Thursday, July 31, 2008
Second, it makes sense that Ramos brings up the Greztky quote from the early-to-mid 1980s and some other non-hockey related stories that happened years ago. He is a Rangers fan. Living in the past is what they do. It's their thing.
Third, and I'm being serious here, but if the Devils are really falling behind in the league and the Rangers are so much better off as Ramos postulates in the "NEW NHL" (it's been 3 season already, it ain't new anymore, Mr. Ramos); then I'd like to know where he's coming from. Otherwise, I assume it's from that one village that just so happens to be missing it's idiot. Again, let's look at the team's records. The last time the Rangers finished ahead of the Devils was in 1995-1996. Here are the Rangers' records at HockeyDB - the comparison is clear. Funny how that a team that's supposedly on the way down, with their terrible signings, their coaching changes, and their system is in "shambles," still finishes ahead of the "NEW NHL"-ready Rangers. Will you consider that the Rangers beat the Devils 7 times this past season and they still cannot finish ahead of the Devils? I think you should because that's hilarious.
Keep telling yourself that it makes sense, Mr. Ramos. We'll remind you should history and current trends repeat.
Monday, July 28, 2008
As a nice, if not old, related post - new-ish Devils blog Section 209 actually has a detailed write up of what the starting lineup will look like. Frank Pyzik's reasoning should be read. I do disagree with some of the decisions. While a Zubrus-Holik-Rupp line would be interesting (and big!), Zubrus is too skilled to be playing on the fourth line. Ultimately, I think we'll see him on the second line - with Langenbrunner dropping back to the third line and Clarkson on the fourth. Still, good call on putting Gionta on the off-wing. I wouldn't like to see Colin White and Bryce Salvador on the same pairing as they could have trouble with speedy forwards; but I do agree that the third pairing is a toss-up at this point. Still, good work.
Speaking of Gulitti, he reports that Jamie Langenbrunner will remain captain. Repeat after me, Devils fans: You don't need to be the best player on the team to be the leader. Yes, it would be a bad season for Langenbrunner if he, say, puts up just barely above 30 points. But it wouldn't be an indictment of his role as captain. Now, if he can't motivate the team and step up in the locker room, that would be a valid strike against his captaincy. I'm just getting that out there now before we hear the complaints in, say, January.
From Puck Daddy, we learn that Jay Bouwmeester did, in fact, sign with the Florida Panthers according to the Miami Herald. So scratch him off the list of future Devils unless that list title ends with "I wish they could magically get." (Aside: On my list of future Devils that I wish they could magically get? Two words: Jack Johnson. But it'll never happen.) Also from Puck Daddy, the Islanders will have a sweet third jersey this coming season according to NY Rivalry. Hopefully, New Jersey can finally stop having ridiculously difficult games against them this coming season.
Lastly, also thanks to Puck Daddy, check out this interview Wyshynski had with NHL 09 producer David Littman if you're into things like games, hockey, both, and fun in general. In the NCAA games, I really dig the "Be a Legend" future as it allows me to create a gigantic (7'0") power running back by the name of Bolt van der Huge and work to become a Scarlet Knight superstar. What Littman is aiming for definitely is appealing and I'd love to give it a shot. Is Blast Hardcheese a good hockey name?
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Fighting and Wins in 2007-2008
I also split the difference between all fights and "in-game" fights. I'm defining a fight to be in-game is if it took place within the normal course of a game. Some fights/scrums/etc. take place at the very end of the game when it's all pretty much decided. Fists are thrown out of frustration more than anything else and it ultimately has no affect on the game. So I decided to only really count those in any analysis. Fights at the beginning of the game or in the middle of it would change any momentum on the one place that matters - the scoreboard. At the end of the game, not so much.
Fourthly, I'm only looking at this past season. Before you comment or e-mail me that "How dare I ignore Cam Janssen," I want to point out that the Devils committed 16 more major penalties this past season than in 2006-2007. While not all major penalties are fighting majors, the Devils fought enough times this past season such that it is mathematically impossible for it to be fewer than 2 seasons ago - regardless of "Cammer The Hammer." So much for cries that the team last season lost its "toughness."
