Contrary to the belief of far too much of the fanbase, that headline was a little harsh considering its subject's job responsibility would have been optimistic at the start of his career, never mind its twilight. Therefore, I want to focus on the positives of what Ben Lovejoy brought to the Devils. Some will undoubtedly think this paragraph should end right...about...here, but the truth is that he was well-respected veteran leader off the ice and a great penalty killer on the ice while unquestionably easing Will Butcher's transition into the NHL.
His struggles were exactly the type you'd expect a limited, defensive defenseman in his mid-30's to have while playing too many minutes out of necessity, which is to say they were more visible than his successes. Still, it would be foolish to ignore those successes, since the Devils would be a brand of dogshit so moist and messy that it would make Artemi Panarin's soiled pants feel better about themselves if not for maintaining a cohesive locker room and a penalty kill that's oft more exciting than their power play. To put it simply, Dallas traded for Ben Lovejoy for reasons other than complete desperation, so save the slander for the next whipping boy that's put in a position to fail on a defense that doesn't currently have the foundational pieces necessary to compete...
All that being said, another round of applause is owed to Ray Shero. Intangibles aside, he has now recouped both the 2nd and 3rd round pick he dealt at last year's trade deadline by moving a veteran 4th liner and an aging bottom pairing defenseman. Presumably due to alliteration, the name Connor Carrick stuck out to me as more memorable than his young career has been to date, as he's fallen out of favor with multiple franchises. However, even if he's a $5 scratch-off of a prospect, I would have been more than happy with Ben Lovejoy netting a 3rd round pick with nothing more than an actual $5 scratch-off as a sweetener.
As someone who views this disaster of a year as nothing more than a stumble, I find it intriguing that the Devils have turned it into five picks in the first three rounds of the draft with far and away their best asset still awaiting his fate on the trading block. So yeah, I love the move and it brought me more joy than it should have during an otherwise depressing season, but don't just think that New Jersey's top-notch PK tanked for draft position when its efficiency inevitably dips. Ben Lovejoy's return is proof of how well he can fill a role, even if that return was surprisingly good for a team on which his role was troublingly big.
Somewhat Begrudgingly, All The Credit And Congratulations Go To Kurtis Gabriel For Netting His First NHL Goal
Full disclosure, from the first fight he unsuccessfully tried to pick in the preseason to the last unwilling combatant he bare-knuckle bopped in the face during the regular season, I haven't been all that fond of Kurtis Gabriel. That's partially by design, since his outdated game is predicated on leaving shame in the locker room and doing just about anything to coax opposing players out of their gloves. Still, I much prefer the Blake Coleman/Miles Wood-style of relentless pestering. I just find face punching for the sake of face punching to be a bit cringeworthy at this stage of the sport, so there may have been a time or ten in which I claimed that Kurtis Gabriel's presence in the lineup was a black eye on the entire organization.
That stance had softened significantly as his hits had hardened and he started making more of an impact as an intimidating forechecker than as a complete sideshow, but his teary-eyed response to scoring his first NHL goal as a member of the New Jersey Devils has left it damn near mushy. I'm still not anything close to what you would consider a fan of him as a player, but I'll be damned if I can't respect Kurtis Gabriel the person for the resilience he's shown in chasing his dream and finally putting up stats more significant than wildly unnecessary instigator penalties.
Therefore, differences aside, all the credit and congratulations are in order for a guy who has persevered through a bruising and humbling career path that looks like a stroll through the damn park in comparison to his rough childhood. Pretty cool to see how much he appreciates being a part of the Devils' organization, so - though I'd prefer it were at a lower level - I appreciate him being a part of it too. Though I'm not even sure he considers it as prized a possession as the real estate he owns in Zach Bogosian's brain, it's awesome that he now has the seeing eyes of a meaningful milestone puck to show for it.
With His First Shutout In 15 Months, Cory Schneider Is Starting To Answer Some Difficult Questions For The Devils
Cory Schneider is a grown ass man. A professional's professional. A proud guy who understands the obvious, which is that it's going to take more than a solid 2.5 game (really 3.5, if you include the Islanders' shootout loss in which the Devils' offense was offensive) stretch to silence the uncertainty regarding the potential resurrection of a career that's become riddled by injuries and crushed by a lack of confidence.
