Sunday, August 31, 2008


Keep Planting Seeds

One the consistent features going throughout the summer is Greg Wyshynski's 5 Ways I'd Change the NHL at Puck Daddy (link goes to Greg's list). It's been a big hit throughout the world of hockey blogging. Some, like Greg's list, gave some offbeat ideas. Others have called for a change to the past. (ASIDE: Seriously, the division names? How do division names teach history; especially when the Lester Patrick, Jack Adams, James Norris, and Conn Smythe trophies are handed out regularly? But I guess a "tradition" since 1974 and ended in 1994 is more important?) And some have been particularly controversial - resulting in a passionate response by a team owner, no less. It's been a consistently interesting to see what the various people in and out of the hockey world think the NHL needs to do. Whether or not NHL will (or should) do them is another matter.

However, I don't so much want to offer any changes to the NHL as much as I want to state the obvious. Above all what the league and each franchise must do is to never stop looking to expand the scope of the game. And what better way to illustrate that than a famous passage from the Gospel of Matthew: the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9)

Cautionary Note: I understand that some/many of you would rather I not mention anything resembling religion. Don't worry, I'm not planning to make it a feature of the blog nor am I asking you to believe in any particular religion nor am I planning to transform In Lou We Trust into the Lou-theran (Note within a Note: If you want to start a Christian Devils blog, feel free to take that name!) . I'm just using this passage from the Bible to make a point. All I ask is that you bear with me:
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear."
As I read this, there are two major points in here. The first point is that the seed isn't growing everywhere. Some seeds grow but they don't last as they did not develop roots. Some seeds grow but their growth was cut off by outside factors (thorns). Some don't even grow at all - the birds eat them up before they get a chance. But the seed that has landed, developed roots, and did not have anything else to stunt its growth grew to form crops.

This can be applied to hockey's fanbase (or the fanbase of a lot of other things - other leagues, genres of music/art/books/movies, etc.). Before you write "See! That must mean we must relocate/contract team X!" I'm specifically referring to the fanbase itself. Besides, the worst draw last season was the Islanders at an average of 15,643 people over all 82 games. No one's calling for them to be moved or killed off. Anyway, I'm specifically talking about the root of the fanbase itself - the fan. Basically, when it comes to our hockey fandom, we all start as seeds. The growth process begins when we have our first point of contact with hockey - like seeing a game for the first time (on TV or live), or the first time we hear about hockey (word of mouth, ads, news articles, the Internet, etc.).

However, not everything goes to plan. Maybe we don't like hockey. Maybe we're into other things and can't/won't like hockey as much. Maybe the team has a short existence and goes away. That's similar to the bird eating the seed - not even letting the chance to grow. Then there are the fans that don't develop the roots. The bandwagon fans. The fans that only like hockey for a little bit, but then later realize they don't like it as much as they once did. The ones who are only in it for the fighting. The fans whose team gets contracted/relocated such that the franchise doesn't develop that root - those fans no longer being fans afterward. As time goes on, they won't remain. The fans that would grow to be die-hard, hockey-forever fans but get stunted by outside factors would be like the seeds among the thorns. The analogue would be a team that has been abjectly bad and mismanaged to the point where the fan just says "forget this noise" and leaves. Or the team that literally can't run anymore as is and has to move or fold to stay in business undercuts their fanbase. Or the fan finds his or her self having to make serious choices about their life and, unfortunately, hockey can't be a big part of their lives anymore. Or the other fans - the ones who are already grown - aren't accepting of newer fans and expect them to assimilate into their view of what hockey/the team should be or essentially alienate them.

The seed that fully grows would be your full-on, die-hard hockey fan - those who go out and buy season tickets/packs of tickets, those who are always finding ways to follow their team, those spend lots of their time talking, discussing, arguing, writing and thinking about the team, and so on and so forth. All of these kinds of fans are different (hence, the different yielding of crops, the implication of different plants, etc.), but the common point is that they are serious in their fandom. However, as much as we all like to talk about how the league has to cater to the die-hards; it would behoove us all to remember that we were all casual and new fans to the game of hockey at one point. No one is born a hockey fan. We are all seeds at one point - and it takes time for seeds to grow. No one goes from a baby right to an adult in the blink of an eye (though I'm sure some parents may feel that way sometime); plants don't immediately grow from buds to full-on germination; and we do not become significant fans right away.

And that leads me to the second major point. Just because nothing seems to be growing or the fanbase is not growing as fast as we'd like it to be or the fanbase is not as large as we'd like to be doesn't mean we stop planting seeds. The farmer doesn't get discouraged when the birds eat his seeds. He doesn't weep over shallow soil. He doesn't get give up because there are thorns in the way of the plants. And he doesn't just expect the seeds to grow over time. He accepts that these things could happen. He accepts that time is necessary and he keeps planting seeds.

This is the major point that every team in every league in the world of hockey should understand. This notion that hockey can't grow everywhere is stupid - even stupider when you consider that we think hockey is a great game. My fellow Devils fans, do we not consider our favorite team to be worth following? Why should we keep this knowledge, these feelings to ourselves? And if we want the Devils to change and actually market themselves more aggressively, why should we expect changes overnight?

To the teams in the South, to the teams that are struggling in attendance like the Devils and the Islanders, to the teams who are already drawing sell-out crowds, to the teams that have big, marketable super-stars, to the leagues outside of the NHL who have to deal with their players going abroad, to the leagues who have to deal with the reality that hockey isn't the country's top sport, and to the leagues in places many wouldn't expect, I say this. Don't ever stop trying to expand the game. With patience and a continued effort, the game will grow. The league will grow. And the team and its fanbase will also grow. The whole point of marketing a team, I think, is essentially to keep planting the seeds. To keep getting the team/league/sport out there and see who will become a fan out of it all. Considering this, the thought process of only throwing seeds at already grown crops or to not throw many seeds out there or to deride all growing plants only serves to be net negative in the long run.

Will everyone be a hockey fan? No. Will everyone in New Jersey be a Devils fan? No. But should that stop the NHL from increasing their exposure or for the Devils to promote themselves? No.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008



I was reading Puck Daddy tonight and among the many things Greg Wyshynski has typed words about was this interesting ranking of fan bases by Derek Felska at The State of Hockey. (Minnesota) I nearly expected this, but he rates the Devils fanbase rather poorly. Dead last, to be precise. What's particularly interesting about this is that one of the three metrics include fan activity on the Internet about their favorite team. As expect, Felska does not rate the Devils highly in this regard - sorry NJ Devs, Devils Rule, HF Devils, and the blogs (see the side for those).

