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Another Playoff Series/Season Flashback


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#1 devilsrule33

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 12:00 AM

The 2002 Devils had high expectations, and why wouldn't they. Two time defending Eastern Conference Champions. 1 game away from back-to-back Stanley Cups.But something wasn't right. They looked anything but the team they had been the previous two seasons. Could you blame them? Perhaps it was physical fatigue from two long runs. Maybe, it was just mental fatigue. Either way, the Devils just couldn't get it going. With the team finding itself in on the outside of the top 8 after games, Lou wasn't giving this team any benefit of the doubt.

 

What at the time was called a firing (I guess it can be debated if it was an agreement or what not, Tom Gulitti seems to believe Larry stepped down) gone was Larry Robinson, the coach that saved the team in 2000 and was the leader behind the rally in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Flyers. Gone were his associates, Viacheslav Fetisov and Jay Leach. In was Kevin Constantine. Back in 2000, the team needed a change from Ftorek's demanding and unsufferable ways to Robinson's looser and jovial ways. Now with the team not responding to that, it was back to the tough-no-love approach. After the unfortunate news that assistant coach John Cunniff's cancer had returned, Larry Robinson was back behind the bench 7 games after being let go, back as an assistant in charge of the defense.

 

While the Devils started to playing better but struggling to score, one bombshell move was not enough for Lou. The coaching staff had been shaken up. It was time for a hurricane to hit the roster. On deadline day, the Devils traded their Stanley Cup hero, the # 1 center of a top line in the league, and former alternate captain (he had been stripped of the 'A' earlier in the season) along with a current alternate captain, Randy McKay, with a 1st round pick to the Dallas Stars for Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner. It was a blockbuster for both teams with both GMs desperately looking for a spark. The entire A-line was having an off year with Arnott putting up just 41 points in 63 games at the time of the deal. The long-time Devil, McKay was almost at the end of the tunnel. With 6 goals in 55 games, he was nothing more than a 4th-liner at that point.

 

In return, the Devils were getting some good players. Joe Niewendyk was 7 years older than Arnott, but was a great two-way player having a fine season and just won Gold with Canada at the Salt Lake Olympics. Nieuwendyk was just a few years removed from some heroics of his own --  winning the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the playoffs for the 1999 Cup Champions. Langenbrunner, was a bit more of an unknown as his numbers continued to dip year after year, but was going to be an upgrade, certainly over McKay. Just for fun, Lou brought back Stephane Richer to fill out the lineup.

 

All the moves intended results had come to fruition. The Devils went 20-8-2-1 under Constantine. The scoring was more balanced. And they had moved from 9th in the conference to 6th place as the season came to an end. That 6th seed had the reward of playing the Southeast Division Champion Hurricanes -- a team that had less points than the Devils (95 to 91) and that had the fewest amount of wins (35) as all 16 playoff teams It was also the same team the Devils easily dispatched the year prior in the 1st round. The East looked wide open. The Devils were surging. Everything was setting up nicely for another deep playoff run.

 

Four Quotes from the Season:

 

Lamoriello called Constantine on Friday and said he was mulling over some options. One of them was for someone to replace Robinson. ''My first reaction was, 'I don't know if I want to do that,' '' Constantine said. ''I said to my wife, 'I don't want Larry Robinson's job.' ''

 

"He's a great guy. He's a great person. We all know that," Devils captain Scott Stevens said. "His best characteristic probably hurt him the worst, being a nice giy. Some people can take advantage of that."

 

"Everbody says that I'm too soft to be a coach. Well if that means I have to change the person that I am, to coach a club, then maybe that's not what I want to do."

 

(On trading Arnott) "All those nostalgic things go through your mind, but you're just trying to do something for your team," Devils president Lou Lamoriello said. "We needed to make a change."



The Series: Hurricanes (3) vs Devils (6)

 

Game 1:  2-1 Hurricanes

Devils outshoot Canes 35-17, but Irbe is the difference. Devils start the series without 4 forwards: Gomez, Nieuwendyk, Sykora and Stevenson. Gomez would miss the entire playoffs while Sykora was suffering from a sore ankle after being hit by a Scott Stevens slapshot in the series finale.

