmed by the workload. That's why the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk makes sense. That's why I wouldn't be surprised to be the name Alex Galchenyuk pop back up in trade talks. That's why there's not too much that I would consider out of the realm of July's possibilities.
I don't expect Ray Shero to be overanxious, but I think his days of being extremely patient may be of the past. New Jersey isn't going to contend for anything other than the draft lottery next year, but - after trimming this roster's fat - I have a hard time believing they aren't going to try to bulk it back up for the near future.
Ilya Kovalchuk Is Reportedly Considering A Return To The KHL...Or Just Posturing For A Higher NHL Price Tag
How was my morning, you ask? Oh, nothing out of ordinary. Woke up. Stretched out a bit. Tucked my wood into my waistband. Looked outside. Up was up. Down was down. The sky was blue. The grass was green. Gave the old teeth a brush. Gave the old dick a shake. Gave the omelette a flip. Sat down to sip my morning coffee. Logged into Twitter. Saw that the most indecisive professional athlete on the planet was reconsidering all his options...and kept scrolling to see if literally anything in the sheltered world of social media had changed.
Seriously, if you felt any type of emotion when you read that Ilya Kovalchuk was using the leverage at his disposal to pit the NHL and KHL against each other to drive up whatever price he ultimately gets paid on whatever continent he ends up playing then I am truly envious of your ability to let the past be the past. You suckers that thought Kovy's return to North American ice was imminent are probably the same idiots that think this news break makes his Russian homecoming a foregone conclusion. I tend to applaud people that willfully have blind faith in those that have proven they don't deserve it, but the second you make an assumption about the intentions of a player who is as fickle as a bipolar pregnant woman is the second you agree to make yourself look stupid.
The truth of the matter is that I have about as good of an idea where Ilya Kovalchuk laces up the skates next season as he does. I would imagine the mercenary that fought tooth and nail for a salary cap circumventing 100 million dollar contract of which he fulfilled about 6 cents on the dollar will make that decision dependent upon which pretty, round number best strokes his ego to completion. That's why New Jersey's fleeting ownership over his rights should have never been treated as more of an asset than that one curly fry that might accidentally get tossed in with your regular fries. Maybe the Russian defect finally does the Devils a goddamn favor and nets them some of the NHL caliber talent he cost them, or maybe he goes back to the motherland, plays out the season, and opens up a wealth of options that he'll undoubtedly take far too long to choose between next summer. Whatever the case may be, I'm not even remotely shocked that it's not closed two days before he's eligible to be traded. In the words of the last man to get duped by his doubt, Ilya Kovalchuk's incessant uncertainty remains...."status quo".
It Appears The Blue Jackets Are Interested In Being The Team That Takes Ilya Kovalchuk Off The Devils' Hands
"You have yourself a deal..."
...is what I would say if almost any trade that netted an NHL caliber upgrade was slid across my desk in an effort to get the most high maintenance of mercenaries shipped out of town.
Now luckily I'm not Ray Shero, or my PTSD would have me biting the bullet to give almost any team - other than the Rangers - directorial order over a walking, talking soap opera. You shouldn't give away assets - especially those that are hypothetically capable of scoring 25-30 goals in a season - so a certain amount of hardball is necessary. However, if this drags on into August I'd rather pay off Putin to get Ilya Kovalchuk executed than haggle over which young, underachieving talent he is worth in what has become a barren, costly black market for Top-4 defensemen.
Simply put, I want what's best for the New Jersey Devils and it's getting to the point where I think what's truly best for the New Jersey Devils is to focus on the future while relieving themselves of the most polarizing person from their past. We are talking about a guy whose name has already come up dozens of times this summer and he's not even back on North American soil yet. Obviously I hope that the Devils are able to retroactively recoup some of what they inevitably gave up by taking a homesick, money hungry toddler at his word (i.e. signature), but I think doing so in a timely fashion is just as important to a franchise as whatever (under)payment they receive in return. Idle hands might be the Devils' playground, but this offseason will immediately become more fun the instant those hands are free of the shackles of an aging, Russian malcontent's incessant indecisiveness. I'm not even going to look at Columbus' pipeline on the blue line out of fear of baseless optimism, and I hope Ray Shero gets something done shortly so I don't have to.
P.S. Already laughing at the prospect of Ilya Kovalchuk and Artemi Panarin being under the watchful eye of John Tortorella. Mostly because it's the NHL equivalent of feeding filet mignons to a stray dog.
The increasing suspense of not knowing what New Jersey was going to do with the number one overall pick probably added to the unmitigated glee I displayed while shamelessly downing a dozen beers in celebration of the selection of a teenager, so I suppose I can't be too upset. Still, I wouldn't have hated having the peace of mind that Ray Shero apparently did for an entire week prior to officially adding the silky smooth Swiss kid to an organization that is in desperate need of his skill set. After all those self prescribed panic attacks that become more and more frequent as that fateful Friday night drew closer, it's a retroactive relief to know that the Devils General Manager was emphatically clinging to a "Nico or bust" mentality. Honestly - considering the track record of the executive that basically stocked the offensive pipeline of the franchise that just hoisted it's second Stanley Cup in as many seasons - that type of decisiveness only makes me feel more confident that the Devils made the right choice.
Especially since they have a recently retired European with a little bit of time on his hands and a lot of experience being a creative, two-player who is new to the NHL...
Also, I will refuse to believe that Nico Hischier won't be in the NHL next year, at the very least until he's not in the NHL next year. I have a sneaking suspicion that thought process parallels that of the people that matter the most...
They did it. They actually did it. The New Jersey Devils - yes, the very same franchise that outsiders love to blindly dismiss as "boring" - did what was once considered unthinkable. The bucked the wisdom that seemed a little too conventional. They looked a prototypical two-way center up and down, and decided the future pro with the excessively punchable face and the brittle bone structure (that damning scouting part was brought to you by the insufferability of the city he now plays in) wasn't their type. They took a gamble on the highest of risers whose undeniably shorter resume did a better job jumping off the page. I was pretty sure that's exactly what they were going to do, but - somehow - it still seems surreal given their history.
The New Jersey Devils didn't just go with the more exciting, dynamic prospect, but they also managed to start fulfilling a creativity quota that was sorely lacking. When building a team the wise decision isn't always the one that's going to be more successful in having the fans at the edge of their seats, but it is when your team is painfully porous offensively that they are more likely to have their fans standing hopelessly at the edge of a cliff. Nolan Patrick might give New Jersey nightmares for the next decade, and Nico Hischier's game might end up having more holes than his homeland's most infamous diary product. That's the risk you take when picking between two players who were in a dead heat while turning the final corner. The reward - in this case - could be providing a blank canvas to a player who has the rare talent, endless drive, and room to grow into the most dangerous, versatile Swiss product since the army knife.
The kid just "loves to hockey" (as seen below in his charmingly broken English, not mine) and Devils fans should be chomping at the bit to love watching him love hockey because he is already electrifyingly good at most facets of it...
It's the road less traveled by this organization, and fans shouldn't hesitate to enjoy what should be a hell of ride...