Sunday, September 28, 2008
New FA-A Article Early: Prospects You'll Likely See This Season
By the way, the archives now work for the Atlantic division columns. So if you want to read my first two columns, you'll now be able to do so.
Incidentally, as an aside, the NJD TV (come on, call it Devilvision!) now uses a brand new player - the same template to what the other NHL teams have as well as the NHL itself. I can't really link it directly, but you can access it through the official site. The interface is clean and it's more organized than the previous player, in my opinion. I still think the Devils should host their videos outside of the NHL for more access; but there you go - new streaming video interface for the Devils' NJD TV.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
More of those Devils Previews
Di Sciullo's analysis doesn't tell us much new in the big picture. But he correctly points out that signings of Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik will give the Devils good depth at center. However, he gets some things wrong in the process. Yes, Zach Parise, Brian Gionta, and Dainius Zubrus need to bounce back on the offense, and the signings could help them. But he bizarrely states that the signing of Rolston will free up Madden's role as a defensive center - a role that Madden still did last season and has been since he's been a Devil - and stated that Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner could play on Madden's line. Jamie, yes, I can see that and would like that. But, save for some bizarre Sutter line-mixing, Elias is not going to the checking line. Also, Travis Zajac is usually a center, but he should bounce back after a poor sophmore season. Regardless, he's got a good handle on the defense - bold idea predicting the 6 who will play - and the goaltending is straight forward. I see no issue with his prediction of the playoffs; but I don't think Brodeur's workload being lessened will mean a longer playoff run. The team will have to perform better and work harder as a whole in the postseason - it's not all on Brodeur. Still, it's a solid preview in a place I didn't expect it. Good job, anonymous.
By the by, anonymous (the same one? a different one? WHO KNOWS?) also points out the Devils got a mention in ESPN's 10 burning questions for the NHL Preseason. That's mention in the singular, as Pierre LeBrun just stated that they finally (aside: what's this 'finally' junk?) won't make the playoffs. It's not an actual preview, but just a thought. Here's my thought: Marc Lebrun will be proven wrong.
Let's go to the next preview, from a big name in the world of hockey blogging - Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy. In the past month, they've had a theme of high school yearbooks for their previews for every team in the season. They are detailed, cover all the bases, and are a little entertaining to boot. They even go ahead and note the bloggers and news sources online for each team. Here's his Devils preview which he gets through without being terribly biased.
He interestingly points out Elias as the player to "break out" this season; which makes some sense since he'll be on the same line as Brian Rolston. He's absolutely right in stating that how the offense does will make the difference between an early playoff exit and a run for the Cup; just look at 1995, 2000, 2001, and 2003 for success and the last few years for further, yet sad proof. I am disappointed he dragged out the same tired trope of the Devils not being excited in his coaching section - if you don't find the Devils exciting and state that more goals equals more filled seats, how come some teams who also play the same kind of defensive hockey and rely on a transition offense get those sellouts, like say, some group of blueshirted chumps across a river from Newark? Seriously. I am also questioning why he doesn't think Zubrus won't be better this season. Most of last season featured Zubrus working to get down low, doing all the little things right, do well enough along the boards, but he was unfortunate that he didn't have consistent linemates (but who did?) and that when he got a scoring chance, a defender/goaltender just got a piece of it at the last minute. Now that he's had a full season under Sutter, I think he'll blossom with a given role. Anyway, Greg thinks the Devils will make the playoffs and the only thing that could screw it all up is the only thing that could screw up New Jersey since 1997. It's a good read, like the other previews on the site, and it's not your standard, by-the-numbers preview. And I'm not just saying that because he mentions this blog.
Let's not talk about this recent preview Greg did with The Pensblog, something he doesn't sound particuarly proud of at Puck Daddy. I don't blame him, but not because of it's content. It's because it just plain sucks if only for further fueling the baseless criticism that the Devils are "boring."
