Post 201 – Welcome Back

So I’m sitting on the couch with my wife watching the game, and I thought to myself, “Self, I miss my Devils websites.”  I know, I know, it’s my own fault.  You know the last post I made was over three and half years ago.  And the original site that started the obsession with the team, njdevils.info, has been closed for some time – and to be honest would most likely be obsolete today.

Nevertheless, I’m sitting on the couch, watching game one of the 2016-17 season, and have decided I want to begin this again.  I watch a lot of hockey, and while the team and organization look drastically different from what it did three and a half years ago.  Are we rebuilding?  Are we just a mediocre team now?  Will they ever return to greatness like they once had or will they continue to struggle and miss the playoffs?  Quite honestly, no one knows the answer.  But with the management that has come in as long time GM Lou Lamoriello departed more than a year ago, I remain hopeful that they have the knowhow and understanding the construct a team that will soon be competitive once again.

Anyway, this is post 201.  But for all intents and purposes, it’s post 1.  Again.  I look forward to posting again, and making this at least a weekly thing, not a yearly thing.  As always, lets go Devils!

Hockey Will Return in 2013

Some good news came out of CBA negotiations at 5am this morning – a framework has been agreed upon by both the NHL and the Players Association.  While there is still a lot of work to be done, the preparations are taking place to get ready for the (2012-)2013 season.

In simple terms, both sides have to still sit down and formalize the physical document that is the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Once the document is complete, then the NHL Board of Governors (the owners) and the Players Association need to review it and ratify it before hockey can resume.

While many fans feel that boycotting the games is the thing to do to "make a statement," I for one will not be participating in that.  Quite honestly, I’m just thrilled to have hockey back.  While I blame the owners for this mess this year, me not buying tickets to see them play isn’t going to affect things much.  The season ticket holders in the lower tier owned by most companies will still sell and still be empty during many games.  So the (majority of) fans who sit in the "cheap seats" who are going to make a statement will be a small blip on the Owners’ radar.

In other words, stop trying to make a point that won’t be heard, be happy the game is returning, and go out and support the players and your favorite team.

Oh, and here’s a statistic for you: the Devils have won 100% of the Stanley Cups during shortened seasons.

Open-mouthed smile

More Games Cancelled, Less People Care

The NHL made a mistake this past week.  The offered the players a 50/50 split and planned on playing all 82 games, thinking that the players would buy in to this and the owners wouldn’t lose a cent.  That, however, was a miscalculation.  The Players figure that the 50/50 split wasn’t much of a compromise on the leagues original offer since it’s probably what they wanted in the first place.

To counter-offer the leagues proposal, the NHLPA sent in three proposals which, in ten minutes, were dismissed by Commissioner Garry Bettman.  The reason? The proposals don’t make mathematical sense to the owners because it it doesn’t work out to an effective 50/50 split for the initial years.  Meaning that what you would see is an effective gradual decrease of the percentage over the life of the CBA, what the players wanted all along and what the owners won’t even consider.

Basically both sides are still very much far apart and I don’t see much changing any time soon.  And as such the league cancelled games through November 1st, although more cancellations will be coming later this week.

My prediction: this season is done for.  And if NHLPA leader Fehr is as good as we think he is, part of next season will get cancelled too.  The players are together on this, unlike in 2004 in which much of the union was fragmented.  By the time next season when they start to cancel games, the owners will cave because the amount of revenue lost will start to really hurt the teams and the league.  Garry Bettman will step down as the commissioner and the NHL will once again play hockey.

Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking…

And now I agree with Chris Christie… Thanks NHL!

While plodding around on the inter-webs, I came across an article where two NHL Senators wrote a little love note to the NHL and NHLPA asking them to please settle their differences because this hurts local business in Newark – which I wholeheartedly agree with.  But I took away from this story two things:

1. The NHL and NHLPA don’t care about local businesses in and around arenas.  The NHL cares about what they feel is in the best interest of the league – however misguided it may be.  The NHLPA, like most unions, cares about itself and doesn’t dare peak outside the box for that would be against union regulations.  In many cases – it most likely is going against it’s members’ wishes to do what it feels is in it’s best interest to keep face and rake in as much money as possible.  And yet of the two sides, I have to hitch my boat to the NHLPA because I really feel the league is just trying to get away with whatever they want and truly justifying why unions still need to exist today.