For those reasons, I'm not going to patronize him by overpraising his initial efforts in helping to clean up what was a complete mess in the Devils' crease like he's a child that sloppily threw the sports' section over the full gallon of milk that he spilled. He deserves no shortage of credit for taking an absolute beating in stride and coming out the other side of the gauntlet of gut punches that was a sickly twisted losing streak capable of breaking the will of even a slightly lesser man. However, considering a shutout over a Senators' team that was hosting a live auction for 80% of its talent while the game was going on to be proof that he's "back" could only lead to a lot of disappointment moving forward. I hate to be the one to measure the approach here, but this cautiously optimistic feeling probably just seems a lot more promising than it is due to the hapless hopelessness from which it rose like a phoenix.
That being said, if the bad news is that Cory Schneider's recent success has continued his awkward trend of winning when his team would be better served not to then the good news is that his fluidity, positioning, and athleticism while doing so follow a much more promising trend of goaltenders slowly returning to form after hip surgery. The truth is that we've probably already seen the best of #35, but we've certainly already seen the worst of #35. If he's managed to find the higher end of that middle ground, and the audition out of desperation that was Mackenzie Blackwood's shockingly successful stint in New Jersey is a sign of what he'll eventual bring to the show, then the Devils have at least found some answers at the tail end of an otherwise lost season.
Cory Schneider's days as the most formidable of franchise goaltender are more than likely over, but if he can relied upon for nights like last then the...::gulp::...three years and 18 million dollars left on his contract are somewhat easier to swallow. Not sure I've gone from thinking inevitable buy-out to fully buying in quite yet, but - at risk of being swayed by a couple impressive starts and a big shiny goose egg - I can pretty easily be sold on him taking the occasional page out of his past in splitting time with someone who looked a hell of a lot like the future. Even as a longtime Cory Schneider apologist, that's a hell of a lot better than any outcome I would have felt comfortable putting my money on a couple weeks ago.
An Avalanche Fan Basically Bodychecked His Girlfriend Just To Get To A Puck That He Then Gave To Another Woman
I got to be honest. I think getting treated like trash and having it caught on camera might've been a blessing in disguise for this poor girl. She may not have thought so as her head was throbbing after having been elbowed aside for a puck that her boyfriend preceded to give to another woman. However, Joe Dirtbag might as well have "rebellious phase" shaved into his grungy, unkempt beard, and nothing helps you realize the reality of your current relationship quicker than being given an outside look in on it.
Now, most people don't have their lowest moment as a significant other played in slo-motion for the masses and carefully analyzed by old men on a television broadcast, but if they were so lucky then they'd probably save themselves a hell of a lot of time wondering exactly how doomed their situation was. Sitting there stewing must have sucked, but she'd have to have cut the cord on cable and gone social media silent not to find out exactly where she stands. Which, from the looks of things, is currently arm-in-arm with a poorly groomed idiot for as long as it takes for this video to go viral enough to leave their relationship terminally ill.
The Students Who Suggested The Nashville Predators Change Their Name To The Sabercats Due To "Social Stigma" Need To Be Monitored By Neighborhood Watch
Take a long look at each one of those students of "higher learning". Do your damnedest to commit their faces to memory. For as dangerous as sexual predators are, young adults that are unable to differentiate criminally creepy old men from a pro hockey team named after carnivorous jungle cats that preceded their deranged existence on this planet by hundreds of years are almost as much of a threat to society's youth.
Now, I'm not saying that any of those presenters that are in desperate need of a core class in common sense have an unexpected date with Chris Hansen in their future. I am, however, saying that I'd like them to be tracked as threats to the intelligence of their communities by red dots on a website so that I don't unknowingly raise a family within a hundred mile radius of such alarming levels of idiocy.
The last thing any neighbor needs is to worry about living within the proximity of a sick freak that is insatiably attracted to children. However, the second to last thing a neighbor needs is to have their downtime spent watching a hockey game interrupted by their kid asking a never-ending series of questions about molestation after being scared shitless by the spawn of stupid equating a P.K. Subban shirtsey to a promotion for pedophilia and a logo of a fanged feline compared to a scarlet letter of sexual assault.
So, as far as I'm concerned, these connotation rent-a-cops need to be slapped with ankle monitors as clear and present dangers to a society that doesn't need anyone actively attempting to make this fucked up thing we call life any weirder than it already is. After all, the people who can't watch a Filip Forsberg highlight without their minds instinctually wandering to the whereabouts of the Jerry Sandusky's of the world should be more worried about their train of thought flying off the fucking rails than trying to find irrelevant ways to make kiddie touching a topic of conversation. Either that, or they should be made as extinct as Sabercats.
Sidenote: Not a doubt in my mind this idea was the brainchild of the kid in the Red Wings' jersey who is both a Predators' hater and the complete slacker of the group.