Lastly, I'm only counting wins here. Shootout and overtime losses yield points, yes, but they aren't wins. And wins are what's important here. Anyway, there's no need for fancy charts or graphs because the numbers are straight forward:
- Number of Devils fights: 45
- Number of games with a Devil fighting "in-game": 32 (34 including the end-game fights)
- Number of Devils fights "in-game": 42
- Number of fights that changed the course of the score: 13
- Devils record when they don't fight: 26-22 (Winning Percentage: 54.16667%)
- Devils record when they fight "in-game": 19-13 (Winning Percentage: 59.375%)
- Devils record when they fight but not "in-game": 1-1 (Winning Percentage: 50%)
- Devils record when the fight changed the course of the score: 6-7 (Winning Percentage: 46.1538%)
That said, it's not that drastic of a change in winning percentage for fans to demand a fight every game. Of these 42 "in-game" fights, only 13 of them led to a significant change in the game. The Devils ended up slightly under the 50% winning percentage mark, as only 6 of those changes ultimately led to Devils wins. Therefore, most of the Devils fights do not led to a change in the game and when they do, it's almost a coin flip as to whether it works out for New Jersey.
Going into this analysis, I was under the impression that A) the Devils didn't fight all that much and B) the fights don't lead to too many wins - too many of them take place after the game's over, the Devils would likely continue sleepwalking through games regardless of the fight, etc. Thought A was quickly proven wrong, a point further justified when you consider New Jersey was in the middle of the league for major penalties. Thought B was refuted by the Devils happenstance to win 19 games out of the 32 where there were fights during the game. Only 2 fights were at the end of games; and there were even a couple that had multiple fights (most per game this season was 3, achieved three times).
However, it doesn't seem that the Devils fighting lead to the Devils playing better and more productive hockey from this past season. They are mostly just fights that happen in the game. This makes sense, otherwise, we'd see teams all over the league bend over backwards to keep enforcers, tough guys, and goons along for long contracts. In short, I don't think the Devils - or its fans - should be looking for fights to play better hockey - it likely will not happen. Considering most of the fights are by one David Clarkson, a young talented winger, I still think it's best if he's on the ice on shifts that would take place when he's not in the box for 5 minutes.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Oduya May Be Due for a Wheelbarrow Next Year; Corrente VS. Many
Elsewhere: Brent Sutter did a good, long interview with Tom Gulitti, which is available at Fire & Ice. If you heard the FAN 960 show, this is a nice supplement. Holik's role is better explained, we learn that Larry Robinson stepped down of his own volition, he likes Matthew Corrente, and he doesn't prohibit fights in practice. Why did Gulitti ask that? Well, it's because the confident Fedor Federov and Harry Young went toe to toe with each other at the developmental camp today.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Robinson Down! Albelin Up! Fedor Confident! Sutter Speaks!
The most intriguing thing about this move is that it may expand Sutter's hand in coaching. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Albelin has not been an assistant coach at this level. It wouldn't be a the worst idea for Sutter to be more active with the defenders - assuming he isn't already - and to help Albelin out. Then again, it's entirely possible that Albelin may not need the help, or if he does, he could possibly get it from Robinson. One thing's for sure, there probably won't be a coach in the press box on a regular basis next season. Unless that's where they want Jacques Laperriere.
At this point, I'm now just grasping at straws here with respect to the coaching. Perhaps anything could happen.
Second, as reported by Gulitti and Rich Chere of the Star Ledger, Fedor Fedorov is confident on making the team. The quotes in Chere's article are interesting, to say the least. It's good to see someone with confidence; it can definitely make a difference between a good camp and a bad camp. But he seriously was signed to a one-way contract? I guess the organization is confident in Fedorov. After all, he's making $500k if he ends up in New Jersey or Massachusetts. Good luck to Mike Rupp, Rod Pelley (who's in camp without a contract), and Petr Vrana! You all now have more competition for a regular spot.
Second and half, Gulitti finds out why some of the prospects aren't available - specifically Mattias Tedenby and Mike Hoeffel.
Third, I found out from HF Boards that Sutter did a long interview with "Boomer" Dean Molberg on Calgary's FAN 960. You can listen to the whole thing on the FAN 960 website right here. He is quite specific that he wanted Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik's role on the team (it rhymes with "north mine").