 

Game 2:  2-1 (OT) Hurricanes

Irbe again is the difference maker with 30 saves. Nieuwendyk and Sykora return, but the offense still struggles. Bates Battaglia with the winner in the first OT period.

 

Game 3: 4-0 Devils

Offense finally gets going with goals from Rafalski (2), Gionta and Holik. The goodwill from Irbe's first two games lasts 21 minutes as he gets pulled after 3 goals on 12 shots. Kevin Weekes makes his debut (spoiler alert: he's kind of a big deal).  Devils are dominant, and Brodeur only has to make 16 saves for the shutout. So easy, Jim McKenzie can play 12+ minutes.

 

Quotes:
''It's a positive note for us,'' Brodeur said, referring to Sunday's lopsided victory. ''But we're not out of the woods yet. We dug ourselves a pretty big hole. This was a good step, but we also know if we don't win the next game, they have an opportunity to knock us out in their own building.''

''Finally, someone decided to cut across the middle,'' Stevens said, sounding like a hungry shark whose dinner had been delayed. ''It was nice to have a chance, though. It keeps people thinking about it.''

 

Game 4: 3-1 Devils

NJ chases Irbe out of the net a little earlier this game, one period to be exact, after goals by Gionta (SH), Holik from behind the net. Rafalski adds some insurance later.
Jim McKenzie plays 13+ minutes.

 

Game 5: 3-2 Hurricanes (OT)

Petr Sykora's sore ankle is bothersome enough that he sits out the 5th game. Nemchinov, who had been a healthy scatch the last two games and Andreas Salomonsson replace Sykora and Kamensky in the lineup. Paul Maurice goes with Kevin Weekes, who in just a short few months goes backup goalie for the Lightning to starting his first ever playoff game. The Devils found themselves up 2-1. Goals from Holik and Elias gave the Devils a 2-1 lead late in the third. But with under two minutes left, Holik took a boarding penalty and Jeff O'Neill tied the game with under 90 seconds to go.

 

In OT, Weekes continued his brilliant play, absolutely robbing John Madden on a rebound from a Stephane Richer shot in what most agree was the deciding play of the series. Minutes later, Josef Vasicek (RIP) scored the OT winner.

 

Jim McKenzie plays 11+ minutes.

 

Quotes:
''It's a penalty,'' said Holik, who scored the Devils' first goal, his fourth of the series. ''For all the good things you do, you have to take responsibility for the bad things. But I get hit like that a dozen times a game. So I didn't feel like it was such an illegal hit. But there's nothing I can do about it now.''

 

''It's back-to-back games,'' Sykora said, referring to Tuesday's Game 4 in New Jersey and Game 5 here. Game 6 is Saturday in New Jersey. ''This way, I can give it three days. I just want to play on Saturday and never look back,'' Sykora said.

 

"The Save"

 

Game 6: 1-0 Hurricanes

Back in Jersey for game 6, Sykora was ready to return in the elimination game and so was Turner Stevenson (making his playoff debut). Out was Nemchinov and Richer. Game 6 was more of the same as game 5 as Kevin Weekes was incredible. Brodeur stopped 21 of 22 shots but the 1 goal, a Ron Francis 2nd period power play goal, was the decider. Weekes made 32 saves for the shutout, and 72 of 74 in the final two games of the series.

 

Quotes:
"I'm in shock right now," said Devils center John Madden, who had a great chance to win Game 5 in overtime only to be stopped by a phenomenal glove save by Weekes. "I never thought we would lose in the first round. That was not even in my head at any point. "He made some saves that will be on highlights for three years to come,. "I.E., Game 5, he reached back on me, and he made some saves tonight where he didn't even know where the puck was."

 

 "This is the realization of a childhood dream," said Weekes, traded from the Lightning to Carolina on March 5 to serve as Irbe's backup. "For any of you who have played sandlot baseball or street hockey, you can relate. "We all grew up watching the playoffs on TV, and unfortunately I've been watching them too long because my teams have never been participants. I watched all the great plays and all the great goalies. I'm just having a good time right now."

 

Series Notables:

 

- Devils playoff debuts for Joe Nieuwendyk, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Gionta, Valeri Kamensky, Andreas Salomonsson and Christian Berglund.