Well, I'll be. Was that...humor, albeit hasty, of the bathroom variety...from an emotionally repressed coach whose personality is otherwise best described as comically constipated? Did John Tortorella, of all people, manage to sneak something that could be understood as a poop joke into another one of his media-unfriendly tirades? The only alternative is that Artemi Panarin's coach just outed him as having bush league bowel control. Therefore, as I live and breathe, I'm pretty sure I just heard one of most surly pricks in sports induce a laugh by keeping his tongue in cheek while being a little more understated in using it to lash reporters for doing their job.
Who knows, maybe relieving the trade deadline of some tension by facetiously talking feces and flushing the notion of a playoff team shopping a superstar at the deadline ends up being a small step along John Tortorella's long, winding path to becoming a somewhat sociable communicator. Then again, as is too often the case, it could be argued that one step forward was immediately followed by two stomps back...
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Much Like The Devils Have This Season, David Puddy Came, He Saw, And He Co...rashed Flat On His Face
And there it is, just about every one of the 2018-2019 New Jersey Devils' 60 games to date summed up in one classic Seinfeld character's team-spirited sprint into a full-on face plant. Came out the gates hot looking inspired with the best of intentions and then - much like awful goaltending, discouraging defense, and a rash of impactful injuries - that damn step came out of nowhere to make its painful presence felt.
Props to Patrick Warburton for playing the role of David Puddy to perfection in quickly peeling himself off the ground in shamelessly undeterred support of the team. Especially since that fall was only like 50% his fault. Let the (entirely understandable) demotion of Mackenzie Blackwood serve as proof that this iteration of the Devils simply can't have nice things, including flawless guest appearances from famous fans. Cory Schneider probably offered more compassionate words than "been there, man", but he was probably thinking just that as he watched effort quickly turn to embarrassment with what's become far too familiar a plot twist in the Prudential Center this year.
That perfectly painted face and that bare barrel chest will always be a welcomed sight regardless of how much the Devils suck, but them ending up embedded in the floor of the bench is fitting of how unwelcoming that entrance to the ice has been to the boys this season.
Firm but fair, baby. Firm but fair. For the multitude of ways in which some Devils' fans have chosen to start picking apart a head coach who hasn't exactly had the greatest run of things on a lame hamstring of a lineup since signing his contract extension, it's important to remember why his players appreciate him so much. For better or worse, he's a guy who pulls no punches in calling it like he sees it. Considering Keith Kinkaid's extremely forgiving self-evaluation, I can't think of someone who was more in need of being dialed back from their own self-deception, and you can't hit the 'fuck you' button on the firmness of a one word answer combined with the fairness of a more objective opinion.
That's not to put last night's loss entirely on a goaltender who has taken what little trade value he might have had at the turn of the calendar and cleared it blindly to the tape of opposing players in and around his own departed crease. After all, the Devils damn near skated their defensive zone dry in chasing around the Penguins during a second period that proved to be the difference. It is, however, to scoff at the idea of "bad bounces" belaboring another below average performance. In a game that ended in a one goal defeat, one goal against was brutal and another was stoppable. That doesn't mean the game was lost by Keith Kinkaid, of course, but his contribution certainly wasn't of the positive variety...
Personally, I find it refreshing that, even in a lost season, John Hynes is hunting the most harmless ducking of responsibilities. In my uneducated opinion, accountability is what has kept close a locker room that's endured far too much losing for anyone, none the least of which an underperforming goaltender, to be blaming it on bad bounces. Therefore, as harsh as it may read, that blunt disagreement was nothing more than a head coach doing some cultural maintenance for a team whose future doesn't stand to be made any brighter by any player adopting the "well, I could have been worse" perspective. Especially one who shares a crease with a guy who has held himself completely culpable despite having to bear the brunt of much less fortuitous circumstances this season.
All Congrats Go To Cory For Earning Himself The Deepest of Breaths, As Schneids Is Finally Off The Schneid
So lucky. The New Jersey Devils are so lucky, and I don't just mean that in the sense that you need a couple fortuitous bounces to go your way to come back from a three goal deficit on the road with a depleted lineup and a long-suffering goaltender entering in relief. The luck I'm referring to is somehow, against all odds, timing the morale boost of Cory Schneider's first regular season win in the flipping of multiple calendars at the end of a road trip during which they predominantly played the infuriating role of snoring passenger across multiple state lines...
My frustration had been building like that of a pissed off girlfriend suffering through a suspiciously quiet Valentine's Day ever since the Devils showed about as much of an interest in being in St. Louis as the Rams. Then, just when that hopelessness was about to manifest itself in hysteria, they basically busted down the door armed with a goddamn garden of good will and managed to find the only course of action for all to be forgiven. In no way, shape, or form should an otherwise uncompetitive team be all hugs & kisses coming off three games that were largely a sad excuse of an out-of-town effort. Yet, if only for one night, we were all Drew Stafford...