While Greg at Puck Daddy hit upon many of the other additional issues that Felska may or may not be aware of, I think the root cause of the Devils' woes is that not a lot of people in New Jersey know about them. If you're into hockey, then, sure. You know the score. You're a hockey fan. You know these things. You may even be a fan. But if you don't know hockey, you may think the Devils refer to something other has a hockey team. Bizarrely, I've known people of all ages who have been living in New Jersey their entire lives and they don't know who the Devils are. They don't know about any of the three Stanley Cups. They think Scott Stevens is a guy you know from another town and they don't know what Marty is so great at, much less who he's better than. You may say, "Lou made another awesome move today," and you may be greeted with a response of "Who?"

Basically, it's a problem (and a bit of a shame) that the Devils don't get their name out there more. I don't think being a fan of a team should be like a club where you know how great it is to be a Devils fan but at the expense of others not knowing. Ideally, I'd like everyone to know about the Devils. That itself isn't possible; but I have a couple of ideas in my head - some approaches on how the team could raise their profile. I'm certain a lot of them have issues of their own, but it's at least worth discussing. The whole point of all this isn't so much to raise the team's ranking on Felska's list. But it's a catalyst of sorts. The Devils should not be the best kept secret in sports in New Jersey and the tri-state/metropolitan area. The Devils should not have to take a back seat to the Rangers in the North Jersey and the Flyers in South Jersey. And the only way that will happen is for the franchise to get out there and introduce themselves.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


HF Has a New List

It's almost time for the Devils Hockey and what further reminder could there be than a new list from Jared Ramsden of Hockey's Future. Yes, he ranks the top 20 prospects in the Devils' system, gives his rationale for where they are, and discusses their potential.

Now, I fully understand and agree with Nicklas Bergfors' and Mattias Tendenby's spots in the rankings - they do have more of an upside than Matthew Corrente as top 6 forwards - the real cause for discussion would be beyond the top 4 prospects. I don't think people doubt that Bergfors, Tendenby, Corrente, and Petr Vrana are at the top; but there are some movements I never would have guessed. Like Tyler Eckford being ranked behind T.J. Miller, Mark Fraser, and the recently drafted Brandon Burlon. Given that Eckford has been mentioned by name by Lou, he's probably ranked higher within the organization. Another example would be the assessment of Alexander Vasyunov's skill. Yes, he has plenty of it, but it really doesn't mean a whole lot if he's not going to be coming to New Jersey in the near future. Ditto Vladamir Zharkov. Also, why was Anssi Salmela on the list to begin with? I understand he's within age (23), but he's already "there" to a point, what with him coming straight from the Finnish league and the Finnish World Championships squad.

That all said, Ramsden has clear and very insightful write ups on each player, so you get an idea as to what he thinks their projection is. Unfortunately, should Ramsden's projections hold true, the Devils seem to have a lot of third-line forwards and depth defensmen in the system. Perhaps that's why Ramsden is still high on Vasyunov. It makes the Tendenby pick much more necessary, what with him being a skilled forward with the capacity for ludicrious speed. Based on how I see it so far, I can see a number of these guys getting at least a game with the team in limited capacity. Namely, Bergfors, Vrana, Corrente, Eckford, and Halischuk.

The real question we're all thinking with respect to these prospects- one that will be answered in training camp - is whether any one of them will make the team in October. Corrente is the popular and most likely choice; but with 7 other defensemen on the roster, even he may not be able to break through right away. That's the blessing and curse with prospects. You like their upside and you want them to play (and play well!) in the pros, but you know that some extra developmental time in a lower league wouldn't be the worst thing - at the same time, wondering how much more time will it take before they break through. And that's assuming they can do that.

One thing's for sure, I expect the Devils to pick up a prospect goaltender sometime in the next 2 seasons. Hopefully, he will go along much better than Jean-Francois Damphousse, Ari Ahonen, and Jeff Frazee - he may be right in line to replace one the best of all time. Hopefully, the Devils will pick the right one instead of just one.

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Monday, August 25, 2008


The New Button

There's a brand new, red-bordered button that will be next to the comment link on each post. Yes, you too, can "hype it up." It being the post and where it will be hyped is here: Ballhype. I've noticed this on a number of sports blogs over the last year or so, and now is the time for a small Devils blogger to look askance at the big crowd, say "me too," and jump on in.

In any case, while there isn't much to report, I will say that I got a Ticketmaster update for the first Devils-Rangers contest of the year. OK, it's at Madison Square Garden. OK, it's actually just a preseason game. But it - along with the glorious return of college football (a.k.a. college foobaw) a sign that hockey will soon be upon us. It's only a few more weeks until training camp, everyone.

Tom Gulitti has an update with respect to Vitaly Vishnevski's future - and it's in Russia. Best of luck to Vishnevski. I personally thought he would definitely get a spot on a team in the league; but he wants to be in Russia so he that's where he should go. Interesting that the Devils won't buy out his contract; perhaps they don't need to because he's waived and is already off the cap? I do not know. Still, it was an amicable split and I sincerely hope Vishnevski brings the pain in the newly founded KHL.

The waiving of Vitaly Vishnevski has hit the Devlogosphere (I'm working on the name - and I didn't want to go with the George Clinton inspired Devilsblogginthefunkoutthisweb) hard. Jersey at Imperfect Dynasty uses a bad pun in summarizing the Vishnevski saga. Frank Pyzik at Section 209 is back from vacation and thinks the Capitals could use a guy like Vishnevski. Maybe so, but we won't find out this coming season. Hasan Numbers at Battle of NY takes a look of the current Devils' defense without Vishnevski. He's figuring Matthe Corrente is the next man in line, and he may be right come the end of September. Richard Adranga at Hell on Ice never really rated Vishnevski and thinks there may be more moves to come. With 8 possible defensemen on the roster on opening night, I could see another move being made. 2 Man Advantage just says goodbye to the Russian hit machine. Just to nitpick, Vishnevski wasn't a scratch that often, as he played the fourth most amount of games for the team; but he wasn't a great defenseman by any means.

