Devils Decline.

For over a decade, the New Jersey Devils were among the NHL’s elite franchises, but their slow decline since the lockout suggests their days among the elite are over.

It wasn’t that long ago the New Jersey Devils were one of the elite franchises in the NHL.

From 1993-94 to 2003-04, the Devils advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals four times, winning three championships. No other NHL team had a better record during that period. Only the Detroit Red Wings could match that level of success during that stretch.

During that time frame, the Devils also advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals five times, were Conference champions four times, and Atlantic division champions five times.

They pioneered the defensive system known as the “neutral zone trap”, and while it was copied by almost every other NHL club, few played it as well as the Devils.

Over that period, they were led by goaltender Martin Brodeur and defensemen Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Ken Daneyko, who played on all their Cup championship teams.

Other notable blueliners who contributed to at least one of their Cup championships included smooth-skating Brian Rafalski and rugged Colin White.

Though renowned for their defensive system, the Devils also had significant offensive firepower. For many of those seasons their forward lines included such notables as Bobby Holik, Patrik Elias, Claude Lemieux, Jason Arnott, Bill Guerin, Scott Gomez, Petr Sykora, John Madden, Alexander Mogilny, Jamie Langenbrunner, Joe Nieuwendyk, Stephane Richer and Brian Gionta.

The architect was general manager Lou Lamoriello, and few of his peers could match his savvy moves during this period, be it via trade or at the draft table.

It was via the draft Lamoriello had arguably his greatest success. Between 1990 and 2004, the Devils found, selected and groomed a significant number of players who would not only go on to lengthy NHL careers, but would play key roles in the club’s rise to dominance.

During the period, the Devils selected Brodeur (1990), Niedermayer and Brian Rolston (1991), Sergei Brylin (1992), Jay Pandolfo (1993), Elias (1994), Sykora (1995), White (1996), Gomez and Gionta (1998), Paul Martin (2000), Zach Parise (2003) and Travis Zajac (2004).

Of that group, all but Martin, Parise and Zajac played on Devils championship teams.

Lamoriello’s scouts proved adept at finding undrafted gems, which the Devils GM was only too happy to sign. Madden (1997) and Rafalski (1999) fell into that category.

In addition to strong drafting, Lamoriello also made several worthwhile trades to bolster his roster. Between 1990 and 2002, he acquired Arnott, Lemieux, Mogilny, Langenbrunner, Nieuwendyk and Stephane Richer, who were key factors in one or more of the Devils championship teams.

Lamoriello also gained a reputation as a tough negotiator with his free agents. That would usually result in his dealing away those he couldn’t reach suitable terms with, or eventually losing them to unrestricted free agency.

More often than not, however, Lamoriello always seemed to find quality replacements, either via the trade market, or his pipeline of prospects.

The Devils GM was also notorious for his coaching changes, as between 1997 and 2004, the Devils replaced their bench bosses five times. That included firing Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson, who had coached the Devils to their first two Stanley Cup titles.

Players and coaches could come and go, yet the Devils carried on as one of the NHL’s top teams. For a decade, they were a perennial Cup contender, overseen by one of the top general managers in the business, anchored by a handful of star players, supported by a strong secondary cast, with an almost cult-like devotion to defensive hockey.

But since the NHL lockout, the Devils have been in a slow, steady decline, bottoming out in 2010-11, when they missed the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years.

Some die-hard Devils fans might excuse that as a mere blip, similar to their performance in 1995-96, the last time they missed the post-season. They’ll point to the Devils record between 2005-06 and 2009-10, when the club topped the Atlantic division in four of those five seasons, winning no fewer than 46 games, as proof their club has not fallen out of elite status.

Sadly for those fans, they may be engaging in wishful thinking.

The 1995-96 Devils had young stars in Brodeur, Niedermayer, Holik, Sykora, and Brylin, who’d yet to reach their respective playing primes. Stevens at 31 was still in his prime, while  Daneyko at 33 still has a few years left in the tank. Elias, White and Gomez were waiting in the wings, Lemieux had yet to make his return, and Arnott, Langenbrunner and Nieuwendyk had yet to be added via trade.