Of course, that luck of which I spoke earlier was long overdue with the Devils both accidentally and actively sabotaging the outcome of the few starts in which Cory Schneider played well enough to win. Still, for a fatalistic fourteen months to come to a head when his team had appeared to bury theirs in the sand prior to a nauseatingly necessary change in net was as entirely unexpected as it was absolutely awesome. Battling back to tie the game and using all 1.5 seconds of which they possessed the puck in overtime to slap a period on what felt like one man's run-on sentencing of solitary defeat was just the perfect punctuation. As the Devils are merely playing for pride and draft position at this point, there's not too many wins that are going to fully feel like such, but with the come-from-behind beating of the most malicious of monkey off the back of Cory Schneider came a thrill that's been unfortunately unfamiliar this season.
There's a joke to be about how not playing Cory Schneider for the first ten minutes of games could have ended his losing streak a long time ago. However, the fact of the matter is that this feels all the more uplifting due to the professionalism of the person who has had to swallow his pride in becoming a punchline. Say what you want about him aging poorly as a player, but - to a man - what he's had to go through as a competitor sucks six different ways to Sunday. The hope is that this a huge step in the same direction his confidence has been trending of late, but - realistically speaking - the future might hold a few more failures for Cory Schneider. That said, if he's proven anything since December 27th of 2017 it's that neither his effort or attitude will be responsible for a single one of them.
There's not a player, person, or teammate in the entire league that's been more deserving of an all-too-elusive victory, so a tip of the cap to Steve Cangialosi for having the wits about him to call it as we all saw it. Last night, relief - in every literal and figurative sense of the word - was spelled C-O-R-Y.
Brian Burke Took Partial "Credit" For The Anaheim Ducks Dropping 'Mighty' From Their Name And Turning Their Jerseys Into A Joke
Confirmed: Brian Burke is, indeed, an old white man. You probably could have been able to tell by his transparent skin tone, or the fact that he'll forever have a powerful position in the sport of hockey, or his repressed opinion on all things fun...
However, being so deprived of a decent eye for dress that he took even the slightest of credit for having champs out there looking like chumps really hammers home the demographic for which he speaks...
The pride in his voice as he overrated his influence towards trading down from jerseys that are now considered classic to the NHL equivalent of a dime-a-dozen, clearance rack special at your local pro shop was just painfully and profoundly as antiquated as it was caucasian.
I understand their desire to drop the 'Mighty' and disassociate with Disney after purchasing the team from them, but the Anaheim Ducks have unequivocally had the league's worst uniforms since ditching the purple and teal. Yet, the man that gave them a slight push down that path is basically patting himself on the back for doing so. If I had any input whatsoever on making a letter-shaped webbed foot the official mark of professional franchise I would go to the end of the earth trying to erase my chapter from that oral history. Not over Coach Bombay's dead body would I be puffing out my chest like somehow avoiding jail time after committing a felony against fashion was some sort of huge accomplishment, though I probably have to let my stylistic interests age poorly for about 35 more years before saying so with any certainty.
Oh well, much like a Ducks' team that rode a debut shoutout from a rookie goaltender to their third win in approximately three months, we'll take what we can get...
Ken Hitchcock Reportedly Considered Stepping Down As Oilers' Head Coach, Less Than Three Months After He Took The Job
Sportsnet.Ca- With Ken Hitchcock watching practice from the seats one day and then blasting the Oilers’ effort following Saturday’s 5–2 loss to San Jose, that there were rumours he’d had enough and would step down. That obviously didn’t happen, but it underlines how tense things are in Edmonton.
Welp, everyone check your calendars. I would have said that you'd have to be the type of eternal pessimist that requires a live-in therapist to have taken the under on three months in the "how long before the shine of coaching Connor McDavid wears off and Ken Hitchcock reconsiders retirement?" pool. However, here we are less than 90 days later and someone who has basically become a professional placeholder is already wondering whether it's even worth it to keep on mentoring potentially the most talented player the sport he has dedicated his life to has ever seen.
Imagine the amount of other issues she'd need to have for an elderly man to even let the thought of dumping his smoking hot, 20-something year old nymphomaniac of a girlfriend cross his mind. Now, think of Ken Hitchcock as that elderly man, Connor McDavid as that sexy little minx, and the rest of the Oilers' organization as her never-ending carousel of baggage.