Monday, July 21, 2008
Developmental Camp or Where's So and So?
Goaltender (1): Jeff Frazee (Devils' 2nd choice, 38th overall in 2005).
Defensemen (9): Brandon Burlon (2nd choice, 52nd overall in 2008); Matthew Corrente (1st choice, 30th overall in 2006); Matt Delahey (5th choice, 112th overall in 2008); Mark Fayne (5th choice, 155th overall in 2005); Mark Fraser (3rd choice, 84th overall in 2005); Corbin McPherson (3rd choice, 87th overall in 2007); Tyler Miller (5th choice, 107th overall in 2006); Anssi Salmela (free agent signed by Devils); Harry Young (8th choice, 202nd overall in 2008).
Left wing (3): Jean-Sebastien Berube (9th choice, 208th overall in 2008); Brad Snetsinger (free agent signed by Devils); Vili Sopanen (5th choice, 177 overall in 2007).
Center (7): Tyler Burton (free agent signed by Lowell); Patrice Cormier (3rd choice, 54th overall in 2008); Fedor Fedorov (free agent signed by Devils); Adam Henrique (4th choice, 82nd overall in 2008); Cory Nagy (6th choice, 142nd overall in 2008); Michael Swift (free agent signed by Devils); David Wohlberg (7th choice, 172nd overall in 2008).
Right wing (3): Matt Halishcuk (4th choice, 117th overall in 2007); Nick Palmieri (2nd choice, 79th overall in 2007); Nathan Perkovich (6th choice, 250th overall in 2004).
Gulitti is already looking into why Tyler Eckford isn't here. That's a good question. Other good questions to ask would be where is Petr Vrana, Nicklas Bergfors, Vladamir Zharkov, and Mattias Tedenby? It's not as if the camp is draft-year-restricted, nor is it restricted to mostly fringe prospects/free agent prospects. Matthew Corrente and Anssi Salmela are here and they are being discussed as possible NHL players already. No, really, it's in Colin Stephenson's column about the development camp in today's Star Ledger. We've heard about Corrente possibly in the mix, but good on Stephenson to highlight why Salmela may have a better chance. Unlike Corrente, Eckford, and Mark Fraser, Salmela has professional experience in Finland and was even named to play for his country in the World Championships. At worst, he could be like Jari Viuhkola, who didn't make the team despite his past experience and went back to Finland instead of languishing in the minors. But given that Salmela is young and wants to fight to get onto the team, I expect him to stick around for a little longer.
Also, Stephenson answers the question as to why Eckford isn't there, he's actually in school this summer. In general, these camps aren't just a way make a statement to the team, but to show the team that you're committed to be there. However, I don't think it'll hurt Eckford as he's advancing his education - he's not holding out for a contract or doing whatever.
Stephenson's column also contains even further possible evidence that Lou is looking to upgrade the defense. I say possible because the quote is exactly:
"We've added two players, in Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston, and certainly we're looking for a defenseman or two to come in and play -- or push somebody -- and then we'll see what happens from there."
Well that could mean a number of things. Maybe one (or two!) of Corrente, Eckford, Fraser, or Salmela earns a spot in camp and that would be the "upgrade." Maybe they'll trade someone for a defenseman. Maybe they'll sign someone with the little cap space they have. He's being vague here as to not play his hand. The only clear statement defense-wise is that Lou's not done yet. Even though he does note the team was pretty good last season. Too bad the camp is closed to the public, but at the same time, I can't imagine there being enough interest to justify opening it up. It's not like, say, the Giants playing at Albany University which draws about a couple hundred watchers. Regardless, best of luck to all the prospects at the developmental camp.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
The Defense As it Stands
Lamoriello said the decision to re-sign Salvador doesn't mean he won't look to upgrade the defense through free agency or via trade. “This does not mean anything we have is status quo," he said. "This does not in any way say that. This is a foundation as far as getting better.”
Therefore, I think it's important to note that if the Devils trade for a defensemen - at this point, I think they will make a trade because they don't have a lot of cap space to sign someone significant right now - it should be for someone who specializes in passing, puck movement, puck control, puck poise, and other traits associated with that sort of thing. I would not expect your traditional "#1" defenseman to lead the blueline. While it would be great for the defense, those players don't just grow on trees. Such talent commands a high price in a trade, and I don't think it'd be worth giving up, say, Zach Parise for a stud defensemen like Jay Bouwmeester. If only because it would further reduce an already low goal-producing team just to improve the defense. Also, with the signing of Salvador, I don't think the Devils need another stay-at-home defenseman.
