According to Tom Gulitti's blog the Devils have taken the day off.
Given that the Devils have their first inter-division games this week in a short period of time. They visit Pittsburgh to play Sidney Crosby & Friends on Wednesday, Thursday to play the Flyers, and then go to Long Island to play the Islanders. Not the easiest stretch of games against the easiest of teams. Counting out the Flyers and/or the Islanders is something that you or I may do with no cost to the team. Both of those teams gave the Devils some tough games despite struggling last season (yes, I know the Islanders made the playoffs, it only took them 82 games to get there). Some extra rest in preparation of that stretch is a good idea because they won't get it in a few days.
Last night, I was on the radio on Rob Kowal's NY Hockey Talk. The show has been uploaded in an MP3 format on the show's website
, so if you missed it - you can hear it at your own convenience. Of the many questions Rob asked me, the topic of Colin White came up. We have not heard any word on how severe the eye injury that White took during training camp. I mentioned that this is a big reason why the Devils have performed so poorly on defense to start the season. Frankly, I think the team misses him. I'd like to elaborate why I think this since I just quickly said as such last night.
Colin White is a defensive defensemen who not only brings size and Sean Avery-crushing hits
to the team. He is a sound positional defenseman and that can never be understated. It's arguably one of the biggest aspects of a game that can be overlooked, except when the positioning is poor. When the player is in position, the other team's attack can be stifled or slowed down - sometimes to the point where you When the player is out of position, almost anybody will notice it when the other team takes advantage of it for a scoring chance or a goal. Consider Nicklas Lidstrom, for example. He has been a dominating defenseman for all these years for Detroit if only because he is rarely - rarely
- out of position. He's usually in the right place at the right time to make the right play to turn what could have been dangerous for his team into what isn't dangerous at all. And it's a trait that requires not only vision and timing, but also experience - which is why I think it takes longer for young defensemen to acclimate themselves to the NHL than young forwards. White (or anyone else) isn't nearly as adept at the abstractness of defense as Lidstrom; but White is good enough to bring stability to the blueline. Good enough to be a defenseman who can handle the other team's top forwards on every night and do a good job.
More to the point, no one else on the team is as good at it as White. Paul Martin is a two-way defenseman who's getting used to being in the #1 spot - even so, he's played much of his career with a more defensive or more experienced defender on his pairing. So far this season, it's been John Oduya, who is still fairly young and expecting him to play solid positional defense for 22+ minutes a night is asking a bit much for now. Ditto Andy Greene, who is even younger and less experienced than even Oduya. Karel Rachunek has never been known for being so good defensively, so he can't compare to White. Vitaly Vishnevski's specialty is being physical - not necessarily defensive, as he was generally on the third pairing in Nashville last season. Mike Mottau has had a great start, but the team can't rely on a player who's last appearance in the NHL was 4 games with Calgary back in the 2002-03 season for being a strong defenseman. Richard Matvichuk once was as defensive, but he's far too slow to be effective; hence, he's due to be traded from New Jersey.
Sheldon Brookbank? Forget it.
I'm not saying all the Devils defenseman are bad; just that they don't bring what Colin White brings to the table on the defensive side of things - especially in positional defense. So far, given that the Devils have given up an average of 28.4 shots per game and 16 goals, it has been clearly hurting the team. If the Devils are looking to improve in one area right away that could improve the team, it has to be a defensive defenseman. Not a physical defenseman or a two-way defenseman, but someone who can be a shutdown player against the opposition's talented forwards. Outside of White, I don't think there is any defenseman on the Devils who fits that role - someone will have to either step up or the Devils will have to make a deal to bring someone like that to the team.
Assuming White will return to hockey - I hope his vision returns at the very least - the Devils could certainly look to improve in that area should they consider a trade in the future (aside from Matvichuk, I really don't think the Devils will get someone who can step in right away to bolster the defense. If White's injury continues to keep him out of the line up - and I fear it might be - the Devils will have to get their current roster of defensemen to improve that regard. Even then, they may still have to get help at that position. White's skillset is valuable, and his loss really hurts the team.
Hence, my reasoning for saying that the Devils miss Colin White.
Labels: 2008 Season, Devils Issues, Media