Someone who knew full well he was brought in to do damage control has been all-but-broken by the task at hand. The man who prides himself on making it work is supposed to still be in the honeymoon stage, and yet he's already rethinking and re-rethinking a relationship that turned toxic so fast you'd think it was entered into by 6th graders. Ken Hitchcock has been addicted to hockey for decades, and one short stint in the fishbowl of failure that is Edmonton has him on the verge of quitting cold turkey. From an organizational standpoint, the Oilers are such a haunting picture of the sport at its absolute worst that their head coach of not even one CALENDAR season is about to be Scared Straight off into the sunset. That's equal parts horrifying and hilarious.
Devils' Prospect Jesper Boqvist Made A Social Construct Out Of Science With An Absurd Catch-And-Release Goal
I don't want to take too much umbrage with the caption focusing on the assist that allowed for Jesper Boqvist to create a hockey highlight that had the casualness of a game of catch. After all, Simon Bertilsson did everything in his power to avoid the forecheck and get the puck to his forward standing alone behind the defense. That said, in my opinion, if it were punctuated properly it would read "what, a pass?" in reference to the rink-long, waist-high wrist shot that the Devils' prospect knocked flat with an inexplicable ease unseen since the last time someone caught a fly in their hand on the first try. It definitely took two, but only one player in that clip turned in stride to laugh in the face of physics by making a tape-to-tape pass out a projectile before scoring in a way that was almost too nonchalant for it's own good.
While his future NHL team has made watching hockey far too effortful, Jesper Boqvist is in the SHL making the time-sensitive coordination of his hands and eyes look far too effortless. To consider that goal merely "good' would require you to be swayed heavily by the fact that the person who scored it looked like he may have done so while sleep-skating, and that - as well as the 2nd round pick's season to date - is great news for the New Jersey Devils and the market they've cornered on quality Jesper's...
Evgeni Malkin's Ridiculous Response To His Attempted Decapitation Of Michael Raffl Is A Reminder That, In Russia, Stick Swing You
TheAthletic- “I didn’t hit him in the face,” Malkin explained. “If I had touched him in the face, for sure, I would get suspended. It’s a high stick, but it’s not like I broke his face. I think I won’t get suspended.”
"It was a little bit dangerous,” Malkin admitted. “But it was nothing real bad, I didn’t think. It’s my fault, for sure. The refs thought it was dangerous. Next time, I need to play smarter.”
“I think if they give me five minutes, he should have gotten two,” Malkin said. “It was a dirty play, too. I was surprised.”
“I just touched his shoulder,” Malkin said. “No bleeding. I’m not trying to hit his face. But I didn’t play smart. It was my fault, for sure.”
To clarify, for those that are in disbelief, the play that Evgeni Malkin is referring to was, indeed, the same one in which he took a Spartan-like swing at the skull of an opponent. I know you may have been thrown off by him calling it "nothing really bad", but - as it turns out - using your stick as a sword is only considered a little bit dangerous in certain cultures. Speaking so casually of the intent to leave Michael Raffl blindly feeling around the ice for his severed head may be tough pill for some to swallow, but apparently Russia is a very results-oriented country. Therefore, we can consider the referee's determination that Evgeni Malkin's audition for ISIS was worthy of a 5 minute major and a game misconduct to be lost in translation.
In all seriousness, if Evgeni Malkin isn't handed down a multiple-game suspension then whatever small shred of trust I had in the Department of Player Safety's decision making will have been dealt a death blow. Trying to use his blade as a razor in slitting someone's throat is very, very bad, but - given the fortunate result - basically spitting in just about every objective person's eyeballs by talking about the incident like it was merely a bump in the hallway might actually be worse.
As hesitant as I am to consider the player who rabbit-punched a player returning from injury in the back of the head (before selling a stick to the face so shamelessly you'd think he was pushing fake purses for premium prices) to be an innocent victim, the league absolutely has to come down hard on the guy that violently and verbally assumed the role of the villain. After all, I wasn't even aware it was possible to be less apologetic than Tom Wilson until an NHL superstar tried to justify his Gladiator-esque actions under his own personal 'no blood, no foul' clause.
Reading through the reactions to a play that featured two idiots engaging in high variance jackassery leads me to believe it would make for an excellent case study in the subjective stupidity of fandom. That said, Evgeni Malkin recklessly using his stick as a a goddamn axe in trying to chop through an opponent somehow did the impossible in giving Flyers' fans the moral high ground. If only for that, he must be punished in way that strongly sends the message that not succeeding isn't an excuse for using equipment in attempted murders.
