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Evaluating The Devils Organizational Depth: Goaltending

Frazee saw limited time this postseason, but enough to give up a goal to Marian Gaborik. Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils enter this year’s draft with unexpected goalie depth. With Martin Brodeur admitting he’s contemplating retiring in the next few years, the organization needed to prepare for the future. All of their other picks, from Ari Ahonen to Jeff Frazee, have failed to live up to expectations. But the newest class shows some promise, allowing the Devils to focus their draft research on other areas of weakness.

In today’s organizational depth preview, we’ll take a look at the goalies throughout the system and those prospects yet to turn pro. If this past season is any indication, the Devils 2009 draft should help produce a solid NHL goalie.

Albany Devils (AHL)

Mike McKenna – 39 GP, 14-20-2, 3.61 G.A.A, 0.866 Save %

McKenna provided valuable depth this season, but not much else. The veteran AHL-er had his first losing season since turning pro, posting abysmal numbers across the board. Albany struggled defensively for much of the season, which is partly to blame for poor showing. But he also won’t become an elite goalie. He’s a great depth piece, and maybe he sticks around. But the Devils won’t look toward McKenna to become a franchise cornerstone anytime soon.

Jeff Frazee – 33 GP, 11-15-3, 2.90 G.A.A, .902 Save %

Frazee seems to be running out of time with the organization. Hockey’s Future ranks him 11th, barely ahead of recent draft selections Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont. After a stellar season last year, Frazee took a major step backward this season. He battled inconsistency and, like McKenna, shoddy defense. He also dealt with several injuries this season, the most notable being a knee injury that required exploratory surgery. He’s a restricted free agent this season, and will probably be resigned by the organization. With Clermont and Wedgewood probably a year away from turning pro, he’ll have one more shot to solidify his position within the organization. Another down year might cost him.

Dave Caruso – 18 GP, 7-8-0, 3.57 G.A.A, .880 Save %

Caruso has never been a standout prospect in the organization. Since joining the Trenton Devils during the 2007-08 season, he’s recorded just one winning season. Despite the lack of success, he’s found a way onto the AHL roster for the past three seasons. He doesn’t seem like a prospect prepared to make a jump past that level. He may spend time in the AHL next season as a backup.

Trenton Devils (ECHL)

Jeff Lerg – 27 GP, 13-12-0-1, 3.15 G.A.A, .903 Save % 

Lerg is one of the underrated prospects in the system. The numbers aren’t great, but he has potential to be a solid goalie. He served as captain of the Michigan State hockey team, breaking the CCHA save record and finished second all time in the NCAA in saves. Trenton, like Albany, struggled this season defensively, probably contributing to his pedestrian numbers. It’s his second season in the organization, and if he can improve, he should rise in the organization.

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Game 21 Preview: Looking To Slay A Giant

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

The Matchup: The Washington Capitals (14-5-2) face off against the New Jersey Devils (5-13-2). This is the second of four meetings between the two teams this season. Washington currently leads the season series, 1-0-0.

The Last Capitals Game: The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Capitals, 5-4, in a shootout Saturday night in Philadelphia. Down 3-1 in the third period, the Capitals used two straight powerplay tallies to tie the game. The teams then traded goals, ending regulation in a 4-4 tie. Danny Briere scored the lone goal in the shootout to give the Flyers the win.

The Last Devils Game:
The St. Louis Blues edged the Devils, 3-2, Saturday night in St. Louis. Tied 2-2 in the third period, Brad Winchester scored the game-winner, deflecting a point shot past Mike McKenna for the 3-2 lead. The Devils couldn’t solve Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 35 shots for the win.

The Last Capitals – Devils Game: The Capitals blew out the Devils, 7-2, on October 9 at the Verizon Center. New Jersey held a 2-1 advantage at the end of the first period, but the wheels fell off in the second. The Capitals scored four straight goals in the middle period – highlighted by two goals in less than a minute – to take a 5-2 lead. Martin Brodeur was pulled after two periods of play.

