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Devils’ Sports Page: April 30, 2010

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Ken Hitchcock could be the perfect choice for Devils coach (nj.com)

Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek focused on ending playoff failures (nj.com)

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has more on plate besides search for coach (nj.com)

Devils defenseman Andy Greene added to U.S. roster for World Championships (Fire and Ice blog)

Devils’ job still coveted by coaches (The Bergen Record)

Kovalchuk noncommittal about future with Devils (The Bergen Record)

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2009-2010 Season Recap: Devils Finish First In Atlantic, Continue Impressive Playoff Streak

April 29, 2010 1 comment

In a first of many posts, I’ll recap the 2009-2010 Devils’ season. I’ll cover everything; the good, the bad and the ugly. Took kick off the series, I’ll look at the season achievements of the Devils.

Coming into the 2009-2010 season, the Devils had several questions throughout their lineup. Would an infusion of young talent pan out? Would Jacques Lemaire bring the team success? How would Martin Brodeur respond after missing significant time with a torn bicep injury last season? And, finally, could the Devils make a deep playoff run? The team would answer all of these questions, with some encouraging and disappointing answers.

The Devils opened the season losing two games, and the team looked disorganized and not prepared. But after those losses, the Devils took off. They corrected several problems, and finished the 2009 calendar year sitting 28-10-1. That record included a 9-2-1 record in November and an 11-4 month in December. The team played solid on all fronts, finishing 2009 with 2.77 goals per game (11th in the league) while averaging 29.8 shots on goal (tied for 15th). The powerplay stepped up, converting on 20.8% of their chances (tied for ninth). The defense took care of their end, only allowing 27.7 shots per game (tied for third), allowing 2.18 goals per game (second in the league) and killing 82.6% of penalties taken.

New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur makes a glove save against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh Monday, Dec. 21, 2009. Brodeur went onto shutout the Penguins for his 104th career shutout, breaking Terry Sawchuk's record. Photo Credit: Gene J. Puskar/ AP Photo

Some individual players also found success early in the season. Brodeur, coming off a serious injury in 2008, played a solid first three months of the season. He made history on December 21 when he shut out the Penguins, 4-0, at the Igloo. That shutout, number 104 of Brodeur’s career, broke a tie with Terry Sawchuk for the most career shutouts. It became another great milestone in Brodeur’s path to an eventual Hall of Fame induction. Zach Parise finished with 17 goals, 25 assists and 42 points, and those numbers came after the left-winger went through a dry spell in December. But it wasn’t all roses for the Devils.

The Devils never played with a healthy roster during the first three months. Patrik Elias missed time recovering from a groin injury early in the season. Paul Martin and Jay Pandolfo joined the injury list after a game against Pittsburgh October 24. Johnny Oduya joined that list later in the month after a game in Boston, leaving with a lower-body injury. All three of the players would go on to miss the entire month of November. Dainius Zubrus, Rob Niedermayer and David Clarkson joined that list in November, and Bryce Salvador missed time in December. Some of the players returned before the end of the year, but the Devils still had to plug holes with young players while dealing with these injures.

But the Devils couldn’t sustain their early season success in 2010. Read after the jump for the rest of the recap, including the Devils’ second half of the season.

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With A New Coach Should Come A New Captain

April 27, 2010 3 comments

Soon, Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello will begin a search for the 11th Devils coach in the past 13 years. With a new coach comes new changes. One of those changes should be the naming of a new team captain.

It’s never a comfortable feeling to call out the team’s captain. But what has Jamie Langenbrunner shown this year to convince anybody he deserves the “C” he wears on his jersey? Near the end of the season, he refused to speak to the media after a disagreement with then-coach Jacques Lemaire. It seemed to be the boiling point for Langenbrunner, who never seemed to mesh well with Lemaire. This frustration carried over to the playoffs, where he finished with one point in the five game series loss.

I don’t think Langenbrunner gave up on the Devils. But, when the team needed his leadership the most, he seemed to disappear, worrying more about personal milestones than the state of the team. For this, I believe there needs to be a change of the guard. But who can take over the Devils’ captaincy? Below are some of my suggestions:

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

1. Martin Brodeur

It seems odd that a goalie would be named captain, but it’s already happened in the league. In 2008, the Vancouver Canucks decided to name Roberto Luongo captain. While the move would be unconventional, Brodeur is one of the unquestioned leaders of this team. He wouldn’t be able to discuss penalties, etc. on the ice, and he can’t wear the “C” on his chest. But his leadership, both on and off the ice, would be what counts the most.