Oooooh, the hometown angle. Seeing as the skies have otherwise been quite gray in and around the Prudential Center, I have no shame in soaking up the Vitamin D of this local spotlight. It probably seems a hell of a lot brighter than it actually is due to the deep, dark place the bottom of the Devils' lineup has beaten me into, but having a recognizable birth certificate gives Kenny Agostino more redeeming qualities than...well...just about every other career AHLer they've called up. Add in the fact that he was born into the biological dilemma of both loving to hate and hating to love New Jersey, and I'd be shocked if he didn't quickly develop a following within the fanbase.
Statistically speaking, odds are that his sixth stint with a new NHL team in five seasons isn't going to be the one that finally helps translate the talents he displayed in winning AHL MVP two seasons ago. However, without naming names, I can certainly think of worse players to give developmental/tank time to than a fast 26-year old that panders to the irritable regionalist inside every New Jerseyian.
Just from a hockey standpoint, Kenny Agostino has been decently productive in spurts at the pro level. For that reason, he better be careful, as actually contributing some promise to a lost season is what got Egor Yakovlev (and now Ryan Murphy) sent down to Binghamton to show skills that are apparently far too intriguing for the hometown hockey team between bus rides...
Due To Not A Single Fault Of His Own, Cory Schneider's Statistically Impossible Losing Streak Continues
It feels so weird to say now, after every win from last February through last April basically had the effect of chugging a chilled glass of dopamine, but the Devils losing doesn't have me down. At this point, the only way they could do more on-ice damage to their chances of signing Taylor Hall to a long-term deal is if they literally brought them out to beat with their sticks as a form of intermission entertainment. Therefore, having made their bed, they might as well hibernate in it so as to increase their odds of adding a difference maker come draft time.
Still, even as an begrudged member of 'Team Tank', I'd really appreciate it if the Devils didn't take advantage of the fact that I have ZERO expectations in meeting them in a way that makes them feel as though they've been stood up on a first date. For example, I wasn't quite convinced they'd put forth a competitive effort against the Kings on Tuesday. I was, however, hoping they'd play a baseline brand of defense that wouldn't allow for Ilya Kovalchuk to flash that stupid, self-satisfied smirk after scoring the easiest and most low-effort goal of his Communist career...
Point being, I really don't think I'm asking for too much. However, even when offered more than enough opportunities to bring to a long-overdue conclusion the most mathematically mesmerizing and confidence crippling of losing streaks for a goaltender who has been through AH(el)L and back in trying to find a shell of himself, they still couldn't answer against the Islanders.
As a long time Cory Schneider apologist, even I had to start making jokes at his expense when he managed to go a full calendar year without a win in a deflating form and fashion that was almost as oddly impressive as it was woefully depressing. His future between the pipes remains about as bleak as his future on the books. That said, we're talking about a proud professional who hasn't caused a single commotion in being let down (and sent down), to varying degrees, by his body and his team. He's been brutally bad far more often than not, but on a night where he was undeniably good, the Devils' powerplay looked about as shorthanded as their lineup and their execution was as emotionally exhausting as it must have been physically exhausting to chase after the pucks they misplayed. There shouldn't have been a non-Tavares jersey burner in the building last night that wasn't desperately rooting for Cory Schneider to get the King Kong-sized monkey off his back. Yet the team in front of him was more likely to slip on the proverbial banana than use it to help coax the gorilla off their beDeviled goaltender.
The truth is, getting beaten by a touchdown would have felt less frustrating than what I watched last night. A win that would have been worth far more than an extra point in standings that are now pointless was well within their grasp, and - in flat missing the net on multiple shootout attempts - they basically grabbed at it as clumsily as Miles Wood might handle a stick or Kurtis Gabriel might contain his emotions.
It's genuinely nice to hear that the locker room still believes in Cory Schneider, but if actions speak louder than words then he should keep his back to the wall and his head on a swivel. Simply put, this isn't the first time they found a way to keep the most embarrassing of streaks alive as effortlessly as they've found ways to piss me off during games of which I walk in the door not caring about the outcome.
Breathe Easy Devils' Fans: Despite His Prolonged Absence, Things Remain Calm On The Taylor Hall Front
This welcomed piece of non-news can be taken for what it's worth. I personally consider its value to be a long, cautiously optimistic sigh of relief, but if you prefer to medicate your anxiety then I'd say this reassuring statement regarding the future of the Devils' suspiciously sidelined MVP should save you a valium or two.
Of course, whatever sense of security you might feel upon hearing that the reigning Hart Trophy winner is staying through a lost season isn't exactly endorsed by ADT, as it could easily be hijacked by the lack of an encouraging word as soon as July 1st. Still, all remaining calm on the Taylor Hall front should temporarily put Devils' fan at peace seeing how much of a shit storm this year has been.
