Summer 2007: Time for a change for the Devils

The most recent addition to the Devils is defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski. As Kyle has previously said, Vishnevski will add a physical presence to the ice, which is something the Devils have been lacking.

Something else the Devils are lacking? Players from last season. There are still a number of players who have not be resigned. Word has it that Lou is in Minnesota trying to resign Zach Parise and Paul Martin. There is the possibility of resigning Erik Rasmussen as well.

However, there has not been much talk or resigning New Jersey resident, Jim Dowd. Dowd is hopeful that he will be returning to the Devils next season, but only time will tell. There are still a few months to go before training camp begins. Who knows how many more changes there will be to the Devils line up.

With Scott Gomez, Brad Lukowich and Brian Rafalski being signed with other teams, we have some gaps to fill in the lines. As of now, the lines MAY be:

1ST LINE:

LW Patrik Elias
C Dainius Zubrus
RW Brian Gionta

2ND LINE:

LW Zach Parise
C Travis Zajac
RW Jamie Langenbrunner

3RD LINE:

LW Jay Pandolfo
C John Madden
RW David Clarkson

1ST DEFENSE PAIRING:
Andy Greene and Paul Martin

2ND DEFENSE PAIRING:
Colin White and Karel Rachunek

3RD DEFENSE PAIRING:
Richard Matvichuk and Johnny Oduya

I have not heard anything about what the Devils 4th line will look like.

Any opinions on whether Parise should move up to the 1st line to replace Gomez? Personally, I’m not sure if he should stay with the ZZ Pops line–they work really well together. Or should we see how Parise can do up on the 1st line working with Brian Gionta and Patrik Elias?

Let’s hope that Parise, Martin and Rasmussen are resigned. It’d be nice to see Dowd return.

Lou: Size Does Matter

As much as we poke fun of Brian Wee-onta, the Devils have had a fundamental problem for quite some time with regards to physical presence on the ice. In 2003-04, it was the Flyers that pushed the Devils out. In 2005-06, it was Carolina. And in 2006-07 it was the Ottawa Senators.

You may not see it at first, but the Devils lack of size leaves them unable to maneuver around the bigger players for opposing teams. They have been consistently inconsistent since they won the cup in 2003. They are consistently fighting to become better, and have always been a very skilled organization, don’t get me wrong. But year after year, teams with a larger physical presence than the Devils have lead to the eventual termination in the playoffs.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello knows this, and he’s going to fix it. Looking at the signings of players so far: Karel Rachunek is 6’2″, 220 lbs; Dainius Zubrus is 6’5″, 225 lbs; Vitaly Vishnevski is 6’2″, 215 lbs.

The trend is obvious for a team whose average weight was 200 pounds and average height was only 6 feet. The average height and weight of Scott Gomez, Brian Rafalski, and Brad Lukowich was 5’11”, 200 lbs. That is not a coincidence.

Looking back on the 2006-07 season, Brian Gionta’s ability to plant himself in front of the opponent’s net and deflect pucks in is fantastic, and no one would want him to change that style; it also puts him in a fantastic position to collect rebounds. Likewise, Scott Gomez’s ability to start from behind the Devils net, skate the length of the ice, weave in and out of players, and get a great scoring opportunity, assist, or goal was one of the most exciting plays to watch.

But during the Devils final throws of the playoffs, it didn’t work. Ottawa matched those plays and found a way to break the system the Devils built. The problem wasn’t that the Devils were unable to successfully execute those types of maneuvers, but more accurately Ottawa learned how to defend against them. Once you stopped that, the Devils offense became non-existent and caused the Devils to sit on one goal leads – if they got that far – only to lose later during the game.

Lou is bringing a shift back to defense with the signing of defenseman Rachunek and Vishnevski, trying to bring back some of the passion players like Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, and Scott Niedermayer brought to the team, and produced three Stanley Cups.

There may be one or two more transactions, during the off-season, but for the most part, welcome to your 2007-08 New Jersey Devils.

Vishnevski’s Terms

As posted earlier, Devils signed Vitaly Vishnevski, a 6′ 2″ 215 lb defenseman who “brings a physical presence to our hockey team,” Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello stated when talking about the signing. “He has both size and experience, and we feel he can play our type of hockey.”

The terms of the arrangement are a 3 year contract worth $5.4 million, with the first season starting at $1.4 million, and the remaining 2 years at $2 million.

Devils Nab Vishnevski

It has been reported that the New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Vitali Vishnevski from the Nashville Predators. The contract is said to be a three year deal, but salary has not been disclosed.

Last season, Vishnevski started with the Atlanta Thrashers only to be traded in the middle of February to Nashville. During his stint with Atlanta, he played 52 games, racked up 3 goals, 9 assists, had a -5 +/-, and played an average of 19 minutes a game. Once acquired by Nashville, he played in 15 contests with only 1 assist, a +1 +/-, and an average of 10 minutes a game.

This signing is Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello’s attempt to replace former defensemen Brian Rafalski and Brad Lukowich who signed with Detroit and Tampa Bay, respectively.

More news, as it develops, will be posted.

Souray rumors just rumors, Schedule to be announced this week

After one of the quietest weekends I can remember, we get back in to the swing of things with a new week and hopefully some new players to be signed to fill some rather large shoes that became vacant with the leaving of Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski.

Rumors have been swirling around that Sheldon Souray was signed and it hasn’t been announce, he will sign this week, he signed with San Jose, etc. So don’t put any stock in what anyone has mentioned last week. Wait until the official thing is announce, and it’ll be posted then.