- Scott Gomez, recovering from a broken hand, missed the entire series

- Petr Sykora, suffering from a sore ankle after taking a shot off the ankle in the regular season finale, missed game 1 and 5. He finished with 1 assist in 4 games.

- This series saw the final games of Stephane Richer, Valeri Kamensky and Sergei Nemchinov's NHL careers. John Vanbiesbrouck, who backed up Martin Brodeur, would retire after the playoffs as well.

- Also playing their final games for the Devils: Bobby Holik (the Devils leading goal scorer in the playoffs) who would sign with the Rangers and Petr Sykora who was part of a big off-season deal for Jeff Friesen and Oleg Tverdovsky

- Deadline acquisitions, Langenbrunner, Nieuwendyk, and Richer, combined for 3 assists in 13 playoff games

- Kevin Constantine was "fired" in June and replaced with Pat Burns

- The Hurricanes Cinderella run would continue all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, defeating the Canadiens and then the Leafs both in 6 games.

- Even after his ridiculous relief performance and shutout in game 1 of the 2nd round...after a bad performance in game 4, Weekes found himself back on the bench for game 5 against Montreal, where he would stay for the rest of the playoffs


Edited by devilsrule33, 28 April 2014 - 10:55 AM.

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#2 Zubie#8

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 12:10 AM

Great write up dr33! It was a pleasure to read
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#3 DevsMan84

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 07:03 AM

That was such a weird season and series and I remember quite a few things about it:

1) the A-line had a really up and down year. They weren't bad but from what I remember they were great at home but disappeared on the road. I think CR1976 had a posting about that recently with stats that showed how inept they were on the road that year.
2) When Constantine was hired, I had a gut feeling he was temporary. Even some buddies of mine at the time felt the same way. That hiring seemed like a desperation move on the part of Lou. He also seemed like he was the most humorless guy on the planet.
3) speaking of desperation moves, the signs and trades to get Kamensky, richer, and getting beezer out if retirement were desperation moves too. None really had a huge effect though.
4) I remember at the time arturs irbe's gigantic pads that he was wearing. I think Robinson even mentioned it a year before when he called them "mattresses" to the press. I know he was a small goalie but those things were huge and this was before the NHL started cracking down on these things.
5) sykora basically ended his first run with the devils by not playing in those games in the playoffs. There is that famous story of Stevens getting pissed at him at the hotel the team was staying at basically saying he was exaggerating his injured foot.
6) from what I have heard over the years, the whole point of the arnott trade was Lou really wanted langs. nieuwendyk was added in there to balance it out and to get some leadership replaced with the loss of arnott and McKay.
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#4 Colorado Rockies 1976

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 07:58 AM

I went to that elimination game.  It was a beatiful day outside...bright and sunny...breezy, but very nice otherwise.  Within the first five minutes of the first period I said to my wife "They're getting shut out tonight, they have nothing."  Sometimes you just get a feeling. 

 

I remember Larry Brooks saying about Kamensky:  "If Kamensky is the answer, then I don't want to know the question." 

 

And yeah DM84, I posted the home/road split re:  the A line.  It was insane.  Tri basically went further and stated that the home/road chances weren't actually much different, just the results.  But Lou did feel that too many players were waiting for the A-line to do something, which was part of the reason he broke it up.  Though it clearly worked in 2003 (right players at the right time), it seemed to mess up their mojo for 2002, even though the record under Constantine was good. 

 

Speaking of Constantine, Marty admitted in his book that he nor his teammates thought much of him, and thought he'd be a short-timer.  I don't have the book in front of me, but I think Constantine had some kind of point system in place for blocking shots...which Marty apparently thought was odd. 

 

And it was amazing how much the production fell in one season...295 GF in 2001, 205 GF in 2002.  Lou hoped Pierre Dagenais would help offset Mogilny's departure to the Leafs, but not only did it not happen, Lou put him on waivers and the Panthers claimed him after Dagenais had spent the first few months trying to stick in the lineup.  Like DM84 said, it was a very odd year in a lot of ways. 