What a source as reputable as Elliotte Friedman apparently understands is as good as it's going to get, and - with the Devils putting forth irredeemable clunkers like they did against the Kings last night - it's a hell of a lot better than nothing. Nothing, of course, is all it really is until the ink dries on a long-term contract that locks up one of the most impactful left wingers in the game. However, as the Devils insist on playing a pessimistic brand of puck, a little optimism can go a long way in keeping the fanbase somewhat sane up until an extremely telling summer.
The Devils Are Officially Open For Business, As They Broke A Few Hearts In Flipping Brian Boyle To The Predators For A 2nd(!) Round Pick
I don't think it would be fair to say there is nothing not to love about this deal, because the abrupt absence of a fan-favorite whose real life resilience and locker room leadership were so much of an inspirational asset to a young team that his improved play was almost an afterthought. When he was signed to be a veteran stopgap in the bottom-six of a rebuilding team two off-seasons ago, not even the man who offered him the contract could have possibly predicted the impact that Brian Boyle would have on the Devils.
Of course, that's mostly because cancer has a sick and twisted habit of showing up unannounced, but it's also due to the strength and perseverance of the person whose door it kicked down for turning the worst of news into some of the best of memories. It feels a bit disingenuous to remember Brian Boyle's relatively short time with the Devils only for his first round knockout of a debilitating disease, as he was a reliable role player who earned his way onto both special teams units by doing the little things well while providing stability, toughness, and a surprising amount of offense. Separate of his diagnosis, his recovery, and all the hardships that went along with them, Brian Boyle more than fulfilled his end of what proved to be a bargain of a contract. That said, I'm not quite sure you can underestimate how incredibly cool it was to watch him add insult to remission by contributing a Masterton Trophy-worthy effort to an unexpected playoff run and turning just about every 'Hockey Fights Cancer' night into his own, superstar-esque stat night.
At the end of the day, this is an incredible return for the Devils. In removing all emotional attachment, a 4th liner - no matter how amazing a person and versatile a player - is still a 4th liner. Getting a 2nd round pick to replace the one they sold off last February was a priority, and - from a coldhearted hockey prospective - they didn't give up all that much to get it. It still sucks to move a beloved player who said he would have preferred to stay with the franchise that he quickly made himself an unforgettable part of, but snatching up a sizable asset while giving someone who deserves a Stanley Cup his best shot at one makes this is as much of a win-win as you could possibly hope for.
I certainly wouldn't be shocked to see Brian Boyle return to New Jersey in free agency, given all his glowing reviews of the organization throughout the most trying period of his life. However, as that's nothing more than a maybe, he's owed all the thanks, praise, and appreciation in the world for making it way too damn hard to accept the reality of an absolute no-brainer of deadline deal. I can't possibly imagine that I don't speak for all Devils' fans in rooting for him to become as much of a champion on the ice in Nashville as he has already proven off of it during a stay in New Jersey that - to his credit entirely - didn't feel anywhere near as short as it was.
All Seems Well In Edmonton, As A Furious Fan Threw His Jersey On The Ice In Frustration After The Oilers Gave Up 4 Goals In Under 7 Minutes
Look, I can't think of a situation in which I would consider it worth it to basically burn between 150-250 bucks worth of money already spent. I'm sure those 5-6 seconds of misplaced personal pride that poor bastard experienced after throwing his jersey on the ice were therapeutic. Unfortunately, seeing as the subsequent silent ride home was undoubtedly fueled by self-loathing, it's certainly not the the type of withdrawal therapy that comes prescribed by a doctor. For that reason, I can't begin to relate to that act of rebellion.
Here's the thing though. I'm not supposed to be able to relate to it. Much like any other dependence on something so undeniably detrimental, it's impossible to understand the highs and lows of an addiction to the Edmonton Oilers unless you have one. Considering the boiling over of his frustrations during another regular season debacle, that was a man who is hooked on a tragedy of a team that is hazardous to his health. Let that jersey toss serve as a desperate flushing on his drugs, and the long, long look he more than likely proceeded to take at the pro shop on his way to the car serve as his almost immediate fascination with finding another fix.
Diehard fandom, especially that of a woefully dysfunctional franchise, is a disease. Thinking, if even for only one second, that personal property thrown on the ice will be treated as a message to a management group that's turned the transformative talents of Connor McDavid into nothing more than their circus' main attraction instead of merely a future merchandise sale is one of its most obvious symptoms. So before you go judging the childish antics of a grown man who was probably about 12 steps away from regret, try putting yourself in his shoes. I'd suggest holding your nose, because they have been stepping in the same pile of shit for about a decade now.