So let's look at IPB. They've done something different for their preview, giving individual thoughts for each individual player and pointing out how they are trending. It's a good idea as it sticks out from the other previews. Some of them make sense, like their rationale for Zubrus and the utter confusion surrounding where Andy Greene's career is going (I couldn't tell you, to be honest, he's a firm tweener unless he shows more at this point). Others are a bit of a head scratcher. I agree that Travis Zajac should have a bounce back year, and Gionta in a contract year should provide a better year than expected, and the rest of the forwards should generally do better; but how can those statements be claimed after saying Elias is trending down? Why can't he bounce back as well when he had the same inconsistencies as everyone else, Ookies? Also, I get it, you don't care for Bobby Holik, but he's not going to Lowell - like getting cut in a knife fight, just expect it and accept it. Anyway, it's a good read, but it doesn't go far to say what they think the team will do. Given the general attitude of how they write about the Devils, I'm going to guess they'll be very pessimistic unless the Devils put together some amazing results. Still, it's a different take from other previews and you should read it for that. McKeen's is the only other one where they had something for every player, but that's fantasy-hockey related anyway. Incidentally, IPB did an even more, uh, different take on the team's trend a few days later. It's...a thing. And I have no comment on it.
IPB's Pookie also put together (or at least posted, maybe it was a collaborative work?) a short preview of the teams at ModFan. Literally short, just ten words at most for each team. A nitpick for the Devils, Pookie, Rolston and Holik were also on the 1995 team.
Fourthly, assuming that is a word, I found this through IPB as well, someone by the name of Pam did this preview at Melt Your Face-off. I know it's in the sidebar, but I don't follow the site; but it appears to be an opinion-based Deadspin-esque hockey blog by Deadspin commenters. Anyway, the preview isn't really much of one as 80% of it is about the horrible toss to the Rangers (true) and the saga of Bobby Holik leaving the team in 2000 to sign with the Rangers and how he wasn't fully missed due to John Madden. Needless to say, Pam isn't plussed with the signings. Anyway, the conclusion is an actual preview - rather a repeat of her short prediction last year - and Pam, who both hates and loves the Devils (in a word, what?) believes history will repeat itself. While I agree the team should be competitive, she doesn't offer much in as a reason as to why. Maybe her point is that not much has changed; but I don't see how signing a top six forward and a veteran center for the fourth line could not lead to any change?
Anyway, in the last seven previews I've read and discussed for far too long for little gain, six of them either have a pessimistic tone with the team or a pressimistic prediction. Originally, my point of doing all this was to get a handle of the general sentiment of what others think of this team. Almost all think the playoffs will happen for New Jersey, but few, if any, are confident in how they'll do. It's not that it's all baseless pessimism, most of it is reasoned out and based on actual results last season. I get that and understand it. Considering some of this pessimism comes from Devils fans, we just can't say "everyone else just doesn't respect New Jersey." The flipside to being a strong franchise is that expectations are high, and for some, the Devils just aren't meeting them by doing well in a tough division in a tighter-than-ever NHL. I don't know, maybe I'm missing something to all of this.
As usual, if you've gotten this far, thanks! And if you know of anymore Devils previews, let me know with a comment or an e-mail. Incidentally, I wrote a short one for another blog that should be up soon; but I don't think I'm in any place to critique or complain about my own work outside that it's likely too dang long.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Keeping Up Appearances
And speaking of keeping up appearances, I notice the Devils Legion now have a Facebook, linked from the official site. You know, Facebook. The social networking site that allows you to control your privacy in that you can show off your ill-advised spray-on tan and poses with the "bros" from a few summers ago to the whole internet. Anyway, the Legion has photos and even some of the videos available through the main site. While this is a good idea to branch outside the Devils' site to reach fans; I think they can go further. Why doesn't someone at the Devils put the videos, vignettes, and highlights the Devils already have on NJD TV on other popular video hosts like Youtube and Dailymotion? Sure, both hosts have their flaws: Youtube's propensity for the worst possible comments for a video and Dailymotion's propensity to have something unrelated and sometimes unwanted be related to the video. Still, the NHL, the Flyers, the Capitals, the Kings, and the Canucks all have accounts on the 'Tube. I don't see a major downside to the Devils joining in. It'll at least get their name out there, have some non-Devils fans check it out, and perhaps some seeds will be planted. It's likely not a big deal in the big scheme of things, but it's something they can do along with airing a spot at the arena to check out NJD TV (which they did during last night's game) for videos.
