New Jersey Devils solutions
The Devils woes began after a 2-0 win on 12/13(or 14) against Philadelphia. That was about two weeks after Jamie Langenbrunner went down with his knee injury. The Devils survived until that point doing fairly well. Then reality came knocking. Without Jamie’s scoring, the Devils went into a funk (consider a Devils funk is losing a couple of games in a row) and then lost Stevens to his PCS in early January. The Devils have been above .500 w/o Stevens, but not playing Devils defense. Scotty is improving every day (the Devils org. keeps information IN the org. so its hard to really gauge his condition).It seems that with the Devils giving up more goals due to possible fatigue on Marty or the defense(someone has to pick up Stevens 23+minutes of ice a game) and since the offense is picking up the slack it seems that the problems are over. Luckily, the Elias-Gomez-Gionta line is scoring.
However, it saddens me to think players will be traded from this team. The Devils don’t have that much offense; yeah, sure they are scoring now, but when they aren’t is what im trying to get at. The Devils probably want a scorer like Jeff O’Neill and they’ll give up Jeff Friesen(most likely). Why does this sadden me? BECAUSE IT MAKES NO SENSE!!!!! Lamoriello can’t afford to take AWAY scoring(in Friesen) and add a scorer…its a total WASH and is a worthless trade. The only thing the Devils can do on the O-side of the puck is to get a center…but Brind’Amour is too old and expensive…maybe Yannic Perrault since he rarely loses a face-off anyway(he was relegated to 4th line in MTL but I think he has moved up…since MTL is looking playoff bound, this probably won’t happen). Zach Parise will NOT be included in any trade the Devils make.
Now on Defense. The Devils lost out on Boughner(he is now injured in COL so maybe it was a good thing)…a tough guy the Devils could use on D so that the other team may think twice in the corners. The Ducks are out of the playoffs so maybe Keith Carney might be decent(depending on his salary which could be overpriced). SHOULD Lamoriello make a trade for a Dman…he shouldn’t give up ANY current dman(Hale and Martin particularly). Hale is going to become a force to be reckoned with. He will replace Stevens as the devils toughest Dman(relatively speaking, of course!). Sean Brown has played FINE in his time replacing stevens…he is also pretty young and very tough.
Goaltending: Schwab may be hurt for the long run…Brodeur can handle the games, but maybe Burns should give him more practices off than normal…the Devils blew 2pts against WAS earlier, and with only 5pts back of PHI with 3games in hand…the Devils HAVE to win all 3 games. There is no problem in goal…like there has been since 1994!
Special Teams: The PK is struggling because other teams forwards are unafraid to cross the blueline because of Stevens absence. Plain and simple. I think it takes more for unfamiliar D-pairs to adjust on the PK…yes, I know its been about 7 weeks, but all we need is for them to gel together by the end of the regular season. The PP is going to do fine as long as Elias-Gomez-Gionta keep up the work…other lines such as the Friesen-Brylin-Langenbrunner line will chip in at opportune times. Martin, Neidermayer, and Rafalski are fine point-men…although a nice offensive-defenseman wouldn’t be a bad pickup, although I’m not too worried because Lou won’t deal any dmen and the Devils won the cup with the worst PP in the league last year!
My Thoughts: If the Devils play a big team in the playoffs, I believe Burns should put Rupp with Friesen and Langenbrunner…this would free up some room for Jeff and Jamie(you saw what they did in Game 7…enough said!). Elias-Gomez-Gionta shouldn’t be touched. Pandolfo-Madden-Stevenson will score timely goals as usual, Pando had 2 last game(v Buffalo) both from Madden…so maybe both of them are getting out of their slumps. Since 2000, I have yet to see anyone knock Turner Stevenson off the puck EVER, and he works well with both Pando and MadDog. The 4th line…Marshall-Brylin/Rupp/Larionov-Rasmussen(depending who is on what line or scratched) can score when they have the opportunity. Larionov is taking up a valuable roster spot and hasn’t done much lately, although that might be the multiple healthy-scratches showing in his game.
The Devils will do fine. The Devils will likely finish 1/2 or 6…which, considering how the East is this year are 3 DESIRABLE spots to finish(i’m not downgrading the Lightning…but I think the Devils can handle their offense). Montreal and the Islanders(likely 7/8) are teams the Devils can beat when they want to beat them. I think the Devils would have a better shot against MTL, although I will admit I do not know as much about MTL as I do about NYI(remember, Parrish is back and Yashin is returning…Peca got hurt lastnight[vNYR] and he wont miss the playoffs).
All the Devils must do is pick up 5-6 points in their 3 games in hand and beat Philly at least once(but picking up at least 3 of 4)…Lamoriello will do whats necessary but as long as he doesnt trade O-man for O-man, he will probably make the right deal. A scary S.O.B. on the blue-line would help the Devils give up a few less goals. Everything else will come around as the the team that has played the most games in the last 4 years(3 cup finals trips) uses their EXPERIENCE to their advantage.
Oh, and if you’ve read till this line…BRAVO!!!!