Ilya Kovalchuk Is Returning To New Jersey Just In Time For Me To Not Give A Damn About Ilya Kovalchuk Returning To New Jersey
I say the following knowing full well that Ilya Kovalchuk will inevitably be taking the ice in what will basically be an aviary of full-bellied boo-birds who are eager to give no shortage of shit to a player who put them through the ringer before resorting to early "retirement". I personally no longer care enough about a self-involved (former) superstar whose bang no longer matches his buck to offer him the self-satisfaction of my ire.
Travis Zajac's thoughts on the matter were meant to be as classy and complimentary as you'd expect, but if it's true that you don't boo nobodies than nobody should say boo to someone whose impact is no longer worthy of the attention he's always been desperate in seeking. It feels weird saying as much, because I maintained a pretty explicit opinion each annual time in which Ilya Kovalchuk used a potential NHL return for financial leverage. However, now that he has returned to the NHL in relatively underwhelming fashion, I'd rather not pay the most money-hungry of mercenaries any mind. The instinctual reaction to being scorned by an athlete is booing the holy hell out of them, but - to a narcissist the likes of Kovy - apathy is the weapon that cuts the deepest. Assuming he has feelings at all, nothing hurts more to a King than being treated like a peasant.
As has been covered ad nauseam, the organization was lucky to get out from under a boulder of a contract that Ilya Kovalchuk counterproductively demanded be franchise-crippling when they did. Still, if the gut punch he delivered Devils' fans after the much more respectable departure of Zach Parise didn't wash away all the good-will he built up throughout the Finals run of 2012 then waiting until New Jersey couldn't benefit from his return before making it certainly did.
For that reason, I don't expect too many fans to follow my lead in treating #17 like he's just some defensive liability who is a -17 (which he is, for the record). However, it sure would be fitting to show a familiar type of indifference to a dude who only cared about being a New Jersey Devil when it was convenient to both him and his bank account.
The White Flag Has Been Waved, As Mackenzie Blackwood Has Been Sent To Binghamton With The Return Of Cory Schneider
“It’s not fair to (Blackwood), it’s not fair to Cory and Keith (Kinkaid) and our team,” Hynes said about carrying three goalies. “The right thing to do is we want him to continue to play. It doesn’t mean he’s not going to be back here (in the NHL this season), but it’s an opportunity for him to go down and play and play a key role there, to help Binghamton get into the playoffs, which is important for our young players. It gives an opportunity for Keith and Cory to have a net and see what they can do." (h/t NJ.com)
And there you have it. If you were holding stubbornly strong to the possibility of the New Jersey Devils making some short of ridiculous run that would accomplish nothing more than making them look more respectable in the standings then you can finally let it go and click 'Buy' on your ticket to the tank-a-thon. I don't know why you'd still be optimistic about the season, since - for all we we've been told - Taylor Hall may have gone from winning the Hart Trophy to waiting on a heart transplant. However, for the overly positive crowd that remained illiterate to the writing on the wall, the demotion of Mackenzie Blackwood might as well be the most easily understood of audio books.
To be clear, I know why the Devils did what they did. They should see what, other than an unprecedented inability to win a hockey game, they have in Cory Schneider before deciding what to do with him and the anchor of a contract that he looks to be storing under his ass pad whenever he moves laterally. They could benefit from getting as many looks at Keith Kinkaid as possible before deciding whether or not they want to pursue keeping him in free agency. That said, fairness be damned, they would ignore all those prerogatives and ride Mackenzie Blackwood if winning games were even remotely close to being a top priority.
I love John Hynes, but not enough to let him relieve himself on my head then offer me an umbrella. Sending a kid who has come part and parcel with the Devils' watchability, never mind winning ways, the last few months back down to Binghamton to ride a bus immediately after he helped steal a game they had absolutely no business winning is the white flag amongst a whole bunch of red flags that have plagued a reality check of a season. Never mind being sellers come the trade deadline. Giving NHL games to Cory Schneider instead of the promising prospect who, as premature an observation as it may be, looked more than capable of replacing him in the role of franchise goaltender basically serves as one of those storefront-sized fire sale signs that hangs outside a Christmas shop on December 26th.
I don't want to say the cost of winning is currently too great to start Mackenzie Blackwood, as I think the Devils are too proud a group to plummet much further than they already have regardless of who is in net. However, starting someone whose presence in the lineup has literally guaranteed defeat since 2017 is pretty damn telling of how the organization has budgeted victory.