funny how you conveniently leave out the fact that the year they made the playoffs, they were a mark fayne empty net miss away from winning the cup.
let's pump the breaks there - sure, fayne hitting the empty net and/or kovalchuk not hitting the crossbar makes it a more interesting series - but the kings steam rolled the devils. marty was going to have to have a GAA of 1 or under for the devils to win that series.
as for getting truly elite talent - for the most part, you have to draft it. its rare that a player like vanek or parise or kovalchuk hit the free agent market. they're either past their true prime years or they've played for a team that has mismanaged the asset. good teams rarely mismanage their top talent to a point where the player leaves for nothing.
in the instances where a great player is on a team that isn't his original, often its circumstances that got him traded and the return was significant. there are those rare occurances where you get something great for very little because the player blossoms (sharp, naslund, moulson).
true top end talent is often drafted fairly high. you have to suck to get those picks. the devils have drafted high once in the last 10 years. despite what some think, they got what looks to be an elite defender with an average to slightly above average offensive game. you would hope that if they had opportunities like pittsburgh or chicago with a low period of 3-4 years, they'd find top end offensive talent there.
lou's offseason moves this year made a lot of sense.
getting a clarkson replacement who theoretically can do more than clarkson all around, but perhaps not as good at the one thing clarkson does well (score) was a good idea. he just made a high risk gamble with clowe. looks like that's DOA.
ryder is a guy who is a scorer - that's his strongest skill set - a guy with a steady high s% that, if given guys that will do the work and get him the puck, can put it in the back of the net. we've seen it happen 4 times. not enough but perhaps we've got the "sample size argument"
goaltending has not been good so far - average goaltending has this team with 3-4 more points. excellent goaltending has it with 4-5.
the design wasn't terribly flawed with what lou had to work with.
but again, and it sucks because it can't happen this year, i think this team needs an awful year with a top draft pick to get a dynamic offensive player - i don't see how they get another one in the organization unless they trade one of merrill, gelinas or larsson for it from someone who overvalues them. ales hemsky is not what this team is missing. patrick kane is what this team is missing.