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Member Since 08 Sep 2002
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Topics I've Started

'He Makes Other Players Better'

16 December 2014 - 12:11 PM

I loathe cliches - I mean, sure, I use them plenty, but I also don't like using them without thinking.  Hockey broadcasters and hockey lifers often have nothing but cliches to offer, so I get exposed to them plenty.  One of the classic hockey cliches to say about a player is that 'he makes other players better'.  It's said about your dominant center types typically - guys who control the flow of the game when they're on the ice.  Even though Patrik Elias spent most of his years as a LW, this was true of him as well.  Lots of Devil forwards had their best career seasons playing alongside Patrik Elias.  Elias is 9th in assists between the years 1999-2000 and 2013-14, and this despite seldom playing with a player better than him.   Playing with him in his final season gave Petr Sykora a 20 goal season and has made Dainius Zubrus's numbers not look awful.


We've seen the deterioration in Patrik's game this year and now he's out with an injury and he's 38 years old.  Watching this team play without him - both while he was playing, he was not 'Patrik Elias', and now with him in the press box - it's a reminder of just how great a player he was.  The Devils never lacked for a first-line forward with Elias on the team between the years I mentioned above.  Stick a guy with Elias and he was going to look better, usually.  Now the only guy they have that fits the cliche on their team is Jaromir Jagr who is 43 years old.


These players are vital not just because they are really good, but because your team needs them for your other players to be put into a position to succeed.  Without them a team is just fighting uphill all the time.  Michael Ryder doesn't suck just because he is terrible, but also because he doesn't have anyone out there helping cover up his deficiencies and accentuating his strengths.  Reid Boucher will have the same struggles if he comes back up.  Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac can't do this alone.  Free agency offers no solutions.  Trading likely offers no solutions.  The only answer is in the draft.  We'll see what they can find.

A Plan To Try To Right The Ship (For Next Year)

01 December 2014 - 12:13 PM

I'm not sure there is any salvaging the Devils' season this year.  There's too many holes on the team, and spending a bunch of draft picks to patch them isn't the right idea.  I thought losing Salvador and Clowe to injury would help the team, but Havlat and Ryder have emerged as players who simply cannot be playing on a good hockey team, and Zajac's offense has fallen off even more than last year.  I don't think Lou should be considering any trade that isn't made with an eye towards next year.  The Devils could start winning - some timely goal scoring and Schneider playing .930 hockey could certainly get the Devils ahead, probably, but not far enough.  So here's what I would do to try to get the team going again:


1.  Trade Eric Gelinas ASAP.  He's being healthy scratched despite there being 2 injuries on defense.  He's a specialty item on a team that can no longer afford that luxury.  If you had the kind of forward group that can carry along an Eric Gelinas at even strength, then great, but the Devils won't, and they won't for some time.  I'm afraid of what the Devils might lose if Gelinas somehow gets good, but if they wait another year, there may be no market at all for Gelinas.  Get what you can for him, kid's got a hell of a shot and if he figures out the defensive zone even a little bit he'll be a player worth having.  I'd be willing to get a 2nd round pick for him if that pick were to be shopped for upgrades at forward.


2.  Try to set up an Andrei Loktionov sort of trade.  The Loktionov trade didn't work out, but Loktionov was 90% of the way to being a pretty good player.  Bad defense and some bad shooting luck by his line were his undoing last year.  The Devils need a center badly - Patrik Elias isn't going to be the answer for very long if he is now, and Jacob Josefson is not good enough to do even what Patrik is doing now.  I'd be willing to deal the Devils' 2nd round pick this year for a young center who isn't getting an opportunity where he is now.  I'm not sure right now who that is or where that player exists, but the Devils will have plenty of picks in this year's draft if they continue down the road they're on now, so I don't mind giving one up for a shot at this kind of player.


3.  Buy out Dainius Zubrus at season's end.  I have always liked Zubrus's game, but the Devils did not see the warning signs in 2012-13 and wishcasted themselves into a 3 year deal with a player who has rapidly declining skills.  His contract is not that expensive but 3 years for him was quite simply a dumb move - much dumber than the 3 years on Elias's deal.  Zubrus is a defense-only player at this point - he's a smart enough player on offense that he fools you into thinking he might have something to give there, but he just doesn't.


4.  Keep Jaromir Jagr.  If Jagr wants out, fine, but if he doesn't, it's hard not to keep him because he is the only player above water right now.  The Devils simply aren't going to do better than him next year on the free agent market and they still need right wings, even if they trade Gelinas for one.


5.  Stop thinking that Adam Henrique is 'ready to break out' - He's a decent 2nd line wing or good 3rd line center, and that's what he is.  A good player to have, but not the cornerstone of a franchise.