That all said, it's worth pointing out that the Devils' defense last year wasn't all that bad. On paper, it was littered with questions. "Can Martin really lead the defense?" "Will Johnny Oduya stop falling down and be a top 4 defenseman?" "Who in the hell are Mike Mottau, Andy Greene, and Sheldon Brookbank and why are they getting so many minutes?" "How will Karel Rachunek and Vitaly Vishnevski fit into the team?" (Answer to the last one: Not particularly well.) Questions aside, they did a lot better as a unit than one would think. While the goals against total was so low thanks to the Best Goalie in the World, Martin Brodeur, the defense did help him out. Yes, the opposition was more accurate than New Jersey, but the defense did enough to limit them to an average of 27.5 shots per game. That's good for eighth lowest in the league, and an average of .2 fewer shots per game would have put the team in the top 5 in that category. As excellent as Marty is (as well as John Madden and Pandolfo), that stat is primarily a result of the play of the blueline - and it's a pretty impressive one, I think.
The coaching staff did a great job handling 8 (and eventually 9) defensemen and having the unit play much better than it would look on paper. Interestingly enough, I think the defense will be better in a way should most of the same players stay together. Just like with forwards, defensemen build chemistry with each other. With improved communication, knowing just what your partner will do in various situation, and knowing what to do while your partner is along the boards or in front of the net or elsewhere, the defense as a whole will be much better. As the season went on, the individual players started performing with more confidence and providing better performances. The best example of this is Johnny Oduya, who went from depth defenseman with an unfortunate knack of falling down, to playing 20+ solid minutes with Paul Martin. The role of chemistry is invaluable among defensemen, just as it is with forwards. Coming into this season, Mottau, Brookbank, and Greene would all have had a full season of hockey. They could be even better this season now that they know what to expect. The same can go for Martin - who has grown into the #1 role for New Jersey - and Oduya - who has grown into playing well on the top pairing. The chemistry among these players will only be further solidified, short of a bizarre pairing changes at a constant rate.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Third, from HF Boards, the Tennessean has a big report about potential Nashville Predators owner William Del Biaggio wanting to seize and move the franchise. Take some time to delve into the matter and among the many linked articles. (As an aside, this is some excellent journalism by the Tennessean.) This is fascinating and at the same time shocking. Yes, I'm not a Predators fan, but I sympathize with their fans all the same. It's a terrible feeling not knowing whether your favorite team will be around next season. Don't forget that it nearly happened to New Jersey, as they danger of moving to Nashville (of all places) after their first Stanley Cup in 1995. Thankfully, the Devils remain and hopefully the Predators will too. A good sign is that the local owners will look to replace Del Biaggio's $9.8 million stake.
Fourth, Ted Nolan has been fired by the New York Islanders according to Newsday. Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy thinks this is an excellent move for the struggling franchise. I'm not so sure. I can understand the general manager and the coach not seeing eye to eye is definitely not good for the team. I can fathom that a poor season after making the playoffs is definitely cause for concern. These, in conjunction, can be considered good reasons to fire someone. However, it puts a lot of pressure on the Islanders organization to find the right head coach to replace Nolan. Basically, the team is looking to build their franchise as Wyshynski rightfully points out, they need a coach who shares management's vision. Greg suggests Mr. John Tortorella. Not bad, but I wonder if he's the best option. Torts will definitely get people in line and he has experience turning around a team. But the Lightning are in a similar position (to a point) and Tortorella got dumped because the players seemingly stopped listening to him. Should Garth Snow hire Tortorella, will history repeat itself - what will they do to prevent the same situation again?
As a Devils fan, I wouldn't mind Mike Milbury getting back behind that bench. If only for the hilarity. (I'm sorry for bringing up his name, Islanders readers.)
