Monday, October 06, 2008
A Last Set of Previews
First off is a quick summary of The Hockey News' preview in their yearbook. I finally found a copy of it on a news stand in NY Penn Station and read through the Devils' section. I didn't purchase it because, well, I was only interested in what was written on two pages. So if I get something wrong, let me know and I'll correct it. I believe it was written by Rich Chere and I got the impression that everything didn't seem so bad in the preview. The offense was poor last year, but it should be better with the addition of Rolston and the hopes that the underachieving forwards will, well, achieve more. The weakness was a defense that wasn't spectacular, which is a bit odd considering they've done well in limiting shots against the Devils (27.5 shots against per game, 8th best in the league) and how rookies would take time acclimate themselves to the NHL (no big worry as the roster is loaded with veterans). You get the impression that the Devils could be solid enough. Then you read the final ranking and predicition: B- and 7th in the East. I guess it means the Devils will be good but not quite good enough in a competitive conference? I'm not sure? I get the feeling this was written way in advance of preseason and I'm sure a more recent preview would yield different results. I guess it's not all that positive ultimately.
On the other spectrum of positive is James Mirtle, who thinks the Devils could finish first in the conference. I don't know if I'd go that far, but he makes a concise and decent case. The Eastern Conference is volitile as a whole and it could be anybody's game (except you, Islanders) if events turn out favorably in various ways. The Devils did lead the conference at one point last season, they didn't change much except for adding a proven scorer (Rolston) which can only benefit the team, and the team did do really well once they got The Rock, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Colin White all in tow. Definitely positive, but again, I have my doubts as to the team finishing first overall. If the offense really does become more potent and productive, then sure, why not? Otherwise, I can see the team winning a lot but not enough to take that top spot if only because of the other teams who are better overall than New Jersey.
At ESPN, we see that Pierre LeBrun has written a team preview. You know, the same Lebrun who didn't think the Devils will make the playoffs. In his summation of the team, he writes: "Every season, the pundits predict the Devils will finally fold, only to be proven wrong." Wow. The irony. It's so real. Anyway, LeBrun really doesn't get much wrong here and doesn't repeat his playoff-less prediction. In fact, I don't see a prediction. The Devils need better results from Patrik Elias, Brian Gionta, and Langenbrunner, which is true. Tere's no reason to be surprised that the Devils as a top defensive team without a stud defender given how the unit did last season along with their excellent checking forwards, which is bolstered by Bobby Holik; which is true. What is nice are the features of their predicted Top Five - which is nearly right, but Bryce Salvador will likely start with Paul Martin and not White, as well as a blurb from Jay Feaster. However, what is annoying is that in three areas on the preview - LeBrun's section, Feaster's blurb, and a side text as their "key question" - they all discuss whether Martin Brodeur can play 70 or more games this season at such a high level. I'm sick of reading this in nearly every preview and I will have more to say on it on Thursday. But what really gets me is that they all come to the same conclusion. - that Marty's the man and sure, he can do it. Did they really need to highlight it in three areas? Especially with other potential questions they could ask, such as how might Brent Sutter approach this season now that he has four full lines of players? It's not bad and it's got some nice angles, I just wish there was more and an actual conclusion of the preview. Does LeBrun think New Jersey will make the playoffs or does his earlier opinion stand?
Lastly, we have the NHL FanHouse. First, let's look at those predictions - in which the whole panel at the FanHouse gives their thought as to who will win the division, the conference, and even the individual player trophies. Overall, it's not bad for the Devils even if the voting is off. Two of the six think the Devils could win the division, whereas others aren't as high - having them sit third in the division. Ahead of the Rangers, mind you. For the conference, the consensus sticks them in fourth, just outside of the division spots. I guess some of those other four people like New Jersey in second in the division if not at first. Lastly, two of them likes Brodeur winning his fifth Vezina trophy - which is very possible given that it is Martin Brodeur.
Now onto the team preview, which was written by Kevin Schultz. The big theme of his preview is that the Devils really haven't changed all that much and that could be an issue considering that they won't surprise anyone. And really, did they need to change all that much outside of signing Holik and Rolston? It's a great point, and absolutely true, that the Devils need to do better within inter-division games and he has the numbers to back it up. And at least he apologizes before mentioning that Marty is getting old yet he remains dominant. Still, he doesn't mince words in his prediction, stating that this team could win the division or even the conference - especially if a big team (Montreal? Philadelphia? Pittsburgh?) falters. I'd say that's positive, yet a bit more realistic than outright saying they could finish first in the conference.
Again, I plan on summarizing all of these tomorrow into a table or table-like format just to see what the general sentiment regarding this team prior to the start of the season. I must say, it seems that a lot of the previews agree with each other but not on what the final outcome could be.