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Even when Marty comes back maybe Larry should put Clemmensen to be on the goal during the shootouts.
Can the coach do that ? Switch the goalies 5 seconds to go in overtime?
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#5 MadDog2020

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 08:19 AM

Wow, I totally forgot Valeri Kamensky was on the team lol. I remember just being stunned at the Arnott trade. Totally floored. I remember thinking at the time that it *could* be a good deal for the Devils, but I didn't know enough about Langenbrunner. It worked out okay I'd say. :P
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#6 DevsMan84

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 08:22 AM

I went to that elimination game.  It was a beatiful day outside...bright and sunny...breezy, but very nice otherwise.  Within the first five minutes of the first period I said to my wife "They're getting shut out tonight, they have nothing."  Sometimes you just get a feeling. 

 

I remember Larry Brooks saying about Kamensky:  "If Kamensky is the answer, then I don't want to know the question." 

 

And yeah DM84, I posted the home/road split re:  the A line.  It was insane.  Tri basically went further and stated that the home/road chances weren't actually much different, just the results.  But Lou did feel that too many players were waiting for the A-line to do something, which was part of the reason he broke it up.  Though it clearly worked in 2003 (right players at the right time), it seemed to mess up their mojo for 2002, even though the record under Constantine was good. 

 

Speaking of Constantine, Marty admitted in his book that he nor his teammates thought much of him, and thought he'd be a short-timer.  I don't have the book in front of me, but I think Constantine had some kind of point system in place for blocking shots...which Marty apparently thought was odd. 

 

And it was amazing how much the production fell in one season...295 GF in 2001, 205 GF in 2002.  Lou hoped Pierre Dagenais would help offset Mogilny's departure to the Leafs, but not only did it not happen, Lou put him on waivers and the Panthers claimed him after Dagenais had spent the first few months trying to stick in the lineup.  Like DM84 said, it was a very odd year in a lot of ways. 

 

I think the fact that Dagenais scored in his first game with the Devils and he looked good in the few games he played in the previous season gave Devils hope, but it never worked out.  Didn't Dagenais get drafted twice by the Devils or am I confusing him with another player (possibly Rupp)?  I think he was drafted by the Devils and then didn't sign with them but was then re-drafted a few years later by the Devils.  Either way he had one decent season with Montreal and basically fell off the face of the Earth until a couple of years ago when he utterly dominated the scoring title in the FHL lol.

 

That season was weird and I remember some fans getting real worried that this was the start of their decline.  On the other hand you have to remember that they played a ton of hockey in the previous two seasons and by the time they got into that first round against Carolina they just looked completely out of gas for most of the games.

 

Very strange season.


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#7 devils102

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 08:22 AM

Really enjoying these. Keep 'em coming if possible.

 

I remember being at work at my summer job (I was in high school at the time) and being in shock after game six. Could not believe they lost in the first round after the  way the season turned around. It seemed at the end of the regular season like it was meant to be their year.

 

 

Speaking of Constantine, Marty admitted in his book that he nor his teammates thought much of him, and thought he'd be a short-timer.  I don't have the book in front of me, but I think Constantine had some kind of point system in place for blocking shots...which Marty apparently thought was odd. 

 

 

During Coach's Corner on CBC a while back Ron Mclean talked about Kevin Constantine's shot-blocking system. He said Ken Daneyko wanted to win every night and was flopping all over the place. I think he got that from Brodeur's book as well.


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#8 DevsMan84

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 08:24 AM

Wow, I totally forgot Valeri Kamensky was on the team lol. I remember just being stunned at the Arnott trade. Totally floored. I remember thinking at the time that it *could* be a good deal for the Devils, but I didn't know enough about Langenbrunner. It worked out okay I'd say. :P

 

Yeah I remember I was stunned at that trade too.  I mean that line was arguably the best line in hockey alony with the Naslund, Bertuzzi, Morrison line in Vancouver.  I remember that first game too with Langs and Nieuwendyk in Chicago where they won and one of the goals was scored when a Devils player (I forgot who) took a shot from about the blue line and Joe was standing in front of the goalie and right before the puck reached him, he put his glove right in front of his mask to block his view and the puck went in lol.  Now that would be probably illegal under the Avery rule.


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#9 '7'

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 08:36 AM

This was the epitome of Hurricane luck against us. I think they got outshot all 6 games and still won the series.