Who is more qualified for that leadership but Brodeur? He’s backstopped the Devils to three Stanley Cups, and he’s won four Vezina trophies. He’s a constant competitor, and while it would be an unconventional choice, Brodeur deserves some consideration if a change is made. Brodeur has been so influential, the NHL even created the “Brodeur Rule” after his run-ins with Sean Avery. Brodeur constantly brings his best effort night in and night out. And, while skill doesn’t usually determine the captain, he’s arguably the best player on the ice. Brodeur would also represent the organization well in dealing with any decisions, etc. from the NHL. As I said above, the move would be unconventional. But Brodeur has been the backbone of this team for several years. I believe he deserves consideration if the captain position becomes an open competition.

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

2. Zach Parise

Parise, who has quickly become one of the best Devils, should be seriously considered for the captaincy if a change is made. Parise, who was drafted in 2003, constantly ranks among the top scorers in the NHL. This past season, he averaged a point-per-game and led the team in assists. It’s not only his offensive output that qualifies him for the captain position. It’s the overall play while on the ice.

Parise never stops hustling and working on the ice. Even during the playoff loss to the Flyers, Parise tried to work through constant double teams and Chris Pronger. He’s taken on more responsibility this season, playing on the power play. And he’s been the assistant captain for two seasons. With young captains like Sidney Crosby emerging throughout the league, it might be Parise’s time to step up and take the reins.

3. Patrik Elias

Elias is another player on this team that has a lot of experience, especially in the playoffs. He also has the advantage over Brodeur and Parise, having experience as the captain of this team. During the 2006 – 2007 season (his only year as captain), the Devils had a 49-24-9 record (107 points), their most wins in the past five years. They also clinched first in the Atlantic Division. But the team couldn’t escape the second round, losing 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators. In 75 games played that season, Elias tallied 69 points (21 goals, 48 assists) during the regular season and 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in the playoffs.

Elias has never seemed like a “ra-ra” type of leader. But the Devils’ all-time scoring leader brings a veteran presence and experience to the locker room. Like Brodeur, Elias is a champion, winning two Stanley Cups with the organization. He’s also been around long enough to know the Devils’ style of play. While he’s never been the same after contracting Hepatitis A, he’s still an above-average player. He’s also got the experience of being a captain. As the leader, Elias helped the Devils advance past the first round, which is more than Langenbrunner has done in his three years wearing the “C”. Elias wouldn’t be a bad pick to captain this team.

I believe that Langenbrunner needs to be replaced as the captain. His listless, uninspiring play contributed to the Devils’ downfall against the Flyers. He began to disappear as the season progressed, and he even created controversy. I’ve always liked Langenbrunner as a player, but I just don’t think he has what it takes to be the captain. Picking either of the three players above would provide better leadership and, hopefully, help to bring the team out of the first round.

Lemaire Calls It Quits

April 26, 2010 1 comment

After a vote of confidence from the general manager and a still-burning passion for coaching, Devils’ coach Jacques Lemaire decided to call it quits after one season.

“After reflection and 17 years of coaching, I decided to retire,” Lemaire said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “It’s tough to leave what you like aside, but it’s a decision that I made and I will do.”

Lemaire originally thought of retiring last year, when he left the Minnesota Wild. But Lou Lamoriello went to Lemaire’s house in Montreal, convincing him to come back to coach the team this season.

Lemaire returned because he believed the Devils could win the Stanley Cup this season, a dream that ended Thursday night.

“When I accepted this (job), I thought we had a chance to go for the Cup and this is the reason why I accepted it,” he said to Gulitti. “You talk about frustration, it is. After one series, you’re out when you’re think of maybe making two, three, four.”

Lemaire said the Devils’ first-round exit isn’t the reason for his retirement. He said it was based solely on not having the energy to make it through an entire season.

The year went really well. It’s not the problems that you have with the players. It’s nothing. It’s part of the game. It’s not the team. It’s not the lack of result that we had in the playoffs. It’s not that at all. I just find that it’s the end of the line. I’ll be 65. It’s just time.

Lemaire will remain with the organization in a capacity to be determined later.

The Devils will now hire their 11th coach since 1997-1998. In the five seasons since the lockout, the Devils have had five different head coaches – including Lamoriello (twice).

