To be completely honest, I didn't think it was going to be this early in the year when I was all-but- forced to write this. My forays with former players like Brian Rolston and Michael Ryder (not a comparison) may imply otherwise, but I don't like to harp on a single underachieving player when - despite the Devils relative success this season - there are plenty of others that could use a foot in their colon. Unfortunately, the person in question has been so bad thus far that his lackluster play has blatantly stood out amongst a host of his teammates who also aren't performing to their potential. That's simply a fact. Mike Cammalleri has been - without question - the worst forward on the team through nine games and that should be pretty obvious to even the most casual of fan.
Now, that's not to say I don't understand why. We are talking about an aging veteran that's coming off a season ending injury. I suppose it was a little optimistic to assume he was going to regain the scoring prowess that had him amongst the league leaders at this point a year ago. However, it's not his lack of scoring that concerns me. As a lifelong Devils fan, I have certainly grown plenty accustomed to players gripping their sticks too tight and going through comically long goal droughts while actively finding creative new ways not to put the puck in the net. Shit, if my problem with Mike Cammalleri was simply about point production then I would have to write a similar article for half the fucking roster. I don't, and that's because it's not his lack of an offensive contribution that worries me, it's his lack of any contribution whatsoever. I wish this were an overreaction, but Mike Cammalleri - to this point - has been a detriment to his team in every facet of the game. His skating, his defense, his decision making, his hands - all shockingly worse than any Devils fan could have possibly predicted. I would say he looks like a shell of his former self, but that would suggest that the man wearing the dreaded #13 has been even remotely recognizable.
That's not to say I want him taken out of the lineup. I know the current skill level of the Devils and therefore I know that even a mediocre Mike Cammalleri is imperative to a potential playoff run. The player we are seeing right now would sell his soul for mediocrity, and that's why I can't support granting him a wealth of opportunities when he's blown nearly every single one of them. I know they are trying to get him going by putting him in situations that lend themselves to success. That's smart in theory...until it starts affecting the entire team's ability to succeed.
The baffling turnovers in every zone? Murdering his own powerplays in cold blood by firing bad angled shots so wide that they end up closer to his own net than the one he's shooting at? Throwing him out there in a 3-on-3 situation when his newly heavy feet have him losing ground on a backcheck that inevitably played a part in costing the Devils a point last night? None of that shit is helping anyone. If John Hynes' constant line juggling is any indication then he doesn't feel his players are entitled to a certain amount of playing time. I just wish that philosophy would apply to everyone, because there's only one guy whose clearly lost and he keeps finding himself on the ice during crucial moments of the game.