For the ’95-’96 Devils, the best was still yet to come. The same cannot be said for the present roster.

Despite the Devils’ solid regular season records from 2006 to 2010, they came up short in the post-season, advancing to the Conference Semi-Finals twice, and failing to advance beyond the Conference Quarter-Finals in the next three seasons.

Brodeur, the franchise goaltender, is ageing, and injuries have begun to catch up with the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer. Though only three years removed from winning his fourth Vezina trophy, it is apparent Brodeur’s best years are now well behind him.

Even if he does bounce back this coming season, Brodeur can’t play forever.This coming season is the final one of his contract, and Brodeur has hinted it could well be his last.

More worrisome is there’s no one in their system currently capable of stepping up to replace him when he finally does retire. At some point within the next couple of years, Lamoriello will have to find a replacement, and franchise goalies aren’t exactly an easy commodity to land via trade or free agency. Even then, they would have huge shoes to fill, replacing not just a superstar, but one who has set many records for goaltending excellence.

Stevens and Niedermayer, the long-time blueline anchors, both left the team in 2005, the former forced into retirement by concussion, the latter to unrestricted free agency. Daneyko, the longest-serving player in Devils history (20 seasons), retired in 2003.

Losing Stevens and Niedermayer were serious blows to the Devils defense corps, which they’ve been unable to suitably replace. Their depth was further weakened when Lamoriello failed in 2007 to re-sign Rafalski, who signed with the Detroit Red Wings, where he played in two more Cup Finals, earning another championship in 2008.

Failing to find comparable replacements via trades or the draft, Lamoriello finally turned in the summer of 2010 to free agency, inking Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder, neither of whom came close in 2010-11 to suitably addressing their needs, though to be fair to Volchenkov, he spent considerable time sidelined by injury.

Elias, the Devils all-time leading scorer, is 35 and into the twilight of his career. White, for many years a reliable physical presence on the blueline, has seen his performance decline as age (33) and his style of play are taking its toll.

Gomez and Gionta were both lost to free agency in 2007 and 2009 respectively, and while it could be argued they were replaced by far better players in Parise and Zajac, management has failed to find suitable secondary scoring depth once those two were moved into more prominent offensive roles.

Put simply, most of those notable Devils drafted between 1990 and 2004 are now gone, either via trade, free agency or retirement, and Lamoriello was unable to adequately replace them.

Once considered one of the league’s top general managers, Lamoriello in recent years has faced a growing chorus of criticism.

Questions about Lamoriello’s management first arose in 2005, when he signed veteran defensemen Vladimir Malakhov and Dan McGillis to contracts, only to discover early in the ’05-’06 season they struggled to adjust to the new NHL rules favoring offense over defense.

Lamoriello was able to exploit loopholes in the collective bargaining agreement – the very one he helped negotiate for during the 2004-05 lockout – to remove Malakhov’s and McGillis’ contracts from his cap space, but his critics argued if the Devils GM had been on his game, he never would’ve signed those two in the first place.

The Devils draft record since 2000 clearly hasn’t been as strong as it was in the previous decade. While they did draft Martin, Parise and Zajac during that period, they’re the only notable talent selected during that period.

Martin, by the way, was yet another player the Devils lost to the free agent market, signing with Pittsburgh in 2010.

It’s clear the pool of young talent the Devils used to tap into to maintain their roster depth has grown shallow in recent years.

Some could argue the Devils high placement in the standings prevented them from landing top prospects. That’s true, until one realizes between 1990 and 1999, the Devils were capable of drafting well regardless of where they placed in the standings. They found talent in the first round (Brodeur, Sykora, Gomez), the second (Elias, White, Pandolfo) and third rounds (Gionta).

Of course, it remains to be seen how the Devils prospects selected since 2009 pan out, as it’s still too early to write them off, but it’s apparent this team hasn’t had the same level of success at the draft table as it once enjoyed.