Lemaire took over last season for Brent Sutter, who decided to leave the organization to be closer to his family in Alberta, Canada. The former coach took the head coaching job for the Calgary Flames. Lemaire, hired on July 13, 2009, led the Devils to a 48-27-7 (103 points), their ninth Atlantic Division title and second seed in the conference. But the Devils were eliminated in the five games by the Philadelphia Flyers.

The 65-year old Lemaire, who guided the Devils to their first Stanley Cup in 1995, retired with a 588-441-183 record with 1, 213 NHL regular season games. He is the Devils’ all-time leader with 247 wins behind the bench.

Categories: Coaching Changes

The Devils 2010 UFAs

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

With a loss in game five, the Devils were officially eliminated from the playoffs. Now, the offseason duties start for general manager Lou Lamoriello. While he’s already said coach Jacques Lemaire will return next year, there are several players Lamoriello will need to decide on. Below is a list of the players. While some should return, others have worn out their welcome and need to be shown the door.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Ilya Kovalchuk

After the game five loss, Kovalchuk informed the media that he’d be “open” to resigning with the Devils in the offseason. Today, in a press conference with the media, Lamoriello insisted he’ll try to re-sign the left-winger. Kovalchuk earned 27 points in 27 games for the Devils, and that point-per-game production matched only Zach Parise on the team. Kovalchuk, who excited Devils’ fans, brings a proven goal-scorer to the lineup. He also seemed to be meshing with some other players near the end of the season, including Patrik Elias. With a full season under his belt, and a consistent line to play with, Kovalchuk could probably replicate his numbers from Atlanta.

But that’s also a big if. As one of the top free agent targets this season, Kovalchuk can command between eight and 10 million dollars of annual salary. I believe the Devils would reap the benefits of signing him long term. But will Lamoriello be willing to break the bank? I think it would be worth the risk, but for one Kovalchuk, Lamoriello might be able to take care of other team needs.

Paul Martin

Photo Credit: JIm McIsaac/Getty Images

If Kovalchuk is free agent target number one, than Martin is target 1a. The young Devils’ defenseman has become one of the leaders on the blue line. While he spent considerable time injured this season, we’ve seen Martin mature into an above-average offensive defenseman in this league. Remember, he and David Hale came up together and were touted as the next Scott Niedermayer – Scott Stevens duo. Since he came into the league in 2003-2004, Martin has been a dependable player, playing in at least 70 games. He’s also increased his offensive output, routinely collecting 30+ points along the blue line. And, finally, he’s also solid defensively, only finishing with a negative +/- rating once in his seven-year career.

After Kovalchuk, Martin should be the number one priority for the Devils. His offensive skills bring an advantage, and he serves as a weapon on the powerplay. But, more importantly, he’s an improving young defenseman. I don’t think we’ve seen Martin reach his full potential, and re-signing him should be a priority.

Rob Niedermayer

Niedermayer played his role this year, centering the third line and playing a defensive role on the penalty kill. Niedermayer also chipped in offensively, putting in 10 goals and tallying 12 assists in 71 games. While he played well, he’s also dispensable. The Devils have young guys, such as Rod Pelley, who can step in and center the checking line (and for less money than Niedermayer). He played well in a Devils sweater, but he’s not vital to the team and shouldn’t be a high priority.

Mike Mottau

Oh, Mr. Mottau. Mottau was one of the streakiest Devils’ defenseman in recent memory. He’d play well in bursts, and I’d think that maybe he’d be worth keeping around. But then we’d see the terrible routes to the puck, the indecision, and the overall bad play. While I think he improved this season, I also think the Devils would be better to give younger players, like Mark Fraser, Matt Corrente, or Tyler Eckford the opportunity to play.

Martin Skoula

Skoula was a deadline addition, one of the typical Lou Lamoriello quiet deadline deals. He improved the depth of the defense, but overall wasn’t impressive. The Devils can live without him.

Yann Danis

The backup didn’t get many starts this year, so it’s difficult to tell whether or not he should come back. Since Martin Brodeur will start 90% of the games, it will be up to Danis if he wants to return.