 

I think this was also another series where we lost somebody (I forget who) to yet another mysterious case of playoff food poisoning for a game.

 

Can't believe Madden couldn't bury that chance, and that call on Holik in the waning minutes was kind of weak as well.

 

I can't remember any game in this series where we were thoroughly outplayed. I don't want it to sound like sour grapes but the Devils have never lost to a worse team in the playoffs than this pile of garbage. This was literally everything breaking Carolinas way at all times. I'm not going to give Carolina a shred of credit for winning this series. 

 

I would like the Devils to have at least ONE playoff series like Carolina had against us that year. 


Edited by '7', 28 April 2014 - 09:02 AM.

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#10 DevsMan84

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 08:43 AM

This was the epitome of Hurricane luck against us. I think they got outshot all 6 games and still won the series.

 

I think this was also another series where we lost somebody (I forget who) to yet another mysterious case of playoff food poisoning for a game.

 

Can't believe Madden couldn't bury that chance, and that call on Holik in the waning minutes was kind of weak as well.

 

I can't remember any game in this series where we were thoroughly outplayed. I don't want it to sound like sour grapes but the Devils have never lost to a worse team in the playoffs than this pile of garbage. This was literally everything breaking Carolinas way at all times.

 

I would like the Devils to have at least ONE playoff series like Carolina had against us that year. 

 

I think you are thinking of Sykora who couldn't make up his mind if his foot was injured or not.


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#11 SMantzas

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 10:14 AM

Thanks for doing these, DR33. As a younger fan, it is nice to get an in depth reminder of past Devils teams
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#12 Triumph

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 10:32 AM

I remember missing a big function at school to listen to that awful Game 6 via Internet radio - my brother had on a whim bought a ticket and sat behind the Devils bench.  What a horrible game all around.  Still, that was a darn good team that could've easily knocked off this sorry Hurricanes team.  (Although in true Hurricanes fashion, this team was really good at drawing penalties and had a positive shot differential)


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#13 devilsrule33

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 10:35 AM

I went to that elimination game.  It was a beatiful day outside...bright and sunny...breezy, but very nice otherwise.  Within the first five minutes of the first period I said to my wife "They're getting shut out tonight, they have nothing."  Sometimes you just get a feeling. 

 

I remember Larry Brooks saying about Kamensky:  "If Kamensky is the answer, then I don't want to know the question." 

 

And yeah DM84, I posted the home/road split re:  the A line.  It was insane.  Tri basically went further and stated that the home/road chances weren't actually much different, just the results.  But Lou did feel that too many players were waiting for the A-line to do something, which was part of the reason he broke it up.  Though it clearly worked in 2003 (right players at the right time), it seemed to mess up their mojo for 2002, even though the record under Constantine was good. 

 

Speaking of Constantine, Marty admitted in his book that he nor his teammates thought much of him, and thought he'd be a short-timer.  I don't have the book in front of me, but I think Constantine had some kind of point system in place for blocking shots...which Marty apparently thought was odd. 

 

And it was amazing how much the production fell in one season...295 GF in 2001, 205 GF in 2002.  Lou hoped Pierre Dagenais would help offset Mogilny's departure to the Leafs, but not only did it not happen, Lou put him on waivers and the Panthers claimed him after Dagenais had spent the first few months trying to stick in the lineup.  Like DM84 said, it was a very odd year in a lot of ways. 

 

What I forgot to mention was that Kamensky was an in-season acquisition in January. It was more desperate than Lou's Sullivan acquisition last year. When you lose Mogilny's 40 goals and hope to replace them with some combination of Dagenais, Berglund and Solamonsson (combined for 9 goals), you're going to take a huge hit. Add in the A line struggling, the offensive dip was pretty obvious.

 

It's hard to get a feel for Constantine. He had a very tough job and was brought in to do one thing: Make sure this team got their act together. That's what Robinson couldn't do or didn't want to do. This was his job. No doubt he wasn't going to be loved by the players, but he accomplished what Lou asked him to do.

 

This was the epitome of Hurricane luck against us. I think they got outshot all 6 games and still won the series.

 

I think this was also another series where we lost somebody (I forget who) to yet another mysterious case of playoff food poisoning for a game.

