Originally posted at Hockey This Week.
The New Jersey Devils are struggling. The offense can’t score goals, the defense can’t prevent goals, and the power play unit is invisible.
The only bright spot has been a penalty killing unit that is first in the NHL, having allowed only five goals in 91 chances.
Changes need to be made, but not the major changes that some fans are screaming for. DeBoer is going nowhere. Kovalchuk isn’t going to be traded. Brodeur isn’t going to be put out to pasture.
So what exactly can be done? Here is what I would do to (try to) fix the Devils:
Most people thought that putting Kovy and ZP together would produce some sort of super-scoring line, it just hasn’t happened. If you have read any of my other thoughts, you know I don’t like constant line changes, but this line has had enough of a trial. The two need to be broken up.
Here is how I would rework the forward lines:
Kovalchuk – Henrique – Zubrus
Parise – Elias – Sykora
Tedenby – Carter – Clarkson
Boulton – Pelley – Palmieri
Yes, I would bring Nick Palmieri back up and let Cam Janssen sit until he is needed. Tim Sestito and Brad Mills haven’t done much as fourth line centers, so why not give Rod Pelley a chance? He obviously has something to prove. I’d give him a handful of games to prove he still has value, instead of having him sit while others aren’t producing.
As far as defense goes, there hasn’t been much of it. The players are there – these aren’t bad defensemen – but they haven’t been in proper position way too often and have turned the puck over way too much.
The defense would look like this:
Volchenkov – Larsson
Greene – Salvador
Urbom – Tallinder
Mark Fayne would sit and Mark Fraser could actually play in Albany. It would also mean Fayne could play once a week or so and give other D-men the chance to rest, unlike Fraser, who just doesn’t get into games.
Alex Urbom, at 6’5″ – 215, would add even more size to the defense, and pairing him with Tallinder as the third pairing (which would also mean less ice time for Tallinder…that’s a good thing), might help out the young Swedish defenseman.
And now, the goalies.
It’s clear that Martin Brodeur is starting to show his age, but let’s not look at goals-against and assume they are all his fault. The defense has been porous, and turnovers in the defensive zone have been a big problem.
Having said that, a 50/50 split is something that needs to be done. As an example, in yesterday’s game, the start would have gone to Johan Hedberg. Brodeur gave up six goals (again, not all his fault) in Colorado, and an extra day of rest would not have hurt. Hedberg had great career numbers against Minnesota going into last night, and it would give Brodeur the (easier?) start in Winnipeg tonight.
Hedberg has shown he can handle the starting job and the team, for whatever reason, seems to play better in front of him.
The hardest part would be the power play units. The changes would need to be made in philosophy, not exactly the players.
The players would be reminded to shoot… often. There would always be a body in front of the goalie. No more cross-ice passes trying to set up the perfect shot. While pretty passes and shots that result in a highlight goals are nice, ugly goals where the puck trickles in because it hit someone or something in front of the net count just the same.
Here are the PP units I’d send out:
Tedenby – Parise – Zubrus (the body in front of the net), with Kovalchuk and Larsson up top.
Sykora – Elias – Clarkson (in front of the net), with Kovalchuk and Greene up top.
This would allow Tedenby to have more ice time, while not having to worry about his defense. The players seem to stand around at times on the power play, so he would also bring a little more energy to the top unit.
So there you have it. The Devils are now fixed in my world.
Now we just need them to be fixed in the real world.
What are your thoughts?
Comment below and let me know what changes you’d make.