A hard nosed team that plays consistently fundamental hockey in both ends. Can compete with any team in the league if they get solid goaltending, a smart defensive effort, and offensive contributions from some unlikely sources. Not the most talented team, but one that certainly doesn't lack desire or work ethic. A defensive minded team that feels comfortable playing in close, low scoring games. A team that prides itself on being tough to play against despite obvious shortcomings in personnel.
A team that lacks top end talent and creativity. A team that doesn't have the mental toughness to come back if they go down a few goals. A team that is young on defense and it shows. A team that gets pinned in their own end too often and puts far too much pressure on their goaltending. A team that can get run out of the building if they don't show up playing their best hockey. A team that has to outwork their opponent just to stay in the game.
Yeah, I think it's fair to say that some combination of those two descriptions is what the lasting impression of this year's New Jersey Devils team will be. Are they as bad as they were under Peter Deboer? Absolutely not. Are they as good as they were while they were riding an incredibly hot Cory Schneider in February? Absolutely not. If you take away the abysmal start to the season they are probably a borderline playoff team that has far more questions than answers. They need to get more experienced on defense. That only comes with time. They need more speed and firepower on offense. That only comes through smart drafting and timely transactions. I would say with 3 picks in the top 60 of a deep draft, and a head coaching decision on the immediate horizon, this is a pretty important offseason for Lou Lamoniello and the Devils brain trust.
Are they rebuilding? I don't think you would ever get them to admit that. Are they in need of prompt retooling? Most definitely. The pessimist will look at an offensive pipeline that is pretty bare. The optimist will look at a future that is set at goaltender and a talented stable of young defensemen. If there is anything that is reassuring about this team it's that they look to be building themselves like most championship teams do, from the defensive end on out.
P.S. We are weeks away from a tradition as old as time itself. Watching the Rangers lose in the postseason. Sure, they are a very good team this year, but that has never mattered before. If there is a higher power of any kind the Rangers and their wrongfully entitled fan base will be sent packing sooner rather than later. Take a good look Rangers fans. See these D-list celebrities? They are the reason you poor bastards won't even be able to afford tickets to watch your team fail in person.
The concrete jungle is a cold and unforgiving place. Enjoy your last few games of a formidable Rick Nash. After all, it's almost playoff time...