Of course, it's possible the Devils organization are already working towards this and I'm just in the dark. And if so, my apologies. I just would like to see the Devils keeping up (or making) their appearance in multiple platforms.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Devils Now 1-1 in Preseason
The big differences between the two games were the first two forward lines, two thirds of the fourth line, and the defense. The Philly game featured the potential first line of Patrik Elias, Brian Rolston, and Brian Gionta along with a big line of Bobby Holik, Dainius Zubrus, and Mike Rupp. The Rangers game saw Zach Parise reunite with Travis Zajac and David Clarkson; with the expected third line of John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, and Jamie Langenbrunner. The fourth line's only consistency was Pierre-Luc Leblond-Letourneau. The defense against the Flyers featured Johnny Oduya, Colin White, Mike Mottau, Sheldon Brookbank, Matthew Corrente, and Tyler Eckford. Against the Rangers there was Bryce Salvador with Paul Martin, Anssi Salmela and Andy Greene, and Jay Leach with Matthew Spiller (an admittedly weaker defense).
Despite the line-up changes, it's fair to say that the Devils didn't exactly shine in either contest. Moreso in the Flyer game, the Devils were all over the place from being pressured to applying pressure. But the finishing wasn't there (not a great start for Elias, Rolston, and Gionta) and the Flyers truly capitalized on the Devils' mistakes (e.g. Corrente's giveaway), leading to the result. Against the Rangers tonight, the Devils looked solid for the first half; the Rangers surged in the second half of the second period; and both teams looked absolutely inept on offense - the Devils not being able to generate a rush, the Rangers not being able to aim a shot against the mighty Scott Clemmensen - until the last 5 minutes or so.
So what does this tell us? Well, the Devils still have some rust to get rid of. It is worrisome that the team can go through long stretches where they generate nothing on offense. Games will have such lulls, but not for 7+ minutes without a shot or much possession on the attack. Between the two games the competition has changed, Corrente didn't really impress against the Flyers whereas Salmela looked OK against the Rangers. Among the consistent forwards between the two games - Fedor Fedorov, Nicklas Bergfors, and Petr Vrana - those three looked particularly lively in both games. Namely because they are all looking for spots on this team and are giving what they can. It's hard to say who sticks out the most. Fedorov showed he can take the body tonight; Bergfors picked up 2 assists across both games; and Vrana got the one goal against Philly. There's plenty more preseason left, so I wouldn't expect much to be determined right now.
Oh yeah, the best Devil overall has to be Zach Parise. He scored a brace tonight . The first on a heads up play from a missed (deflected?) Bryce Salvador shot where he potted it past Henrik Lundqvist and trickled in. The second was an amazing put-back. Backup goaltender Antoine LaFluer stopped the initial Paul Martin shot and before it hit the ground, Parise swooped in and smacked it into the corner of the net. I'm sure there will be some video of it soon. Anyway, Parise clearly showed that he's ready for the season; I hope he keeps that same drive to make goals happen for this season.
Lastly, read Tom Gulitti's Fire & Ice. He's got all the impressions, quotes, and thoughts about the pre-season games. He's got way more information of interest than I will and you'll get a better feel for how things are going. Then again, if you're a Devil fan, you should be reading Gulitti anyway.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
This. This is a Thing.
If he says no, maybe the Devils can find wherever Esa Tikkanen currently is (Korea? Finland? Luxemborg? Walla Walla?) and approach him for a similar role.
Apparently, Fourth is the Prediction
Let's break it down a bit because beyond all that, there are some differences. For the NHL Yearbook, most of the preview was a re-cap of last season. However, they did point out the lack of a big shot on the point - which is true, but hopefully rectified with Rolston. Also, they were the only preview among the three that did state their poor inter-divisional record. They were so bold to state that while the team was talented to make the playoffs, and then predicting them a 9th place spot in the East. I guess they do not believe in the talent?
