Monday, August 11, 2008
Expectations & Goals
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.
Judging by the offseason aquisitions the Devils have made, I do expect playoffs this year. What I am hoping for is a competitive team in the playoffs (not being played out of the stadium in the second round).
Smaller expectations include an improved PP and a tougher defense.
My final hope is that the Devils do not get shut out as much as they did last season. Devil fans in the past could take pride in the fact that we did not get shut out much. Last season was pathetic at times in that regard.