2. I severely dislike the threat thrown in the letter by the senators stating “Congress has jurisdiction over interstate commerce, which includes professional sports, and will be keeping a ‘close eye’ on negotiations.”  So if everyone remembers what a waste of taxpayer money Congress spent during the baseball drug use trials, just remember they could easily waste money butting in to the issues being hashed out by the NHL and NHLPA.

And lets be honest here – Congress isn’t going to weigh in on this issue because, as I stated in yesterday’s post, not enough people care about hockey to really warrant someone paying attention to the problem.  And even if they did, they wouldn’t pay attention to the correct problem anyway, and that is in my mind the league feels it can strong-arm the players in to any deal they want because, if they don’t agree 100% to their terms, they’ll just lock the players out.  To me, that’s not negotiating in good faith.  I never thought I would be sticking up for the people who in a given year make more than I could ever imagine to make in a lifetime, but here we are and here I am – doing just that.

And now today I find an even more interesting news article in which Gov. Christie hopes to see the lockout end “as a fan” and for the “economic impact.” But he admitted that he couldn’t really add anything to help the situation along, and any politician who tries is just grandstanding.  And I agree.  Not to get in to a political debate here, but I’m not a big fan of the big governor.  I don’t agree with a lot of what he says or does.  But every so often I must admit that he says something that just makes real sense and I can’t deny it.  And this so happens to be one of those times.  Don’t sit around Congress and draft a letter to the NHL and the NHLPA asking them to make things right in their little world.  How about you try to help in the issues of things that really matter to the country?

 

Back to the hockey side of the NHL, we will most likely hear on Wednesday that the NHL has cancelled the start of the season.  Probably just the first few weeks to begin, and then they’ll continue to chip away as both sides sit and stare at each other waiting for the other to cave.  In recent meetings, both sides have met but not made any progress on the hockey related revenue.  Instead, discussions and progress are being made on other “peripheral” issues.  I think that means they’re discussing things like the players’ dental plans.

And then there were None

So last we spoke a la circa May 26th, the Devils were about ready to enter the Stanley Cup Finals with, who I would learn to dislike, the LA Kings and, apparently, Matthew Perry (seriously who names a character on their new sit-com after their favorite sports team?). It was quite a matchup. I maintain for the record that I did wish dearly the Devils would be better, but I knew the Kings had a leg up on them. From the start, it seemed like this was going to be a sweep. Thankfully the Devils made things interesting, but alas still could not put up enough of a fight to fend off the Kings and their quest to a cup.

Truthfully I have no ill feelings about anything that occurred. I was thankful and very pleased how the Devils came back to force a game 5 and 6. But in my mind the strong team won the cup. I’m man enough to admit that, and everyone should be as well.

Now on to more depressing news. The season is a little over a week and a half away, and the top story on the official Devils web site is about an Albany Devils scrimmage.

Like it or not, we’re not seeing an on-time start to this season. And, in the event it wasn’t evident enough on njdevils.info, I blame the owners, the league, and most importantly, the commmish.  Even just looking at pictures of him, this short round guy standing behind this oversized NHL podium, I can’t help but think to myself, “What a weasel.”

Wakeup call to all owners: you’ve missed the point!  You have a gun in your hand, and you didn’t aim it at players or fans or advertisers. No, you aimed it right at your foot, and fired at least three times. Congrats. The sport started gaining cred amongst the pro-sports franchises. The NHL was finally starting to catch up to the WNBA and about to overtake them as the 17th most watched sport.  Games were getting exciting.  The shootout was no longer being mocked by everyone – most people still were, but not everyone. The Winter Classic has been a huge hit in every city it’s been played, and a national TV deal with a major network was, amazingly, obtained (started out as Outdoor Life Network, then OLN, then Versus, then Vs., and finally NBC Sports – what a ride!).  Sure some southern states are finally succumbing to the fact that hockey will never work there – they’re too busy watching Honey Boo Boo to really care about real entertainment (seriously TLC, aka The Learning Channel, I’m disappointed in you).