Under Lamoriello’s management, the Devils traditionally avoided expensive free agency signings, but after acquiring Ilya Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers midway through the 2009-10 season, they shocked the hockey world in July 2010 by signing Kovalchuk, now an unrestricted free agent, to a 17-year, $102 million, heavily front-loaded deal.

The league however voided the contract as a circumvention of the salary cap, resulting in the Devils ultimately signing Kovalchuk to a slightly shorter (15 years), slightly less expensive ($100 million), only slightly less front-loaded deal.

Many NHL analysts were stunned by the two contracts, fuelling speculation Devils ownership, not Lamoriello, was behind this move, as it was so uncharacteristic of the usually tight-fisted GM.

It also didn’t help when Kovalchuk struggled through the first half of last season, and while his performance improved when Lemaire was hired midway through the season on a interim basis, he was clearly not the offensive force he had been in Atlanta.

Kovalchuk is far more talented than his first full season as a Devil suggests, and should regain his high-scoring ways, but it does suggest a problem both with roster depth and coaching.

Since 2005, the Devils continued to lack continuity behind the bench.

After Pat Burns was forced by cancer in 2005 to step down, there’s been several head coaching changes. Robinson and Lemaire made interim returns, and Lamoriello took a couple of spins himself behind the bench. Claude Julien only last one season, ousted some say because he clashed with several veteran Devils. Brent Sutter lasted two seasons, then bolted for Calgary. John MacLean lasted only half a season and was replaced by Lemaire for the remainder of the ’10-’11 campaign.

Lamoriello surprised many observers this summer by hiring former Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer, but given the Devils history of numerous coaching changes, it remains to be seen how long he’ll hold that job.

During the Devils “glory years”, their depth of talent and strict adherence to their defensive system made it possible for the club to adapt to the revolving door of head coaches. Last season suggests that is no longer the case.

Their devotion toward their defensive system was successful for a number of years, particularly between 1994-95 to 2003-04, widely considered the NHL’s “Dead Puck Era”, and even in the years since the lockout ended, when the league implemented rule to improve the offensive game, the Devils still managed to have success with their defensive game.

Ultimately, however, their lack of offensive depth proved their Achilles heel, particularly in the post-season. Between ’05-’06 and ’09-’10, the Devils never finished higher in goals-per-game than 15th, and spent four of those five seasons among the bottom third offensively.

Last season, the Devils gave up the fewest shots-against per-game (26.1), had the ninth-best per-game GAA (2.52) and the 11th best penalty kill, yet they finished dead last in goals-against per game (2.08). and 26th in shots-for per-game. Little wonder they missed the playoffs.

Granted, they played without Parise, who missed almost the entire season to injury, but it’s debatable how improved those offensive numbers would’ve been had he played.

Despite the addition of Kovalchuk and a returning Parise, the Devils still lack significant offensive punch up front, and Lamoriello still failed to find a quality puck-moving defenseman to replace the long-departed Niedermayer and Rafalski.

Looking at the Devils current roster for next season, it’s not one which favorably compares to those great Devils championship teams, and it remains to be seen if they’ll be as solid a regular season club as they were in the recent past.

For many years, critics of the Devils would predict their doom, yet thanks to their best players, pipeline of promising talent, key additions via savvy trades, and their strong defensive system, they would defy those predictions to remain among the class of the league.

But there now appears to be too many factors – frequent coaching changes, aging franchise goalie, lack of home-grown talent, inability to replace departed talent,  – catching up to the Devils.

Even if they rebound and become a playoff contender next season, or over the foreseeable future, their days as one of the dominant teams in the NHL appear to be over.

It’s going to take a considerable rebuild, which will take several years to accomplish, for them to return to their once-accustomed perch amongst the NHL’s best teams.

22 Comments

  1. Great article. I respectfully disagree though. Certainly this team is not what it used to be, and may never fully reach that sort of potential again, but the Devils are still elite. Regardless of the stats from last season or the moves that Lou made this offseason, my expectations are still high. I’m confident that things will woerk out and cups will be won again.