Tonight’s Matchup: This has the feeling of a David vs. Goliath matchup. The Capitals are their usual dominate selves, leading the entire league in points and looking like an unstoppable force. The Devils, meanwhile, haven’t caught many breaks during the season. This has the feeling of a blowout in the making.

The Devils need to continue their solid play. Saturday night’s game in St. Louis was disappointing because of the bad breaks against the Devils, not their overall play. They put 37 shots on net and played a relatively sound defensive game. But as its been all season, New Jersey couldn’t catch a break. The puck wouldn’t cooperate with the Devils, as it’s been the entire season, and cost the Devils.

Tonight’s important key will be the Devils’ discipline. The Caps have scored at least one powerplay goal in eight of their last 11 games, going 14-for-38 (36.8%) during that stretch. Giving a talented offensive team powerplay chances won’t bode well for the Devils, especially with their struggling penalty kill. I can’t expect New Jersey to play a game without taking a penalty, but they can’t be undisciplined. The team doesn’t need to give Alex Ovechkin and his talented teammates more ice to work with.

The Devils need this win tonight. Beating the Caps would show the team still has the ability to slay the power teams in the the conference. It would also be a nice start to the next 10 game segment. The Devils can’t continually lose points. They’re in no position to be careless with points. The team needs a win badly, and it would be a nice to get it over the Caps.

Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus or WFAN AM. Here’s a shot at the potential lineup for tonight’s game:

FORWARDS: Ilya Kovalchuk – Dainius Zubrus – Alexander Vasyunov; Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby; Brian Rolston – Travis Zajac – David Clarkson; Rod Pelley – Adam Mair – Stephen Gionta

DEFENSEMEN: Colin White – Henrik Tallinder; Andy Greene – Anton Volchenkov; Olivier Magnan – Matt Corrente

GOALIES: Johan Hedberg; Mike McKenna

Evaluating The Devils – Games 11-20

November 21, 2010 1 comment

Many analysts, coaches and front office personnel believe in evaluating their teams in 10-game segments. The ten games give a broad enough spectrum to evaluate the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Through the New Jersey Devils first 10 games, several disturbing trends arose. A lack of consistency and scoring were some of the team’s several issues. They stumbled out of the gate, playing to a 2-7-1 record.

We all know how the last ten games have went. The Devils played slightly better, going 3-6-1 over the last ten games. Not only that, but the play improved dramatically. The results, however, still aren’t there. The team sits near the bottom of the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. They can’t afford many sub-.500 ten game segments from here on out.

There’s still several issues plaguing this team. Here are some of the main issues during the team’s recent 3-6-1 stretch:

1. Scoring

The Devils currently sit dead last in the NHL in goals for (36) and goals per game (1.8). New Jersey is the only team in the NHL averaging less than two goals per game. The scoring drought hit every single player, from Ilya Kovalchuk down to Adam Mair. Jason Arnott leaves all scorers with six goals, and Patrik Elias leads all scorers with 12 points. Those are abysmal numbers through twenty games. Most of these players are point-per game producers, but they haven’t reached those levels this season.

Despite the bleak scoring output, there have been abundant signs of offensive life. As a team, the Devils have put 628 shots on net. During these past 10 games, New Jersey produced more quality scoring chances. They’re putting quality shots on net, and they’ve been making opposing goalies work. The effort is there, but the results are not. The coaching staff can’t put the pucks in the back of the net. The team’s average goals per game increased (1.7 to 1.9) despite being shut out three times in the ten games. It’s not a great number, but it’s an increase nonetheless. The Devils look close to breaking out of their slump. Hopefully it’ll come soon.

Devan Dubnyk was one of the many goalies to stymie the Devils. They solved him, but not many others, during a 3-6-1 stretch. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

2. The Power (less) Play

MacLean brought in assistant coach Adam Oates over the summer to improve the team’s offense. Oates was expected to improve the team’s powerplay and finally give the Devils man advantage a punch. Through 20 games, the powerplay can only be described as abysmal. The Devils’ powerplay is 6-for-59 this season, ranking it – you guessed it – last in the league. At first, I believed the struggles stemmed from struggles to adjust to a new system. But it’s now laughable, and the Devils powerplay scares no team.