Overall things are starting to take shape the NHL is starting to become credible in the public’s eye once more.

And then you pull this out of the bag.

 

If it wasn’t for the fact that I love hockey so much, that I’ve invested so much feeling, time, energy and – as you know so well – money, I’d seriously pick up another sport like Baseball or NASCAR.  But unfortunately for me, the Mets suck and I lost interest when racing became “safe.”  Oh and Pocono Raceway – a tri-oval? Really? At least add some cool banking to the turns or – ooooh better yet – throw in a chicane on the straightaway!

 

Huh? Oh yeah, Lockout!  I guess my point is, folks, if you think the world is going to miss having hockey, think again.  Most people I talk to don’t even realize there’s trouble brewing, let alone an immanent cancellation of opening night.  I hate to say this, but I’m pretty sure no one would realize hockey is missing until about February or March when people start talking about playoffs.  Get a deal done. Players may cave, but I have my doubts.  Players want 57, Owners want 47, lets make it 52 and move on with our lives folks. Lets play hockey. Having your fourth lockout since 1992 is not helping the sport at all people, and you better not be blind and think it’ll bounce back.  It takes time, years, and lost revenue before that’ll happen.  It hurts everyone, including you.

And then there were Two

I will not gloat about the Eastern Conference Finals Championship. Fact is both the Devils and the Rangers were two teams well matched for each other. And the Rangers made the Devils work hard and pay for their mistakes.

The Rangers have a good team, and a style that is tough to score against (a la games one and three). Unlike many Devils and Rangers fans, I don’t have a strong dislike for the opposition. And I didn’t feel as if one deserved moving on more than the other. But I of course felt that the Devils were capable as long as they continued their level of play. And, for more or less, they did just that.

For my dear Ranger fans, my condolences. The Devils have experienced the shock that you find yourself in just like the Rangers in the locker room are feeling. With one little scramble of the puck, a bounce, and a tap in, everything comes to a halt.

And then there were two…

P.S. For all of you Ranger fans who called the Devils a rookie team… ha. For all of you Ranger fans who point and chant “Maaaaaaartieeeeeeeeeee,” thank you – were quite fond of him too. And for all of you Ranger fans that had a chip on your shoulder feeling entitled to the Stanley Cup, Lord Stanley takes no pity on you. Enjoy the next round of golf.

Oh, and Torts, I think you got in to your players heads just a little to much. Something about you seems arrogant. I feel that may have lead to your eventual demise this post season.

I’m Not One of Those Fans

You know the ones I’m talking about (I’m looking at you Steve).  The ones that sit out for the regular season.  They don’t really pay attentions until mid-April, when their team reaches the playoffs and then they talk in your face about how their team is better than yours – and they can’t even make an argument like that because they haven’t paid an ounce of attention to their team for the past 9 months!

Yet updates come few and far between around here.  I promise I’m not one of those fans.  Just… busy.  You see, I have a full time job.  On top of that full time job I have a side business.  And it dawned on me the other day that my side business has it’s own side jobs apart from the side business.

And, while I certainly can’t argue the benefits of home ownership, owning a home is like having another full time job.  By my count, I’m employed like 2.75 times.  That’s the real reason why the unemployment rate has been decreasing – not that unemployed people are getting work, employed people are just getting more work.

 

Blah blah blah, excuses excuses.  And, oh by the way, did you hear? Devils are in the playoffs!

 

I will be posting, I promise.  I don’t think anyone really cares at this point.  I’ve pretty much lost all my visitors to legit news organizations.  Although the News Site does relatively well, mostly because it links to content elsewhere on the internet and is automatically updated.

 

One of these days I will get back in to the swing of this.  I am paring down a little.  I’ve just about completely removed all the references to DevilSphere.  That project is permanently on hold (it was supposed to be a forum, but I don’t think people use those as much these days thanks to the Facebook and the Twitter.  Hey, who here remembers MySpace?!?  Anybody? Hello?

 

So I’m still here.  I’m still a fan.  I still watched 90% of the games, and went to a few of them at the Rock.  And took some pictures too!  I’m not one of those fans.

