New Jersey Devils Post Mortem

Just after 9:30pm ET last night, the Devils were officially pronounced dead at The Rock.  The 3-0 loss at home in Game 5 versus the hated Philadelphia Flyers was in reality just a formality.  In theory, the Flyers could have had half a team injured and the result might have been almost the same.  It was not that Brian Boucher played well and Marty Brodeur and Ilya Kovalchuk to blame.  It was a lot more than that.

Post mortems always reflect on what went wrong.  They even explore the why and the how and all those nooks and crannies (err nagging questions).  The turning point of Game 5 at least was when Zach Parise could not get his stick on a puck that was about five feet from the net.  Had that gone in, who knows the game may have been different.  When he whiffed, you almost felt the air come out of The Rock.  Not too long after Dany Briere scored off a very strange bounce (theme of the night) as the puck nearly did not get my Brodeur but sort of trickled its way in anyway.  It was 1-0 and really after that (just a few minutes in), it was all over.

Something that will be talked about was the unusual amount of penalties called in this series.  There were 15 Power Play chances last night which brought the five game total up to 61 combined for the two teams.  The next nearest series was Pittsburgh and Ottawa and hell they played a triple overtime game last night at 48 after five contests.  In a series that was already kind of bogged down, not knowing what would and would not be a penalty clearly got to the New Jersey Devils as the games went on.  The Flyers on the other hand, to their credit, just kept on playing.  They sucked the Devils into playing a style that they were clearly at a disadvantage.  The Devils needed to take advantage of their speed and then get bodies in front of the net.  They never really did that in this series except for Game 2.  Ironically that was the only game that had a Devils pace to it and they won….go figure!

I will not sit there and attribute quotes at this time because it is pointless but here is kind of a synopsis of key points in this series that turned it in the Flyers favor.

  • Chris Pronger’s Power Play goal in Game 1.
  • The David Clarkson interference in Game 3 for “losing an edge”
  • Game 4’s parade to the Power Play that resulted only in 1 goal.
  • Parise’s early miss in Game 5
  • Briere’s deflection of a sure Devils goal that would have tied Game 5.

Pretty much you can sum up this five game eulogy in five simple points.  Yes there were probably more stomach turning ones but these are the ones that still play in the back of my head like Dominik Hasek’s version of “Afternoon Delight”.  Now to indict some Devils players on what I would call lackluster play.  Fair or unfair here, they need to be spotlighted for all the wrong reasons and yes I will leave out the smuckers because by now, its probably room temperature and not very tasty.  Honestly it probably stinks something fierce as well. Oh wait, that is my stomach.  I do apologize profusely.

Jamie Langenbrunner (Captain)

Some are going to disagree with this but I almost think that if Lemaire is back next year, Langenbrunner will not be a Captain of this team.  He did not go down with the ship as many proud captains do and almost looked like he was sulking worse than most European players could ever dream about.  Mr. Grumpy as some had called him after his spat with Jacques Lemaire, was clearly not the same player as he was earlier in the season.  The question becomes should his C be stripped?  The answer is yes based on the lackluster play and dumb penalties taken.  Your heart starts with your captain and if there is no heart there, well then you know the rest of the story and it is not a happy one.

Colin White (Defense)

I will take my lumps here but this guy does not even deserve a million dollar paycheck let alone three million.  Was it nice he scored in Game 2?  Sure.  Can a blind squirrel find a nut every so often?  Yes.  More times than not, Colin White besides aging before our very eyes literally could not see what was coming.  The overtime goal where he had two chances to get the puck away before Dan Carcillo took the pass was painful enough.  Last night was insult to injury where he was somehow put in front of the crease on the man advantage.  He blocked two pucks from going into the net.  There was only one problem.  Those two pucks would have resulted in goals for his team.  What may be more scary is that the guy with one good eye still has two more years remaining on his contract.  While it may be unfair to single White out, he is not even close to a steady defenseman that the Devils try to pass him off as.

Martin Brodeur (Goalie)

In keeping with the one forward, one defender, and goaltender theme, Brodeur does deserve some blame here.  He plays too much during the regular season which never used to be a problem but you have to sit there and go four first round exits in a row has to mean some kind of blame has to be shifted to the netminder.  The goal he gave up in Game 4 to make it 2-1 Flyers was probably the killer of this series and the one goal that he just could not give up the way the Devils were playing.  A shot from the right wing like that on that angle should not catch a great goalie napping but it did.  Yes Brodeur made some amazing saves in these playoffs but he could not overcome the deficient penalty kill and the traffic in front of him.  Would a rested Brodeur have made a difference?  We will never know.  However next year it might be something that is worth a try.


So what about next year?  There are many uncertainties with this team.  Will the coach be back?  Will Lou Lamoriello be back?  Will they even try to resign Ilya Kovalchuk (which I will maintain was worth the gamble but maybe a year or two too late)?  Will Marty Brodeur finally get some rest and not because of an injury?  One thing is for sure.  There will be a lot of changes in New Jersey.  Some will be surprising and some will not be.

There is some talk that there will be some wholesale changes and one name my good buddy Rick came up with was Anton Volchenkov.  Here is a guy that actually has two eyes and can play some defense.  Sure there are others out there and players to be shone the spotlight but that is not for this post mortem.  Simply we will close this by saying the following.  It was another nice regular season for the Devils and the banner will be nice but the first round exit is like another dagger into this fandom’s heart.  The window is closing so get it together!  See you next year and now Taps!


