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The Retired Numbers Debate

Scott Stevens became the first Devil to have his jersey retired during the 2003 season. Photo Credit: NJDevils.com

When Brian Rafalski announced his retirement today, it signaled yet another Devil from their glory days to retire. As the team gets further and further removed from their dynasty days, when they won three Stanley Cup championships in eight years, more and more players will leave the game.

The departures already included some big name players. Over the last six years, we’ve seen most of the Devils vaunted defense retire. Ken Daneyko, arguably the heart and soul of the defense, retired after winning the Stanley Cup in 2003. Scott Stevens soon followed, retiring in 2004 after battling post-concussion syndrome. Scott Niedermayer went next, retiring last season. The list continues, with forwards like Jay Pandolfo and Sergei Brylin hanging up their skates.

All of these former players helped produce the most successful eight seasons in team history. They all deserve recognition, both individually and as a collective whole. There’s no bigger individual recognition than retiring a player’s number, and there are a few Devils who deserve the honor. But it shouldn’t go to everyone, and the franchise needs to tread carefully when considering players worthy of that honor.

Currently, only two Devils have seen their number retired. Scott Stevens became the first player in team history to have his number retired. The team honored him in a pre-game ceremony on  February 3, 2006, acknowledging his immense importance to the team. Stevens racked up the honors, including a Conn Smythe Award during the 2000 Stanley Cup championship. His mere presence along the blueline made skaters think twice about where they were on the ice. His hit on Eric Lindros during the 2000 Eastern Conference was a turning point in the series. His resume continues, with the crowning achievement being his tenure as captain, which is still the longest in team history. Clearly, he deserved the honor.

Daneyko became just the second player whose number hangs from the rafters. “Mr. Devil” played for 20 seasons, all with the Devils. His gritty play and gap-toothed grin came to embody the Devils “trap” game. He sacrificed his body game in and game out, blocking shots and doling out hits. He’s never been an “offensive defenseman,” recording a career-high 21 points during the 1989-90 season. He almost never missed a game, holding the Devils “ironman” streak until this season. His contributions, both on and off the ice, earned him the honor.

Niedermayer and Rafalski both make great arguments to earn the honor. But before the team makes them one of the honored few, they need to realize not everyone deserves a spot. That’s where the difficult decisions begin. What criteria will the organization use to judge a player’s worthiness? Both Niedermayer and Rafalski were great Devils, and belong among the best to wear the jersey. Both also spurned the organization to play elsewhere, with Rafalski leaving near the tail end of his prime years. It doesn’t diminish their accomplishments with the Devils, but it may dilute them in the eyes of some observers.

We already know that, when he decided to retire, Martin Brodeur will watch his jersey number retired. But for others, like Niedermayer and Rafalski, the honor should take time to be decided. Players refused to wear Stevens’ number four and Daneyko’s number 3, but others wore numbers 27 and 28.

I don’t believe other players, like Rafalski and Niedermayer, should be shunned from having their jersey numbers retired. The franchise should practice caution, however, to keep it an honor and not a right.

The 2010-2011 Player Review: Rod Pelley

Pelley played mostly a defensive role this season, but did tie a career high with 10 points. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s review, we focus on Rod Pelley.

For the past few years, the New Jersey Devils raved about the abilities of Rod Pelley. Several team officials believed he could become the next John Madden. Last year, after Madden left the team as an unrestricted free agent, he got his first shot at taking the defensive forward role. Jacques Lemaire wouldn’t play him full-time, so we never fully got to see his potential.

With a new coach this season, Pelley got his chance. He didn’t become an elite checking forward, but he made the most of his chance. For most of the season, Pelley anchored the team’s checking line. His numbers weren’t superb, but they weren’t overly terrible. He ended up proving what he was – a defensive forward who could be used on the team’s third line.

Pelley At Even Strength

As a third-liner, Pelley didn’t see much time on the ice. His time on ice per 60 of 10.24 was middle of the road, which is expected. He put up a negative player rating of minus-0.25, which also isn’t terrible considering his line. For someone who isn’t going to generate much offense (just 10 points this season), his rating will take a hit. It also suffered from his quality of teammates, which checked in at minus-0.317. When you’re constantly centering guys like Adam Mair, that’ll help drive down the rating.

