Devils Win Lottery

It’s not every day you hear of a sports franchise winning the lottery.  I mean, they typically have enough money as it is.

Ah, but this was no ordinary lottery.  In reasons that are really sad (which I will get to in a moment), the NHL holds a draft lottery in which the teams that don’t make the playoffs are ranked from lowest to highest, with the lowest (Edmonton) having the best shot at winning.

If a team wins, they can – at most – move up four positions in the NHL Entry Draft.  In this case, the Devils had less than a 4% chance of winning, and they did.

Side note: See!  All you conspiracy theorists that think the NHL is just out to get the Devils.  Obviously the NHL isn’t out to get us, we won their own lottery!  But I suppose that might just be to try and throw us off their trail…

So here’s what this means. The Devils were, because of their placement in the standings, slated to get the number eight seed in the Entry Draft, but by winning the lottery they can move up the max four positions, placing them fourth in the Draft.

 

So why is this done?  The logic as I understand it is that this will help prevent teams from sucking on purpose just to get the number one draft pick.

Anyone who watched the Devils the first half of the season can tell you we were not sucking on purpose.  We legitimately sucked.  But alas, we started to win games once again and thus moved us from being the worst team in the NHL to the eighth worst team in the NHL.

Now if only we can eliminate the trapezoid behind the net will I officially stop believing in the conspiracy the NHL has against the Devils.

Thank You New Jersey Devils

As a fan, I sat here watching the final game of the season with a sense of pride and happiness. When the post-season ended abruptly last season, it was like hitting a brick wall, and I, as well as many other fans, we extremely angry over what felt like a collapse of the team.

But today, the Devils ended their season knowing that today was the last game for them until October. And the fans at the arena felt the same way. As the clock wound down to zero the fans stood, cheered, and showed that, despite all odds, despite a rough season with more downs than ups, we will stick by them.

Wife, earlier in the season, said in a fit of frustration, that she was done with the Devils this season. But I knew that the Devils are a very lucky franchise. I look at the last time the Devils missed the playoffs – 1996, the last time the Devils finished under .500 – 1991… to me that’s an impressive statistic. It’s not record breaking, but it is an impressive feat, and something the team and it’s fans should be proud of.

It has been announced that Devils coach, for the second time in two years, is retiring. Jacques Lemiar retired at the end of last season, but came back just before Christmas to replace rookie coach John MacLean after the Devils had their second worst start in franchise history.

Jacques, thank you. In a season of unquestionable despair and an unexplainable stretch of losses, he was one of the main factors that turned this team around. I hold no ill will against John MacLean, but he didn’t have the knowledge or experience to deal with a team that had pretty much convinced themselves that they were completely and utterly broken.

With that being said, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has in my opinion three priorities.

The first is to find a new long-term coach. Someone who you can, barring any major disasters, see behind the bench for at least three to five seasons. The Devils need some form of stability. Starting with a head coach who can show the team some form of consistent coaching style for the next few years would be great. Having a new coach every other year means players must learn new methods to conform to the plays the coach wants to see.

Next priority, with primary net minder Martin Brodeur nearing the end of his career, veteran captain Jamie Langenbrunner now off the team, and other higher priced contracts nearing their end, the Devils had a semblance of a fresh start. Forwards Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise are the new stars for the Devils. The Devils need to solidify their defense, and that includes looking beyond the era of Brodeur and start looking out for a new number one net minder. Johan , who played a great game this afternoon against the Bruins, is only a year younger than Brodeur. While he makes a great solid backup, the Devils must look for a new goalie that can be with the team for a number of years.

Lastly, as hinted in the last paragraph, the Devils must sign Zach Parise. There is a reason why he didn’t play after his one game back with the team – he wasn’t ready. You take off the season, you need more then one week to get back in to playing shape. But the Devils knew they needed him with a few games experience should they make it in to the playoffs. On his return, the Devils lost, but that now permits him to continue to rest for a little bit, get back in to shape properly, and be 110% for training camp in September. Zach is the future captain of this team – everyone including stars like Kovalchuk and Brodeur have stated that – but he must be resigned if that is to become the reality.

There will be a number of off-season news stories over the next few months, but for the immediate time being the Devils and their fans have some time to rest while the playoffs get underway. We went through an interesting season, with a very tough start, but in the end they put up a great fight, making a push to make the playoffs, and brought fun, not to mention a sense of accomplishment, back in to the Prudential Center.

Thank you New Jersey Devils.

Sour Return for Zach; Devils Out of Playoff Race

Zach Parise returned tonight to the Devils lineup after missing 65 games due to a torn meniscus.  The injury forced him to have surgery and miss a majority of the season.