Also, the NHL is slated to announce the schedule for the upcoming season this week on Wednesday. We’ll have it posted then and we will all see when the Devils home opener will be. For those of you following the arena construction, even though it is “on schedule,” the Devils are expected to start the season away for the first few weeks in October. So do’t expect a home opener before October 20th.

Toronto Takes Clemmensen, Souray Rumored to be Signed

As posted on Thursday, the Devils signed backup netminder Kevin Weekes to sit on the bench and watch Martin Brodeur play 78 of 82 games next season.

There was some speculation as to the status of Scott Clemmensen and whether or not he would continue to be enlisted in the Devils organization; Scott’s contract expired and he was a Group 3 Free Agent. The Star Ledger reported on Friday that the Devils did offer a spot to Clemmensen but it would most likely be in Lowell – the Devils minor league affiliate.

Well, it should be no surprise that Scott looked elsewhere and has found a new home up in Toronto. Late Friday night it was reported that Scott Clemmensen had been signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Terms of the deal have not been released.

There are also some late rumblings that Sheldon Souray has been signed by Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, but nothing official has been posted.

In Lou We Trust

Many fans have often mentioned this little phrase when Devils President, General Manager, CEO, Coach, etc. Lou Lamoriello has done something we think is a little off.

This off-season has been just a little off. First, day one of the free-agency whirlwind, a Devils favorite Scott Gomez jumps the river to join the Rag$. Then Brian Rafalski, my personal favorite scapegoat for every goal scored against the Devils, gets the call from Detroit.

Okay, so its been a rough first day. Funny enough, I didn’t blame the players like I did when Scott Niedermayer joined his little brother to help him win a Stanley Cup over at Anaheim – since obviously his little brother couldn’t win one on his own, he needed big brother to push the bad guys out of the way for him.

Right, so apparently I’m still not over Scott Niedermayer leaving. And don’t get me started with Bobby Holik.

Nevertheless, when it was announced Sunday at 12:01 PM that Gomez would be leaving to join the Rangers, I wasn’t mad at him, I was mad at Lou. For most of my life, I have been the first one to defend him. But this new era of the NHL appears to have thrown him for a loop.

It seems that we get these guys, train them, get them to play well, and then refuse to pay them so they leave to go to other teams.

More news has sprouted that Brad Lukowich, a friend of mines favorite scapegoat for every goal scored against the Devils, has re-joined Tampa Bay.

Alright Lou, time to pull a rabbit out of your hat – especially if you have any hopes of me getting one of those partial-season ticket plans…

Kevin Weekes? Seriously? Yes, Kevin Weekes is slated to be the backup netminder to Martin Brodeur for the four games a year Brodeur does not play. There is no word yet on Scott Clemmensen’s status; Clemmensen is a free agent and has yet to be signed. Stepping back, what is the bigger picture of this signing? Fans wishing to taunt Weekes will need to sit behind the Devils bench, not the Rangers bench this season. Enjoy.

Two other players have been signed by the Devils: defenseman Karel Rachunek from the Rangers and center Dainius Zubrus from the Sabres. Although their stats look decent, and should be a close match to their departing counterpart, their +/- ratings are horrible. Zubrus had a -19 and Rachunek had a -9. In Zubrus’ defense, -16 came from his stint with the Capitals for 60 of the 79 games played.

The following players are still unsigned and up for grabs at this point:

  • Group 2: Frank Doyle, Cam Janssen, Paul Martin, Justin Papineau, Zach Parise, Thomas Pihlman, Jason Ryznar.
  • Group 3: Alex Brooks, Scott Clemmensen, Jim Dowd, Jim Fahey, Dan Lacouture, Grant Marshall, Dan McGillis, Alexander Mogilny, Erik Rasmussen, Jason Wiemer.
  • Group 6: Adrian Foster.
  • Unrestricted: Tomas Harant, Bryan Miller, John Oduya.

Note: I bolded the four players I think the Devils should try their hardest to sign.

Rangers snatch Gomez, Rafalski signs with Red Wings

About two minutes after the free agent market opened, the Rangers snatched Scott Gomez. Now the “EGG” line, the team’s top line, has been split up.

The Rangers pulled this before not too long ago. Bobby Holik went from playing for the Devils to playing for the Rangers. Granted, he is playing for Atlanta now. Since the season ended for the Devils in the beginning of May, Gomez has been toying with the idea of playing for another team. He spoke to his fellow teammates along with old teammates, such as Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, and Bobby Holik. Who do you think helped Gomez make this decision? However, you can’t just look at that. I just learned the the Rangers offered Gomez a 7 year, $51.5 million contract. I don’t think I can really blame Gomez for leaving. Last year, the Devils and Gomez could not agree to a contract, so they went into arbitration. If the Devils had offered Gomez a multi-year contract, they could have avoided arbitration. Even though I am not sure what the Devils offered Gomez this year, I highly doubt that he was offered a multi-year contract.

Not too much later, the Detriot Red Wings signed defenseman Brian Rafalski for a 5 year, $30 million contract.

The Devils have lost two of their top players in a matter of 11 hours. They also have not resigned too many players or acquired any new players through free agency.

The Devils need to step up and resign their top guys and try to acquire new guys from the NHL. They will be playing the New York Rangers 8 times this season and it will be difficult to win against them. There is a very high possibility that Gomez will be playing on the same line as Jagr. If the Devils don’t start preparing their team for the upcoming season, they are not going to have a good year. I’m afraid to see who else leaves the team.