Lastly, we come to McKeen's, a guide for those who like their season previews with fantasy predictions and discussion for literally every player on the team. Even Andy Greene got a small write up, fantasy-wise. McKeen's is interesting in that it predicted not just a position for the Devils, but also an actual record. They are predicting 39-31-12 (90 pts. tied with Tampa Bay for eighth, hedging their bets?), 231 goals for (yea, mo' goals!) and 223 goals against (what?). McKeen's preview is the most interesting for their bluntness. They just state that Brodeur played too many games and will get less (questionable), that Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus in particular need to rebound (true, but what of Brian Gionta?), the defense doesn't have any names but is effective all the same (true), and that they could very well challenge the Penguins for the division (only 4 points behind last season). Amazingly, the preview writer believes that Paul Martin is the man to watch for this season; it states to expect career highs in points now that he's had a year as a #1 defenseman. While I do agree with the idea that Martin will do better now he's more acclimated to being the de facto top defenseman on the team; I'm not so sure about the career highs. He'll have to contribute more on even strength unless he gets a regular spot next to Rolston on the power play. Even then, Martin's shot isn't great; I think he's better at puck distribution. That said, his career highs in goals is 6 and his highest mark in points is 37. Maybe it's not that far fetched. If the offense as a whole does better, Martin may benefit from the rising tide.
Still, I'm really impressed that among three different print guides, they all predict the same result for the Devils within the division. They tend to agree on the big-picture of the Devils - poor offense, a good-enough defense, amazing goalie. But they differ on the details, such as who to look for to have a big year or whether they will make the playoffs. None of them state the Devils are devoid of talent. Yet, they are big believers that Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are top teams in the division; and they expect the Rangers to be slightly better (maybe based on how well they've done against New Jersey last season?). All across the board, fourth place is where they expect the Devils to end up.
I disagree with that prediction, to be frank. As those tend to doubt New Jersey, they tend to play better and finish higher than what they look like on paper. I think (and hope!) I'll be proven right in the coming season. Pre-season results, notwithstanding. Next time, I'll discuss more Devils previews from the blogosphere.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Preseason Begins TONIGHT
Except, uh, you won't be able to see this game on TV.
Who's Got Something to Prove in the Division?
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Possible Starting Lines
The 22 are: Martin Brodeur, Kevin Weekes, Colin White, Andy Greene, Paul Martin, Dainius Zubrus, Zach Parise, Rod Pelley, John Madden, Brian Rolston, Brian Gionta, Jamie Langenbrunner, Bobby Holik, Mike Rupp, Travis Zajac, Jay Pandolfo, David Clarkson, Bryce Salvador, Patrik Elias, Mike Mottau, Sheldon Brookbank and Johnny Oduya.
Extras: Pelley, Greene
That's all contingent on how the season plays out; but I'd like to go against my better judgment and remind everyone about the playoff series against the Rangers. Yes, Martin Brodeur didn't play his best and has admitted as such (just look at the Chere article); but it wasn't fatigue. The true root cause was that the team wasn't going to win the series because they just didn't put in the effort until they were losing in the game. I've even stated as such after the first, the second, the third, and the fourth loss in the series. Just because Marty is quick to take the blame doesn't mean it was completely his fault; do not forget that the Devils as a whole got out-worked and couldn't break through. If Kevin Weekes started 10 more games last season and assuming all other things being equal, it wouldn't mean the rest of the team would have performed any better. (Also, if Marty was truly tired, wouldn't have we seen it well before the playoffs?) Let's avoid revisionist history.
Anyway, I think what I've come up for the lines makes sense considering the roster right now for opening night. However, the best part of training camp is upon us - preseason. It will determine who will fight to earn a spot, earn future consideration, and earn themselves a trip back to junior or Lowell. Interesting times are upon us, coinciding with the return of hockey.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Hitting Analysis of 2007-2008 Part 2
Anyway, I forge on because what I am looking at is how do the Devils do when it comes to hits overall? Do they win more games when they out hit their opponent, or does it seem like it's not that significant? Do they seem to hit more on the road? Let's get a basic overview, first:
Again, using our assumptions we find out that this makes sense when we breakdown the average hits per game by the Devils and their opponents. In this case, I determined the averages between Devils wins and losses, Devils at the Rock and on the road, and games where the Devils did and did not outhit their opponents. I expected the Devils to have a higher average of hits than their opponents when they outhit their opponents and especially at home.
From what we see here, my expectations were only half right I took a percent difference to highlight how significant the differences in averages were. I was correct in expecting that the difference in average hits by both sides would favor New Jersey at home. Interestingly, when the Devils win or lose, the difference in averages just under a hit in favor of New Jersey. Given that the Devils outhit their opponents in about 58% of their wins and 58% of their losses, this is a reasonable result. What is truly stark is the difference in average hits by the Devils in games at home and on the road. It's truly massive and given that both sample sizes are the same, 41 games each, it perhaps could be said that the Devils take up their physical game when away from home. Unfortunately for them, so do their opponents, it seems. In addition, check out the averages when the Devils outhit and get outhit. The Devils actually average more hits in the games where they get outhit by their opponents. Again, assuming our assumptions are valid, that's a testament to how tough the Devils are - they don't roll over, it's just that their opponents were more vigorous in taking the body.
