The Mess Of The New Jersey Devils

I haven’t posted much this holiday season – not because I’ve been busy shopping for presents. In fact just the opposite since I did 90% of my shopping online. It’s because there’s nothing. There’s nothing left to the Devils.

The scoring is not there. The defense is not there. The goaltending is not there. The coaching is not there. The Devils are on pace to getting 53 points this season. In 33 games the Devils have only made 20 points out of a possible 66.

I suppose the silver lining is a good draft pick for the Devils next year. The post game commentary included a line that I agree with – they have too many slower older players with multi-year contracts that are eating the Devils right now. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t be too much of an issue except that the deal with Kovalchuk is eating remaining cap space that the Devils really can’t afford. They have no wiggle room.

They need to dump coach John MacLean. It’s unfortunate but this just isn’t working out. I can’t put the entire weight of the Devils woes on him, but he definitely cannot escape blameless in this debacle.

Brodeur works best with a solid defense in front of him (obviously true of any goalie) but the Devils are not in the “good defense” position right now. And Brodeur is aging. I’m not saying he’s done, but he’s not going to be able to carry this team by any stretch of the imagination.

Big changes are coming. The Devils we see today will not be the same Devils we see in 2011. How far in to 2011 is still up in the air. While the Devils are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs (yeah – actually a concern for the Devils in December) they need a complete turnaround from where they currently are and go on long record breaking winning streaks.

I’m not going to continue to complain about what it is the Devils need to change about themselves. We all know how bad the situation is at the moment. The Devils have been praised as one of the most competitive teams in the past 15 years. This year is not one of those years, and it may take a few years to recover. Fact of the matter is the Devils made a quick trip to the bottom of the barrel. They have a bright future ahead of them, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work and it’s not something to expect by next season.

Observations from The Couch – December 6 @ Penguins

Let me first plead with the NHL to get rid of the corner rule, aka the Anti-Brodeur Act of 2007. I was noticing that goalies today in the NHL all play the puck a lot more than what was originally anticipated back when the league was formed in 1917. So now we have these corners in which the goalies cannot play the puck. The solution, they all play the puck in front of the goal lines, making the rule in essence inert. Get rid of it, it’s just dumb.

The Wife’s comment: “The league just likes to see more lines painted on the ice.” I agree.

Second, officials, I begs of you, stop sucking. I try to be objective and I am finding more and more calls against and for the Devils are extremely questionable. For example, shoving someone down who is standing in front of you who has the puck is not interference if the subsequently lose the puck. Interference, by league definition, is an infraction on someone who does not have possession. If he does and the play causes him to lose the puck, it’s a good play, not interference.

Lastly on my NHL tirade, league: we need some direction on what can and cannot be done to goalies. Running in to them after making a shot on net, I think is goalie interference. Today, it appears as if it is a normal play. Also, hitting a goalie in the crease should always be goalie interference. I am of the belief that if a goalie steps outside the crease to play the puck, he’s fair game. I know some goalie purists my not believe in me, but I think a line needs to be drawn and the line around the blue paint of the crease seems like a good start to me.

Now on to the Devils. Guys, I see some issues here, and well start with two basic ones. First, learn to get the puck out of our end. All too often I see the Devils with simple fundamental flaw that occurs and reoccurs – they just can’t clear their own zone. Whether they are playing a team with good forechecking or not, they find themselves stuck in their end even when even strength. Obviously their penalty kill could benefit from this skill as well.

And number two, fellows, you need to learn the opposite as well – learn to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Defense is something most teams today are good at, and dump and run in after it is not always the way to go. It may work once or twice but we need to learn how to make smart passes in to the offensive zone and how to keep consistent pressure on the opposing team in their end.

To me, and I may not be alone on this, sounds like coaching, but the Devils have needed this direction for a while and we’ve had a different coach behind the bench nearly every season – nearly.

Tonight the Devils took on the Pittsburgh Penguins. And don’t think the Penguins are free from some advice…

Sid, you – against my advice – are the face of the NHL. Being the face of the NHL, your face should look presentable. The mustache is not. The League of Mustache Aficionados want you shave that thing off. I use the term “thing” as loosely as possible. Also, Penguins, if you don’t want people calling Sid a baby, lose the baby boy blue uniforms. Trust me. You may actually earn an ounce of respect from other NHL fans.

Perhaps I’m just bitter. Maybe the Devils continued poor performance is making me jaded. But as the title implies, these are just some observations from the couch I felt worth pointing out.