Friday, October 27, 2006
Introductions, Gomez, Columbus
A word about the title of the blog: In Lou We Trust. The Lou in question is Devils CEO, president, and general manager, Lou Lamoriello. He's arguably one of the best GMs in the NHL (he was ranked as the top executive in The Hockey News' Best of Everything issue a few years back), taking over the GM duties of the Devils since 1987. Since then, he turned a supposed "Mickey Mouse club" into one of the top teams of the mid-to-late 1990s and kept them as contenders in this current millennium. Hence, the reason why so many Devils fans - like myself - appreciate what Lou Lamoriello has done for the franchise. As you may be aware, the NHL has imposed a hard salary cap since the 2005-2006 season and despite critics stating the Devils' game couldn't survive in "The New NHL," the Devils have done very well managing the cap, signing their franchise players (Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias) long-term, and even won the Atlantic Division last season (thanks to a ridiculous winning streak). No, Lou is no deity and I certainly do not treat/worship Lamoriello as such; but as Devils fans, when a tough decision needs to be made, we can trust Lou to make the right decision. Thus, In Lou We Trust.
But enough about that. The Devils ended some recent stuggles with a 2-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday. During their 3 game losing streak, the half of the defense (pick 1 to 3 of Colin White, Paul Martin, Alex Brooks, Jim Fahey) has looked lost and hung Marty out to dry, the Devils' power play brought back horrible memories of the 2003 Devils' squad, and the team just had trouble playing a strong shift, much less a full 60 minutes. The win seemed to have alleviated all these problems: the defense held up (as Martin Brodeur got shutout #82), the Devils played with effort all game, and the 2 goals came on the power play (Zach Parise, Patrik Elias).
The only real downside was Scott Gomez. He got injured in the second period and did not return. All I know is that it is groin injury of sorts, but I do not know whether it is day-to-day or if it will take 1-to-2 weeks for it to heal. I hope Gomez' recovery is quick and successful, but this lead to an interesting problem for the Columbus game tomorrow. Who plays as the first line center if Gomez is hurt and won't play? Here are the options:
1) Patrik Elias. Don't laugh. If I recall correctly, Elias has played center before (I want to say around 2002? I'm not positive). He really is a top-line talent and has played there, so stamina won't be an issue. He's also responsible defensively so backchecking shouldn't be an issue. However, Elias plays his best at left wing, so slotting him at center may work against him.
2) Zach Parise. Well, he was on the top line with Gomez and Gionta at left wing at the end of last season and so far this season. He was drafted with the expectation of becoming a first line center, and now here's this opportunity to see if he can do it. However, he has largely played left wing for his career so far; shifting him to the center may work against his game and make him less effective. It's a better option than Elias, though, as Parise may need to do this eventually.
3) Hope Travis Zajac is ready to go and play him on the first line. Brylin would have to shift to the second line center spot (I think this has currently been done for the last 2 games), and it could work. Zajac has looked pretty good at the second line for a rookie, working well with Langenbrunner and Elias. But he is coming off an injury, so I don't know if playing him for 17-20 minutes right away will be the best course of action. It is preferable to...
4) Play Brylin on the first line, shift Erik Rasmussen to the second line, and play a call-up from Lowell on the fourth line (Petr Vrana? David Clarkson). I like Brylin for his hard work, heart, and versatility. But he clearly does not have the scoring or playmaking talent for the first line. I am not confident he'll perform well in that spot. Rasmussen is an inconsistent player, which is not a big deal for the 6-8 minutes that the fourth line gets - but it shows on a second line. I know the Devils are loaded on the farm at center (Vrana, Clarkson, uh...Justin Papineau), so a call up for the fourth line wouldn't be a bad idea...except it'll likely mean Rasmussen is on the second line, which I don't think is such a good idea.
5) Some other option I did not think of.
I'm sure the Devils will come up with something reasonable: if Zajac is ready to go, I expect him on the 2nd line and for Devils coach Claude Julien to play Parise on the first line. As I said, Parise was drafted as a center - now is a good opportunity to see how he does there.
Regardless, if the Devils come out and give a good effort, make the most of their opportunities, and follow a number of other cliches, they should win. Go Devils.