Should He Stay or Should He Go…

It’s been almost two weeks since the New Jersey Devils 2009-10 season came to a crashing halt at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. Three days after their elimination, coach Jacques Lemaire announced his retirement forcing the team to search for it’s sixth head coach in six seasons since the lockout ended. Three consecutive first round exits, haven’t made it past the second round since winning the 2003 Stanley Cup.

After having time to digest all of this I’ve come up with some suggestions on how to improve the team and hopefully help them (at least) make it out of the opening round of the playoffs. All salaries I used are courtesy of nhlnumbers.com.

Coach: Hire Mike Keenan. The ex-Ranger coach, (more recently ex-Calgary) would seem like an odd choice at first glance, but he knows how to win and he could work well together with another crafty mind like GM Lou Lamoriello. His first task will be convincing Brodeur to play less games, oh and his career total of 672 wins is good for 4th all-time.

Trade: Jamie Langenbrunner, Mark Fraser (and/or) Andy Greene to Toronto for Tomas Kaberle. Perhaps Lamoriello can convince Leafs GM Brian Burke that he can use a Langenbrunner to lead his young team in 2010-11 as he led Burke’s Team USA to a silver medal. Kaberle has one year left on his current deal at $4.25 mil, so to make it fair salary-wise Lamoriello may have to surrender both Greene and Fraser; Langenbrunner is due $2.8 mil and will also be going into the last year of his contract. Perhaps Kaberle will waive his no-trade clause to skate with fellow Czech Patrik Elias.

Trade: Before the draft call your old trading partner Don Waddell from Atlanta and offer him RFA David Clarkson ($875,000) for soon-to-be UFA Colby Armstrong ($2.4 mil). Maybe he still wasn’t 100% from the leg injury, but Clarkson was invisible versus the Flyers; Armstrong will be a player that plays hard every shift and in front of the opposing goalie he will be a pain in the @$$, something Clarkson has failed to do in each of the last two postseasons. See if Waddell has any interest or room for Jay Pandolfo also, who could help stabilize a young squad.

Free Agency: Let Paul Martin, Mike Mottau, Rob Niedermayer, Rod Pelley and Martin Skoula walk away. Changes have to be made and most of these players were very serviceable, the ultimate results just weren’t there.

Do whatever you have to do to re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk. Quick name another first overall pick that has played for the Devils. Stumped, well as far as I know there is only one other– Bobby Carpenter — and he wasn’t nearly as dynamic as Kovalchuk is. Hopefully Ilya sticks around, but who am I kidding, there’s no way he’ll stay in New Jersey right?

Sign Free Agents : Tomas Plekanec, Marek Svatos and either Andy Sutton or Anton Volchenkov. Plekanec is the center that the Devils have been lacking since Scott Gomez took the money and ran to Manhattan, leaving Travis Zajac as the team’s only legitimate scoring center. Svatos is a talented, scrappy, underachieving winger from Colorado who could fit in on a solid third/fourth line. Either Sutton or Volchenkov won’t come cheap, but they are both worth the money that will be spent on them. They both block shots well, get in shooting lanes and aren’t afraid to get into scrums to protect the front of their crease — a huge lacking element in NJ the last three playoff failures. Both players also have the same downside too — they are both injury prone, so teams may end up being hesitant to throw major cash around.

There’s a saying ‘scared money makes no money’ so I say the Devils need to revamp the current edition to make it look something like this:

Line A: Ilya Kovalchuk-Tomas Plekanec-Patrik Elias
Line B: Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Dainius Zubrus
Line C: Brian Rolston-Colby Armstrong-Marek Svatos
Line D: Pierre-Luc Leblond-Tim Sestito/Dean McAmmond-Vladimir Zharkov

D-pair 1: Tomas Kaberle-Anton Volchenkov/Andy Sutton
D-pair 2: Matthew Corrente-Bryce Salvador
D-pair 3: Colin White-Anssi Salmela/Tyler Eckford

Goalies: Martin Brodeur, Yann Danis

I know I’ve made some crazy suggestions here, and I have no doubt that I’ll probably be 0.00% right, but hopefully some changes are made so I’m not sitting home watching less-superior teams battle for a chance to get steamrolled next season. Let me know how insane this all sounded, Thanx.