Fifth, Scott Clemmensen is in the Devils organization again according to Gulitti of Fire & Ice. 2 Man Advantage is pumped about this development. I am officially indifferent. Also, Vrana is a Devil, Matt Halischuk can go to Lowell, and Rod Pelley is still not yet signed. I'm pretty sure Pelley was qualified, so I think it should be a matter of time.
Lastly, IPB has discovered Brian Gionta in their today's edition of the creatively-written Project Bicycle Spoke. They list a number of trade proposals they'd make with Gionta. Also, they hint with subtlety wanting Devils games to start at 7:30 PM next season.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Let's Look at the New Guy: Holik
Let's face facts. Holik is not going to be seeing any big minutes unless injuries happen and he needs to fill a role for a game or two. Holik is also not going to be a leader, he's not going to be the proverbial "straw that stirs the drink," and he's not likely going to be a difference maker. His production has declined, he isn't getting any younger at age 37 and will likely not learn some new skills to rejuvenate his career, there's no real need for him on special teams except to win crucial faceoffs, and his best role has always been as a checker. And that's perfectly OK with me. Because I envision Holik not to take any of those big roles. No, I expect him to give John Madden a rest.
Before you write angry notes and/or never read this site again, let me explain. I am very much pro-Madden. He is clearly the top checking forward on this team he's regarded among the best in the league in that role, evidenced by his Selke Trophy Finalist selection. He gets all the tough assignments against the best forwards on the opposing team on a regular basis. He also played more minutes than all the other forwards last season with an average ice time of 19:30. While the Devils have been successful defensively due to the blueline playing better than the sum of their parts (or how they are on paper, depending on which cliche you'd like to use), the unit of Pandolfo-Madden-X has been a big help as well. During his Selke analysis, you'll find Mirle's methodology rates Pandolfo and Madden highly in this regard. What does this have to do with Holik? Plenty.
At this point in his career and given the Devils' current status, Holik can fit the bill as a second defensive center. Even though he's not close to being the player he was for New Jersey, Holik is still regarded as a third line center. On the Devils, he won't even have to do that. Among the various changes among the line up, there wasn't a consistent fourth line (or a first and second line, but I digress). Rod Pelley is a defensive forward, but he's also a rookie - looking like, well, a rookie in some games. I don't think Pelley's bad, but he certainly didn't make enough a case to keep him as a regular. Holik can provide the experience in that role that Pelley can't just yet. Given that a big part of defense involves positioning, anticipation, and hockey sense, experience is invaluable.
So instead of Pelley, let's modify Wyshynski's thought, and consider Holik as the Devils' fourth line center. With that move, he can provide the Devils the base for a viable second checking line. In Holik you have his defensive skills and his proficiency on faceoffs helping keeping possession. As far as wingers go, David Clarkson didn't look out of place on defense when he played with Pandolfo and Madden. Clarkson can be a physical force, aggressive - even agitating - against opposition forwards, and can be an interesting fit in this possible checking line. For the other winger, this is more open. If the Devils want it to be a physical defensive line, Mike Rupp can bring the pain along with Holik (I know he's 37, but he's still 6'4" and 230 lbs. and had 147 hits for Atlanta last year) and Clarkson. If they want to favor youth on this checking line, they could try Pelley at wing to see how it goes or give the supposedly Sergei-Brylin-like Petr Vrana a shot. Pelley has a good upside as a checker, but I'm not sure how Vrana can handle it - so I'd favor Pelley going into camp. So as long as defense is the goal, it should work.
Just by considering Holik as a defensive center on the fourth line the Devils have accomplished two things. First, they don't need to rely completely on Pandolfo-Madden-X to be the one-stop shop for line matching. Pandolfo and Madden won't have to have to take so many shifts to help the Devils not concede goals. This will leave them more rested for their shifts, which always good. Second, should the unit play well enough, oppositions are going to have hard time setting up their lines. In the past, they could move their best forwards around so they are on the ice when Madden is getting tired or isn't there. They could hit the Devils with their secondary (or tertiary!) scoring lines when the Devils won't have their third line out there. With a secondary checking line, the opposition can't just wait out the Madden line and hope for weaker opposition.