  2. You say during the decade between 93-94 to 03-04, NO other NHL team had a better record, but the Red Wings is the only one to match their championship success. Fact is, not only has Detroit matched their Stanley Cup Champions success, they also had a better record in that span, totalling 1145 points to New Jersey’s 1077.

    • Your point is noted, but I was referring to Cup championships, which is the ultimate measure of success. In that regard, over the same period, no other club bested the Devils, only the Wings matched them.

  3. If I remember well, Lemaire was not fired in his first tour.He stepped down after the Devils lost in the 1998 playoffs to the Ottawa Senators.

  4. But you said “no other nhl team had a better record during that period and only Detroit matched their success.” The last part obviously refferring to championships and tne first part refers (or sounds like it refers to) their record.

  5. Read the entire paragraph again.

    “From 1993-94 to 2003-04, the Devils advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals four times, winning three championships. No other NHL team had a better record during that period. Only the Detroit Red Wings could match that level of success during that stretch.”

    I’m obviously referring to the Cup championships.

  6. The devils had great teams who rode the back of a great goaltender. With Brodeur only having 1 or 2 productive seasons left, the devils will be fine if they can sign or trade for an elite future goaltender. If they are willing to use assets to aquire one, I have a feeling they won’t need a rebuild. Say Parise for Schneider and Hodgson? Future goalie, and a second line center to help Zajac, Elias and Kovi. I may get ripped on that trade proposal but judging by my question mark you can tell I’m not sold on it and there are alot of variables that would make that trade possible (ie. NJ out of contension by the deadline) either way Lou has had success replacing his aging vets through trade or drafting, so there is no reason in my eyes to doubt him now. Devils will be fine.

  7. No, no, no. NJ is not going to trade for Schneider. Give up with the Parise Vancouver fantasies, they’re not going to happen. The ONLY goalie I could see them acquiring with Parise is Bernier. Otherwise, they’re going to get good players, not injury plagued busts like Hodgson currently is, and unproven goaltenders playing back-up teams like Schneider. If Lou made that deal, I would be a man without a team to support.

    Yes, the Devils rode Brodeur, and Brodeur has all these records, but Brodeur’s skill wasn’t just stopping pucks, it was controlling the defensive zone, which he relinquished a lot of because of the “Brodeur” rule.

    Losing Stevens and Rafalski was HUGE. Niedermeyer, to me, wasn’t the presence these other two were on the Devils (he was in Anaheim). Rafalski gave them a power play, which they’ve not had since his departure, and Stevens gave them leadership. Our best C since then has been Langenbrunner, and now Parise can don it if it’s his last season here.

    Without a powerplay, yes, they’ve sucked hard since the lockout. The trapezoid rule and the losing of a power play defensemen have given them no PP nor any leadership. When they do get scored against, they play like crap for 5 minutes. This is why they were taken out in 5 in most of those series’ that they lost; no team psychology.

    But even then, they did go on a stretch of 22-2-3 this season. If they had made the playoffs from a 10-29-3 record, it would have been one of the most amazing feats in Sports history.

    Now that they have Larsson, I’m not worried. Do teams need a goaltender? Not really. All fringe NHL goalies play Luongo style cover the bottom half of the net hockey. The only thing that might plague their future is the loss of Parise to free agency for nothing, or for the crap Parise to Vancouver or Parise to Toronto deals proposed.

    You know why NJ are getting Swedes and Russians and stuff? They don’t take off in Free Agency.

    But are they a sinking ship? Palmieri, Tedenby, Josefson, Larsson, Taormina, Clermont, Merrill… they still have a lot of promise in their prospects.

    Philly’s crap year was a blip. Look how they recovered. Jersey’s next.

  8. I’m going to have to disagree with a lot of you wrote. I don’t think it’s fair to compare the ’95-’96 team to last seasons. The problem with the ’95-’96 team was that the players started playing outside of their roles and the orchestra was disrupted. Players used the confidence of winning a cup and thought they were first line scorers when in fact they were third line grinders. Last seasons team saw tons of injuries and saw players thrust into roles they weren’t accustomed to, and for a bunch of young guys, weren’t ready for.

