Archive for May, 2010

Salmela To Miss 12-16 Weeks After Surgery

Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello confirmed that Devils’ defenseman Anssi Salmela will miss 12-16 weeks after undergoing surgery Friday to repair a torn ACL.

Salmela injured his knee while playing for Finland in the LG Games earlier this month. At the time, Salmela’s agent, Jay Grossman, tweeted the defenseman would head back to New Jersey for tests on the knee.

Grossman first broke the news about the surgery on Wednesday, when he tweeted that Salmela would have surgery Friday. Lamoriello said the organization will not rush the defenseman back from the injury.

Salmela did not play in the Devils’ first-round loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. The defenseman, acquired in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade, only played in nine games for the Devils this season. He recorded one goal and two assists, but had a +/- rating of -5.

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Lemaire Defends Decisions This Past Season

May 28, 2010 1 comment

After the Devils loss to the Flyers this postseason, the team searched for answers to explain yet another first round exit. Jamie Langenbrunner came out to the media, criticizing former coach Jacques Lemaire for his decisions throughout the season. Even Brian Gionta, a former Devil, weighed in with his opinion.

Now, Lemaire is firing back.

Devils' former coach Jacques Lemaire has come under fire the past few weeks from his former players. Now, he's firing back. Photo Credit: Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger

In an article by Star-Ledger beat reporter Rich Chere, Lemaire defended his decisions during the regular season and playoffs this season. There were many things the coach addressed, but I’d like to take a look at a few quotes relating to several posts I’ve wrote about on the blog the past few weeks.

Issue 1: Line Juggling

One of the criticisms leveled at Lemaire this past season was his constant line-juggling. I addressed the coach’s decision to break up the ZZ Pops line, but Lemaire juggled more lines than the ZZ Pops line. Lemaire moved several players around, working for the optimal lineup against a given team. As Lemaire said in the article

“I look at the teams still in the playoffs right now. They match lines. I don’t see why we would be so special that we don’t have to match lines,” Lemaire said.

“As far as switching the players on lines, Scotty Bowman has been known as a great coach and he moved players around a lot. There are a lot of coaches who move players around when things aren’t going well or playing against certain teams. I’ve done it my whole career. I don’t think it’s an issue. It could be an issue if you’re not good enough and you need to play with certain guys to get better. Then, for that particular guy, it would be an issue.”

Hockey coaches have to switch lines. In year’s past, Brent Sutter would use the Devils’ third line to match against the team’s first line. If a coach doesn’t change lines and match up with the other team, they don’t give themselves the optimal lineup out on the ice. But I don’t agree with the constant line-juggling this season. The coach had a dynamite first line, one that could easily lead the team in scoring. They also brought energy and talent to the ice. By breaking them up, Lemaire eliminated one of better scoring lines in the entire league.

When asked about the decision to break up the ZZ Pops line, Lemaire said

“I try to get the best out of players. Sometimes, yes, I did put guys with certain other guys so they play better,” Lemaire said, “but I have to think about the team and what is good for the team. I’m happy with the way I’ve done things. No regrets. I’ve always done this and the success was there.”

I understand Lemaire’s idea here – spread the scoring, maybe allow for some other players to get going. But when the team needed offense or a spark, the ZZ Pops line should have played together. There was no need to continually switch those players around. We all know they played well together, and I believe the line should have been kept together, giving the Devils their best offensive line (and one of the better defensive lines as well).

For the rest of my reaction to the article, continue reading after the jump!

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Gionta Believes Devils Playoff Issues Stem From Burnout

May 22, 2010 2 comments

As the offseason continues, the Devils continue to face questions about their locker room. Those questions continued Thursday, when Star-Ledger reporter Rich Chere reported that former Devil Brian Gionta believes the team struggles due to emotional and physical burnout. The article, which deserves a read, further serves to wonder if the team’s locker room chemistry is one issue keeping them from a deep playoff run.

Gionta, in taking with Chere, believed players weren’t fresh enough during the playoffs.

“I think coming down to the end of the year some guys are burnt out with the grind of the season,” Gionta said. “They need to do a better job of maybe balancing the regular season and making sure everybody is fresh enough come playoff time.”

Travis Zajac was the only Devil to appear in all 82 games this season. Gionta believed team management didn't do enough to keep players fresh during the regular season. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

That statement seems odd, as former Devils coach Jacques Lemaire took time to rest everyone as the season wore down. He even sat Jamie Langenbrunner, who was not happy with the situation. Looking at the roster, there were several players with extensive workloads this season. Five players skated in 80+ games, including Travis Zajac, who played every game this season. Ten skaters played in 70+ games. Martin Brodeur played in 77 games this season as well. That’s a lot of wear and tear on a players’ body, when taking into account the amount of hits taken, shots blocked, etc. But the reality is that these players need to play. A guy like Zach Parise needs to be on the ice to give the team a chance to win night in and night out. And when the Atlantic Division – and playoff seeding – can come down to one point, some guys will need to play everyday.