Based on the chart, the significant differences appear among our empirical data when the Devils are at home (a difference in averages of 2.756 hits), when the Devils are outhitting their opponents, and when the Devils are being out hit. In those last two cases, the differences in averages is roughly around 4.5 hits (up to 4.667 in the former, down to 4.412 in the latter).
However, given that the Devils average 1.51 more hits when they are being outhit, this brings me back to the issue of the assumption made earlier. I cannot rule out scorer bias when it comes to hits being recorded from game to game. I gave an example of this earlier, but the previous chart provides further suggestion. While the Devils aren't certainly soft, the fact that the Devils' average so many more hits on the road is questionable. From what I've seen of the team, they don't seem to be that more physical on the road than at home and while I'm sure there are games where they have been, I certainly have some doubts that it would translate over the whole season. Likewise, I don't think traveling to the Rock incapacitates opponents from throwing the body by half of what they do at home. Granted, the opponents are teams of varying physical ability, effort on a given night, etc. However, overall, that their average based on NHL's numbers doubles up when they go home definitely raises an eyebrow. Combine that with the earlier example and I cannot come up with a definitive solution.
If we assume there isn't anything wrong with NHL's numbers, we can conclude from the empirical evidence that the Devils were certainly not soft last season. They got more hits than their opponents at home, they stepped up their hitting on the road, and they get more hits than their opponents more often than not in both wins and losses.
While the 58.7% of the Devils' wins come as they outhit their opponent, that 58.3% of their losses come in the same state means that I don't think that there is a correlation between wins and outhitting the opponent. Furthermore, there wasn't a large difference in average hits in wins or losses; those were only significant when the Devils were at home aside from one outhitting the other. Because the initial assumption about NHL's numbers - the scorers recording real time super stats being correct - is suspect, a complete conclusion cannot be reached. However, based on what numbers we do have access to, I am confident in stating that the Devils were definitely not a soft team lacking in physical play. Even when they were being outhit, they average a solid number of hits - moreso when they are leading other team in hits. While the loss of Vitaly Vishnevski will hurt in the hit department and the team in general isn't a hit machine, I don't expect the Devils to become physical doormats in the coming season based on what they showed last season.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Also, while I'm on the subject of talking about what I'm doing, you all should know that I have become a full season ticket holder of the New Jersey Devils. So that means fewer gameday posts and more "game review" posts. Something tells me that most of you won't mind that. However, it also means I got preseason tickets. I hope to make it to all of them so I can give you all some idea of how the prospects, fringe players, and regulars are doing before the season truly begins.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Growing a Devils Legion
1) Be a season ticket holder of some kind.
2) Submit something online - be it a picture, a video, a story, a drawing, or "other."
3) Be Patrick Warburton.
Incidentally, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea if the Devils' site included a little section on the front page of the site to highlight features of the Devils Legion. They have a nice sized rectangle below Merchandise and next to the widget (?) for the schedule, standings, and statistics that could hold that quite nicely. While the page does have a tab up top for "Fan Zone" and a side graphic for the Devils Legion, a little something just to show off what's new over there. It could give vistors more of a reason to check it out.
Regardless of the nitpicks, overall, I think it's a good decision by the organization to start this and I sincerely hope they continue it. It shows that they are interested in growing a community, giving the Devils fanbase an area for them, and they actually are doing something to promote the team.
Friday, September 12, 2008
The Rod Pelley Nightmare is OVER
Again, I don't have a problem with Pelley; and I'd almost have to think that Sutter will keep an extra forward on the roster given this logjam of capable fourth liners. And hopefully for Pelley's sake, he'll get one of those sports. Otherwise, I openly wonder why Pelley was signed.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
The New Jersey Devils are the Team of New Jersey
Life is about choices. Choose New Jersey. Choose the Devils.
Previews: Mike Heika & 2MA?