About Chris Wassel

Simply I am a hockey writer who is a jack of all trades. Whether it is draft, fantasy, NHL, KHL, AHL, etc...I probably can write about it. The challenge in hockey is to be able to step out of your comfort zone and write like you are still there. Hopefully you enjoy the humor in the writing on the site and tell your friends. Thanks for reading!

New Jersey Devils Post Mortem!

New Jersey Devils

BallHype: hype it up!

This did not quite come out of nowhere. You get that impression from Brent Sutter but I refuse to believe it. The bottom line is the New Jersey Devils came up short pretty much since Game 1. Even when they won…you were left with the feeling that it could fall apart. Tonight it did. Two strategic mistakes in the final seconds led to two goals by Carolina. Just like that, the Devils went from winning to OT to regulation Game 7 loss in one of the most cruelest ways imaginable.

However, the reality is the Devils were not good enough. Guys like Niklas Havelid, Colin White, etc…etc. are not defensemen you want to hang your hat on. There is a reason why this team had to score a ton in the regular season. These guys are just NOT GOOD! I will say it once and I will say it again. Look back to Game 5 when they just BARELY held on to a 1-0 win against Carolina. The defense sat back and let Carolina do whatever it wanted to. That is not acceptable and nor will it ever be acceptable!

People are going to second guess Martin Brodeur again and say he cannot win the big game. That is also nonsense! What simply happened is this team got caught with the deer in headlights look. Instead of recovering like a good team would when they got scored on…they let something happen that was even more improbable and that was give up a series winner in regulation. One cannot fault Brodeur for what happened there. The defensive breakdowns were many like they were all series. What happened was they kind of got lost in the shuffle until the most crucial moment of the season.

Again this team is too built for the regular season and not enough for the postseason. One line and a grizzled vet showed up tonight (Brendan Shanahan had 2 assists). There are going to need to be some pretty drastic changes. The first starts at defense. Because that is the main core of where the problems lie in Jersey!

First off…whatever it takes to make Colin White go away….do it! Colin has been a nice player for NJ for a long while but hey this is a business and its time to get better. There are guys like Steve Montador and Jay Bouwmeester who will be UFA’s among others. Throw a line out there….buy out White if you have to but this team needs a major overhaul on D. I can live with Bryce Salvador to a point but if by some miracle Jay-Bo does come to New Jersey…then its time to ship out Paul Martin as well. Cut the salary and send him to Minnesota. After that, make sure Mr. Havelid has a nice long walk off a short pier and bring up Matt Corrente from Lowell. Surely this will not fix all the problem on the Devils’ blueline but hey it is a start.

Next up…Rolston, Elias, and Gionta are not too bad together but Patrik Elias has to learn to SCORE in the playoffs again. It seemed Elias missed several glorious chances in this series that he normally would not miss. Patrik had a bad series…it is okay to say it. You cannot miss wide open nets like Elias did in this series if you want to be considered an elite player again. Until he lights the lamp enough when it counts…Patrik will just be another regular season performer. Lou Lamoriello will likely mend whatever fences with Brian Gionta and will offer him a deal. Question is will Gionta take it? If not, Lou Lams could go out into the UFA market. At this point….it could not hurt.

The fourth line was not too bad….Rupp and Clarkson were not so good tonight for whatever reason but overall during the season David Clarkson started to make those slow steps to becoming a better NHL player. I think next year he breaks the 20 goal barrier and with some more time on the extra man…he could get close to 25 goals. The duo makes for a nice energy line and hopefully they can find someone in Lowell to make a trio because Bobby Holik likely will not be back. At 2.5 million he is too expensive to have. In the end, the Holik reunion tour did not work.

Now whatever it takes to break up Madden and Pandolfo… it! The team is getting older and older and honestly for as hard as these two work….2003 is now 6 years ago. They are beginning to show their age together on the ice. John Madden paired with a younger gritty forward could work. However either Madden or Pandolfo or both may go and I would rather it be Pandolfo. Madden is too valuable on short handed situations still.

If that is not enough…oh believe me there is much more. It is now apparent and needed to take a deeper look at this farm system. When you are ranked at the bottom of the prospect heap…worse than teams like Colorado….its time to take a second look. I will never figure out why John Carlson was not taken over Mr. Tedenby. Everyone has seen what Carlson did with London of the OHL this year. Time to see where scouting can be improved because that once vaunted Devils scouting has slipped several rungs in the past few years.

Do a system’s check. Its like taking a car out and giving it a full tune-up after say 50,000 miles. The Devils are now six years removed from a Stanley Cup and for most fans and franchises…that would be a great thing. However for this fan…it is not! It really is time to take a look at all parts of this organization. Is Brent Sutter really the right coach for this team? Could John MacLean be replaced for a more NHL savvy assistant? From goaltending coaches to personnel…..this checkup needs to be done and done quickly. The draft is coming up in late June and July 1st is the free agent frenzy.

Can the Devils learn something from this? Yes they can but only if they really take a deep look in the mirror and realize what they have become is not the team they envisioned at the start of the 2008-2009 season. Ultimately that divergence led to their eventual and sudden downfall.

About Chris Wassel

Simply I am a hockey writer who is a jack of all trades. Whether it is draft, fantasy, NHL, KHL, AHL, etc...I probably can write about it. The challenge in hockey is to be able to step out of your comfort zone and write like you are still there. Hopefully you enjoy the humor in the writing on the site and tell your friends. Thanks for reading!