In the latest issue of The Hockey News, Mike Brophy has a pretty scathing article wherein he says he prays that the Devils do not win the Stanley Cup; that the New Jersey Devils, and presumably how they play, are bad for hockey.
Trendon Lynch at On Fire has a powerful response to Brophy's article. I wasn't going to respond figuring that I wasn't going to buy a copy of THN just to read someone talking smack about the Devils. Nor was I going to go to, say, a Barnes & Noble to read it at the stand, taking notes at a tiny table on a separate piece of paper But then someone on HFBoards took a picture of the article, I'm sorry I forget who, so I got to read what Brophy wrote after all. After an ILWT reader emailed me about my thoughts, I feel that I might as well put them here too. Apologies to the reader as I fleshed out a couple more things here than I did in my emailed response to his query.
I really don't like articles wherein fans/sportswriters of any given are basically ripping on their own game. Especially when it's sounds like a lot of sour grapes. We see 1-4 and 1-2-2 defensive formations all the time in hockey, yet only one or two teams are "boring" when they use it as a part of their success. Pittsburgh throws up a neutral zone trap, did so to try and keep the Devils at bay on February 16, a 5-4 Devils loss. Another example, one that Brophy should pay attention to (or perhaps he knows all too well), Toronto Maple Leafs tried extra backcheckers against the Devils, but given that they lost both games to NJ, they did not do as well as they thought. Neither of those teams, or those games were boring. If you think defensive hockey is boring, then you must fall asleep at the majority of NHL games. And if you do say you fall asleep at those games, I know you're a liar. The NHL has plenty of scoring, plenty of big saves, a large amount of scoring chances, plenty of big checks, and even some impressive defensive plays happening on any given night. Yet, when the Devils do the same and when they succeed it somehow becomes, either through a process or a system or even magic, boring.
Stupid, but unsurprising as this has been the constant mantra from the hockey media vis a vis the Devils since 1994. They're not going to actually watch the Devils and decide otherwise. they're not going to consider the excitement of Martin Brodeur making big saves night after night, they're not going to consider the youthful energy that Zach Parise brings with rookie Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner, they're not going to glance at an EGG line firing on all cylinders in making opposing defenses and goalies sweat, they'll notice John Madden and Jay Pandolo shutting down opposing all-stars in a backhanded way - but not one of the turnovers-into-odd-man-rushes they seem to get at least once a night, and they'll assume that Brodeur has this wonderful defense in front of him (it's good but not nearly anything like the 2000 blueline or even the 2003 blueline) - not that Brodeur is having a season so awesome that the word awesome is not enough to fully describe his performance. Same story, different day.
But what does surprise me is Brophy's claim that the Devils try not to lose. The Devils lead the league in game tying goals in the last minute of a game. The Devils have had many games wherein more than 7 total goals were scored and even won a some (most?) of them. Even when they have the lead, they don't drop 5 in their own zone and dump the puck for the rest of the game. They push for more goals, they continue to take shots, and they don't change their gameplan too much because if the other team gets one back it would spell doom for the Devils. The Devils try not to lose? 40 wins in under 65 games and the Devils try not to lose? Brophy doesn't try not to actually back up claims and actually watch some Devils games - he just does it regardless. Well, maybe not, perhaps Brophy is living under a rock and has no idea what's going on in the NHL. All the same, I cannot believe anyone can actually write that. Some hockey fan, Brophy is, but I suppose it's my mistake for assuming he even likes hockey just because he writes for THN.
All the same, writing a letter to Brophy and other writers of his ilk won't change his or anyone else's mind. I encourage you to do so, who knows, I may be wrong and you can't score if you don't shoot. I won't be writing a letter. I won't be saying a prayer like Brophy; that the Devils do win the Stanley Cup and metaphorically shove ring #4 down the collective hockey's world throats. I would love it if it did happen, but the sun will still rise tomorrow if it didn't. All the same, the current team is a team built for the playoffs and they got as good as chance as anyone to take the championship home. Brophy doesn't like it? He doesn't want it? Poor baby. The other NHL GMs greatly respect Lou Lamoriello (well, except for maybe Buffalo right now but I digress) and the Devils organization. The other teams in the league respect the Devils and a number of them have tried to do what they do in all aspects of the organization (well, except for Ted Nolan, who is smarting over his team's recent collapse against St. Louis). The hockey and sports media don't like the Devils? I don't think the Devils care. So why should I? I'll take Brophy and his ilk's opinions with a grain of salt. May the Devils win the Cup, and if the haters seethe about it, may they seethe in the dark. I'll be too busy celebrating my favorite team's glory - for the fourth time.