OK, I have been given some grief about my East picks, but what I see is a very tight conference where the best teams all got a little bit worse and some of the contenders got a little bit better.
That's how the New Jersey Devils have landed in first place, in my opinion.
While the NHL is changing ever so slowly to a game in which offense can carry a team, the Stars have proven to me that a team that plays good defense will win regular season games. The Stars and Devils are the best examples of that over the years, and I believe the Devils will be better defensively than they were last year. Not because they have a remarkable blue line -- they don't -- but because they have a remarkable team concept on defense, and the best goalie in the league.
Heika notes that the two major signings of the offseason, Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik, will fit in well because they know what they are getting into. They already know what the team philosophy (a.k.a. "The Lou-ade") is and can perform in that capacity. He also states that the defense could be better, but stated that it's good enough especially with - the best goaltender in the league - behind them all. He tended to gloss over the team's offense; but I guess he was implying that Patrik Elias, Zach Parise, and Jamie Langenbrunner will do better with a solid set of centers (Rolston, Travis Zajac, John Madden, Holik).
Ultimately, while it's not completely unlikely, I'm still having some trouble seeing this Devils team finish first in the East. Again, I'd love it were to happen; but I have my doubts. Still, I have to respect the man's opinion - he considers how players buy into a system to be important. Since we're Devils fans who remember the team's rise and three Stanley Cups, it's an incredibly important facet of the game. Besides, how often does someone in the outside media correctly identify what makes the Devils who they are, gives Martin Brodeur a lot of credit, expects the Rangers to fall back, and think this team can be big players in the coming season? For that alone, it's definitely worth your time.
He also explicitly asks the question as to whether Marty has anything left. Joe - and the correct answer - says that Marty will remain as Marty.
Now, the point I'm trying to make with these season preview summaries is that I'm trying to get a feel for what other people think of the Devils heading into this season. Sometimes, for whatever reason, it may seem that no one respects the Devils or that this is their last year in glory or somesuch. And I'm sure there are some previews and thoughts just like that. But I want to get a handle of a larger community of previews. For all we know, a lot of the previews out there think the Devils may be pretty good this season. Or whether they think the offense will do better or worse. Or something else entirely. I'm interested in what they have to say and would like to compare them at some point.
I'm not trying to pick apart everyone's previews or do the worst snarky commentary possible for what may just amount to a prediction or snidely discount or insult a writer/blogger (though 2MA needs to rise from their grave). That's not my intention. I just want to summarize what the preview states, highlight their points, and just give my thoughts on them. And ultimately, tabulate how the previews differ from each other. So if you know of any Devils previews out there - blog, media, or otherwise - let me know (e-mail is best) so I can get as many as possible.
Monday, September 08, 2008
The "C" is Still Jamie's
There was speculation that the added burden of wearing the "C" may have hurt the veteran winger.
"I don't think that ever weighed me down," Langenbrunner maintained. "It felt good to be captain."
And he will remain captain this season. Coach Brent Sutter said hasn't considered a change.
"Absolutely not," Sutter said from home in Alberta. "Jamie is our captain moving forward. John (Madden) and Patty (Elias) will be our assistant captains."
Sutter thinks the combination of missing training camp and being named captain made it tough for Langenbrunner last season.
"I think to some degree it was the 'C' on his jersey. It was something new," Sutter said. "Sometimes it takes a little while to adjust to that. I just want Jamie to get back to being Jamie.
"Jamie's going to have a good year this year. It's tough when you miss all of training camp like he did last year."
Langenbrunner kept the "C" all throughout last season, one of the things that was a constant last season. This is important given Sutter's willingness to change things around from forward lines, rotating nine defensmen, and the strategy of the team in various situations. He may still do that this season (and should if it's necessary), but that he will stay consistent with his selection is nothing but good for the team, I think. Naming John Madden and Patrik Elias as assistants are fine as the two have been in leadership roles in the past.
With respect to his performance, Sutter does raise a good point, Langenbrunner has a chance to work off the rust in his game from the offseason in training camp rather than during the season - which should also help Langenbrunner rebound from a dissapointing 07-08 season.