Fortunately for all of us, we can re-live and re-create the Vishnevski style of play in the upcoming NHL 09. With their new "Be a Pro" trailer (source: Kotaku), you too can be the physical defenseman of your dreams. Or - as seen in the trailer - you can be like Sean Avery; though you can accomplish that by being a gigantic d-bag this side of the Jersey shore. Me? I'm not sure what style I want, but I'm more confident that his name has to be Manic Lehoux.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008


Those Other Teams Pt. 5: Carolina & Ottawa

Today, and as a conclusion of this segment and discussion of Devils Rivals Who Aren’t the Rangers , let’s consider who I feel are two teams that have the potential to become rivals in some regard, but aren’t quite there yet.

The first are the Carolina Hurricanes. You may know them as the Team formerly known as the Hartford Whalers. Specifically as the team that Lou traded “The Little Ball of Hate” Pat Verbeek after a sub-par 26 goal, 47-point season – the season before that he set the team record in goal scoring with 46. Verbeek wanted more money, Lou said no, and he was traded for Sylvain Turgeon. While Turgeon wasn’t really an adequate replacement (30 goals, but only 17 assists) and Verbeek prospered in Hartford, he was eventually traded to Montreal for Claude Lemieux. I don’t think I need to explain what Claude Lemieux did for the Devils.

Anyway, the Whalers couldn’t stay in Hartford and eventually moved down to the Carolinas in 1997. The Hurricanes have been inconsistent in their 10 years, only making the playoffs four times and only consecutively twice. However, in those four times, they encountered the Devils three times. The first was in 2000-2001, as the Devils steamrolled them – and Stevens steamrolled Shane Willis - in 5 games. Good times! Except for the Domi hit and the Devils not repeating as Stanley Cup champions, but there we are.

But the other two times have been infuriating. The Carolina Hurricanes soundly beat an admittedly disappointing Devils squad in the next season in 2001-2002. The Devils finished 6th in the East, Elias was snake-bit all year long (and at center), and the big bright spot that I can remember was Jamie Langenbrunner breaking out for the squad. The Canes weren’t that impressive, but they got hot in net in the first round. Kevin Weekes and Arturs Irbe (Yes! Irbe! And he's someone's favorite player of all time! Seriously!) started to became the hottest tandem in the league and the Devils were just frustrated to no end. Not only did the Devils lose, but it was a stepping stone for Carolina. They rode the hot goalies all the way to Stanley Cup Finals – only to be decisively beaten by Detroit in 5 games.

And if that wasn’t enough, nearly the same thing happened in 2005-2006. The Devils won their division with an amazing winning streak, and the Hurricanes had an amazing regular season. The Devils gloriously swept the Rangers and the Hurricanes got past Montreal in 6 games. The two met in the second round and history started to repeat in some form. Cam Ward got hot, the Canes collectively raised their game, and the Devils couldn’t figure him or Carolina’s amazingly on-point collapsing defenders. Another playoff loss to Carolina and it was another stepping stone to a Hurricane Cup Run. This time, the Canes earned their prize in an entertaining 7 game series over Edmonton. Incidentally, both teams have yet to make the playoffs since then.

But beyond those two playoff losses, I can’t think of much else to hold against Carolina. Revenge in the playoffs would be nice though. Now that we’ve had that, let’s look at another team where the Devils are less than .500 against in the playoffs – the Ottawa Senators.

First, there was 1997-1998. A great Devils season where they won the division, only let up a mind-bogglingly low 166 goals all season (Martin Brodeur was just as amazing then as he is now), and many thought they could make some serious noise in the playoffs. Consider it revenge for going out in the second round early to Our Hated Rivals in 1997. But the Senators had other ideas and shocked the Devils. In 6 games, the Devils struggled mightily and while they scraped out some wins, they could play consistently enough against the Senators. The Devils would end a great regular season with a disappointing first round exit (and it’d happen again in 1999 against Pittsburgh, but that was 7 games).

While the Senators got bounced by the Washington Capitals in the second round, it was a starting point for the franchise. The team started winning the division and making the playoffs regularly – with the expectation of going deep. Instead, the team got bounced in the first round three straight times before going all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2003 to be beaten by the Devils in an epic 7 game series – decided by Jeff Friesen in one of the biggest clutch goals in franchise history.

But the Senators would continue to keep on fighting and provided two more troubles for the New Jersey Devils. They effectively ended the Devils era at the Continental Airlines Arena in 2007 in 5 games and they spoiled opening night of the new arena. Other than some big (and recent) regular season losses to them (e.g. 8-1 in 2006), that’s pretty much it. Like the Hurricanes, the Devils have had trouble against this team in the playoffs and in some moments. However, I still don’t think the losing has been consistent enough or long enough to really consider them as teams you’d always want to beat out of spite. Nor do I think either team has an animosity for each other unless I’m forgetting something significant. Maybe if it continues for the next few seasons, maybe, but now - not quite as bad as the other teams in the Atlantic Division. If you feel otherwise or think there’s another team worth mentioning, please let me know either through the comments or via an e-mail.

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Friday, August 22, 2008


Vishnevski Waived to Make Room

Woah! Actual Devils news in the dead of August! According to Tom Gulitti, the Devils have placed physical defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski on waivers. Gulitti's post is brief, but he does state that the Devils intend to buy out his contract to clear up his $1.8 million of cap space.

Vishnevski wasn't particularly bad. OK, his production was not existent and you didn't really want to see him in the top 4. But, he was a physical defenseman and he did his job as Vishnevski finished last season with 140 hits, 10 behind leader David Clarkson. Beyond that, that's all you should really expect from him. He's not particularly quick, his positioning isn't anything to write home about, and his main talent is, well, hitting. He fit on the team, playing 69 games for the team, but his spot was always in doubt by the sheer number of third pairing defensemen on the team.

However, with seven other defensemen on the roster, it seemed likely that a move was going to be made. Back in July, I figured Vishnevski would be a player on the trading block. Shows you what I know, he's not going to be traded at all. Just dumped. Should his contract gets bought out, it'll be more likely that Vishnevski will be picked up on waivers. Like I said, he has his role and he does it competently. While it won't be for $2 million/year, one of the other 29 teams will pay him to do just that.

So the Devils would benefit by clearing up some more cap space. Unless there's some regulation involving buyouts (and I'm sure there is - any cap gurus with some knowledge about this, please let me know), the Devils should end up with a little over $3 million in cap space. Not a bad chunk of change, but I don't see the Devils going out and signing another free agent. There really isn't too much value left. But it will come very handy in February for a trade deadline deal, giving the team more flexibility as to who they can pursue.