 

Can't believe Madden couldn't bury that chance, and that call on Holik in the waning minutes was kind of weak as well.

 

I can't remember any game in this series where we were thoroughly outplayed. I don't want it to sound like sour grapes but the Devils have never lost to a worse team in the playoffs than this pile of garbage. This was literally everything breaking Carolinas way at all times. I'm not going to give Carolina a shred of credit for winning this series. 

 

I would like the Devils to have at least ONE playoff series like Carolina had against us that year. 

 

Nieuwendyk had the flu in game 1. 

 

As far as having a series like that, the Devils haven't really had a playoff team that sh!tty and are rarely are the underdog in a series. I'm not hoping for any series where the Devils get dominated.


Edited by devilsrule33, 28 April 2014 - 10:43 AM.

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"It goes to the captain and then there are handoffs during a skate around the ice" Mike Emrick as Scott Stevens is being presented the Stanley Cup.


#14 DevsMan84

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 10:42 AM

Thing with Kamensky is that while his acquisition was a desperation move by Lou, it was also a safe desperation move.  Lou didn't give up a whole lot for him and after his huge contract/low production fiasco with the Rangers shortly before the Devils got him, he was seen as a "why not" kind of move.  No one expected him to light it up when he got here and he didn't cost a whole lot so if he did manage to find a spark to get back to his Colorado-level scoring it was seen as a win.  If not then it was no huge deal.  He scored 4G and 8A in 30GP with the Devils which I guess is OK, but I remember thinking that was pretty good for a guy who I figured not to matter at all.

 

That Stephan Richer move was a complete desperation move no matter how you put it.  He was finished and everyone knew it except for Lou apparently.  Maybe he thought that deep down somewhere Richer could do something again but he was just trying to squeeze water out of a stone.  Good to see Richer end his NHL career in a Devils uniform though.


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#15 Triumph

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 10:52 AM

Thing with Kamensky is that while his acquisition was a desperation move by Lou, it was also a safe desperation move.  Lou didn't give up a whole lot for him and after his huge contract/low production fiasco with the Rangers shortly before the Devils got him, he was seen as a "why not" kind of move.  No one expected him to light it up when he got here and he didn't cost a whole lot so if he did manage to find a spark to get back to his Colorado-level scoring it was seen as a win.  If not then it was no huge deal.  He scored 4G and 8A in 30GP with the Devils which I guess is OK, but I remember thinking that was pretty good for a guy who I figured not to matter at all.

 

That Stephan Richer move was a complete desperation move no matter how you put it.  He was finished and everyone knew it except for Lou apparently.  Maybe he thought that deep down somewhere Richer could do something again but he was just trying to squeeze water out of a stone.  Good to see Richer end his NHL career in a Devils uniform though.

 

The Devils had to buy out Val Kamensky at the end of the year - though I can't find that on google since it is swamped by results about Kamensky being bought out by the Rangers - and Lou mentioned something later about how he went a little overboard spending under YankeeNets.

 

Neither guy was a good acquisition.  Kamensky's last good year was 1998.  Although he was excellent always in the NHL9X series of games.


Edited by Triumph, 28 April 2014 - 10:52 AM.

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#16 DevsMan84

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 10:54 AM

The Devils had to buy out Val Kamensky at the end of the year - though I can't find that on google since it is swamped by results about Kamensky being bought out by the Rangers - and Lou mentioned something later about how he went a little overboard spending under YankeeNets.

 

Neither guy was a good acquisition.  Kamensky's last good year was 1998.  Although he was excellent always in the NHL9X series of games.

 

I guess you are right about Kamensky.  The more I look at it and dig deeper in his stats the worse it looks.  I guess it was just a pure and simple desperation move with the hope that either him or Richer had a little something left in there somewhere. 


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#17 devilsrule33

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 12:03 PM

I remember missing a big function at school to listen to that awful Game 6 via Internet radio - my brother had on a whim bought a ticket and sat behind the Devils bench.  What a horrible game all around.  Still, that was a darn good team that could've easily knocked off this sorry Hurricanes team.  (Although in true Hurricanes fashion, this team was really good at drawing penalties and had a positive shot differential)

 

This was a really good team. It's amazing how little changed from this team that got eliminated to the one that won the Cup in 2003. You had Brodeur in nets and pretty much the exact same stacked defense, say for Tverdovsky getting some games for Albelin in the regular season and Daneyko as well in the playoffs.