Not only that, but the Devils had several days off from practice, especially later in the season. Many times, the team would hold optional skates or have team meetings. Sometimes, the team would do off-ice workouts. It seemed like the coaches tried to give players the days off needed to stay fresh. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with Gionta, but maybe there are some things the team could do to improve the team morale late in the season.

But this next part of the article is one that seems a bit more truthful.

But Gionta still speaks to former teammates and he’s heard all about the tensions between Devils players and management. Word has gotten around the league about how poorly some respected veterans were treated, such as two-time Stanley Cup winner Jay Pandolfo being benched during the playoffs and forced to dress in the practice locker room instead of with his teammates in the main dressing room.

The Devils seemed to have significant locker room issues this year. Langenbrunner and Lemaire never got along, with the captain believing Lemaire needed to handle some situations better. Clearly, one of these situations was this new Jay Pandolfo situation. Making a respected veteran dress in the practice locker room doesn’t seem fair or right. That would definitely earn Lemaire some enemies, and may explain why players stopped listening to the coach.

Read after the jump for the rest of my take on Gionta’s comments!

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Categories: Analysis

How Much Is David Clarkson Worth?

May 21, 2010 3 comments

This offseason, the Devils have several player questions which need to be answered. Should the team pursue Ilya Kovalchuk, leaving Paul Martin to free agency? Maybe the opposite should occur. Can general manager Lou Lamoriello find a solid, second-line center? And how much would that center cost?

David Clarkson is up for a new contract as a restricted free agent. Let's hope he doesn't expect a bank-breaking deal. Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

In the commotion over Kovalchuk and Martin, one restricted free agent has moved to the back burner in the minds of many fans. David Clarkson, the team’s skilled tough-guy, can entertain offers from other teams in the league. Which brings me to my main question – how much is Clarkson worth?

The Devils had high expectations for Clarkson this year, and many fans echoed the same thought. Clarkson played in all 82 games last year, tallying 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists). The resident tough-guy also took 164 penalty minutes. Finally, Clarkson scored four powerplay goals, showing his versatility with the extra man. But stats don’t tell the entire story. Clarkson provided the Devils with a big body, someone who wasn’t afraid to mix it up and crash the net. Clarkson’s play seemed to be endearing himself to the Devils organization and fans alike, and expectations grew.

It seemed Clarkson would take off this season, but he didn’t have the best of luck. Clarkson twice injured his ankle – the first coming after he blocked a Zdeno Chara shot. The injury set him back, and Clarkson missed significant parts of December, January and February. His absence was noticeable, as the Devils lacked a big body to mix it up in front of the net the entire season. When on the ice, Clarkson seemed to provide a spark, giving the Devils the physical presence they so desperately lacked.

This off-season, the Devils talented young winner becomes a restricted free agent, one I believe would garner some interest from teams around the league. While Clarkson has shown he can be a talented scorer, I don’t believe he’s worth breaking the bank over. In an offseason where the Devils must decide if Martin or Kovalchuk will receive a big payday, Clarkson shouldn’t expect a bank-breaking deal. The winger only made $875,000 last season, and I don’t see much of a raise coming his way. I would have to believe Lamoriello would only offer two or three million dollars for the next few years. At most, a three or four year contract for four million would be acceptable. But that would be pushing it. I think Clarkson isn’t worth that much money, especially with bigger holes to fill.

So what do you think? What is David Clarkson really worth? Make your opinions known in the comment section of the article!

World Championship Update: USA Avoids Relegation; Russia vs. Canada, Round Two

Here’s some news from this year’s IIHF World Championship:

T.J. Oshie scored the game-winning goal in a sudden death shootout, helping the Americans finish 13th in this year's IIHF World Championships. Photo Credit: Jukka Rautio/HHOF-IIHF Images

USA Avoids Relegation

T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues) scored a sudden-death shootout goal to help Team USA defeat Team Italy, 3-2, and avoid relegation yesterday.

Brandon Dubinsky (New York Rangers) opened the scoring at 11:45 of the first period. With Team USA  on its second powerplay, Dubinsky ripped a slap shot that beat Italian goaltender Daniel Bellissimo high on the blocker side for his third goal of the tournament.

Team Italy fought back, tying the game at the 14-minute mark of the first. Giulio Scandella skated the past the Team USA defense, moving in alone on a breakaway. Scandella put home the puck, tying the game and ending Team USA’s shutout streak at 154 minutes.

The Italians seemed poised for the upset, taking the lead 6:49 into the third period. Stefano Margoli took a pass at center and made his way through Team USA’s defense. He took a wrist shot that beat Team USA goalie Scott Clemmensen (Florida Panthers).

Ryan Potulny (Edmonton Oilers) scored the equalizer, tying the game at 11:08 of the third period. With Team USA on a powerplay, Potulny crashed the net, putting a rebound past Bellissimo.

David Moss (Calgary Flames) almost gave the Americans a late victory with a breakaway chance. Moss tried a backhanded shot, but Bellissimo kicked out the right pad to block the shot to the corner.

By heading to overtime, Team USA clinched its spot in the IIHF’s upper division. The win helped relegate Italy to the federation’s second tier.

Team USA finished 13th overall in the tournament.

Russia vs. Canada – Part Two

The last time these two teams met, the Russians were on the wrong end of a drubbing.