The Devils powerplay began to look better, especially at home. But it’s not up to par, even by Devils’ standards. The team never had a great powerplay, but this is a joke. They’ve shown now creativity and a lack of ability to develop plays. The team flashes that ability, but those instances are few and far between. It’s been difficult to figure out exactly how the team can improve. The players are too tentative with the puck, leaving no passing or creativity with the man advantage. They’ve drilled it in practice and had their opportunities in games. Maybe it’ll click one game, but I’m not sure how the powerplay can improve.

For more analysis of the past ten games, read after the jump!

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Game 20: Looking To Shake The Blues

November 20, 2010 Leave a comment

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (5-12-2) face off against the St. Louis Blues (10-5-3). It is the first and only matchup of the season between the two teams.

The Last Devils Game: The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Devils, 3-1, Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre. Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel gave the Maple Leafs an early 2-0 lead in the second period. Dainius Zubrus brought the Devils to within 2-1, but the team couldn’t solve Jonas GustavssonKris Versteeg put the Devils away with a powerplay goal in the third period to put the Leafs ahead, 3-1. Gustavsson, who stopped 12 pucks in the third period, made 29 saves for the win.

The Last Blues Game: The Blues defeated the Ottawa Senators, 5-2, Friday night. The second period was the game’s turning point, as the Blues scored three goals to bury the Sens.

The Last Devils – Blues Game: The Devils and Blues faced off once last season, which the Blues won, 1-0. Alex Steen would score the game’s only goal at 19:47 of the first period. Steen found an open lane down the left side of the ice, where he received a pass from Barret Jackman. Steen rifled the shot past Martin Brodeur’s glove for the game-winning goal. Ty Conklin finished with 29 saves for the win. Brodeur stopped 19 shots in the loss.

For a full historical preview of the matchup with the St. Louis Blues, check our season preview post.

McKenna Gets The Call: Devils goalie Mike McKenna, called up as an emergency replacement for Brodeur, will make his first start of the season tonight. McKenna, whose from St. Louis, showed a contained excitement during today’s morning skate.

“It’s exciting to come home, but this is a business trip,” McKenna told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “We really need to win some games. If we win the game, I’m going to have a lot of fun.”

In 15 career NHL games, McKenna is 4-8-1 with one shutout and a 3.56 goals-against average. In seven games for the Albany Devils this season, McKenna went 2-4-0 with a 3.72 goals-against average and a .882 save percentage.

Tonight’s Game: The injuries are continuing to mount for the Devils, as Brodeur will miss two weeks to allow his injured right elbow to fully heal. Devils coach John MacLean decided to make the headscratching decision of putting in McKenna tonight. The first key to tonight’s game, therefore, is offense. The Devils need to get some goals on the board early. One look at McKenna’s numbers shows that he’s not a great goalie, and I question his ability to win the game for the Devils. But he is playing in his hometown, and sometimes that can bring out the best in a goalie. Just look at Brodeur’s numbers in Montreal. Maybe (hopefully?) McKenna turns in a great performance.

New Jersey also needs to come out with a sense of urgency tonight. The team needs a win, plain and simple. There’s no more “moral victories” or building block games. The only thing that matters now is wins and points. Failing to get one tonight may cause drastic moves by general manager Lou Lamoriello.

Special teams will once again be the focus of tonight’s game. The Devils power-play is 1-for-36 on the road. That’s a .03 percent completion rate. That’s downright abysmal. The Devils need to make teams pay for making mistakes and taking penalties, but they’ve been unable to do that this season. If they get the opportunity tonight, the Devils need to make the Blues pay while shorthanded. If they can convert one or two of those chances, it would go a long way to restoring confidence in the powerplay and, hopefully, winning the game.

