My friends, as a new member, I'm nowhere near the expert some of you are, but I'll stick my neck out to offer some perspective. What are my qualifications? None, other than my legal first name is Ilia (same name as the gentleman in question, just different spelling) and I'm a native speaker of Russian, although I'm not an ethnic Russian. Neither is Kovalchuk, but I digress....
On the whole "going home" business, I'll offer this: in Russian and Russian-speaking cultures being near family is a very big deal. Big enough deal where being away starts to mess with your mind, affects your work (or in this case athletic) performance, your health, etc. I'm a rare exception to that, I subscribe to George Burns' immortal "happiness is a loving, caring family...in another city".
Now, I've been following the Devils since around 1992, and what brought them much success was being a great system team. What do I mean by that? For years you could tune in a Devils game and, unless you read the sweater numbers, you had no idea which line was on the ice, because everyone played more or less the same game. This was a working team, a "blue-collar" team, if you will, and not one that relied on "superstars".
More recently, however, that had changed, and the organization started leaning more towards a team of great players, rather than a great team of players. We started relying on superstars. There is nothing wrong with that, except that I don't think that approach has worked. Save for last year, the team's performance has been pretty average, certainly not near as good as it could be.
So, how does one go about changing that, about going from a superstar-oriented approach to a team-oriented one? By getting rid of the superstars. I'm going to miss my namesake #17, but I'm not going to miss the mindset that resulted from his (and even Zach's) presence. Everything hung on those two (and on Marty, but that's a separate conversation), and I don't think ultimately that's very healthy.
This latest development gives the team a chance to do a master reset, a Ctrl-alt-del. There is now the money and, more importantly, the necessity to rethink things, to look at new ideas without worrying about how so-and-so will play with #17 or what not. Hopefully, this will finally force the organization to start developing some young talent, something they've been slow to do. Between that and the fact that we've finally acknowledged that Marty is not immortal (by acquiring Mr. Schneider), I'm cautiously optimistic. Will this hurt in the short term? Sure. Will the benefits outweigh the losses? Only time will tell, but I think they just might.