I still think the other major factor in this decision, other than money, is the roster itself. With Vishnevski, the Devils had 8 defensemen on contract with 2 prospects already named by Lou that the franchise is interested in seeing further. With Vishnevski on the outs, Matt Corrente or Tyler Eckford (or someone else entirely, like Anssi Salmela) will have a much better chance of taking an eighth spot. I also think the Devils aren't done making moves on defense. Depending on who shows up strong in camp, we may see at least one other defensemen being moved - either traded or placed on waivers.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008


Those Other Teams Pt. 4: Toronto

In the previous three parts, I went at length about Philadelphia, the Islanders, and Pittsburgh. But there are teams outside of the Atlantic Division. Teams with...varying reasons as to why you may dislike them heavily and want them to suffer in the league. But many of them just don't have enough. The entire Western Conference doesn't regularly play against New Jersey. The only team in the West I've seen Devils fans had a special kind of vitrol for is Anaheim, but that's not due to the Ducks but moreso for Scott Niedermayer signing there instead of with the Devils. Though, you could make an argument for 2003 and the ridiculous hype behind a team literally led by a very hot, very large-padded Jean-Sebastian Giguere. I'd disagree with that on the basis that not only did the Devils win their third Stanley Cup, they did it with Mike Rupp scoring with the ultimate clincher on Giguere. As far as Eastern teams go, well, there are a few that I think would justify some gnashing of the teeth and some extra glee upon seeing New Jersey triumph over them.

Today, let's talk about the Toronto Maple Leafs. One of the Original Six franchises, Toronto has had an interesting history throughout the ages. You can go to their official website and view it by the decade. Or better yet, just go straight to the 1960s as 1967 was the last time the team was truly successful. 1967. A time when generations of Leaf fans today not even thought of being conceived when someone in Toronto blue lifted up the greatest trophy in all of sports. A time when many thought their goaltender Johnny Bower was too old and was on his last legs at 42 - still helping the team the big one. A time before expansion - as the following season was the introduction of 6 new teams to the league. Since then, the team has ranged from pretty good to absolutely terrible - with few players of note that were known for being Leafs since then (e.g. Borje Salming, Darryl Sittler, I really have to type Wendell Clark's name?). They've had some great players pass through and most recently it seems like the most likely name to be honored out of this generation would be Mats Sundin. Regardless, the heyday of Leafs was clearly before 1967; and since then it has not been pretty.

How can a Devils fan hate this team? Easily:

I know it was a long time ago. I know one player doesn't represent the whole. I don't care. This squad employed a man nothing short of a pathetic excuse of a hockey player - an excuse in that he could play somewhat well when he's "feeling it," but even then he has to do something beyond stupid. The Devils got their just revenge in the series, as Domi was heavily suspended. Still, this hurt. A lot. I will go to my grave saying this horrific act cost the Devils a Stanley Cup in 2001. The Devils without Scott Niedermayer took Colorado to 7 games. You don't think a future Hall of Fame two-way defenseman in the prime of his career would have given the Devils that extra edge? Really? I definitely think they would. But we'll never know thanks to Tie Domi.

And from there, it behooves one to take a step back and consider the squad. A lack of success in the post season for a recent while followed by a more recent lack of success of making the post season? Poor drafting and/or poor development of prospects? A very, very rich team in spite of the fact they've been overall below .500 since 1967? Does this team remind you of anyone else? Maybe a certain team across the Hudson? Even just a little?

Considering all this, I think relishing a Devils win over Toronto a little more than some other wins becomes a little more understandable. At least, to me it does. If you have any additional reasons (or suggestions!), feel free to leave them in the comments.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Those Other Teams Pt. 3: Pittsburgh

Rounding out our non-Rangers division teams that aren’t the New Jersey Devils are the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins are interesting in the phenomenon of “other teams.” If you’ve only paid attention to hockey since 2006 or so, and there’s nothing wrong with that, you’d think the Penguins are a bunch of smug skaters. What with their Sidney Crosbys and their Evgeni Malkins and their formerly banana-pad clad Marc-Andre Fleurys and their Sergei Gonchars and their terrible car commercials and their enthusiastic fan base. They think they are so awesome with their massive (in terms of hockey) media coverage and that their team is the first in the New NHL to dethrone New Jersey as Atlantic Division champions. They ran it up 7-1 late in the season and soundly beat the Devils at the Rock to help secure that spot. That second seed did help them – even at least a little bit - in their goal to go All the Way™. Just by virtue of being better than New Jersey, it just gnashes your teeth a little bit right?

In all honesty, I haven’t grown to hate the Penguins. While, I can’t pity them, there’s been a lot of flux in Pittsburgh from 1994 onwards. Between lockouts one and two, here’s a set of high and low lights for Penguins fans:

-The Rise of Jaromir Jagr.

-Alexei Kovalev, Martin Straka (when healthy and not having exercise equipment fall on him), and Robert Lang getting together to do somethings and all followed by losing each of them.

-Alexesy Morozov developing his talents of being one of the players to get Martin Brodeur’s number; only to find out he would never use them in a truly important setting.

-The first Penguins selection in the NHL draft from 1995 through 2002. OK, Milan Kraft, Brooks Orpik, Colby Armstrong, and Ryan Whitney all made it to the league in some way – but for a first rounder, you’d want an impact player. Not really a barely mediocre scoring forward, a defenseman who earned his nickname of “Hooks,” a mediocre forward with a big nose, or a pretty good d-man (Whitney is good, but 5th overall good? I don’t think so).

-The Ivan Hlinka coaching experience/fall out. Considering how bad Michel Therrien's English can be, that Lemieux supposedly wasn't happy with Hlinka's communication says a lot. Oof.

-Not having much of a defense through this whole era. I mean, we’re talking about seasons with Janne Laukkenen (a.k.a. The Glass Menagerie) as a first pairing player; seasons where Ian Moran (who is a bad defenseman, who makes bad plays, etc.) had to play significant minutes.

-That one game in 2000 where Randy McKay and John Madden each put up 4 goals on the Penguins. The Devils won 9-0 and it was the first time since 1922 that teammates did so well in one game. (That was totally awesome, but absolutely miserable for a Penguins supporter.) Double oof, right there.