Team Canada defeated the Russians, 7-3, in this year’s Winter Olympics en-route to winning the gold medal. Team Russia, sporting such NHL stars as Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) and Ilya Kovalchuk (New Jersey Devils) didn’t medal.

The rivalry continues to grow, and the quarterfinals match will be no different. Team Russia is undefeated in this year’s tournament, winning the first six games. They also have a 25 game IIHF World Championship winning streak, which started in the 2007 bronze medal game against – you guessed it – Canada.

Team Canada brought a young team to Germany, and its still trying to gel. They’ve lost their last two coming into the game against the Russians.

When asked about the matchup, Kovalchuk said he wished it would come later in the tournament.

“Russia-Canada, it is too bad we meet in the quarterfinals but it will be a big match for us,” said Kovalchuk, the captain of Team Russia. “It is always nice when we face each other in the final but it seems the last couple of big tournaments we have faced each other in the quarterfinals.”

Can Tedenby and Josefson Immediately Produce For The Devils?

May 18, 2010 2 comments

Last Friday, the Devils signed both Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson to three-year, entry-level contracts. The Swedish players, selected only one year apart, will attend both rookie and training camp this season. But the big question facing both players is this – can they produce immediately?

This past season was a great showing for Devils’ prospects. Players like Mark Fraser, Vladimir Zharkov and Niclas Bergfors all received big minutes and contributed immediately. Other prospects, such as Matt Halischuk, had smaller roles, but still contributed effectively. Some players, such as Fraser, have a good opportunity to make the team next season. And it looks like both Tedenby and Josefson will have the same opportunity.

When talking about both prospects, Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello expected the players to be ready for the NHL.

“In our opinion we think they should be ready to make the next step to the NHL,” Lamoriello said to Bergen Record reporter Tom Gulitti. “They both had good seasons in the Elite League in Sweden. They’ve both had all the international competition they need.”

Lamoriello even went as far to say he believed there’s a good chance both players will be on the roster next season, even though he still has yet to find a coach. With all this positive talk and high expectations surrounding Tedenby and Josefson, I’d like to take a look at each players and weigh in with my expectations of them for this season.

Tedenby, selected in the first round of the 2008 draft, has drawn comparisons to fellow NJ Devil Zach Parise.

Mattias Tedenby – LW

Tedenby, from everything I’ve read, seems to be the real deal. The Swedish winger, only 5’9″ tall, possess great speed and even better offensive creativity. Tedenby, the Devils 2008 first-round pick (24th overall), doesn’t shy away from contact, seemingly willing to throw his body around and play physical hockey. Scouts have also praised his acceleration, and some even compare him with Zach Parise.

But there’s always some flaws as well. In the reports I’ve read, Tedenby gets bashed for not playing good defensive hockey. Some scouts believe he can be too offensive minded, which diminishes his backchecking and defensive abilities. His size has also been questioned, but it seems like anyone under 5’11” usually faces questions about durability, etc. in the NHL

Overall, Tedenby seems to be a solid NHL prospect. I do believe he spent some time in camp with the Devils this past offseason, but I could be wrong. From the reports I’ve read, he could easily become the next Bergfors and, potentially, the next Parise. It’ll be interesting to watch him develop through both rookie and training camp. I could see Tedenby making the team as a fourth-line winger, with the opportunity to move up the depth chart based on play.

Here’s some video of a Tedenby goal. The stickhandling and shot are both pretty nasty:

Continue reading after the jump for the prospect profile of Jacob Josefson.

Read more…

World Championships Update: Team USA In Relegation Round, Russia Undefeated

Here are some notes from the IIHF’s World Championships:

Team USA In Relegation Round

Team USA, featuring defenseman Andy Greene, hasn’t had the best showing at this year’s World Championships. The team, which didn’t win in the opening round, will now play in the relegation round of the tournament. If Team USA cannot avoid elimination, they’ll move down to IIHF’s Division 1, which would knock them out of next year’s tournament.

The USA has really struggled on the powerplay, tallying once on seven chances so far this tournament. That’s only 14.28%, which has probably helped add to their winless record.

Devils’ defenseman Andy Greene hasn’t done very much for the national team. He’s averaged 15:08 of ice time through three games, but Greene still doesn’t have a goal or an assist. His +/- rating is -2, and he’s only recorded two shots on net.

The team will play its next game Saturday.

Photo Credit: Mika Kylmaniemi/HHOF-IIHF Images

Russia Undefeated In World Championship

Team Russia, which features Ilya Kovalchuk, is currently 2-0 with six points in the World Championships. The team defeated Kazakhstan, 4-1, on Tuesday to move closer to the qualification round.

Kovalchuk has looked good in the tournament, scoring on a breakaway in their game of Kazakhstan. With an average of 15:34 of ice time in the tournament, Kovalchuk has put three shots on net. He has the one goal, but no assists so far, and his +/- rating sits at 1.

The Russian team, which failed to medal at the Olympics, sports several prominent NHL players, including Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. As Tom Gulitti explained, many Russian players promised each other that they’d play in the World Championships to avenge their poor showing at the Olympics.