So my ideal Devils team next year looks something like:















Where Z is a player acquired for Gelinas, Y is a player acquired for a 2nd round pick, and X - maybe X is someone we drafted in the top 8 of next year's draft.  It does figure to be deep.  A and B I'm not so sure of.


The Devils' Right Wing Issue

19 November 2014 - 12:27 PM

The Devils have a lot of problems right now, but I'd like to focus on just one because I think it's the most fixable.


The Devils have used 7 right wings so far this season: Jaromir Jagr, Martin Havlat, Michael Ryder, Damien Brunner, Jordin Tootoo, Steve Bernier, Mike Sislo, and Stephen Gionta.  Of these, the first 5 are UFA next year.  In addition, the Devils really have nothing at the minor league level at RW - they have Mike Sislo, who looks like a competent NHLer, but he's not going to be the kind of guy who wins and loses games for you.  So right wing is really a position they need to upgrade, and they need to be able to get young, cheap talent at RW, because clearly they are going to have to have some old, expensive talent at that position as well.


In addition, I think Damon Severson's emergence is obviating the need for Eric Gelinas.  I like Gelinas's skill set a lot but so far he is a disaster at even strength.  With Hraberenka and Scarlett potentially having some of those skills behind him and Severson already jumping ahead of him in terms of PP responsibility, the Devils can potentially sell high-ish on Gelinas while the league hasn't figured it out.  I don't like giving up on him, but I don't see many alternatives right now.


Let's look at the UFAs at that position this coming off-season, other than the guys I already mentioned - and here I am only considering right-shooting right wings:


Justin Williams

Drew Stafford

Joel Ward

Steve Downie

Mike Santorelli (C/RW)

Blake Comeau

Tyler Kennedy


So that looks rather unpleasant also.  


There are some more veteran RWs I might be interested in, but the guys I would like the Devils to investigate are:


C/RW Mika Zibanejad (OTT):  Zibanejad has gotten off to a slow start in Ottawa.  He's being used at center but his shot rate is way down so far this year and he's got players like Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, and Curtis Lazar coming up behind him.  Ottawa is desperate for defense - I wonder if they'd be interested in either Adam Larsson or Eric Gelinas in exchange for Zibanejad.  


RW Jeremy Morin (CHI): I have absolutely no clue what Chicago would want for Jeremy Morin, but this guy generates all kinds of shots.  If they wanted to trade Kris Versteeg I'd be interested in that too.  I might deal Merrill for Morin and something extra - Chicago has Glendening for their offensive needs, but with Oduya probable to leave and Hjalmarsson starting to perhaps age into the unpleasant part of a defensive D's career, they may need someone like this.


RW Kyle Palmieri (ANA):  He turns 24 this year and has never really gotten his shot at regular time on Anaheim.  I don't know what Anaheim needs - quite possibly nothing, so this may be moot - but whatever it is, I'd like to snag him.  I know he was a Rangers fan growing up but so was Santini.  I might be willing to go something like Jagr and a 4th round pick for Palmieri later in the year if the team continues on its current trajectory.  I might trade Boucher for Palmieri and a 3rd round pick but that's the kind of deal that's unlikely to go down.


Those are just 3 guys - there's others, but these players don't seem to grow on trees and the Devils just don't have one in their system - they have too many players who shoot left-handed.  They need a young guy who has plenty of RFA time left.

Devils re-assign Boucher; Albany Devils sign Mark Fraser

02 November 2014 - 11:51 PM

Thought this was big enough to demand its own topic - Fraser played almost 100 games for NJ, he's not some total nobody.  Albany seems to have plenty of D bodies right now so it's unclear whether it's a favor to Fraser or the possible precursor to other moves.


TG suggests that Tootoo or Havlat (or both) will be ready to come back on Tuesday, hence the demotion of Boucher - I am curious what'll happen if it's only Tootoo.

The Devils' Power Play So Far

23 October 2014 - 11:08 AM

Since this forum is mostly bellyaching all the time, I figured I'd single out one positive so far in the Devils' season - how the power play has looked.  I don't think I've seen one person note here how it's changed - the Devils have stopped dumping the puck in on the power play, for the most part.  I'm too lazy to find a screen shot of what's going on, but one guy is coming up one side of the ice with the puck, and if the defenders cheat too much to his side (which they almost inevitably will), that guy will pass the puck diagonally back to a trailer on the other side of the ice who can now take advantage of the PKers cheating on the first guy.   He gains the zone and the PP sets itself up. 


They're not perfect with it yet and I'm curious to see how defenses will adapt to this - if they go too aggressive to take away the pass, the first guy will gain the zone anyway, but it could result in some serious chances against too.