    As for the pipeline of talent, there is no denying that the system was bare for a while but the recent drafts have produced a lot of talent. Not only did the Devils win a lottery pick and grab Adam Larrson, Jon Merrill is playing great at Michigan and the team is understandably very high on him. Also on defense, Alexander Urbom looks to be a good future defenseman as well. Mark Fayne came out of nowhere last season and opened a lot of eyes and Matt Taormina showed promise before his injury. The Devils now find themselves in a position where they are extremely deep in young talent on defense.

    They are not as deep up front but Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby, Nick Palmeiri, and Adam Henrique took huge steps in their development and look extremely promising. Nick Palmeiri found some chemistry with Kovalchuk and Tedenby and Josefson have top 6 abilities.

    As for an aging Brodeur, it is obvious that the Devils will never be able to replace him. He is a legend. However, it is worth pointing out what Scott Clemmensen did in ’08-’09 as the third string goalie. He had been in the system forever, splitting time with former 1st rounder Ari Ahonen in Albany for years, and when he got his opportunity, he grabbed it ran with it. A 28 year old drafted 11 years earlier after a disappointing stint in Toronto came in and the team didn’t miss a beat.

    While the Devils aren’t what they used to be, they are certainly reloading and I am optimistic for their future.

  9. MJR, first I’m a Leafs fan so Parise to Vancouver is no fantasy of mine. I was trying to give an example of a move that could help NJ reclaim elite status. Your opinion on Hodgson and Schneider are valid I guess…I just disagree.
    My main point was NJ needs a future goalie and they will be fine. They have prospects but few valuable trade chips. Zajac and Parise are the only tradable assets that can get NJ the parts it needs. The Devils need a quality young goaltender who’s ready to step in now. They also need secondary scoring and a puck moving defenceman. Not all of these can be aquired by FA or are available in the farm so the trade route is likely. If you like Bernier better fine, question though, what do you think he will cost? I doubt Lou will throw in a first considering he already has to give one up in the next three years due to the Kovi contract. So what do you think NJ should do to adress goaltending?

  10. I see New Jersey in a state of decline. Not saying they are going to suck, but they will start to struggle for the lower playoff spots over the next few years as Brodeur will be gone with no realistic person in the system to take over. They have some decent prospects which will help. I don’t see Lou sticking around much longer either which will change the make up of this team for sure when that happens.

  11. A better article is this one.

    http://www.thestar.com/article/989975–cox-beyond-the-brush-fires-another-nhl-lockout-looms

    I never make any comments or opinions to upset anyone because that is the last thing I want to do. I do however give you the honest comments of what I have heard and gladly will post it here. I very much hope that what I have heard is completely wrong and that there will not be a lockout but unfortunately I feel there will be one.

    Donald Fehr’s hiring was not welcomed by either side especially when the players didn’t even vote for him to represent them. The players are very unhappy about escrow, rollback, insurance, retired players coverage and many many more issues. Players are not willing to give back what they won in the last collective bargaining and are in fact looking to get more as the league revenues have increased but the players have not seen any of that. Players are very determined and are more informed about the process.

    More to say about this in the future.

  12. Over the last few seasons Lamoriello has lost the confidence of his players and Zach Parise is the latest to stand up to him and question his egomaniacism.

    Kudos to Parise for doing what others haven’t and giving Lou the reality check he so desperately needs.

    Will Lou finally realize that he needs to change his attitude or will he continue to do what he has been doing and continue to diminish the New Jersey Devil’s future and disappoint more players?

  13. To DMC:
    To address goaltending? Look to their system. Brodeur was injured one year; they played exactly the same with Clemmenson.

