Rock Posted October 10, 2002 Share Posted October 10, 2002 A BIG SCORER SHORT OF THE ULTIMATE GOAL http://www.nypost.com/sports/devils/48987.htm By MARK (N)Єverson -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- PRESSURE INCREASE: Goalie Martin Brodeur will have little margin for error this season because Devils have assembled a team lacking in top goal-scorers. Neil Miller October 10, 2002 -- OTTAWA - For the first time in six years, the Devils don't have a new banner to hoist to the Meadowlands rafters. Odds are, it's twice in seven this time next year. They'll always remain a team to be reckoned with as long as Martin Brodeur is their healthy goalie and their defense remains as strong as it had been throughout their banner years. But once again, they will be the poster boys for the fiscal strategy of trying to win without gunners, those goal-scorers who command such high price tags, the ones who lead the way in the salary escalation the NHL is committed to stopping - the ones who make hockey fun to watch. Pat Burns is the only three-time Jack Adams Trophy winner as coach of the year, winning in his first season in each of his previous stops. He'll be hard-pressed to continue that streak here. FORWARDS A lot of small pieces that don't fit. It might be different if the top line was a world-beater, but it's not the A Line anymore. Joe Nieuwendyk and Patrik Elias are the most gifted forwards on the squad, and it's a symptom of the skill shortage this team faces that Burns couldn't try Elias at center, needing him to provide Nieuwendyk with someone to score goals. Jamie Langenbrunner simply must crack (shatter!) 20 goals for the first time in five years. An effective second line is essential and Scott Gomez and Jeff Friesen have not clicked. Help is needed immediately. DEFENSE From here, that help must come. Again, the pieces aren't precisely matched, but at least they have them. They must hope, however, that Scott Stevens' groin injury isn't the start of aging aches. They need Ken Daneyko to again rebound from a shaky start and remain a useful mean streak around the net. Colin White improves steadily, while Scott Niedermayer may be their best backliner. Oleg Tverdovsky must learn the defensive part of defense and Brian Rafalski still has troubles against the rush, but any other team would trade their six for these. Andrei Zyuzin had a strong camp, but his trade value isn't what he's worth. Rafalski is their only righty, Stevens has a limited no-trade, Daneyko shouldn't be dealt, White is their only young hitter and Tverdovsky just arrived. Niedermayer seems the most expendable in trade and he'd surely bring a star forward. GOALTENDING Brodeur had some of those lapses of concentration in camp that marred his game a few years ago, but there seems little reason to believe that by tonight, he won't be the best goalie in the league again. He may be even more valuable for clearing dumped pucks if forecheckers have free runs at defensemen. Corey Schwab's springtime heroics in Toronto proved he is more than adequate as a backup, and might interest someone if their No. 1 goes down. COACHING It won't be long until the Devils are tired of Burns and his strident style, and since they've already cost Larry Robinson and Kevin Constantine their jobs in this calendar year alone, Lou Lamoriello will have trouble nipping the players' sense that they know best, as validated by their GM's actions. Burns is long on discipline and drive, but we have yet to see if that applies to tactics and strategy. Expect tight, boring games. GM Lamoriello has some reputation-repair to do. Passing on Burns for Constantine, then firing Constantine for Burns suggests a lack of certainty. His deals have not helped lately. And his miscalculation with Holik will haunt this team. Perhaps he wears too many hats for someone so hands-on. PREDICTION Their goals-against will keep them decent, their goals-for will leave them mediocre, and they'll be in a pitched battle just to make the playoffs. Third in the Atlantic, seeded seventh in the East. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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