But on his comeback night, the Devils lackluster performance ended their chance to make the playoffs.  Coach Jacques Lemair juggled lines all night long – something that actually may have hurt the team more than helped – but was trying to find the right combination with Parise back in the lineup.  At some point, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk played with Parise, at other times Parise would be with paired with Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson.

Zach would play about 5 minutes each period and looked more and more comfortable each shift.  Zach would later admit that he was surprised at how quickly the opposition was on top of him each time he touched the puck, but by the end of the game he felt much more comfortable and looked to be back in his typical mindset.

Parise’s return, however, was marred by the Devils truly poor performance.  I cannot discredit Montreal’s play, all goals they scored were good goals, ones that any team would have trouble defending against.

But the Devils were sluggish on getting to the puck, they couldn’t complete a pass, and they were severely limited in the true number of scoring opportunities.

It’s a shame.  At the beginning of the season if someone mentioned to me that the devils would be fighting for a playoff spot with only five games left in the season, I would have laughed.  The Devils didn’t have a chance to make the playoffs at that time, sitting comfortably in the cellar of the NHL standings.  But then passed the halfway point, captain Jamie Langenbrunner sent back to his former team in Dallas, and a coaching change from John MacLean to Lemair, the Devils showed life.  And this wasn’t just a turn around from bad to not as bad, they went from bad to hot, going on a near franchise record winning streak.

But now, alas, with only a handful of games left, they sat in a do-or-die situation.  Truthfully, even if the Devils did no wrong, their chances of making it into the playoffs was slim.  Either the Rangers or the Sabres would need to lose every game in regulation.  And Buffalo just got an Overtime Loss, so they would be out of reach of the Devils even if they had won.

Nevertheless, the Devils season will end on April 10th against the Boston Bruins with no possibility of post-season action.  It is the first time the Devils have not made the playoffs since 1995-96, the season after the Devils won their first Stanley Cup.

It’s sad, as the Devils have spent the past 15 years becoming one of the most competitive teams in the NHL, making it into the playoffs and winning another two Stanley Cups.  The past handful of seasons the Devils have struggled and even when they made it in to the playoffs, they didn’t spend much time there, but fact was they were a threat. Always.

I’ll end with this: the Devils didn’t end their chance to make the playoffs tonight against the Canadiens.  They ended their chance back in October and November.  The team had a near miraculous comeback, but in the end they could not correct the substantially poor first half of the season.

“Snowball’s Chance” Still Frozen after Pat’s Hat

Brian Rolston’s ability to find Patrik Elias was impeccable during last night’s Devils – Flyers match-up.  Three times, including one short-handed, Patrik Elias would score to get his eighth career hat trick and give the Devils another win in their attempt to stay alive, by a sliver of a chance, in the playoff run.

In order for the Devils to actually make it in the playoffs, as they are not mathematically eliminated, they must win every game from here-on out.  In addition, either the Rangers or Sabres must lose every game from here on out – in regulation!  One single point by both teams will push them out of reach for the Devils to make it.

The million dollar man Ilya Kovalchuk also had a strong game last night, making a number of good efforts and finding Nick Palmieri at the front of the net who, without a distinct kicking motion, deflected the puck off of his skate to go in past Philly net-minder Brian Boucher.

Johan Hedberg, the Devils #2, made a total of 34 saves to keep the Devils in the game.  A strong outing for him kept the Flyers from scoring on a number of opportunities as the Devils defense was unable to keep Flyer forwards from making some great scoring chances.

The Devils will try to continue their defiance of all odds in tonight’s match-up against the Montreal Canadians – reeling from their last game, a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, by a score of 6 – 2.

Devils try to Extend Life

The Devils will faceoff against the Philadelphia Flyers tonight.  Every matchup is do-or-die for the Devils from this point forward.  They are not mathematically eliminated, but there is no margin for error.  In addition to needing to win every game, Buffalo and/or the Rangers must lose every game – in regulation.  An OTL would give both teams the necessary 88 points needed to prevent the Devils from being able to catch up to them.

To be honest with one’s self, you must realize this is an impossible feat.  But miracels are known to happen…

Perhaps the best way to phrase the situation was from Wife who posted this:

You know you’re a fan when…
 
You look at the upcoming games around the NHL and get excited that Buffalo and the Rangers aren’t playing tonight. The Rangers also aren’t playing tomorrow.  Buffalo plays against the Captials tomorrow.
 
And because of that, you still feel that there’s a chance (ever so slightly) that the Devils can actually pull this off. 
 
However, all of that can end with a Devils loss tonight.