Gametime is 8 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus. Here are the potential starting lineups for tonight’s game:

FORWARDS: Ilya Kovalchuk – Dainius Zubrus – Alexander Vasyunov; Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby; Brian Rolston – Travis Zajac – David Clarkson; Rod Pelley – Adam Mair – Stephen Gionta

DEFENSEMEN: Colin White – Henrik Tallinder; Andy Greene – Anton Volchenkov; Olivier Magnan – Matt Corrente

GOALIES: Mike McKenna; Johan Hedberg

The Devils’ Sports Page – October 5, 2010

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment

As we await more news about which players will move, here’s today’s Devils’ sports page (a little light on links, but keep checking for more news throughout the day):

Former Devils defenseman Mike Mottau forging ahead with Islanders (Colin Stephenson/The Star-Ledger)

Victim of Devils’ salary cap could be Dainius Zubrus or Colin White (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)

Lamoriello: Cap decisions aren’t easy; No decision made on Salvador, yet (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)

Josefson, Corrente, Tedenby, McKenna assigned to Albany (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)

Five Players Cut From Devils Roster

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

The Devils trimmed their roster today, assigning four players to Albany of the AHL and placing another on waivers.

Matt Corrente was one of four Devils re-assigned to Albany of the AHL. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Rookie center Jacob Josefson, rookie right-winger Mattias Tedenby, rookie defenseman Matt Corrente and goalie Mike McKenna were all sent to Albany earlier today. None of the four must clear waivers.

Devils’ president and general manager Lou Lamoriello believed the rookies weren’t being demoted, but getting more experience with Albany.

“Going to Albany is not going to hurt them by any means and they’re certainly close to being ready,” Lamoriello said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “This is for today and tomorrow.”

The Devils also placed defenseman Rob Davison on waivers today. The defenseman, who signed a one-way, $500,000 dollar contract, must clear waivers before the Devils decide what to do with Davison.

These moves open the door for both Alexander Urbom and Matt Taormina to earn a spot on the Devils’ opening-night roster. While Corrente impressed in camp, Lamoriello acknowledged he was a victim of the cap crunch. The general manager also admitted needing more time to evaluate the young offensive defensemen.

“Matt is just a victim of numbers at this point and we want to really take a good look at the two offensive defensemen—Urbom and Taormina,” he said to Gulitti. “That’s all. Nothing else. He had his best camp since he’s been here and he’s taken great steps. He’s very close.”

Re-assigning Josefson also opens the door for Adam Mair to make the team. On a tryout contract, he’s been a pleasant surprise, discussing the importance of winning and standing up for teammates. If Lamoriello can clear cap space, we may see Mair fill the third line center position.

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The biggest surprise, to me, was moving Josefson down to Albany. He looked like the best Devils’ rookie, and he seemed to be creating chemistry with his linemates. But some seasoning in the AHL may help him find his offensive game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back with the Devils soon.

Remember – this is only the first round of cuts. Tomorrow and Wednesday will bring more moves, and we can only sit and wait to see what exactly Lamoriello will do.

Seven Players Placed On Waivers

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

The Devils placed seven players on waivers today, continuing to trim down their training camp roster.

Centers Tim Sestito and Brad Mills, right-wingers Patrick Davis and Stephen Gionta, left-winger Chad Wiseman, defenseman Olivier Magnan-Grenier and goalie Mike McKenna were all placed on waivers. If a player isn’t claimed by Tuesday at noon, they can be assigned to the Devils’ AHL affiliate in Albany.

Although the Devils have only made one round of cuts, coach John MacLean hinted that more may be coming.

“I think we’re getting closer,” MacLean said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “I think we’re going to tighten up a little bit, hopefully, in the next day or two and we’ll see. A lot of guys to get good chances and get looks, so you want to make sure that you get as many guys in there to take a look at.”

The next few days will be critical for some of the younger players, and even some vets looking to find a spot in the lineup. It could also determine the place of several veterans on the trade block.