-The Fall of Jaromir Jagr – capped by that Jagr trade netting Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk in return. Triple oof.

-To be fair, the 2000 and 2001 seasons were pretty strong, but a run in 2001 was ended by a Devils squad looking to go All the Way™ (and nearly succeeded).

-The emotional return of Mario Lemieux as a player, an owner, and as a player-owner.

-The team nearly going under with fears of relocation and bankruptcy (not at the same time); saved in part by Lemieux’s plan.

-To be fair, the team was pretty horrible from 2002 through 2004 with financial issues and poor personnel decisions, deservedly coming in last in the Atlantic.

-Rico Fata – regular NHL forward!

-Dick Tarnstrom: Leading 2004 scorer with 56 points! (Fun fact! The defenseman led the team in shots as well. Maybe if Ryan Malone shot it more, he’d have more than 22 goals and 11 assists that season).

So earlier in this decade, the Penguins resembled the Islanders in terms of results – two good, playoff making seasons surrounded by failure Though, the Islanders were never in danger of going under or moving to Kansas City or somewhere else (nor did they got as deep as the Pens did). That said, the Penguins rebuilt themselves properly and with a bit of luck by being able to harness the talent of their top picks in this time period – namely, Fleury, Malkin, and Crosby. (No, Whitney doesn’t belong with that group.)

So that’s where it really stands. Since the back-to-back Cups of 1991 and 1992, the Penguins started to trend down from championship contenders to a pretty good team that might make a run to a gutted mess that required them to start over. The selections of Malkin and Crosby – let’s not forget Malkin was drafted in 2004 – gave the team a brand new look, a brand new excitement, and helped make the squad a whole hell of a lot better. If you’re an Islander fan, you’re reading this and probably wishing for someone like them to help take your franchise to heights once before reached. Because the Penguins weren’t so great and mighty – Philadelphia represented more of a challenge to the Devils in the late 90s – and that they were awful in the early part of this decade, it’s hard to have a heated rivalry. It’s not like with the Rangers where they could finish dead last in the league for 20 straight years and it’d still be satisfying for the Devils to wail on them in a game.

Fortunately, as the Penguins become consistent in their greatness – and they likely will with two Hall of Fame talents leading the way – it’ll become a lot easier to hate on the Penguins. Not necessarily out of jealously, but out of wanting to knock a rival out. I’m kind of looking forward to that.

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Friday, August 15, 2008


Those Other Teams Pt. 2: NY Islanders

Since I really fell in love with the Devils since 1994 or so, my own summation of the Islanders is two-fold:

1) Generally always behind New Jersey except in the 2001-2002 season where they finished 1 point ahead of the Devils.
2) Both comical and sad at the same time.

The first point is fairly self-explanatory. Yes, I understand the Islanders have had the Devils' number - most recently this past season. Yes, I understand that the Islanders were a dynasty in the early 1980s and were generally good up until 1994 except for a few hiccups. Yes, I understand I don't know anything about true legends like Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Billy Smith, Denis Potvin (who was the progenitor for a popular chant used today), Clark Gilles, and Al Arbour. I'm sure that were I born 10 years earlier, I'd have a different perspective on the Islanders and would certainly like them a lot less. Yes, I understand that.

But I can only ramble on about what I've seen. And from what I've seen, this has not been a consistently good team since Arbour was behind the bench. While they could even sweep the Devils in the season, it's highly questionable from year to year that they can even make the playoffs. Since 1994, they've done it exactly 5 times and that includes the 1994 playoffs. It's been an era of constant coaching changes, deals that come back to bite them in various parts of their body, and rebuilding only to rebuild again.

That leads me to point 2. As a division rival, this is very funny to see. The pick that became Jason Spezza and Zdeno Chara (oh, and Bill Muckwalt) for Alexei Yashin back in 1999? That was good. But the subsequent signing of Yashin to a 10 year, $87.5 million contract? Priceless. The days of "Mad" Mike Milbury. Speaking of horrendous and amusing deals, there was the infamous deal made at the 2000 Draft. Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen to Florida for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. Sure, the Isles snagged Rick DiPietro; but Luongo and Jokinen developed into impact players for Florida and in the league as a whole. Parrish and Kvasha, well, they weren't bad, but not vital players.

When it came to the draft itself, the Islanders have had some success, having drafted some very good prospects. But they rarely benefited as most of them prospered elsewhere due to a trade - along with the aforementioned players there was Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, Wade Redden, Eric Brewer, among others. It just kills you as a fan of the Islanders and it slays the rest of your rivals with chuckles, smirks, chortles, and ever-present "heh." Moreso when you consider the returns on some of these deals.

And when the Islanders drafted bad, they were bad. If your team has four first round picks in any draft, at least one of them has to hit. In 1999, it was Tim Connelly, Taylor Pyatt, Branislav Mezei, and Kristian Kudroc. None of those guys ever did made something of themselves for the Islanders. If they did, it was with somebody else. There were some big whiffs like Brett Lindros in 1994 (in all fairness, injuries messed him up - not the Islanders' fault); Mike Rupp at sixth overall in 1998 (seriously); their whole 2001 draft; Robert Nilsson over Zach Parise (thanks!) in 2003; and they may have just done it again trading down when they could have got Nikita Filatov. If you want to find more, feel free to search Hockey DB's year-by-year draft list for the Islanders, and be amazed at what spot was Dan LaCouture drafted overall.

Even when a player stuck around or got signed a ridiculous deal - hello, Miroslav Satan! - to play on Long Island in what they call an arena, who would be the coach? Al Arbour remains as the last bench boss to have lasted at least 5 years in the same position, and that was done back before 1995. Sure, the Devils have had a revolving door at coach; but the franchise (and its players) had a set team philosophy and remained successful. Each coach for the Islanders had their own take on the team, mostly having to answer to "Mad Mike" most of the time until the last few years, and so there wasn't much of a consistent style or overriding philosophy. Since Arbour, the most any coach has lasted at Nassau has been 2 seasons: Butch Goring, Peter Laviolette, and Ted Nolan, you all earn a no-prize for that feat. Laviolette was the only one to have had the team make the playoffs in both years, but he jumped to Carolina and eventually took them to a Cup. So much for Islanders management wanting to keep him.