As a third-liner, Pelley’s greatest impact should be defensively. A look at his numbers shows he had an almost neutral (and slightly negative) impact this season. When on the ice, teams scored 23 goals against, an average of 1.82 goals against per 60. He only generated 1.11 goals per 60, leading to a plus/minus on the ice of minus-0.71. It’s not a good number, because you never want any player with a negative plus/minus. Off the ice, however, the numbers increased. Teams averaged 2.51 goals against per 60, but also scored more (2.05 goals for per 60). That drove the plus/minus with Pelley off the ice down to minus-0.46, which seems like an improvement. But Pelley and his linemates aren’t goal scorers, which will obviously put him at a disadvantage in his on-ice plus/minus rating.

The shots against numbers paint a slightly negative picture. With Pelley on the ice, he held teams to 25.4 shots against per 60. With him off the ice, that number dipped to 23.5. That’s almost two full shots less. It’s not a huge number, but it shows he wasn’t the best defensive option on the team’s bench.

The Corsi numbers wraps up this section nicely. Pelley’s on-ice Corsi was a minus-7.92, one of the worst among forwards with at least 50 games played. Off the ice, that number improved to plus-7.06, almost a 180 degree turnaround.

Pelley On The Penalty Kill

Pelley’s numbers on the penalty-kill paint a similar picture to his five-on-five numbers. His time on ice of 1.38 put him within the top nine of the Devils penalty killers, putting him in the regular rotation. Like his even strength rating, Pelley turned in a negative rating of minus-1.36. It was one of the worst ratings among regular penalty killers, but a deeper look at the numbers could expose some flaws.

Penalty killing, of course, isn’t a one man show. Teammates sway the numbers heavily, and Pelley’s teammates didn’t help him one bit. His quality of teammates was minus-0.764, which ranked dead last. Teams scored 10 powerplay goals against Pelley last year, an average of 5.86 goals per 60. That gave Pelley an ugly plus/minus average of minus-5.86. The number improved with him off the ice, dipping to 4.93 goals against per 60 and a plus/minus rating of minus-4.50.These numbers make sense, as better combinations produced better results on the ice.

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The Devils’ Sports Page – October 29, 2010

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment

The Devils continue their Western Conference road trip tonight against the Anaheim Ducks, looking to turn around an abysmal smart to the season. To get you ready for tonight’s game, here’s today’s edition of The Devils’ Sports Page:

John MacLean has faced plenty of adversity already as Devils coach (Rich Chere/NJ.com)

Lamoriello: “It’s ridiculous” to say MacLean’s job is in jeopardy; “top players” must play better (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)

Battered Devils have an easy practice day in Anaheim (Rich Chere/NJ.com)

Matt Corrente suffers broken hand; Eckford, Vasyunov recalled (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)

Tyler Eckford, Alexander Vasyunov on way to joining Devils in Anaheim (Rich Chere/NJ.com)

Pandolfo fighting off thoughts of retirement, believes Devils will turn season around (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)

Devils Matt Corrente suffers broken left hand; sent back to New Jersey (Rich Chere/NJ.com)

Albany Devils

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: Devils vs. Hartford (AlbanyDevils.com)

Four selected for induction to AHL Hall of Fame (Pete Dougherty/TimesUnion.com)

New Jersey plucks Eckford, Vasyunov off Albany roster (Pete Dougherty/TimesUnion.com)

Trenton Devils

Devils Capture Shootout Win vs. Gladiators (TrentonDevils.com)

Game 5: Post-Game Notes (Mike Ashmore/Hunterdon Country Democrat)

Game 5: Photo Gallery (Mike Ashmore/Hunterdon County Democrat)

The Devils 2010-2011 Season Preview

October 7, 2010 2 comments

Can you feel something in the air? There’s a slight chill in the air, and the leaves are changing colors. The baseball playoffs are in full swing, and the NFL is already four weeks into their schedule. It all adds up to the best time of the year – hockey season. And, for the New Jersey Devils, it begins tomorrow night at the Prudential Center against the Dallas Stars.