So Holik was a poor leader for Atlanta, so he wasn't good at scoring for the team, and so he wasn't particularly into all the games he played. So what? The fourth line was never much of a scoring line in the history of this franchise, so I don't think anyone reasonable will is expecting 40-50 points from Holik. No one will ask Holik to become a leader for the team, with established veterans already filling those needs (e.g. Madden, Elias, Langenbrunner, White, etc.). Holik won't have to play big minutes on a fourth line and he won't be needed on a penalty killing unit already well filled with forwards who have been doing a good job at it. If he's dogging it, Sutter will almost definitely not put up with it. These criticisms may even not be applicable for the role I'm thinking Holik should be in for New Jersey. He just needs to win faceoffs, play good positioning hockey for 8-12 minutes, frustrate the opposition's forwards a bit, and that in of itself will provide an extra dimension of defense for the team. That's always good for the team.
The worst-case-scenario out of all this is that: Holik totally sucks. He comes into camp out of shape, he doesn't have his heart in the season, and he gets dumped (bought out, down to Lowell, etc.). A loss of $2.5 million isn't good, but it is only for this season. After which, the Devils will probably look long term as to what they want to do with the fourth line. That all said, with the Holik signing, the fourth line doesn't have to be a low-minute line just there to provide some hits. It can provide some good use and I'd like to think the signing of Holik shows that the Devils organization may be thinking the same way.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Let's Look at the New Guy: Rolston
And he's been great while he was there - picking up 96 goals in the last three seasons there, while remaining as a solid, all-around forward. What's more is that given his weaknesses - struggling in the middle of the season, not being a playmaker - playing on the wing would be best to offset those. The center generally is a focal point of the offense and say what you will about Elias, but he's got the vision and the passing (most of the time) necessary to make plays consistently at center. Rolston won't have to worry about that.
From considering all this, I think it would be best for the Devils to begin with Elias remaining at center and Rolston providing some finish on the right side. We know what Elias can do in the middle and Rolston's past success has came at wing. Given his deficiencies as well, I think that the Devils would be better off now penciling him on the right side of Elias. With Parise on his left, we could see a pretty good first line for the Devils - two finishers and a playmaker who can finish if he could shoot better (and luckier). As always, I could be proven completely wrong - so take all this with some salt.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Happy Fourth of July, Everyone
Labels: Personal/Site News
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Who Will Pack Their Bags?
#1. Brian Gionta
#2. Travis Zajac
#3. Vitaly Vishnevski
WHY HE MAY GO: Vishnevski's big asset to the club last season was that he's a physical defenseman. He can hit, he can hit hard, and that he works on the third pairing. Now that Brookbank and Mottau are returning and with Andy Greene still there, there's going to be an awful lot of people for two slots. What really hurts Vishnevski is that Bryce Salvador has been re-signed. While he's not a hit machine like Vishnevski, Salvador can be just as physical, only he's much better defensively. While Salvador won't likely get third-pairing minutes, the Devils can afford to rotate Brookbank, Mottau, and Greene on the third-pairing without sacrificing much physical play. Considering that Mottau and Greene got a lot of minutes last season, they will likely be the favorites for those spots. Like Asham on the fourth line, Vishnevski could likely be the odd man out. Even more so if Matthew Corrente and/or Tyler Eckford impresses in September.
WHY HE MAY NOT GO: Vishnevski can easily be the "constant" on the third pairing and if Sutter chooses to, have a real physical defense. If Martin-Oduya is split up, there could be a strong hitter on each pairing. The Devils would literally be tougher to play against on defense. Other than that, I don't know what I can say. Greene and Mottau have proven themselves (to a point) with the time he's got on the ice, and Brookbank has shown to be as good as Vishnevski for much less money. Actually....
#4 and 5. Andy Greene/Mike Mottau (the two are interchangeable in this regard)
WHY HE/THEY MAY GO: They've each played at least 19 minutes last season and didn't look terrible at it. Oh, there's been some nights where you wonder what they're doing on the ice. Don't get me wrong. But they have shown that they can handle it, they just need more experience at it. Furthermore, they are cheap. Mottau is only making $762,000 and Greene is earning a mere $600,000. Should the Devils make a package deal with Gionta, either defenseman can be thrown in to help sweeten the deal while not making it prohibitively expensive for the other team's cap. Greene may be more likely in this scenario as he has the advantage of time on his side - Greene will turn 26 this season, whereas Mottau will become 31 by season's end.
