Simple question – Now What?
Sorry that I’ve been away for a bit… These NJ winters will get you sickness-wise every time. Anyway, despite me being sick, I’ve still been keeping a close eye on our Devils.
Needless to say, I’m not pleased with what I’ve been seeing. I’ll be the first one to admit some of my preseason predictions have yet to come true. But I won’t be one of these “the sky is falling, trade everyone” people. Nor will I be over reactionary and say a guy is the worst player ever, (or best, right Carlos?) based on a single game. I will however, tell you what I think is wrong, and what I think needs to be done to fix it.
Going into the season, every hockey pundit, as per usual, threw dirt on the Devils. They would miss the playoffs, finish towards the bottom of the conference, etc. I never buy such predictions. After all, the Devils seem to exist to defy such projections. The one point I disagreed with, but now have to admit is partially true, is the lack of scoring due to Zach Parise’s departure. I won’t blame the offensive woes solely on him leaving, though. At the beginning of the season, it actually looked like just another year. Next man up and such would make up for the missing goals, assists, etc.
Well, that hasn’t really happened. After torrid starts, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson have both come back down to earth. Adam Henrique came back hot, but has also cooled off. Ilya Kovalchuk, who I predicted was going to have a monster year, is not producing as he should. He needs to shoot the damn puck!
The Bobby Butler experiment ended with few positive results, and he is now gone. Alexei Ponikarovsky’s return has yet to offset Dainius Zubris’ absence.
All of these are reasons why the goal scoring if off.
There have been some nice surprises, like Andrei Loktionov’s play or the continued good play of the Steve Bernier-Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta line, but all and all the offense has stalled. The current six-game losing streak is only partially because of this. However, if the devils are to right the ship, they need to find a way to score and do so more often.
Part of the issue, for me anyway, are the lines. Am I the only one who thinks Pete DeBoer tinkers with them a bit too much? Granted, injuries have necessitated some changes, but I’m also seeing a lot of juggling both during games and in practice.
I get that the coaches are trying to find the right mix, but you need to leave some lines intact to develop chemistry. If they are changed every night, how can chemistry develop?
Zubris’ injury limits options, as do the injury / under performance of Mattias Tedenby, and the lack of much from Jacob Josefson, both of whom were expected to contribute more this year, but the constant shuffling needs to stop.
Of greater concern is the overall defensive play of the whole team, as well as the once vaunted PK. The later has improved in the past few games, but the Devils are still taking way too many penalties. Couple that with suspect play in their own end by almost all of the D-men (I’ll give Salvador a pass; he’s been good, as has Fayne), and the overall D hasn’t been good.
As an overall unit, the defense is allowing goals to be scored in close. The Devils usually excel in the dirty areas at both ends. Lately, however, the D is letting the opposition stake claim to our crease and it needs to stop. Otherwise, we’ll see a lot of games lost.
The defense needs to play better in their end and stop breaking down. They need to stop taking penalties, and keep the front of the net clear.
So how do we fix all this? Well, only so much can be fixed.
Marty will be back (hopefully) soon. I guess the two goalies advantage wasn’t as great as we (and the team) thought it would be. Of course, no one expected Marty to get hurt.
Zubrus will be back in about a minth, which will give us the top two lines we should be using: Kovy-Zajac-Henrique; Zubrus-Elias-Clarkson.
As far as trades go, while we could use a top six forward, the price will probably be more than this Devil fan wants to spend. I don’t want Andy Greene or Fayne leaving. Defense is the one area where the Devils have a surplus, so I’m not sure we’ll see an impact trade there.
If Poni and Loktionov produce, I think we’ll be okay. The team does not need a new coach, a radical make over or anything like that. They do need to get some key guys back.
But they also need to get back to playing Devils hockey. Disciplined, smart, opportunistic on the counter attack, maddening on the forecheck… these are the hallmarks of Devils hockey.
If they do all these things, another cup run maybe in the future.
If they don’t, then the prognosticators may have actually gotten it right this time.
As always, feel free to drop me a line in the comments, on twitter, or via email.
Always up for a good Devils discussion! Till next time Devils fans!
Jon Michaels – Speaking of the Devils Contributor