Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Signings Here and Across the League

What a game last night. Here I was, in front of the TV, ready to congratulate the Detroit Red Wings for overpowering the Pittsburgh Penguins with relentless offense and a tight defense and the Penguins get a late equalizer in the third. Ex-Devil Petr Sykora, who apparently was playing hurt according to Pierre McGuire (that's...new), called out that he would get the game winner. Amazingly enough, Sykora did just that in triple overtime (Note: the call out is referenced in the second half of the video) to keep the series alive for the Penguins. Playoff hockey is so great, especially the Finals. Even if New Jersey isn't in it, you really should be watching it if only to enjoy some fantastic, passionate hockey.

In the meantime, the Devils have been doing some things. First, from Tom Gulitti, the Devils signed Anssi Salmela from Tappara Tampere of the SM Liiga. Don't confuse this with another Jari Viuhkola signing. While Salmela was featured on the 2008 Finnish WC team, averaged 15:14 minutes - 4th among defensemen on the team, and while he got no points he established himself with 37 penalty minutes. Most of which gained when he fought Dave Backes. With Tappara, he led the SM Liiga with in goals for defensemen with 16. He's only 23 so he can continue to develop. My point? The guy has done well in Finland in such a short amount of time and he's clearly got some talent.

While I'd expect him to take some time to get used to the smaller rink and the North American style of hockey, I'm expecting him to make some noise in training camp. That third pairing is wide open at this point, from where I see it. Colin White, Paul Martin, and Johnny Oduya are all set; and if Bryce Salvador is signed, I expect him in that #4 spot. That third pairing will be a fight between Mike Mottau, Sheldon Brookbank, Mark Fraser, Matthew Corrente, and now Salmela. Of course, whoever else the Devils decide to sign on defense could change this in a blink of an eye.

Who won't be fighting for a spot? Most likely Kirill Tulupov. According to Gulitti, the Devils did not offer Tulupov a contract out of junior and so he will re-enter the NHL draft. I have some mixed feelings about this, but ultimately this may not be substantial. While I really liked what I've read about Tulupov from Hockey's Future and I said I'd be surprised if he didn't get an offer, there's something to be said about the fact that he wasn't even offered a contract. I haven't seen Tulupov play, I base my knowledge of him on heresay. The Devils organization has scouted him before drafting him, bringing him into training camp, and continued scouting and evaluating him while in juniors. If any organization who has done all this evaluation and comes to the conclusion that a prospect can't help them out in a few years, were they really a good prospect to begin with? I don't know. In any case, I'm sure someone will draft Tulupov and, for his sake, I hope he does well with another team. But unless he becomes a solid NHL defenseman, I don't think this will come back to bite the Devils. Championships aren't won by just signing any prospect that looked good in juniors or college.

In the meantime, the Devils are waiting on Brylin to exercise his option and they are waiting to qualify David Clarkson (both links: Gulitti). I'm sure the Devils will qualify Clarkson, he had a solid rookie year as a checker/agitator/energy forward. As far as Brylin goes, who knows at this point. If he wants to come back, fine; but he's been a diminishing talent over the past season. I wouldn't expect him to make a huge comeback next season.

If you want an outside opinion on what the Devils need to do this offseason, Scott Cullen of TSN.ca has an article on what they need. There's not much to disagree with him on it. Anyone who has seen this past season could tell you the same: they need a more consistent, potent, and talented offense and a leader on the blueline. While signing a big name defenseman should answer the latter concern, the offense needs more than just free agents. I think a sea change is needed as to how the Devils approach the offense. This means more offensively focused practices, improved shooting (see the shooting analysis as to why), and maybe even some fresh ideas behind the bench.

So what's going on in the world of hockey outside of New Jersey? Coaching changes! John Tortorella has been fired from the Tampa Bay Lightning according to TSN. The vocal and fiery head coach will always be remembered in Tampa for being the man behind the bench for their 2004 Stanley Cup win. However, he clearly wasn't getting through this past season and the team is looking to change anyway - as evidenced from the Brad Richards trade. The Fanhouse has an opinion on this matter. In the meantime, also from TSN, Ron Wilson has been formally offered the Toronto Maple Leafs coaching job. The Leafs are an organization that seemingly needs to be cleaned out completely and start building all over again. Bringing (ending?) chaos to eventually bring some order, if you will. Would Wilson be the guy able to do all that? Who knows, but one thing for sure, it'll be entertaining if he can't. Well, unless you're a Toronto fan - but we don't really care about them, now do we. (I had my tounge in my cheek when I typed this. Just assume I still have it there for that last sentence.)

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Game 5 was fantastic!! Unbelievable come back by Pitt. Wouldn't it be something if Detroit being 1 minute from the Cup ends up losing? By any account, Pitt should have lost that game. Detroit dominated the 1st overtime period while the Pitt goaltender played out of his mind. In the end, the old guys on Det. wore out against the younger team.
Two defensemen you forgot to mention who are under contract for next year for a combined total of 2.4 million are Vishnevski and Greene. Although, the Cullen article from TSN does mention Vishnevski as possible trade bait, which might not be a bad idea. Also from the Cullen article, Rolston would be an interesting signing. A Pandolfo-Madden-Rolston line sounds good, but the ages would also be 33-35-35 against those kids in Pittsburgh, so that could be trouble. Keep up the good work.
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