But so what? They had an aloof GM, hindsight kicked the franchise in the face for over a decade, they've had some colorful record with prospects, and a lot coaches. Nice of you to give us that extended aside, great blast from the past, but really, so what? Well, because of all that -as funny as it could be/still is (seriously, the Yashin deal) - it's quite sad. As Devils fans, we've experienced great seasons on a regular basis - such to the point where we tend to expect deep runs into the playoffs every year. For an Islander fan, I would imagine making the playoffs consistently would be an amazing feat. But the once-shining franchise is now a orange-and-blue mess that they've been trying to clean up for the last 15 years. They're re-building yet again. They're looking to youth yet again. They're hoping to still be "players" in February and early March yet again. When you seriously think about it, it's just sad to watch. Even if they sweep the Devils, should they pick in the top 10 again, what would it all really mean? Not a whole lot.

For these extended reasons, I really can't hate the Islanders. I just pity them. I can't say their fans are particularly known for their arrogance (see: Toronto, Montreal) or generally being jerks (see: Philadelphia, Rangers). I just feel bad for them. Do I want the Devils to beat them? Of course! But it doesn't cause the same thrill of getting over one of your hated rivals. Even when the Rangers were especially bad, it was still great to see New Jersey beat them. For the Islanders, it's just not the same. How their franchise has rotted through poor decisions plays a big role in that.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008


Devils on National TV This Season

For Steve Lepore, Kukla Korner's Eye on the Media, today is a big day. The national TV schedules have been announced for the upcoming 2008-2009 season. Under the links, I'll note what games the Devils are in:

Versus 2008-2009 TV Schedule
11/3/2008, Buffalo @ New Jersey, 7 PM EST
12/23/2008, Boston @ New Jersey, 7 PM EST
12/30/2008, New Jersey @ St. Louis, 8:30 PM EST
2/9/2009, Rangers @ New Jersey, 7 PM EST
3/23/2009, New Jersey @ Philadelphia, 7 PM EST
3/30/2009, New Jersey @ Rangers, 7 PM EST

Three at home, three on the road. Interesting that the only west coast game on Versus will be at St. Louis. I don't think we will see Cam Janssen there, and even if we did, it will probably not have much an affect on the game. Two games against Our Hated Rivals, though, get billing.

TSN 2008-2009 TV Schedule
(from KK)
10/29/2008, Toronto @ New Jersey, 7:30 PM EST
12/16/2008, New Jersey @ Toronto, 7:30 PM EST
1/4/2009, Ottawa @ New Jersey, 5 PM EST

TSN will feature 3 Devils games, predictably all against Canadian teams. Predictable because TSN is making a big deal about having all the Canadian coverage. Anyway, you can blame TSN for moving what would likely have been a 7 PM game 30 minutes later when you're waiting for a train at Newark-Penn. Lastly, a 5 PM game. Seriously, you guys.

CBC Hockey Night in Canada
No Devils games. Booo. Fun fact: CBC's HNIC only has 2 games this season where both teams are based in America: The season opening Rangers vs. Tampa Bay on October 4 in Prague and the 2009 Winter Classic between Detroit and Chicago.

NBC Hockey (from
Only 2 games are guaranteed, the Winter Classic and Rangers @ Pittsburgh at 12:30 PM on January 18, 2009. The other 8 games are on a flex schedule, so let's hope for some awesome Devils hockey so they can get some more national coverage.

Basically, the Devils do get some serious face time on Versus and it's nice that TSN has different games than the Versus' lineup. So that's 9 out of 82 games where the Devils are guaranteed a larger than local potential TV audience. It's not as big as Our Hated Rivals, who have eight on Versus, at least one on NBC, three on TSN, and three more games on CBC's HNIC in addition to the NHL season opener in Prague. But nine games isn't anything to sneeze at, and when CBC adds more regional games and NBC reveals their flex schedule, the Devils should have a few more games in that regard.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Those Other Teams Pt. 1: Philadelphia

It's clear that as Devils fans, we hate the Rangers. To the point where fans make their own "Rangers Suck" apparel (trust me on this, but I couldn't find any pictures of those dudes from the playoffs. If you go to games, you probably seen them), make some quasi-questionable quality videos on Youtube (bonus! kid playing a quasi-decent version on trombone!), writing long, rambling and not very good pieces about why they despise the Rangers, and people buying a domain only to have a Calvin peeing on a Rangers logo on the page.

We hate the Rangers. But who else do the Devils hate? To be honest, I don't think any team really rates on the hate list like the Rangers. When the losers in blue shirts come around, we look to raise the hate. Some do it every game (unfortunately and annoyingly). But let's look at some other teams that Devils fans especially do not really care for.

Today, let's look at the team whose most famous player who couldn't stop Valeri Kharlamov so he cut him down, showed off the Cooperalls in the early 1980s, put together a ridiculous and hilarious-in-hindsight deal for an 18 year old prospect, and couldn't maintain a starting goaltender in the last 10 years or so*. I am, of course, talking about the Philadelphia Flyers.

*(Taunting tip! Ask a Flyers fan if they remember Vanbiesbrouck, Boucher, Chechmanek, Esche, and/or Niitymaki? Then ask them if Biron will be next and be replaced in about 3 seasons?)

On the proverbial Expletive List for rival teams, the Flyers would take the #2 spot in many Devils fans' eyes. After all, they are the key role that makes the Rangers Suck chant more juvenile by proclaiming that they swallow. In all fairness, there's a lot the Skating Pylons have going for them. First, they are from Philadelphia. Second, they are from Philadelphia. Third, they have a reputation of dirty players going all the way back from the mid-1970s to now, where guys like Steve Downie keep a terrible tradition going. A look at the penalty stats at justifies this rep. They finished as one of only three teams to have had a player assessed with 2 match penalties, tied with Toronto with the most game misconducts issued (6), and the third highest amount of total penalty minutes than any other team last season with 1,457 (1 minute behind second place Vancouver and 8 behind Anaheim). There is a reason that Philadelphia Discipline is a joke.