With the beginning of the season comes the obligatory team preview. Without further adieu, here’s The Devils’ Den’s 2010-2011 Season Preview.

Martin Brodeur and the Devils open their season against the Dallas Stars Friday night against the Dallas Stars. Photo Credit: Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger

The Offseason

The Devils endured the longest offseason in recent memory. The failed to make it out of the third round for the third consecutive season, losing the series 4-1 to the hated Philadelphia Flyers. That playoff loss left a bad memory on what was a rather successful season. New Jersey clinched second in the conference, won their ninth Atlantic Division title, and made the postseason for the 13th consecutive season. They also swept the Pittsburgh Penguins, 6-0-0, during the regular season.

The organization wasn’t satisfied with their playoff failure, deciding to make several changes. The first change came in the coaching staff. Jacques Lemaire, who lost the locker room by the end of the season, retired on April 26. The Devils decided to go with youth at the helm, promoting then-Lowell coach John MacLean, who served as a NHL assistant for seven years. MacLean brought in Adam Oates to help a woeful powerplay and kept Larry Robinson to help with the defense. With the coaching staff set, Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello turned to the roster.

Lamoriello began the roster overhaul early in the Devils’ offseason, acquiring Jason Arnott from Nashville for Matt Halischuk and a second round pick in 2011. Arnott, who scored the game-winning goal to give the Devils their second Stanley Cup Championship in 2000, would be reunited with former “A-Line” partner Patrik Elias and former Stars teammate Jamie Langenbrunner. The Devils then bought out longtime Devil Jay Pandolfo and Andrew Peters the day before free agency began.

In an uncharacteristic move, Lamoriello signed several free agents for this year’s team. On July 1, Lamoriello signed defenseman Anton Volchenkov (six-years, $25.5 million), defenseman Henrik Tallinder (four-years, $13.5 million) and goalie Johan Hedberg (one-year, $1.5 million). The team lost Paul Martin to the Penguins and Rob Niedermayer to the Sabres.

On July 19, the Devils doled out the largest contract in NHL history for Ilya Kovalchuk. The left-winger and New Jersey agreed to a 17-year, $102 million dollar contract. It passed through the NHLPA, but not the league office. The league rejected the contract, setting off a summer of arbitration hearings and constant frustration. Eventually the team and league settled on a 15-year, $100 million deal, with amendments made to the collective bargaining agreement to ban these contracts.

To read the rest of the preview, follow the jump!

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Devils 2010-2011 Schedule Preview – Tampa Bay Lightning

September 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the Devils 2010-2011 schedule, giving you an in-depth preview of the 29 other teams the Devils will face next season. We’ve already completed several previews, all of which can be found under the “Season Preview” tab. In today’s second preview, we go to the Eastern Conference, taking a look at this season’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Devils took three of four from the Lightning last season. Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Devils vs. Lightning – Historical Data

In 71 all-time regular season games against the Lightning, the Devils are 43-17-7-4. New Jersey averages 3.30 goals against the Tampa Bay while allowing the Lightning to average only 2.18 goals against them. Last season, the teams met four times, with the Devils winning the season series, 3-1-0.

The Devils won the first meeting of the season, 4-3, in a shootout. Zach Parise opened the scoring, giving the Devils a lead, 1-0, at 4:46 of the first period. Steven Stamkos put the Lightning on the board, tying the game, 1-1, with an even-strength tally at 9:49 of the second period. The lead wouldn’t last the period, as Jay Pandolfo put the Devils back on top, 2-1, with a goal at 18:09 of the second.

Stamkos once again tied the game, 2-2, with his second goal at 1:52 of the third period. Todd Fedoruk gave the Lightning their first lead, 3-2, with an even-strength goal at 5:41 of the third. The Devils waited until the last second to make a comeback, with Travis Zajac tying the game, 3-3, at 19:59 of the period. Both Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner scored shootout goals, and Martin Brodeur blanked Tampa Bay’s Stamkos and Alex Tanguay on their attempts to earn a 4-3 win.

