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

Advertisements

Devils-Sabres Postgame Quotes [04.11.10]

I will have my Devils-Flyers preview tomorrow, but for now…

Here are some of the postgame quotes following the Devils 2-1 win over the Sabres Sunday night:

Martin Brodeur:

Where is the confidence level at, the way you finished up the last two games?

“Guys look like they’re feeling pretty good; we’re making a lot of good plays, the chemistry with players is getting there. Special teams are doing well, we definitely wanted to come into the playoffs playing well and I think we’re playing well, so we’ll see.”

An unusual way to win a game?

“A little bit; we’ll take it (laughs). They don’t ask you how you win them, but definitely something that — I’ve played almost 1100 games in this league and this is the first time I think in a tie game with a pulled goalie we won a hockey game, but we’ll take it.”

You won the Jennings Trophy with this win too…

“Yeah, it’s exciting; this is my fifth one and definitely (for) the players that play in front of me, everyday they go out and pay attention defensively. Especially for Yann (Danis), being his first year here and be able to be a part of it is kind of nice also because he played a big part.”

Are you surprised that Ryan Miller didn’t play?

“Well, I don’t know what their intentions were, but I don’t think you could’ve done any better than what (Patrick) Lalime did, that’s for sure. He was pretty good out there.”

Zach Parise:

Do you feel good about the way the team is playing heading into the playoffs?

“Yeah, we’re playing well and we’re not giving up too much defensively. We’re playing smart hockey and we’re getting some scoring right now; so we like how we’re playing.”

Your thoughts on the match-up with Philadelphia?

“They’ll be tough, there’s no question, but we’ll make sure we’re prepared for them.”

David Clarkson:

How do you feel about the way the team is playing heading into the playoffs?

“I feel good. We’re playing great defensively, doing well in offensive zone, going to the net. The power play, we’re getting guys around the front of the net and that’s the key thing right now. I’m really excited — I think we’ve played great the last three games and we have to continue on.”

Your thoughts about seeing Philly for possibly another seven games?

“It’s going to be tough, it doesn’t matter who you play; it’s going to be a tough series. A team like that, you know you’re going into war and that’s what we’re going to do in here. We’re going to play team hockey, play great defensively and give everything we have every night.”

Jamie Langenbrunner:

You went 1-4-1 against Philly this year, does that have any meaning going into a series with them?

“For us it means nothing, for them it means everything; that’s the way you look at those things. They obviously had our number during the regular season, they did things that took us off our game — we’re going to have to address that, we’re going to have to understand the way they play and play accordingly. Our power play is going to have to deliver; they’re going to take some penalties and they play that style. We have to stay disciplined, stay smart and take advantage of our opportunities.”

Marty gets another Jennings, what does that say about the way he’s playing and the team concept?

“I wouldn’t say its one of our goals at the start of the year, but in a way it kind of is. We want to play well defensively as a team and obviously it starts with him, but you need a whole team to win that award. It’s great for him; it’s good for this team. We pride ourselves on playing well in our own end and playing good defensive hockey — that’s a sign that we did a pretty good job this year.”

Ilya Kovalchuk:

Are you happy with the way the team finished the season?

“Great; I think we have a great team. I think we finished the right way, the way we wanted to finish it. We’ve played really solid the last couple of weeks and I think we are ready for the playoffs.”

What do you like best about the team?

“I think the way we work; you know we work for each other, we work together — that’s the key.”

Philadelphia is not a fun team to play against…

“That’s good; it’s going to be very intense games. I know it’s a big rivalry and the rivalry is going to continue.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Your thoughts on playing the Flyers in the first round…

“Well, as you can tell we don’t pick the teams, we just wanted to win and that’s what happened tonight. It’s going to be a battle because we struggled against them all year; it’s a good team, they proved it, well-balanced. Definitely we’ll have to play better than we did during the season to be able to beat them.”

In what areas?

“To me, everywhere. Our power play didn’t go well, our penalty kill, not as good that it could be. Even the forechecking, and our chances — we have to get more chances.”

How important was it to get the number two seed in your mind?

“You can tell when you look at the two teams that this was a good game tonight. You look at the two teams, they both wanted to win, you could tell — there was a lot of energy. I thought we played really good; we didn’t give them a lot, maybe seven scoring chances, which is great. They had a few guys out, I thought it was a good game.”

What do you like about your team?

“Right now I think we’re playing hard, we’re playing to win, playing as a group, which we didn’t do all year. But I can’t criticize too much, because we finished second.”

Did you watch the Flyers-Rangers shootout during your first intermission?

“Yes I did.”

A year ago you stepped down as coach of Minnesota, and here you are a year later atop the Atlantic Division. Are you surprised, happy, what are you feeling today?