As it is stands, they are quite unlikeable - especially considering point #3. But the fourth and most crucial, their constant failure. A team led by the Legion of Doom in the mid-90s? No Cups! Eric Lindros making a comeback when the Flyers seemingly had the Devils done in the 2000 playoffs? The Devils smacked them right in the face in 3 straight as Lindros got smacked to the ice. Even if the Devils aren't involved, the Flyers just live to disappoint. Consider the 2006 first round against Buffalo, Game 6. Must-win game, the Wachovia Center is packed in orange, and the Flyers proceed to lie like a cheap rug for the Sabres to the tally of 7-1. Were I to use a tired Internet meme to describe that, it was a true "EPIC FAIL." To see a geographic and unlikeable rival fail in so many ways and on so many levels (e.g. after that Sabres failure, they missed the playoffs completely! Oh ho ho ho. It doesn't get old.) is very enjoyable, indeed. If you enjoy your rivals consistently disappointing, you know you truly don't like them to a point.

In a way, their constant failure is what keeps the Flyers from being truly as hated as the Rangers. I mean, even if the Flyers beat the Devils in the playoffs or an important game, I'll feel bad. I certainly won't like it and neither should you. But at the same time, I can't feel too burned. Why? Because I am that confident that they won't get it done. 1975 was a good long time ago, Philadelphia faithful. Maybe if the franchise truly evolves and puts together a likeable team, that may change. But at this rate, they'll keep it up and we'll have the closest thing to the 1940 chant all over again. It can even fit in the rhyming scheme so we don't have to come up with something new!

My sympathies to the Devils fans in southern New Jersey and those in eastern Pennsylvania that you must endure the Flyers dominating your pro hockey zone. At least you can look forward to the Devils beating them - again and again and again.

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Monday, August 11, 2008


Expectations & Goals

It's the middle of August and a good few weeks from training camp and the eventual preseason. It's slow for the Devils when your biggest stories right now is the umpteenth re-signing of Pascal Rheaume to the organization (Gulitti); and that the practice rink is now the AmeriHealth Pavillion (official site).

Now, let's get the nickname out of our system. No, it's not "The Roll" or "The Rock Jr." It's named after a health care service, so something like "The Lab" or "The Clinic" (hey, that's not bad!) would probably be more appropriate. In fact, I'm going to call it "The Clinic" if only that's where the players will get their performances right from game to game. Dr. Sutter is in.

However, given where the team is now and that now is as any for some pseudo-navel-gazing, I'd like to state what at least I expect out of the Devils first. Now, I'm fully aware that the main goal is to win the Stanley Cup. That makes sense. That's why general managers across the league make moves for promising young talent, sign free agents to big contracts, hire coaches for their systems, and tweak their teams on a season to season basis. That's why coaches review game film of their players, their opponents, their opponents 2 nights from now, and spend many hours figuring out who makes the team, who's in tonight, and what the game plan will be (not to mention what to do in-game). That's why players spend their summers working out, go to voluntary practices or get that extra rest for the game, use all their emotion and heart and lift all them weights. It's not just the Devils; but that's true for the whole league. For every player, everybody in the organization, and for anyone connected to the team either as a casual fan to your season ticket holder for 10+ years to the guy lives in the area and what's to see a winner; they all want to be a part of being champions. Nothing like being immortalized as being the best in all of hockey - even if it is for only one season. And if you've felt it before, you'd want it again.

That all said, I think that's a rather idealistic view. Teams have re-building eras to become someone again or for the first time (e.g. the Islanders, the Kings, the Blue Jackets, and the Panthers), eras where they are just mired and complacent with mediocre or good-enough hockey, and times where they are great one year and terrible the next. For the Devils, we as fans have been very, very fortunate. Blessed, even. New Jersey is not just one of the better teams since 1997, but contenders. A team that has drafted well, signed well, and has been built around stingy defense, a good transition game, and once-in-a-lifetime-bonafide-LEGEND in net. They didn't get this far by looking only at the top. They've done it step-by-step. And I share this view.

The first goal for this team is not necessarily to score 250 or more goals or to continue letting fewer than 200 goals. It's not to have at least three players with 30 or more goals, or 65 or more points. Believe me, all that would be wonderful. But it's all meaningless unless they hit goal #1. That is, simply, make the playoffs. That's not a gimmie as you may think. The league has shown tremendous parity in terms of talent and salary recently, and even "doormat" teams like the Islanders can give the Devils trouble. Like, well, the Islanders who went and beat the Devils 6 times last season. Just as the Devils finished only 4 points out of winning the division, they only finished 7 points ahead of ninth-place Carolina. This means the Devils need to remain fairly consistent and generally well better than average all season long. This means achieving smaller, more short-term goals in the meantime. Winning against your division, winning on the road, winning from behind, etc., etc.

Do I expect the Devils to meet this goal? You bet. And beyond then, you got me. It'll depend on matchups, how the Devils achieved this goal, how the Devils are health-wise and performance-wise in early April, and other variables that'll determine how far they will go in the playoffs. If Marty gets hot and the team follows suit, then look out. If the team has a fantastic first-round followed up by a difficult second-round loss, do we say that this is unacceptable? Sure, we don't want to see the Devils get mauled - especially early in the playoffs, that wouldn't be good - but how high should we raise our expectations? Do we take a hard stance and say "make it to the Eastern Conference Finals or this season sucked?" Or, "No Cup, no good?" Winning the Cup is, of course, the ultimate goal; but is it really that black and white?

I honestly can't agree with that. I mean, if the Devils fall in 7 games in the second round to a deserving team on some bad luck after a lovely season, I can't say the season was an abject failure or utterly pain/sadness inducing. Sure, immediately after the loss it'd feel that way. But not after a few weeks or even looking back on the season a year or more later. I'd like to think other Devils fans would agree to a point.

Of course, if the Devils lose in the first round to Our Hated Rivals, that's different. That's always unacceptable and painful. Likewise, if the Devils sweep them and that's it, then it can't possibly be a bad season.

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Friday, August 08, 2008


Quick Fighting Note

Rod left a good suggestion in the comments to my attempt to see if there was any semblance of a correlation between fights and wins.
"It would be interesting to take a closer look at the penalty that comes with the fight (the extra two that one team might get for instigator penalty), as any goal scored during that power play is a direct consequence of the fighting. Moreover, it would be interesting to use this instigator penalty as an indep variable to run a regression to make your point."
Regression analysis! I haven't done those in over a year. I'll definitely have to learn how to do those again.

However, I just went through all the games the Devils had fights in them. The fights break down into two categories: Fights where a player was assessed an extra penalty (e.g. holding, roughing) along with the fighting major and fights where it was just one fighting major for both fighters. While it'll be interesting to look at those extra penalties; I must stress that they aren't the same as instigator penalties. Usually, from what I've seen, those extra minors are for what happened prior to the fight (e.g. a dangerous hit/play leading to a fight).

