Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Previews: Mike Heika & 2MA?

There's more previews coming out here and for the first one, well, I thought the NHL.com Devils preview was optimistic. I found a better example of optimism through the Devils' board on HFBoards. Compared to the one written by Mike Heika, Dallas Stars reporter at the Dallas Morning News, that wasn't an optimistic preview. Consider the opening to his preview:
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.

Woah! First in the East! He's got a point about how a team can still contend in today's NHL by focusing on their defense and how the Stars and Devils play similar styles. He's absolutely right about the team concept and Martin Brodeur. But first? In the Eastern conference? This season? Wow. I hope he's right, but, wow. That's some kind of confidence there.

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.

On the more realistic side of previews, and by a Devils fan, we have Joe Betchel of 2 Man Advantage who has written a preview of his own. Yes, 2 Man Advantage has updated! They still exist. In any case, Betchel forms his preview in the form of questions, with his thoughts of what the answers will be. His questions are quite valid. The defense is still a sticking point as the top pairing is Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya and he wonders outloud as to whether Lou will make another move for a defenseman. Just jump in with my own thought, if Lou will make a significant move it will most likely be a trade and probably in January-February 2009. Either way, I agree with Joe that we won't see anything major yet. He's also not confident in the offense. He's confident in Rolston, but his concerns are about the other forwards on the team. These are very valid and for the Devils to succeed, they're going to have to step up their respective games. Interestingly enough, he is confident in Brent Sutter. Given the concerns at defense and at forward, you'd think coaching would play a part in fueling part of those concerns.

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.

In any case, Betchel's preview is more of what some (most?) Devils fans could be feeling. On paper, the defense is unimpressive and the coaching staff did a great job in having them play above their expectations. On paper, the offensive talent exists, but the consistency wasn't there (for any forward save for the checkers, but that's with respect to their position) in reality. Yet, the team has Martin Brodeur, a solid concept, and they make do - as difficult as it can be sometimes.

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.

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Clever update, John. I like your Preview-of-the-previews style.

Thanks for your breakdown and input on my blurb from 2MA... just check the spelling on my last name ;)

Always a pleasure reading, keep up the good work!

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