Now, as an aside, I found this out because the Devils' beat writers - mostly Chere, but also Colin Stephenson and others - now have a blog at NJ.com. With no interstitial ads and no constant requests for information, it's just a cleanly laid out blog for news about the Devils. There's no need to worry about going to NJ.com anymore if that's the case throughout the site. There at his blog, you can learn about who was the Devils' charity golf tournament (Langenbrunner seriously hit a 57? Woah.) and learn a little bit about the alumni who was at the event. Nice to see that Grant Marshall doesn't appear to have a chip on his shoulder for ending his career in Lowell.
Meanwhile, at the current king of Devils news blogs, Tom Gulitti has a good piece on Martin Brodeur's Olympic hopes. Yes, Brodeur will be close to 38 in 2010. Yes, the expected pick may be Roberto Luongo. But that doesn't faze Marty. Given that he's still playing at a high level and that he's been the starting goaltender to help Canada win a gold medal back in 2002, he has every right to try and be the #1 goalie if he's picked. I fully support this initiative and while I'll be supporting the United States, I'd love to see Brodeur between the pipes representing Canada in Vancouver.
As an aside, we learn also from Gulitti that the Hockey News doesn't care about back-to-back Vezina-winning seasons. They rate Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, and Evgeni Nabokov above Brodeur. Not that they aren't good, but I don't see how they can compare when neither of them have ever done for their teams what Marty has done for New Jersey. Especially when none of them have ever been selected as the best goaltender in the league.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Previews: The NHL.com Version
Given that the preview is from NHL.com, it's a very optimistic preview. I don't see the league's website being blunt about it and just say that a team is going to be outright bad. But it's definitely worth reading. Consider the New Jersey Devils' preview - Kimelman correctly points out that the offense needed addressing in the offseason because they have been so bad at it. And as a result, he has more written about the forwards than the defense or the goaltending. Essentially, he doesn't expect the defense to be an issue and he points out what milestones Martin Brodeur will likely break this season. Not just the obvious - career wins - but also in games played and possibly in total saves and minutes. There's not much to say about the defense; so let's consider his section on the forwards which is a cause of some skepticism.
Apparently, Kimelman thinks that Brian Rolston will play at center for New Jersey, with Zach Parise and Brian Gionta on his wing, and all three will therefore have great seasons. That would be great and I agree that Rolston will provide a boost to the offense. However, I'm still not sure Rolston should be placed at center. I've expressed this concern back in July; but for all I know, the Devils will make it work. Also, I'm not sure that Brian Gionta will get a big boost by playing with Rolston and Parise. Gionta was shuffled all over the place last season and he seemingly forgot to crash the net like he did in 2005-2006. He wasn't carrying an offensive burden as much as his (and the team's) inconsistency was a burden on offense. Don't get me wrong, I hope Kimelman is right in this regard; I'm just not as hopeful.
He also touches on Patrik Elias, saying that with Rolston at center, he can go back to left wing. In Kimelman's scenario, that's true. However, he'll be on the second line with, I guess, Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus? Or Jamie Langenbrunner? He may be more comfortable at left wing, but I don't know whether that will lead to more points. While it'd be amazing, I am further skeptical that Jay Pandolfo and John Madden will repeat their production from last season. It's going to be up to the top six forwards to improve on their production because if New Jersey is looking to Madden and Pandolfo for scoring, the team's offense clearly has problems.
His reasons for optimism at the end of the column are mostly sound. Martin Brodeur will remain being magnificient. Sutter now knows what he has to do and we'll likely see fewer line-up changes, which in turn can allow for more stability and allow chemistry to develop. But Zach Parise hitting 100 or more points? That's a rather bold prediction, Kimelman. Patrik Elias came close in 2000-2001 with 96 and that's from having a monster season while playing the whole season on the storied A Line. To hit triple digits I would think that Parise would have to have a monster season like no other in Devils' history and have the right chemistry with his linemates and stay with the same linemates and stay healthy and hope opposing defenses can't figure him out. Brian Rolston and Parise's development alone won't be enough. I'd love to be proven wrong about this, but I don't think we're going to see that yet.
Kimelman's preview, as I said earlier, is optimistic and the preview itself is worth reading as it's a decent, to-the-point summary of the Devils. The additional articles linked in the preview are also worth your time. However, I think the more optimistic parts should be taken with grains of salt, so to speak. If you're looking for a comprehensive Devils preview, this alone won't do it.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Unofficial Beginning of Camp
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said this afternoon that restricted free agent Rod Pelley remains unsigned, but "there's absolutely no question" he'll be under contract in time for the start of training camp (Physicals for veterans are on Friday, Sept. 19).