The Devils once again defeated the Lighting, 2-1, in a shootout on October 31 at the Prudential Center. Zajac struck first, giving the Devils a lead, 1-0, only 50 seconds into the second period. But Stamkos would ruin another Devils lead, pulling the Lightning even, 1-1, with a goal at 4:34 of the third period. After playing through a scoreless overtime, both teams went to the shootout. The big guns could do nothing against Brodeur and Antero Niittymaki, with both goalies perfect through three rounds. But David Clarkson would change that, as his shootout goal in the fourth round clinched a win and sent the Lightning home on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision.

Brodeur finished with 18 saves for the win. Nittymaki stopped 37 shots in the loss.

The Devils extended their winning streak over the Lightning to three games with a 3-2 win on December 4. After a scoreless first period, Vincent Lecavlier netted the game’s first goal, giving the Lighting a lead, 1-0, at 1:26 of the second period. Brian Rolston tied the game, 1-1, with a powerplay tally at 1:15 of the third period. Niclas Bergfors scored the second powerplay goal of the period, putting the Devils ahead, 2-1. The Lightning would even the score, with Steve Downie netting a powerplay goal at 17:00 to tie the game, 2-2. Langenbrunner stole the game for the Devils in the final minute, putting New Jersey ahead, 3-2, at 19:21 of the final period.

Continue after the jump for the rest of the preview!

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Devils 2010-2011 Schedule Preview – Minnesota Wild

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the Devils 2010-2011 schedule, giving you an in-depth preview of the 29 other teams the Devils will face next season. We’ve already completed several previews, all of which can be found under the “Season Preview” tab. In today’s second preview, we go to the Western Conference, taking a look at this season’s matchup with the Minnesota Wild.

Jamie Langenbrunner recorded his first career hat trick against the Wild last season. Photo Credit: Tom Olmscheid/Associated Press

Devils vs. Wild – Historical Data

In 10 all-time regular season meetings against the Wild, the Devils are 7-1-2. New Jersey averages 3.70 goals per meeting and allows Minnesota to average 2.30 goals per meeting. The two teams squared off once last season in Minnesota, with the Devils winning, 5-3.

Dean McAmmond opened the scoring, giving the Devils a lead, 1-0, at 5:13 of the second period. Jamie Langenbrunner extended the lead, scoring a powerplay goal at 6:57 of the period. Eric Belanger put the Wild on the board, scoring at 9:08 of the second to cut the Devils lead to 2-1. Mikko Koivu tied the game, 2-2, with a shorthanded tally at 19:22 of the period. The Devils would jump ahead again, with Langenbrunner scoring his second powerplay goal of the period at 19:56 to put the Devils ahead, 3-2.

Jay Pandolfo extended the Devils lead, putting New Jersey ahead, 4-2, at 11:35 of the third period. Andrew Brunette brought Minnesota within one, scoring at 16:09 to shrink the Devils lead to 4-3. Langenbrunner completed the hat trick, scoring an empty-netter at 19:43 to put the Devils ahead, 5-3.

Martin Brodeur made 29 saves in the win. Niklas Backstrom stopped 21 shots for the loss.

Devils vs. Wild – This Season’s Matchup

The Devils and Wild will face off once this season, on January 4 at the Prudential Center. During the offseason, the Wild signed several key free agents to help bolster a squad that missed the playoffs last season. The team re-signed Guillaume Latendresse and Koivu, two important offensive players, locking them up for a combined nine years. The team also signed underrated center Matt Cullen and Eric Nystrom to three-year contracts. They added John Madden in August, bringing in a quality veteran center.

This is another one-game series that should be interesting. The Wild were a good team out West, but fell apart a bit last season. It’ll be another homecoming for Madden, and it should be an interesting game. But it’s only for two points, and while it would be nice to get the win, this one game shouldn’t impact the standings.

Stat Pack

Langenbrunner’s hat trick was the first of his career…In 10 career starts against Minnesota, Brodeur is 7-1-2 with a 2.23 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.