“I’m relieved, happy, it’s a good feeling. You come back to a city in which a lot of people appreciate what I did and still remember. Coming back and getting the division title, it’s great; I’m very happy.”

With all the adversity that the team went through, what made your team carry through and finish with more than 100 points?

“I think the guys have good character, they want to win. They do their best every night and I think we have a decent team — starting in nets, you look at our defense this year; I was really impressed with the way our defenseman played all year. Our top line was great all year, then we got Kovalchuk and he brings some more offense.”

Have you ever seen a regular season end like that?

“No, I was even surprised myself. I wasn’t looking there and then when Jamie got the puck and I saw him shoot…’where’s the goalie?’ I thought. Then I looked up and I knew why, they pulled the goalie.”

Devils-Lightning Postgame Quotes [01.10.10]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Friday/Sunday’s  4-2 Devils loss to the Lightning:

Travis Zajac:

A weird experience tonight…

“Yeah, starting a game down 3-0 is not normal, but I think we had some pretty good legs today, we tried to make it interesting. They got that fourth one and kind of knocked the wind out of us.”

Can you talk about the play that you scored on?

Jamie (Langenbrunner) made a good play in front of the net, sent it through the crease and I just happened to be in the right spot.”

You also had an assist later on at the end of the game…

“Yeah I just tried to throw it in front to Zach (Parise); I don’t know if it went off of him or if he got a piece of it. It went in.”


Bryce Salvador:

How did you feel out there today considering the circumstances?

“Just like any other game, but definitely a weird experience. I remember looking up one time I was on the ice and there was a minute left, and you’ve only had two or three shifts. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s always something else.”

Any effects playing games three days in a row?

“No, I think we had our chances to win; for some reason we took a lot of penalties which killed our momentum a few times.”

The fourth goal they scored, was that a backbreaker?

“Its tough, you don’t want to give up a goal right away like that. It was unfortunate, we thought once we got that first one we’d keep rolling; sometimes that happens.”

Are you surprised how many people showed up or how many didn’t considering the score?

“Yeah, I was surprised there was that many; you know you spring a game on people within 24 hours.”


Steven Stamkos:

Talking about the game…

“It was a big win for us; we’ll take them any way we can get them right now. We got the two points and that’s all that matters.”

What was the mindset coming into the game with a 3-0 lead?

“It’s tough; you know have that 3-0 lead but you don’t want to sit back. You want to have that mentality a little bit like it’s a 0-0 game, but still realize you have a three-goal lead and you don’t need to be taking chances to score goals. We didn’t want to lie back too much, but you still want to protect the lead. Obviously those two power plays midway through the second kind of helped us take the pressure away; we knew they were going to get a couple of calls in the third. We killed them off and Smitty did a good job stopping pucks for us tonight.”

Talking about his second goal…

Marty (St. Louis) deserves all the credit; he hustled and beat that guy to the puck and then picked his pocket. I had a one-timer from the bottom of the circle — it was a great play by him and a big goal for our team to relieve that pressure after they made it a two-goal game.”

What were the last 48 hours like?

“We knew we wanted to get this game out of the way as soon as possible, this was the time that we were able to do so. Both teams agreed and it was good to get it out of the way, get the win and now focus on our next game. We were fortunate that we only had an hour and change bus ride from Philly back to here; it wasn’t too bad, but it’s still tough playing three times in three days. It’s nice to be heading back home now.”

Do you remember about your goal here on Friday?

“Yeah (laughs). It was a great play Marty again; it’s easy when you get passes like that from a caliber of player like him. It was nice to get that one, I’ve been snake bitten a bit lately; it was a bonus to get this one here today and help our team win.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Did the disallowed goal take away your team’s edge?

“It would have been nice to get that goal, but I think we started with two penalties and we got this goal that wasn’t allowed. We had a couple of strikes against us right at the start.”

Should there be a strike against the referee for blowing the whistle too fast?

“They should blow it when they don’t see the puck.”

They’re supposed to see the puck aren’t they?

“I know, but you have to get in position to see it and I felt that the shot came from one side and he was behind the goal and didn’t see it.”

How weird was tonight?

“Weird, very weird; I just felt from the start, right when we got that first penalty – we’re running out of time. We were rushing all the time, we had to rush to try to get the game going, get in their zone and get some plays because we knew there was only a period left.”

How’d you feel about (Yann) Danis?

“He was fine. He made a couple of really good saves and the Stamkos one-timer he had no chance on that one; that was pretty quick.”