"I think it will get done quickly," Lamoriello said of signing Pelley. "We'll get him signed."
"Nothing is done yet and camp is approaching and everyone is wondering what is going on, but I feel I'm on track with Lou that things will be done," Pelley said. "I would like to go into camp with a contract. That would be good. But I've just got to see how things go here. It's gone this far, so I have to be a bit more patient and that's fine. too.
"In no circumstance am I holding out. That's not what I'm doing. It's more of both sides needing a bit of time. I would like to have something done before camp, but if both sides need more time, then that's how it's going to go."
Anyway, Gulitti has also asked Lou about whether the training camp will be open to the public and Lou's answer says "probably not." Well, it's not a straight "no," but it may not be likely given his answer. As far as why the practice rink has seats and a sponsor (the AmeriHealth Pavillion Center!), well the center isn't just for the Devils' practice but it will host hockey clinics, tournaments, and maybe some youth hockey among Newark teams. In a feature about the youth hockey representation at the Rock, co-owner Mike Gilfillan talks in this video (1:44 in) about the Newark Americans and a mite Americans squad and how they'll move to the Pavillion eventually. That probably makes more sense as to why there are seats at least. (ASIDE: I love the fact that the Devils have all of these video clips on their official site, but a way to promote that you even have this or have new videos would be excellent.)
Would an open camp bring in more and new fans to the franchise? Honestly, I don't know. It would make the team more accessible in a way and allow the fans to see more of the prospects and their favorite players up close. On the other hand, the camp likely takes place during the day - which isn't really accessible for most people - and it's mostly going to be drills and practice between those you will see in Newark in October and those you will see in Lowell (or elsewhere). If you're really into the team, I can see this as something you'd like to check out; but maybe not if you just learned that the Devils are a hockey team. As an analogue, I went to a NY Giants training camp session last year with my brother. We both thought it was interesting, but it was mostly standing around watching the players do their thing in practice with other Giants fans. While it was cool to see them upclose and working out (e.g. Jeremy Shockey helped Kevin Boss how to lift a guy on a block), it wasn't particularly exciting and I didn't see it as something that would make somebody become a Giants fan. Also, there were just several hundred spectators for the training camp of a vastly popular NFL team. I don't know if the Devils' camp would gain nearly as much interest from the public. I could be wrong, though; but I just think that while opening training camp to the public would be nice, it may not bring a significant benefit.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Brodeur Your Thirst
"After the warmup, I go into the dressing room, take my mask and gloves off, and drink three-quarters of a can of Sprite. That's my drink. Gatorade hurts my stomach, and water just doesn't give me enough of a lift. I'll drink three cans of Sprite a night; one before the game, and one during each of the intermissions." (Brodeur & Cox, 2006)
Now, for all I know, maybe efforts were made and they never worked out. Fine. But if we want to see the Devils to get more popular, it couldn't kill the organization to try and promote their most important player at the forefront. Brodeur doing a spot for CCM back in 2000 or this spot for TSN's Sportscentre (seriously, Sportscentre.) didn't cause any problems, why not encourage him to do more? Especially more local ads to endear him to the New Jersey audience? Maybe he may not want to (and if that's the case, that's certainly understandable) to do this sort of promotion, but he deserves more than, what, that one commercial about a Devil of a Sale for a car dealership in Ocean?
I'm not saying Brodeur has to jump into a basketball court in the hot sun or enjoy a refreshing Sprite along side a pool or a boat or a pool on a boat with Grant Hill. That would be cool, though. But I think for the Devils to get their name out there, they need to promote some of the players and a good way to do that is to have them do things like commercials. It gets their name out there - even if it's cheesy, shows off some of their personality - or lack thereof, and it's a win-win for all involved if it's a good ad (or, well, a Youtube highlight). More people recognize the player, more people recognize what's being sold. If not Brodeur, why not Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, or John Madden or some other well-to-do Devil? It's not the end-all, be-all way to get more people aware of the Devils of New Jersey; but it would definitely be a step forward. And it's hard to plant seeds for growth if you don't even try throwing them.