Other UFA: Ilkka Pikkarainen, Cory Murphy

Categories: Analysis

The Devils’ Sports Page: Friday, April 23, 2010

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

ECQ Game Five: Giroux Sinks Devils As Flyers Win Series, 4-1

April 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Another year, another first-round playoff exit for the New Jersey Devils. The team couldn’t find the drive tonight, and the Philadelphia Flyers were able to withstand the Devils pressure in the first period. They even escaped with a lucky break, as Zach Parise sent the puck off the post with the Devils on the powerplay. After that, they put the clamp on, with Claude Giroux scoring two goals to end any thoughts of a Devils comeback. The Devils went down with a whimper, 3-0, and bow out in the first round for the third consecutive year.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Key Moments:

1. Jamie Langebrunner Tripping Penalty – 1:29 of the first period

Daniel Carcillo gave the Devils an early opportunity, allowing the Devils to get the first man advantage of the game. It opened the door to potentially give the Devils early momentum in this decisive game five. Less than 45 seconds later, that opportunity would disappear. Langenbrunner took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone, ending the Devils’ powerplay. The Flyers would use that penalty to their advantage only minutes later.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

2. Daniel Briere’s Powerplay Goal Gives Flyers 1-0 Lead – 3:16 of the first period

The Flyers took advantage of their first powerplay opportunity, lighting the lamp to take an early 1-0 lead. With Langenbrunner in the box for tripping, Giroux held the puck in the Devils’ zone. He passed the puck to Briere in the left circle, but the puck skipped off Briere’s skate and between Martin Brodeur’s pads for Briere’s second goal of the series.

3. Colin White’s Double Minor – 4:15 of the second period

With the Devils down, 1-0, the Flyers gave them the opportunity to tie the game with a penalty to David Laliberte at 3:46 of the period. But, once again, the Devils took a penalty in the offensive zone to end the chance. Colin White, playing forward on the powerplay, took a whack at Brian Boucher after the goalie held the puck between his pads. A scuffle ensued, with White and Ian Laperriere trading a few late jabs. Both players went to the box, and the Devils continued to shoot themselves in the foot.

4. Parise’s Shot Hits Post – 5:10 of the second period

The Flyers’ continued to hand the Devils’ chances to get back into the game. With the teams playing four-on-four hockey, Briere saved a goal with a nice stick check on Travis Zajac. But the forward then took a holding penalty, giving the Devils 44 seconds of a 4-on-3 powerplay opportunity. Parise worked himself down to the front of the net. He found a loose puck and tried to stuff it by Boucher. The puck passed the goalie, but tipped off the left post.

5. Giroux’s Goal Extends Flyers Lead To Two – 1148 of the second period

Giroux had been playing a terrific series, and it continued in game five. With the Devils pressuring the Flyers, Giroux gave his team some breathing room with his third goal of the playoffs. Blair Betts took the initial shot, which Brodeur stopped. The puck skittered to the corner, where it was sent in front. Mike Richards, crashing the net, tipped the puck back to the slot. Giroux one-timed the puck over Brodeur’s glove and into the top corner for the goal.

6. Giroux’s Powerplay Goal Extends Flyers Lead To Three – 13:51 of the second period

Giroux lit the lamp again, putting the nail in the coffin on the series with his second goal of the game. With Dean McAmmond in the box for high-sticking, Briere let go a shot from the point. Scott Hartnell, who was screening Brodeur, was hit with the shot on the crease. The puck game to Giroux, who fired a low shot into the empty net for his fourth goal of the series. That goal ended what little playoff life the Devils had left.

Oh No, Not Another Powerplay Chance

I can’t remember a time I hated to watch a team get a powerplay. But, during this series, the Devils made me hate the whistle. The Devils couldn’t figure out their powerplay the entire series. The Devils went 0-for-8 tonight, and they were never able to make the Flyers pay for their mistakes. Overall, the Devils went 4-for-32 (12.5%) during the series. That’s plain unacceptable. There were times when the Devils powerplay looked creative and effective. But those times were few and far between. The Devils powerplay was dull, unimaginative and lacked creativity. They couldn’t take advantage of the Flyers’ aggressive penalty kill or the forwards that dove down to block shots. As a result, they allowed the Flyers to escape with undisciplined hockey time and time again.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Get Me A Magnifying Glass, I Need To Find The Devils’ Offense

Over the final six periods of this series, the Devils scored one – that’s right, ONE – goal. Except for game two, the Devils offense was non-existent. The Devils averaged 1.80 goals per game this series. That won’t win a series, and the results reflect that effort. The Devils scorers were shut down, with Zajac and Parise only scoring one goal in the series. Patrik Elias was held without a goal. Give credit to the Flyers, who stymied the Devils offense throughout the series. But the Devils offense, which looked so promising coming into the series, disappeared. Even with the play of Brodeur, the team wouldn’t be able to last without pressuring Boucher.

Continue reading after the jump for the rest of the recap.

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