Devils-Isles Postgame Quotes [11.06.09]

Here is some of the postgame quotes after Friday’s 2–1 Devils win vs. the Islanders:

Dainius Zubrus:

Thoughts on the game…

“Pretty good, the power play clicked again. We had more chances, and early in the game too. Our start was not the greatest again, but other than that I thought we played pretty well.”

Two wins in a row at home after a 1-4 start, what’s different?

“It was in our heads more than anything else; I think its more how we played at home. People keep asking the same question (about the record at home), but we just have to play better. The last two games I thought we did. On the road, I don’t want to say we play simple but, we don’t do too many fancy things and everybody’s going. I think we did the same thing the last couple of games – where everybody’s involved and everybody’s moving. With a lot of guys out, it’s not easy, especially on the blue line; but the guys are moving well and making good plays.”

With the injuries and coach’s decision to jumble the line combinations so often, is it easier or harder to adjust to new linemates constantly?

“Honestly, I don’t think I have to change my game that much. We have some young faces here too so, for myself, I have to stay back (defensively) at times, but other than that not really. You play with good players and try to create (offense) but you have to be smart at all times as well. Its 15 games in and I think Jacques is doing a great job keeping everybody in the game and keeping the lines moving and keeping guys involved. Especially now the way the schedule is, we have a lot of three games in four nights; hopefully we keep winning.”

How do you stay unbeaten on the road tomorrow in Ottawa?

“The same thing (we’ve been doing). We won here now we have to go on the road, and have a better start. But nothing changes; we just want to play the same way. Guys are missing, but other guys are stepping up getting more minutes, but they’re playing well. Obviously on the road we don’t have to change much.”

Patrik Elias:

How did you feel out there tonight?

“Not too bad. It was an up-and-down game for me, physically. I felt all the things that I expected for my first game in five months.”

Any chance you play tomorrow night?

“We’ll make the decision tomorrow morning.”

Yann Danis:

Do you think the team feels they can rely on you now that you have two starts and only allowed two goals?

“I hope so, that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve said all along that whenever I get a chance to play, I want to make sure that I play well. I want the guys to feel confident with whoever is in net. But a big part of that is the guys played real well in front of me in both games and made my job a lot easier.”

Are you surprised the Islanders didn’t try to distract you more, with talk or whatever?

“I don’t think they’re that type of guys. Like I said, I heard my name here and there, but nothing mean. I don’t think they’re that type of team (that would trash talk to me).”

Does it feel good to beat you’re former team?

“Yeah, obviously it adds a little something. Obviously I want to win against whoever I play, but to beat your former team, it makes it a little special.”

What did you see, or not see, during the scramble around you at the end of the game?

“I had no idea the puck was behind me like that on the goal line; I thought I still had it against the post. I had no idea how close it came (to going in), I saw it on the replay afterwards (on the jumbotron). Good play by our D there (to sweep the puck away), I don’t know who it was, but it was a good play.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Yann Danis tonight…

“He’s steady. If you look at him, it’s easy to believe in him. He’s always well positioned, there’s a lot of pucks that hit him; that’s why it’s easy to believe in him.”

Nice to see Cory Murphy come through with a goal…

“Yeah, that was nice. He didn’t play a lot in the first (period), but after that we used him a little more and it was nice – that shot on the power play.”

You’ve won two straight at home and three of the last four, are the home woes over?

“Hopefully; we got two at home, but I’d still like to see more goals here – that’s what I’m looking for now. We don’t give a lot, which is good, now we have to get some more goals. I’d love to get four goals, get a game that’s not a one-goal game.”

Why’d you change the lines again after the first period?

“Nothing was going. Nothing was going well.”

Was it nice to see Brian Rolston score again?

“Yeah, Rollie played well; he was probably our best forward. He played really well tonight – not only his goal but he won battles and he won a lot of pucks; he made some plays. He played against the top line on the other side. He was good.”

Doug Weight:

Close game, but you came up short…

“Yeah, special teams, we won four in a row and we were kicking it in gear – in all aspects of the game; the last couple of losses, specialty teams could have sure made a difference for us. The power plays, we had a 5-on-3 early, we had three or four (in the game) and we didn’t bury our chances. It’s a tough building to play in, a good team, when they have the lead they clamp down. But it was a good game, we had good opportunities, ultimately we fell short and we’re disappointed.”

Your former teammate played pretty good tonight…

“He did. Yann’s a good guy. I’m sure he was pumped – anytime you play your old team; we knew we were going to get a strong game from him. We had to get some pucks in the net and he answered the bell.”

He mentioned hearing his name on the ice tonight, your response?

“I just said ‘hey’ to him in warm-ups…he was staring at us and I asked him if he was trying to intimidate us. Yann’s a good kid and when the game starts you bear down and you try to win the game.”