Devils 2010-2011 Schedule Preview – Ottawa Senators

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the Devils 2010-2011 schedule, giving you an in-depth preview of the 29 other teams the Devils will face next season. We’ve already completed several previews, all of which can be found under the “Season Preview” tab. In today’s second preview, we stay in the Eastern Conference, taking a look at this season’s matchup with the Ottawa Senators.

Jamie Langenbrunner recorded five points against the Senators last season. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Senators vs. Devils – Historical Data

In 67 all-time meetings against the Senators, the Devils are 42-19-5-1. The Devils average 2.71 goals against the Senators, while only allowing Ottawa 2.31 goals against New Jersey. In four meetings last season, the Devils went 3-1-0 against the Senators.

In their first meeting of the season, the Devils defeated the Senators, 3-2, in Ottawa. Milan Michalek put the Senators on the board first, scoring an even-strength goal at 14:00 minutes of the first period. Brian Lee extended the lead to 2-0 at 11:09 of the second period. Zach Parise cut the deficit in half, tallying a powerplay goal at 15:35 of the period. David Clarkson tied the game in the third period, 2-2, scoring another powerplay goal 4:38 of the period. Andy Greene scored the game-winner, scoring the Devils third straight powerplay goal at 7:20 to put New Jersey ahead, 3-2.

The Devils won the second meeting, 3-1, on November 25 at the Prudential Center. Niclas Bergfors scored the game’s first goal, giving the Devils an early lead, 1-0, at 7:58 of the first period. Michalek would tie the game, 1-1, with his even-strength goal at 12:34 of the opening period. Patrik Elias scored the eventual game-winner, netting his then-first goal of the season at 18:34 of the second period. Jamie Langenbrunner extended the Devils lead, putting New Jersey ahead, 3-1, with an empty-netter at 19:36 of the third period.

The Devils took the third meeting of the series, 4-2, at The Rock. Langenbrunner opened the scoring, giving the Devils a lead, 1-0, with a powerplay goal at 11:53 of the first period. Alexandre Picard brought Ottawa back, tying the game, 1-1, with an even-strength goal 39 seconds into the second period. Brian Rolston put the Devils ahead, 2-1, at 1:53 of the period. But the Senators would not quit, with Jarkko Ruutu tying the game, 2-2, at 6:06 of the period. The Devils would once again answer, with Jay Pandolfo giving the Devils a lead, 3-2, at 18:22 of the second. Bryce Salvador stretched the lead, 4-2, with an even-strength tally at 9:52 of the third period.

The Devils could not complete the season sweep, as Ottawa blanked the Devils, 3-0, on January 26 in Ottawa. Alex Kovalev opened the game’s scoring, giving the Senators a lead, 1-0, at 9:12 of the first period. Michalek extended the lead, 2-0, with a goal at 18:42 of the period. Jason Spezza scored the game’s final goal, pushing the Senators lead to 3-0 at 15:47 of the second period. Brian Elliot finished with 24 saves for the shutout. Martin Brodeur stopped nine shots before being replaced by Yann Danis in the third period. Danis stopped all six shots he faced.

Devils vs. Senators – This Season’s Matchup

The Devils and Senators will face off four times this season. The two teams play three of four games during the second half of the season, including twice in March. With the Senators always around the playoff bubble, those two late season matchups could determine potential seeding in the Eastern Conference.

The Senators made one of the bigger free agent splashes on July 1, signing defenseman Sergei Gonchar to a three-year contract. But that’s the only big free agent move the team made. Ottawa opted to keep its own talent, re-signing several players throughout the course of the offseason.

The Devils, as their record above indicates, have done well against the Senators. Before their loss last season, the Devils had won nine straight against Ottawa. They’ve always done well against the Senators, and with a team largely intact from last season, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. These are always good points to pick up, and I’d expect to see the Devils take at least six points from this matchup.

Stat Pack

The Devils held Daniel Alfredsson and Spezza to four points – and no goals – combined…Milsn Michalek led all Ottawa scorers with three points, all goals…Langenbrunner was tops among Devils skaters, recording five points (two goals, three assists)…Even though Elliot shut out the Devils last season, he hasn’t enjoyed much success against them. In his four career starts (all last season), he was 1-3-0 with a 2.50 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage.

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