Amazingly, the Devils have only seen two instigator calls this past season and both went against Dan Boyle on March 7, 2008. Really. Here's the recap. Boyle was throwing down with Zach Parise in the third period, and he got the book thrown at him for starting it all (plus a game misconduct to go with it). The Devils did not score on the ensuing power play, but they did win the game in overtime, 2-1. I hope I didn't completely miss something (and if I did, let me know!), but it makes sense to me. The Devils don't go looking for fights - they have been usually mutual to a point. Either way, the sample size doesn't seem to be large enough to do an analysis on instigator calls alone. But I'll try to recall regression analysis for future use. Thanks, Rod!

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Jamie Langenbrunner: In Recent Seasons

Today, let's take a closer look at the recent history of Jamie Langenbrunner. I've done something similar for Sergei Brylin. I'd like to make this a somewhat regular-sometimes feature for various Devils whenever I think there may be something interesting in there. However, the purpose of this isn't to show that Langenbrunner is starting to run out of steam at age 33 - this will won't show that at all. Actually, the driver for this is a comment in this recent post (aside from the MST3k-style names). In response to a comment, I stated that 20 goals would be far more reasonable for Langenbrunner in terms of expectations. While I said that then, would I be right? (And would such fine readers such as yourselves see that some comments could lead to content sometimes?) And either way, what would be a reasonable set of expectations?

This is always a difficult question for a player like Jamie Langenbrunner when what he brings to the table isn't easily quantified. Or quantified at all. This includes his defensive abilities, his leadership, and his work ethic. You really can't discount his clutchness - something James Mirtle even noted when Jamie returned last season. Fortunately (or not), the question has to do with production and that's always quantifiable. Ultimately, hockey is a results-oriented business so let's look at the last 7 season's of Jamie's production.

This chart of his last 7 seasons' production is particularly interesting. Remember the following: Langenbrunner was traded to the Devils in 2001-02 at the trade deadline that season; and's stats section doesn't have time on ice or shifts per game stats before the 2002-03 season anymore.

Langenbrunner's Last Seven

First thing of note: he sets a career high in points in his first full season with the Devils. Seriously, here are his career numbers. While the Devils were generally struggling with scoring that season, Langenbrunner really raised his game for the benefit of the team. He shot more than ever did in his career then, he came one goal short of tying his career high, and showed he deserved the amount of time he was getting. Clearly, the Devils traded Jason Arnott and Randy McKay to get him more than Joe Niuewendyk (17 goals, 28 assists). Langenbrunner followed that great season with a fantastic playoffs. Combine this when you consider his solid defensive work and he truly showed he was a prototypical Devil - hard work, solid defense, and, hey, even some scoring. A much better performance than his previous 2 seasons with Dallas.

Second and related to the first: Not all of these things alone necessarily lead to consistent scoring. His average ice time per game was his second highest in his most productive season; yet it was his second lowest in terms of shifts per game. Also, while Jamie topped this total number of shots taken with a whopping 243 to lead to his most points per season, it was only in his second season of taking that many shots did he break that plateau.

Third: When you take a look at each full season as a Devil, it's clear that outside occurrences has hindered or helped Langenbrunner scoring. His first full season was a breakout year. He had every reason to show to his new team that he can bring a lot to the table and did as such, meshing very quickly and very well with John Madden and Jay Pandolfo. His second season was marred by a nasty knee injury and that led to a lot of inconsistent play. His third season was a rebound year, with a better knee and a year without NHL hockey to get back in the 50-point plateau and earn plenty of minutes in all situations. His fourth season was his best yet in terms of production, even with a drop in playing time, thanks largely to his chemistry and success with Travis Zajac and Zach Parise as linemates. In his fifth season, Langenbrunner started the year hurt and various line combinations - including a return of the PZL Unit (a.k.a. ZZ Pops, Puzzle Line, Pretzel Line, etc.) led to an inconsistent year of production for the new captain. In the good years with New Jersey, Langenbrunner was generally healthy, had some good linemates, and turned his hard work into results. In the bad years with New Jersey, injuries have played a role. With Dallas prior to that, I do not know - sorry.

So what of all this? Overall, considering the injuries, let's take a look at the points per game. Langenbrunner has been up and down a bit, but he averages about .64 points per game in his 5 seasons with New Jersey. Take out the 2003-04 season with the knee injury and Langenbrunner averages at least that much in points per game. Meaning he'll score, but not often enough to be a "go to" guy for scoring - acceptable as a second line scorer. He'll shoot quite a lot (albeit frustratingly inaccurate at time), which something he's really improved on prior to his time with New Jersey, but it's not going to go in as much as we'd all like it to be. He's never been much of a goal scorer in his career as it is. If you see him on the first line, it's either because he's got a good thing going with some players for a couple games, or no one else has taken the role as their own. While we saw that last season, I certainly hope it doesn't continue (see Brian Rolston). Again, we're talking about a player whose best season was only 60 points. That's not first-line caliber.

So in terms of what we've see Jamie's a second-line scorer. Simple enough, right? Not quite. Langenbrunner has always been responsible defensively, and as a result, he receives minutes on the shorthanded situations as well as the man advantages. For example, he had an average of 1:53 per game on the ice on the penalty kill last season. With Rolston and Gionta both on the roster, as well as the darkhorse Dainius Zubrus, Langenbrunner may be pushed out of the second line and be featured on the third line with Madden and Pandolfo. That wouldn't be such a bad thing and we could see whether the J-Line still has some spark from way back when. But with an increased focus on defensive hockey on that third line, Langenbrunner may not get the offensive opportunities that he would on the second line.

Therefore, in terms of expectations, we should be fairly pleased if Langenbrunner picks up about 45 points. He produced 41 in an injury-shortened season under a new coach and some inconsistent play. That shouldn't be asking for too much. 50 and up is definitely possible (and maybe even 20 goals!) if Langenbrunner is in the top 6 for most of the season (and not in a constantly revolving lineup) and he's healthy. That said, I really don't think he's going to get super-hot and drop 60-70 points for New Jersey; nor is he going to tally 25 or more goals. Langenbrunner's not getting any younger and he was never that kind of player to begin with. Fortunately for us, he doesn't need to be - he just needs to keep working hard, keep playing his way, and continue to lead the team.

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