Frans Nielsen:
Talk about your goal…

(Sean) Bergenheim and (Jon) Sim got the loose puck off the wall and I was open in front. Bergenheim’s pass went through the legs of the d-man, and then I think my shot went through Danis’ arm.”

You missed some time at the start of the season, how do you feel?

“Good, the last five or six games have been good. I can’t complain.”

Your thoughts on Yann Danis’ game tonight?

“He played great. I think he saw the puck most of the time though; we didn’t get in there and create much traffic in front of him. He was solid.”

Elias Returns, Devils Squeak Past Isles

Here is the link to my recap of Friday’s Devils-Islanders game:

http://nycsportsnews.com/articles/details.htm?id=1026

Dan’s Three Stars of the Game:

#1 – Yann Danis (NJ) – 23 saves, win (2-0-0)

#2 – Brian Rolston (NJ) – pp/gw goal (4)

#3 – Martin Biron (NYI) – 29 saves, loss (1-5-2)

Tonight’s line combos/d-pairings:

New Jersey:
Parise-Elias-Bergfors
Rolston-Zajac-Langenbrunner
Peters-Zubrus-Clarkson
Pikkarainen-Pelley-Halischuk

Salvador-Murphy
Mottau-White
Greene-Fraser

NY Islanders:
Moulson-Tavares-Okposo
Weight-Bailey-Tambellini
Bergenheim-Neilsen-Sim
Park-Thompson-Jackman

Streit-Gervais
Witt-Hillen
Sutton-Martinek

Devils Win Preseason Opener vs. Rangers 3-2

The New Jersey Devils just topped the New York Rangers 3-2 in a shootout in their preseason opener at the Prudential Center. Here’s what I liked and didn’t like about the Devils first game since losing a stunning Game 7 last year to Carolina.

Positives:
David Clarkson — Scored two PP goals and is well on his way to becoming this team’s version of Randy McKay. He is poised to score between 20-25 goals this season if he sees an increase in ice-time.

Yann Danis — Played a great game in his Devils’ debut, despite blowing the two-goal lead. Both goals were a result of questionable defensive plays and in the shootout he was very good, stopping five of the six Rangers’ shooters — only surrendering Matt Gilroy’s goal in round three.

Zach Parise — From the drop of the opening puck, Parise was very noticeable every time he was on the ice. He showed me that despite having a remarkable season in 2008-09, he is still hungry to be even better.

The power play — They scored twice with the man advantage and that’s a big deal in Devil-land. There weren’t too many games last season that they scored more than one PP goal in.

Negatives:
Dainius Zubrus — Once again looked slow and failed to do much of anything offensively. He really needs to step up with Patrik Elias being sidelined for the next 3-6 weeks after groin surgery.

Brian Rolston — Same as above, will have to score more in Elias’ absence. He doesn’t look as lethargic as Zubrus on the ice, but the results are the same as far as producing points goes.

Blowing a two-goal lead — After last postseason, the Devils should be very protective with any type of lead, so it was a little disheartening to see them blow a two-goal lead in the 3rd period. Thankfully Danis was sharp in the shootout and Parise and Travis Zajac were able to score on Rangers goalie Chad Johnson (no not Chad Ochocinco!!).

New Jersey is off for a week until their next preseason game on Wednesday in Long Island against the Islanders.

Jacques Speaks

Jacques Lemaire spoke with the Bergen Record in his first one-on-one interview since being named the new Devils coach last month. Here are some of the highlights of what the new bench boss had to say:

He said he’s not familiar with the younger players and prospects, but is eager to see and evaluate them once camp opens on September 8.

The only player on the current roster he’s spoken to about anything team-related was Brendan Shanahan.

Unlike when Brent Sutter immediately stripped Patrik Elias of the captaincy, Lemaire has no plans do the same to current captain Jamie Langenbrunner: “I talked a little bit to Lou about it and Jamie will stay as the captain. I’ve heard a lot of great things about him, the great leadership that he has, the work ethic that he has. I think he has all the tools to be a captain”

Brian Rolston who had three consecutive 30-goal seasons under Lemaire in Minnesota playing left wing, will likely play on the wing again, unlike last season when Rolston played center and netted a disappointing 15 goals in 64 games.

He isn’t familiar with either backup goalie — Yann Danis or Jeff Frazee, saying that “I’ll use training camp to look at them.”

Here’s my take:

Good move moving Rolston back to the wing, but it also brings to light the fact that the Devils need at least one more center before camp opens. Right now the centers are: Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus and Rod Pelley.

Great move leaving Langenbrunner as team captain. He is very well-respected in the locker room and although he can be soft spoken at times, he leads by example on the ice and that’s the main ingredient of a leader. Expect Elias and Colin White to remain as assistant captains.