    LA and Vancouver aren’t in bargaining positions; when you say, “What’s it going to cost?” They’re trading a spare in a league that doesn’t require premium goaltending to win championships (Niemi? Giguere? Fleury? Osgood? Come on; Thomas was the first top 5 goalie to win since the lockout) and that lowers the market value of those goaltenders, same as Montreal was doing when they were unloading Halak, which is why they got back so little for him. Halak was even proven, which Schneider and Bernier aren’t. That’s the reality of trading a 2nd goaltender. What Colorado gave for Varlomov was completely brain dead. Vancouver and LA aren’t going to hope to get a deal like that. Especially not from Lou.

    Either which way, when Brodeur retires, NJ could play someone out of their camps or probably pick up a decent free agent until “something comes along” rather than worry themselves to death and make a desperate franchise killing move acquiring a decent but unproven goaltender for an all star forward. NJ’s also stacked with prospects on the offense and defense, so NJ wouldn’t want any role player 3rd/4th liners in those deals either. I heard some people talking like Schneider and Raymond or Schneider and Hodgson. The deal has to actually address NJ’s needs: 1 – premium right winger, 2 – Prospect RW with prospect G. No team with a good RW is trading them, so option 2. I called it a fantasy, because people have been linking Parise with Vancouver the same as Toronto; the deals just don’t add up, and need to make a lot more sense to be even given consideration. Parise is top three LW in NHL, perhaps top five F.

    Delvecchio
    Lost the confidence of his players? That’s worthy of a reply when it’s fact rather than speculation.

  14. Great article, the Devils were definitely one of two teams to look up to for 12 years, Lou really built that team and although some moves have been questionable he will always be one of the greatest GM’s of our era. I have always admired the Devils even though I am not a fan, but yes they have been in decline for a couple of years now. I can remember hockey insiders such as Pierre McGuire and Gord Miller and others talk about how the players loved playing for the Devils, due to a great atmosphere and living in the New Jersey era. Sadly, that seems to be coming to an end as well. With some of their top talent leaving in the past years you have to wonder if something changed the atmosphere of that team

  15. MJR, how can you say Fleury isn’t elite? Osgood just retired and although he wasn’t a top 5 goaltender, his name as been tossed around in hall of fame talk. Giggy WAS close to elite when Anahiem won the cup. And Thomas is a star. I would argue Niemi was the only non-star to win a cup since the lockout.
    I only asked how much Bernier cost because you mentioned him over Schneider, but it sounds like you want neither, which is fine. Prospects like those aforementioned goalies have value though, and to say they are unproven is only a testimate to their age, not necessarily quality. Example, the Kessel deal, TO got a 30+ goal scorer for Seguin, Hamilton and Knight. So by your logic, TO clearly won the deal because Kessel is proven and the others are not. So why does everybody rip Burke for the trade? Like I said, unproven prospects have verying degrees of value…some are incredibly high. Halak could have fetched more in return if Gauthier would have waited, that was a terrible deal for Montreal. As for Varly…I agree, that was a brain gaff for the Avs. He’s a good goalie but not at that price.
    So I guess your answer is to look from within. That sounds to me like NJ will be a bubble team team for quite some time. You can’t expect NJ to reclaim any sort of dominance with a rookie goaltender.
    Anyway, for the record I’m not slagging you for not wanting Bernier or Scneider. I just think NJ should invest in a goalie who could adequately replace Broduer. He only has a year or two left so the time to replace him is now IMO.
    And Btw, saying “That’s worthy of a reply when it’s fact rather than speculation.” lol! You did reply! Does that make Delvecchio’s statement fact? (just bustin your balls)

  16. DMC:
    Fleury, Osgood, Niemi, Giggy (Giggy never should have won the conn smythe and became an average goaltender when they regulated equipment) are all goaltenders that “do the job” like Grant Fuhr and Tom Barrasso. They won cups, too. Are they people we’re going to be talking about for putting dominating performances in the playoffs? Nah, cuz truth is, you don’t need elite goaltending, it just “helps” like when Roy carries Montreal, which happens once every 10 years? Thomas, Rinne, Lunqvist, Miller, and Price would probably rank top 5 in the league at this present moment in time, with honourable mentions going to Ward, Halak, and Rask. Only one of those goaltenders (other than in a backup role) surpassed the second round, and Philly made it to the finals last year with shaky goaltending.