WHY HE/THEY MAY NOT GO: They've earned their spots on the line-up. Greene has averaged 19:30 in the 59 games he played, and Mottau finished the season second on the team in average time on the ice (20:03) with the most games out of all the defensemen (76). While they certainly didn't "wow" anybody, they were steady enough and a second season in this set up could see them as even better defensively. They're more familiar with what they'll have to do, what they'll have to improve, and how they will be coached. Also, should the Devils want to take on more salary in making any deals, they can provide good-enough defending for a low cost this season. Their relative bargains can go either way as a reason to keep them or to move them.
HUGE I CAN BE QUITE DAFT AS A TEAM SIGNING COMMODORE FOR $3.75 MILLION/YEAR EDIT: I completely forgot that Aaron Asham was a UFA and was not re-signed by New Jersey. I swore I looked at the Devils player numbers at NHLSCAP enough, but I completely missed it. Anyway, he's gone and, well, that makes it a little easier on the forward logjam. But there's still too many players on the roster, I still think a trade will happen at some point this offseason. Thanks to anonymous (who is legion and divided by zero and blah blah blah) and arbund972 for catching this in the comments (comment at ILWT and correct me - today!).
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
The New Old Devils
Contract issues aside, just as I said I like the signing for Tampa Bay yesterday, I quite like this signing for New Jersey. Rolston is a productive player, he's got a great shot (especially his slap shot), and he knows how to play both ways. He can line up at any forward position, but considering the Devils' issues at center last season, I think he'll start there. Though for the power play, he needs to be up at the point. Short of Rolston getting injured or failing dramatically, I think he'll help out the Devils on offense, on special teams, and for the team as a whole in the short term. He wants to be here, he chose New Jersey over 16 other teams, and he's proven himself. Maybe not so much at 39, but let's worry about that in 4 years. For now, it's a solid pick-up. Good job, Lou.
Bizarrely, the Devils have signed another ex-Devil: Bobby Holik for one year and $2.5 million according to Sportsnet. I think that's too much, but it is only for one year. Holik has certainly slid in terms of overall performance since leaving New Jersey. Short of a revival of epic proportions, I think it's safe to say that Bobby Holik would be on the fourth line as long as he comes into camp in good shape and performs decently. Sucks for Rod Pelley and Petr Vrana, but on the brightside, we could see Crash Line Version 2.0 if Mike Rupp and David Clarkson are his linemates. Actually, if Rupp plays like he did in the last 20 games of last season and Clarkson keeps being himself, that wouldn't be such a bad idea. A second checking line would take the heat off of John Madden and the retained Jay Pandolfo. If Holik doesn't work out, the cap hit only hurts in the short term and Pelley, Vrana, or someone else can take that spot in short order. This one was more surprising, but it could work out well. But like I said, I wouldn't expect a whole lot.
Keeping Jay Pandolfo here for $2.5 million/year for 3 years will be enough to keep two of the top checkers in the league together, raising hell against the opponent's top lines for a few more years. According to the TSN article about this, the decision came down between Pandolfo and Brylin. While both won't become Goal Scoring Machines™, Pandolfo's defensive skills keep him valuable. Brylin, not so much. Ultimately, I think it was the right decision. I don't mind the retainment of Bryce Salvador. He's a defensive defenseman with experience who can be pretty physical. The only other defenseman on the team who fits that role is Colin White and having another player like that doesn't hurt on the blueline. Salvador makes sense. However, given his past injuries and that he'll provide a minimal amount of offense, I don't think contract makes as much sense. I'm a bit confused as to how he was able to get $2.9 million/year for 4 years, as Gulitti reported. Then again, I just saw on the TSN website that Mike Commodore is getting a 5 year deal at $3.75 million/year from Columbus. Yes, that Mike Commodore. No, I'm not making that up. Could the market for defensemen be any more overpriced? Back to Salvador, I'll take solace that there's no "No Movement Clause" involved.
Final thoughts so far? First, the Devils probably won't make any more big free agent signings. While they still have some cap space left (I'm guessing around $3-4 million? Correct me if I'm wrong), they aren't going to get Marian Hossa. Second, expect some trades this summer - at least a few people on this team won't be here by October.