 

Even though the team struggled consistently all season and in the playoffs, Lou didn't add make any big additions in the off-season. Of course, there was the Skyora trade for Friesen, but I don't think Lou thought that was going to be an offensive upgrade.

 

The Sykora deal was a nice trade for Lou, in the sense that it couldn't have worked out better, but I don't think it was a great hockey trade by any means.  Not so sure if not playing through pain in the playoff series did him in, but I think Lou saw a fragile player, more emotionally, than anything else that he invested in, and maybe it wasn't going to be a good fit without the A-line. Sykora had just finished year 1 of a big raise, and I guess it was clear that he was never going to duplicate the 99-2001 seasons.

 

Friesen wasn't anything special himself, but he got very hot in the 2003 playoffs. Couldn't ask for much more than that.


Edited by devilsrule33, 28 April 2014 - 12:12 PM.

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#18 Triumph

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 12:32 PM

The major change of course was that they lost Bobby Holik who was probably the team's best forward in 2002.  But yeah, the 2002 Devils were +553 shots overall, 2003 they were +672, with a lot of the difference likely coming because of penalty differential.

 

No, that Sykora trade didn't work out that well - the Devils ultimately ended up with 2 years of Friesen, 1 year of Tverdovsky, and a 3rd round pick (who subsequently didn't sign with NJ).  Of course the Ducks only ended up with 2 1/2 years of Sykora and they dealt Sykora and a 4th for Maxim Kondratiev, so maybe the trade didn't work out for both sides from a pure asset perspective.


Edited by Triumph, 28 April 2014 - 12:34 PM.

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#19 Colorado Rockies 1976

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 12:36 PM

Friesen was an odd duck, in that he lost it so quickly, and at a pretty young age.  He had a nice, solid, Friesen-like 1st season with the Devils, then of course scored 10 playoff goals in 24 GP in 2003 (shot 21.7% in the playoffs that year).  It seemed like he used up all of his remaining shooting luck in 2002-03...the following year, he played in 81 games, had an almost identical shot total to the previous season (177 in 03-04, 179 in 81 GP in 02-03), but only scored 17 goals as opposed to 23.  He also didn't notch a goal or assist in 5 games against the Flyers in the '04 playoffs.

 

After '04, he played in 123 games total for three teams, and scored just 10 goals with 13 assists.  I'm sure Lou was as surprised as anyone else by how sharply he declined, especially with his 2003 season being a nicely effective one all-around...he was only a recently-turned 27 by the start of the '03-'04 season.  Friesen was effectively finished as an NHL player before his 31st birthday...of course, since the Devils won the 2003 Cup and Friesen played a big role in that championship, it's easy to overlook the forensic reality that his Devils success was very short-lived.        


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#20 Triumph

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 12:57 PM

he was an odd Duck too, gotten in the deal for Teemu Selanne.  I don't think Friesen was a very smart player and when his skills declined he was through as a regular NHLer.  Also he was probably propped up by NJ which was a shot factory at the time - once he was released into the NHL proper, he was lost.

 

I've often wondered if there's some correlation between starting earlier and finishing earlier - both Sykora and Friesen played their Y18 seasons in the NHL, but both guys were basically through at 32 - Sykora was propped up by the right teams in his mid 30s, but he was at best an average NHLer after his 30th birthday when you considered everything he couldn't do.  Sergei Samsonov was a Calder winner and was done at 32, and that after having his best seasons in his early 20s (which seem now to have been propped up by Joe Thornton, who is amazing).  Scott Gomez, Calder winner, in the NHL at age 19, his Y30 season was his last good one.  Dunno, seems like for non-superstars like this there's a clock on them - this is something to consider with free agents.  It wouldn't surprise me a bunch if Nathan Horton suffered a big decline in his game, say (wow, looking at his numbers for this year, which I didn't do before I wrote the first half of this sentence, it looks like it already happened)


Edited by Triumph, 28 April 2014 - 12:58 PM.

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