A Thought: Devils Need Help

I’m not going to even dignify the stunt Sykora pulled with a post.  It was incredibly stupid and I wouldn’t blame the league for fining or suspending him, especially since he has flat out admitted to what he did.  Its downright cheating and I would expect it from sports like Baseball and Football, not hockey.

 

Instead, I need to point out that the Devils need help.  There are three key elements missing from the Devils and if action isn’t taken soon, we might find ourselves mid-season too far behind (a la – last season).

Key element #1: Depth.  Missing someone like Jacob Josefson in the lineup will hurt the Devils.  He sustained a broken right clavicle Friday against the San Jose Sharks.  In addition to missing Travis Zajac, Josefson’s injury will soon take it’s toll on the Devils if they cannot fill the void with a competent player.  Devils go-to move is always to fill with AHL talent, but said talent may not be good enough to to keep the Devils afloat.

Key element #2: PK and PP.  It hurts enough when the Devils take too many bad penalties.  And sure enough that’s what we’re seeing today.  It gives the opposition good chances and, perhaps worse, momentum.  Now sprinkle in the Devils inept-ness on the Power Play and you have a perfect concoction for mediocrity.  Devils GM Lou Lamoriello hired Adam Oates to work with the Devils’ power play unit and to act as an assistant coach.  Guess what folks – it isn’t working out.  I’m sorry, but it’s time to find some new help here.

Key element #3: Defense. I will harp on this until they get it right, I’m sorry.  The Devils must get help on their defense.  Offense is great, but we need talented blue-liners who can get the job done in front of our net.  And having a pair of aging goaltenders in the crease doesn’t help matters either.

On A Personal Note…

To be fair, I must admit that going on a four month hiatus during the off season isn’t all that uncommon for me.  Njdevils.info certainly shows signs of neglect, DevilSphere just isn’t getting off the ground, the last post here At the Red Line was made as the regular season had just ended.

 

The last thing I want is for my web sites to become one of those pages that never get updated and no one knows why or what happened to the people that run them.  (Seriously 2MA, nothing since December 22, 2010??)  So here goes:

 

Right around the end of the hockey season, Wife and I decided we’d take a look at buying a house.  At first it was, “Can we buy a home?”  Then it slowly morphed into “How much of a home can we afford?”  Slowly but steadily the idea of buying a house became a reality, until just three weeks ago when we sat and signed every piece of paper in a small conference room to become homeowners.

 

Since that time I have started more home improvement projects than I can count (notice the use of the word “started”) and, being the computer geek that I am, attempted to run network cable to every room in the house (in actuality I’m close to finishing 2 rooms).

 

My point here is that I’ve been a little busy.  For the first time in my life, I’m mowing the lawn, cutting holes in sheetrock, attempting to replace a sink, and spending more up close and personal time with an attic then I’d care to admit.  And while I’m doing all this work inside our new home, I’m also trying to maintain my 9-5 job, my side business (Devil’s Playground), spend time with friends and family, and still get 5 hours of sleep at night.

 

It soon begs the question, what will become of the njdevils.info Web Site Network? First, DevilSphere may be a lost cause.  I really wanted to make that a viable forum for fans, but more time is needed to maintain and promote it than I have, by a lot.  I will hold on to the domain as maybe down the road it’ll be a project I want to take on, but not now.

 

That leaves njdevils.info, At the Red Line, and the News Center.  At the Red Line is easy, but I need to try to make smaller but more frequent posts.  The News Center is pretty much automatic, but some maintenance work needs to take place and I want to try to get the article tools in working order.  And finally njdevils.info…

 

Njdevils.info will never go away.  Sure it’s appearance may change from time to time, and I may remove some features and add new, but severely unfinished ones without much notice, but it is the epitome of my life as a programmer, seeing what cool and interesting things I can make and have it be useful to some fans out there.

 

I guess without getting into each area of the site individually, all I can say is it is still a site I want to maintain, and will work on making changes as time allows.  I spent some time last year working on appearance and underlying structure to make njdevils.info more web compliant and work on more browsers.  I also cleaned up the NHL information area and made part of that actually useful.  Now I just need to get the content it holds up to date.  It will, it’s just a long process.  But for as long as I can type, it will not shut down.

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.