    Let’s go through some of these defensemen in the last few years: Pronger, Niedermeyer, Lidstrom, Chara, Keith… Pittsburgh got through it with Gonchar, but he’s elite PP (or was before Ottawa). So yes, sell the farm for a proven defenseman unless this next lockout changes the rules further. Tampa had Boyle, and Carolina’s team also had a decent power play.

    I just wouldn’t trade an elite player for a goaltender unless that goaltender is also elite. if he’s potentially elite, he comes with another “potentially elite”, so that the team trading elite doesn’t get dime a dozen roster players, but guys who are capable of becoming all stars and not just one + a roster player.

    And I wouldn’t say that Kessel was proven either. He scored 30 goals on a then-offensive team, playing second line? I knew the trade was risky. I compare Kessel’s performance to Schneider… riding a team that has a lot of chemistry. How does he play on those off nights? Was he ever really depended upon? Well, we saw his long goalless droughts this season, because he was an entirely different player when he had to be “depended on” to score. Thank goodness the Leafs picked up MacArthur and Armstrong and Grabovski started playing decent, or you guys would be face palming the thought of having Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on your team.

    You say: “look from within makes Jersey a bubble team”; so what’s the alternative? Trade away a third of Jersey’s offense for a goaltender? I watched a lot of 2-1 OT games last year; Jersey couldn’t keep that pace… it stressed them out and it caught up to them. What’ll Jersey be without a balanced attack over two lines like they currently have? Defensive juggernauts don’t exist anymore and they don’t go far; even had they made the playoffs, they would have been ousted in five with the d-men they had at the time. (Now that they have Larsson, things are looking up)

    Since the lockout, the power play has been “in” and the defensive lock systems have been “out”. Last two seasons, now teams want monster forechecks like Boston and Philly’s from a year ago. Those are “in” right now, too. I just wouldn’t give out Parise for Schneider unless he came with an actual right wing prospect with him that doesn’t have injury problems. And LA HAD prospects but traded them away. So the right move changes…

  17. Point taken. I never mentioned the importance of defenceman (different argument all together) but I agree. Give Larsson a couple of years and I think NJ is set. I think your overblowing Hodgson’s injury a bit. He had one back injury, rehabed, came back, played in the A and the big club without setback. He is not injury prone. He needs a shot at playing regularily so he can regain confidence again. He is a good prospect. Schneider had a great record and GAA when called upon. I know losing Parise would hurt, but if the Devils are out of contention and Parise is still a pending UFA, I don’t really see much of a choice. Worst case scenario, they don’t trade him, he walks, and NJ is screwed because they have no decent goaltending prospects to replace an aging Brodeur, and did not replenish their prospect pool (which took a bit of a blow after dealing for Kovi) they have decent prospects that can come in and be effective. But I would argue only 1 or 2 of of them can be as good as Hodgson. I like the deal, you don’t. That’s fine. Let’s just agree to disagree.

  18. I kind of agree with MJR on the elite goaltender issue. The last 6 championships were won on the backs of hot goaltenders, not necessarily elite goaltenders. Last year was an anomaly, who could have forseen Tim Thomas getting hot in October and staying hot through June?

  19. You actually read both of our multiple novels?!

  20. I have to confess that I thought NJ would be one of the teams that would thrive in the salary cap era. Lou has definitely lost some of his abilities, or perhaps he has become so egotistical that he is overmanaging especially regarding coaching.

    Many say the team is almost uncoachable. If so, why? Many say this, but no one offers explanations or points fingers. Is it because Lou emasculates the coaches?

    Lyle, no love for Dave Draper in this article? He deserves a lot of credit for NJ’s excellent drafting record, and perhaps some criticism for draft failures more recently.

  21. @MJR: You stated, “Defensive juggernauts don’t exist anymore.”

    See: Nashville Predators