Dan

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Evander Kane KO’s Matt Cooke

Ninety-nine percent of the hockey world wants to give Atlanta rookie Evander Kane a big thank you after his one-punch knockout of Pittsburgh’s pest Matt Cooke which you can see here:

Kane KO’s Cooke

With all of the interest Kane has garnered this weekend, I figured it would be a good chance to revisit the interview that I did with the 18-year-old Kane back on October 16:

Getting to Know… Evander Kane

Dan Rice – Columnist

Recently I was able to catch up with Atlanta Thrashers rookie Evander Kane and ask him a few questions about how his first month in the NHL has been. Kane is an 18-year-old center from Vancouver, British Columbia that the Thrashers selected 4th overall in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. In eight games the 6’2”, 190 lb., Kane has not looked out of place at all, tallying five points (3g-2a) and he is averaging 13:53 of ice-time per game, a number that has slowly increased as the season moves on. And yes, he is named after the boxer Evander Holyfield and got to meet the pugilist before the season started: http://thrashers.nhl.tv/team/console.jsp?catid=656&id=

So just who is Evander Kane? Read

Dan Rice: What do you remember about your draft day?

Evander Kane: I remember I was pretty nervous, and I didn’t think I was going to be too nervous, but after the first two picks I started getting really nervous. After the third pick was done I was sweating pretty badly (chuckles); I remember Dan Marr (Atlanta’s Director of Amateur Scouting & Player Development) winking at me from the stage up there and I knew I was going to Atlanta. It was a pretty special moment and something I’ll never forget.

DR: What do you remember about your first goal? (Kane’s first goal was scored in his second NHL game in St. Louis against goaltender Chris Mason).

EK: I remember Kovy (Ilya Kovalchuk) and Pevs (Rich Peverley) making some good plays, and I remember them trying to get me the puck; it was probably the best pass I’ve gotten since being in the NHL. I just wanted to put it away and I was really excited (when I did). It was good to get it out of the way early, a lot of excitement.

DR: Do you have the puck?

EK: Yeah, I think Bogo (Zach Bogosian) picked up the puck for me and the Thrashers are framing it for me; nice job on their part.

DR: Are you superstitious or do you have a pre-game routine?

EK: No, not really. I’m not a big superstitious guy; I have a routine, but nothing major.

DR: Who’s been your roommate on the road so far and how has it been?

EK: I’m paired with defenseman Mark Popovic. He’s a great guy; he’s fun to hang out with — so it’s been going good. I’ve enjoyed spending time with him.

DR: Favorite TV show?

EK: TV show would probably have to be “Two and a Half Men.”

DR: Favorite movie?

EK: I’m a big fan of “Rush Hour 2”, “Happy Gilmore”, “Dumb and Dumber”. I like goofy comedy movies I guess (smiling).

DR: Favorite sport besides hockey?

EK: I used to be really big into soccer — I like the World Cup. I like football and basketball too, those would be my two other main sports.

DR: I know you’ve only been on the team for a few months, but who is the biggest prankster or joker on the team?

EK: I’d have to say Eric Boulton.

DR: What’s the best advice someone gave you coming into this season?

EK: Probably my Dad; he said, ‘Just don’t change your game, play your game and good things will happen.’ I think so far I’ve tried to do that and I’ve been successful, so I want to continue that.

DR: Has there been any one player that has helped you the most through this first month?

EK: Yeah I think a guy like Colby Armstrong, who’s a real vocal guy, he’s somebody that’s real easy to talk to; he’s been a big help — for me — trying to get used to the group. Guys like Ilya Kovalchuk, anytime they give you a boost it makes you feel good. Definitely those two guys and the (whole) team have been great.

I hope everyone enjoyed learning more about Evander Kane and if there is a player you’d like to read about in a future column or have a question you want asked, feel free to let me know:

Dan Rice covers the New Jersey Devils & NHL for NYCSportsnetwork.com. He can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.