Saturday, September 20, 2008


Possible Starting Lines

With the first full day of training camp complete with the veterans, Gulitti has plenty of things to report at Fire & Ice. He's got a guess as to who will be in the starting line up based on who was changing in the main locker room. Now, it's just a guess from Gulitti, but when I saw this list, I find myself agreeing with the guess. I don't see any of these guys not making the team unless someone (e.g. Matthew Corrente) really impresses in preseason to unseat one of the defensemen:

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.
Now, just on a lark, here's what I think the lines will be should Gulitti's guess turn out to be right.




Extras: Pelley, Greene

I expect Elias to play with Rolston and Gionta based on Gulitti's report here, where we learn that Elias has no issue playing left wing again and that so far the line seems to be training well together and enjoying it. Left over from that, I figured Parise is a lock for the top six; Zajac will be given a shot in a scoring role again, and Zubrus just to see how he would fit there. The third line is fundamental; Madden and Pandolfo are a given and I think Langenbrunner will do well there as he won't be expected to score as much (and it may seem like he wouldn't regardless). I fully expect Holik to be on the fourth line (he will not be scratched) and I figure Rupp and Clarkson will be there to make it a really physical line. For forward, basically Pelley has the inside track on getting a spot as a scratch and so Petr Vrana and Fedor Fedorov need to impress in training camp if they want to crack into the line up on the fourth line. I don't think Nicklas Bergfors will get in unless a spot opens on the top two lines as he is a scoring winger and his talents would be wasted on the third or fourth lines.

From the second half of the original post where he made this guess, Gulitti informs us that Sutter has been considering changing his defensive pairings. So I figure the defense pairings will reflect that. I took a shot at Brookbank getting the start over Greene since Brookbank was more consistent on the third pairing than Greene - who truly needs to do well in preseason to stay up (or in) New Jersey. Given how training camp goes, this side of the skaters is more volitile. I expect a return of Oduya to the top four in case Salvador-Martin doesn't go well. Outside of Greene, Matthew Corrente has a good chance to become an extra defenseman if he outperforms one of Greene or Brookbank. Sutter mentioned Mottau pairing with White working well, so I don't expect him to drop. Since it's not etched in stone who the #6 guy will be, Corrente has the best chance of all the Devils' prospects to make the team this year.

Goaltending is straight forward. Brodeur is the best there is in this league and will go down as one of the best there was and one of the best there will ever be. What's interesting is that both Gulitti and Rich Chere have reported that Brodeur may not play 77 games this season like he did in 2007-2008. This has led to speculation on various message boards as to how many games Brodeur should play, with some stating that he should rest more for the playoffs.

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.

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Just a thought - if Zubrus fail to click on one of the top 2 lines and drops down to the third or fourth (pushing out Rupp or Clarkson), does that give Bergfors a shot at his spot on the second line? Even later in the season if not right out of camp. Its a little far fetched maybe but considering how much Zubrus moved last year I just thought I'd throw it out there.
It seems to me that Langenbrunner is on the second line and Zubrus is on the fourth. At least that is how it should be.
Andy Greene should play over Brookbank and Mottau.
I like the pairs on defense. Splitting up Martin and Oduya is a good idea as (for better or worse) they are the best puck moving defensemen the Devils have.

I also kind of hope Corrente has a strong camp and unseats Brookbank. He could be given more ice time as the season and his game progresses.

For the forwards, on paper the Devils look fairly deep and if Elias and Gionta can return to 30 - 35 goals apiece the offense should be ok. Rolston should really help the powerplay and I hope Sutter trys him on the point.
Well, I took a guess as to what the lines would be. Not really what I think it should be. I think we're eventually going to see Rolston move back to the wing like he was in Minnesota. Also, Langenbrunner's defensive game hasn't fallen as far as his offensive game, so I think he's a better fit on a checking line than a scoring line. Lastly, Zubrus is too skilled (and too well paid) to get only 10 minutes a night.

Andy Greene needs to prove he can be a regular NHL defenseman before unseating Brookbank, much less Mottau. I think Corrente would leapfrog Greene on the depth chart at least if he has another strong camp.

But this seems to be what's Sutter is starting out. He sees this team much more than I do, so he clearly knows more about what would work than I would. Still, great comments.
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