Sunday, April 27, 2008


2007-2008 Season in Review

With the New Jersey Devils' season already over, now is as good as time as any to look back on what just happened in the past season. For those who need a refresher, this is how the Devils ended the season when looking at a long list of numbers and stats (all numbers from
The one that stings is the playoffs: losing to Our Hated Rivals, the New York Rangers in the first round. Ultimately, despite the effort, the fact the Devils lost two important players - Brian Rafalski and Scott Gomez, learning a new system of hockey under new head coach Brent Sutter, and going into a brand new home arena in Newark, New Jersey, hockey is still results oriented business. And the Devils did not win the Stanley Cup, they didn't even make beat their rivals with home ice in Round 1. Needless to say, this leaves a horrible taste in the proverbial mouth of the fans such as myself.

That said, one cannot call this season an abject failure - just an inconsistent season. Inconsistency was the theme in October, when the Devils were on the road for much of the month and their effort wasn't even close to 60 minutes on most nights. Inconsistency continued into November, yet the team righted themselves upon the return of Jamie Langenbrunner and Colin White from injury. The Devils then started to rise to the top of the NHL in the next few months. December was very positive for the Devils with a strong record and a return to the top of the Atlantic Division. The poor play returned by the end of January, but ultimately one could see it as a good month as well as a not-so-good month. Though, the honest term to describe it would be - you guessed it - inconsistent. February was another turnaround and the Devils did so well that they re-took the division lead and became leaders in the conference for the first time since 2001. However, March was very disappointing with the Devils crashing out of the division lead, with the "highlight" of a 5 game losing streak. In April, the Devils secured home ice and the fourth seed, which is pretty good for most of the teams in the league. But it meant little as the Devils got out-worked and ultimately fell to the Rangers in Round 1.

All throughout the season, the Devils had trouble scoring at times, trouble playing defense at times, and the only real constant was that Martin Brodeur was the most solid player. And he had to be for most of those 77 games. The team switched to a more physical, dump-and-chase approach to offense; with the Devils implementing a forechecker more often than we saw last season. Given that the Devils finished middle in the pack on shots per game and near the bottom in goals per game, this new system has clearly not helped the Devils finish. Last season, the big concerns were physical play and scoring. Clearly, the biggest concern for the Devils now is scoring. Sure, some nights they can put up a bunch of goals but while you're excited over the result you can't help but think why they can't finish or set up plays on other nights. Zach Parise putting up 32 goals is great; John Madden putting up a career high in goals and points is great; but many others on the team really could have produced more. Even then, Parise and Madden weren't necessarily consistent in their own production. The offense was inconsistent.

While the defense looked poor to start, ultimately the Devils exercised some fairly strong team defense. They got exposed by the end of the season and in the playoffs; yet the crew of White, Martin, Oduya (second NHL season), Rachunek, Vishnevski, Salvador, Mottau (first full NHL season), Brookbank (first full NHL season), and Greene (first full NHL season) were better than the sum of their parts. On most nights, at least. Fortunately, Brodeur remained behind them to help them out in case they get burned - which also occurred on those other nights. Regardless, the word to describe the blueline group of eight-turned-nine is inconsistent.

I guess the bottom line remains: as Martin Brodeur goes, so do the Devils. The goaltender is up for another Vezina trophy, which should clue you in as to how well he did this season. A 2.17 goals against average, a 92% save percentage, 4 shutouts, and a record of 44-27-6. He picked up his 500th career win and is well on his way to becoming the NHL leader in wins. I'm sure the Devils themselves would say he was the most valuable player this season. And in a season that can be best described as inconsistent, the most consistent player would clearly be the most valuable. The only one who could come close to being consistent would be John Madden who did score the most goals since 2000-01 (20) and set a career high in points (43) while being the Devils' top face-off man and shutdown center. Perhaps he'll win the Selke; but again: as Brodeur goes, so do the Devils.

Therefore the Devil of the Season is Martin Brodeur. Unfortunately, despite the record and the success earned in the regular season, the team only proved to be a minor threat in the playoffs. Why? Well, I happen to think it sums up the mostly-good-but-not-quite-good-enough season perfectly:

The 2007-2008 Season: Inconsistency - The Consistent Issue

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Madden had 23 goals in 00-01, but this was in fact his best year in terms of poits with 43.
Good catch, Anonymous. You guys really are legion. I've made the corrections. Thanks.
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