Okay, I am going to rant a bit here: I think that the Devils system is now sabotaging the development of players like Zharkov. Because LL is always in a 'win now, we don't ever rebuild" mode, there is an extremely short leash for young and inexperienced players to develop. As it is we have had relatively few draft picks and they have been of poor quality for about a decade and a half. The players we do get are smooched under veterans because we want "experience" over risking developing new people. Are there exceptions? Yes, of course. But some players need more time and hand holding. Raga ski didn't make the NHL for years; same with Madden. Would anyone have argued that they weren't excellent in their heyday? Problem is I don't know how many other Rafalskis and Maddens the Devils have pissed away by always bringing in vets at the cost of giving younger, hungrier guys a shot. Maybe none... But I do know that the vets we have brought in as stopgap measures have been expensive, largely ineffective, and often worse.... Just one or two really good younger guys, properly developed, would give this franchise some depth AND youth that we have lacked for ages AND for a lower price point. While keeping salary down may not be a problem at the moment, it has been recently, so this is not a non-issue.
Owell, end of rant. Stepping down from soap box. Would someone like to buy one slightly used, but apparently very sturdy soap box? Can hold the weight of a chubby, whiny Devils fan without collapsing!
I don't buy it. Zharkov got a couple chances, with a couple different linemates. He had a glaring weakness in his game, which got better. Debo caught lightning in a bottle with his 4th line, and they stuck with it.
As for development, with crappy draft picks, we've added Zach, Zajac, Fayne, Greene, Henrique, and JJ to our roster, and each played a major role in the postseason. We've developed less heralded guys like Clarkson and the 4th line. Some guys have failed -- Tedenby took a big step back last year, Palmieri blew a golden chance, Corrente never lived up to his promise, and Eckford was always close and never there. I had a problem with the way Sutter handled young players -- I think he stunted Zajac and Greene, though Zajac bounced back Sutter's second year, but I don't buy that it's an organizational problem. Some of our prospects have worked out. Some haven't. I've yet to see a prospect we let go bite us in the ass, though. The closest is Halischuk, who would be worth more to this team than Arnott was, but sometimes trades don't work, and Halischuk would be fighting for minutes on this team.
Finally, I did call for Zharkov to play this year. I thought he was better than a lot of the scrubs we threw out there. I also didn't expect him to magically fix that inability to score goals, and now we have players on the 3rd and 4th lines who can.