I think the first two tiers are very safe bets to make it, but I could honestly see any team from tiers 3 and 4 getting into the playoffs. 13 teams fighting for five spots seems about right, but I definitely think NJ is among the best of tiers 3 and 4.
Not a big soccer guy but the World Cup has been very fun to watch. Last night's game was a heartbreaker. They were literally ~30 seconds away from advancing. I don't know if Michael Bradley is supposed to be one of the team's better players but he's easily been one of its worst so far.
I don't have much expectations versus Germany, so let's go Portugal (without much goal scoring!).
He is and he's been terrible so far. Their other star Dempsey has been amazing, though
Just to make sure this is established - cursed implies it was out of their hands. Team USA totally dug their own grave with poor roster decisions and awful execution. They deserve this result unfortunately
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Outside of JVR, Kessel, Quick and McDonagh, no one showed up
The head scratching choices of Brown, Callahan and Orpik proved to be what they were...head scratching. Funny that Bobby Ryan, a guy who is automatic for 30 goals a year, is left off because he "doesn't know how to spell intense". Good thing Callahan's and Brown's GRIT and EFFORT really put them over the edge.
Don't even get me started on the no shows like Parise, Kane, Pavelski, etc
I want to preface this post by saying I love his system and don't want him fired, but his choice of personnel is downright awful
Mark Fayne, who is probably our 2nd best dman has been sat in favor of guys like Harrold, Volchenkov and Salvador. I wouldn't be surprised to see him bolt after this year.
Career journeyman Stephen Gionta is getting ice time over Jacob Josefson and Rusty Olesz, two players who produced in the AHL and in Olesz's case, in the NHL. Gionta was an average minor leaguer who gets 11 minutes a night including PK time.
I remember Florida fans saying Deboer wasn't the best at dealing with young players and I can see why. Josefson played extremely well in the preseason and was asked to play different roles. He outplayed Gionta handily, yet cant sniff the ice on a back end of 2 games in 2 nights. Larsson, who was pretty terrible against Pitt and NYI, played a solid game last night while #10 and #28 got abused. The kid gets benched for breathing the wrong way while vets stay in the lineup despite egregious mistakes.
Im not sure whether Lou, Stevens and Barr have any say but its clear Deboer needs to wake up, or else this season can get out of hand pretty quickly
2) The undisputed offensive leader of a team from 00-08, then top 2 or 3 for the remaining of his time on a team with Parise and Kovalchuk
3) Sterling defensive play
4) Successful international career including captaining the Czechs in the Olympics
5) Some impressive accolades including All-rookie team, 3x allstar, 2 time Cup champion, 1st team allstar (2001)
6) Impressive post season numbers
7) Top 5 in points (1), Top 10 (3), Top 20 (4)
Some factors against him-
1) Played in a small(ish) market his whole career
2) Wasn't dominant sans 00-01 and 05-06 when he came back
3) Not the flashiest player who will consistently wow you with a sick shot or a deke......just plays a very quiet game
4) Never really THE key cog for NJ. Whether it was Brodeur, Stevens, Niedermayer, Parise or Kovalchuk, Elias wasn't usually regarded as the best player on the Devils
I suppose to an outsider who doesn't consistently watch Elias, he doesn't jump out at you. But when you watch him night in and night out, it's obvious that he's a special player who plays all situations and does the little things to help this club win.
With the official elimination of the Devils, I know there are a lot of negative feelings around this place. While this season was an obvious disappointment, there are many things which make me feel confident the Devils are going to be fine next year and in the future. (this excludes the obvious entertainment aspect hockey provides)
1) Pete Deboer's system works- I know detractors will say, "But SMantzas, the Devils were a bottom 10 team and we couldn't score a goal!" Although all this is true, the coach is responsible for getting his team ready to play. I can't think of more than a couple of games where NJ didn't give a good and honest effort. Furthermore, the Devils significantly outshot and outchanced their opponents. Deboer can't score goals for the team, but he can (and did) put forth a system that gives them a chance to win more often than not.
2) Top ten draft pick coming our way- If there wasn't a season, NJ would likely be picking later than 20. The Devils should be getting their first blue chip offensive prospect since Zajac/Parise. The second round should give us a chance to pick up another offensive guy with first round talent (seeing as it's an insanely deep draft). I earnestly believe the Devils don't deserve a guy like Shinkaruk, Lindholm, Monahan, etc. over teams like the Leafs, Jackets or Stars. However, I'll take it.
3) The acquisition of Andrei Loktionov- Without a season, there is no way the Devils make the trade that brought Lokti to NJ. He has obvious NHL talent and looks to have chemistry with Kovalchuk. Seeing how we haven't found a center to play with Ilya, I'd say this is a big deal. He'll do extremely well playing weak minutes, while Zajac and Josefson will take on the toughs.
4) Exploitation of Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov- I'm not going to sugarcoat this; these guys are terrible. Whether or not the Devils choose to act on this fact is a different issue, but at least it's impossible not to recognize what a trainwreck these two are. I get they both play the PK and are kept around for various reasons. It'd just be nice to see our D without one of #24 or #28.
5) The visible improvement of Adam Larsson- I know he isn't a high scoring, Norris caliber defenseman yet, but he has been really good in his second season. He has played against top competition, provided solid defense and has demonstrated flashes of his offensive abilities. I suspect they take the training wheels off next season and we'll really see what we have in him. If he gets a step faster and works on his release, watch out.
I get that this season was largely painful to watch and I know things seem grim now, but the Devils will be fine if Brodeur plays a bit better, they get a capable backup and they stay relatively healthy. They are a top puck possession team and have a really good defense. The puck will start going in next year, especially if they get a top six scorer this offseason. The Devils have given us a lot of joy, so I think it's only fair to give Lou and co. a shot