Kukla's Korner Hockey
by David Pavlak on 08/17/11 at 11:46 PM ET
I will provide some of the highlights from the Devils portion on 30 In 30 from the NHL per Mike Morreale.
“The New Jersey Devils couldn’t catch a break in the first half of the 2010-11 season, even after the summertime re-signing of Russian superstar Ilya Kovalchuk to a mammoth 15-year, $100 million contract that took nearly the entire summer to complete.
Instead, they suffered subpar performances under new coach John MacLean, lost star forward Zach Parise to injury 12 games into the season, saw Kovalchuk struggle in the early going, and found themselves in last place in the Eastern Conference at 9-22-2 by the time Christmas rolled around.
It was around that time General Manager Lou Lamoriello opted to fire MacLean and rehire Jacques Lemaire in a last-ditch effort to qualify for the playoffs.”
True, the Kovy ordeal did seem to be a major distraction to the team. John MacLean also seemed lost in the shuffle of being the coach for that year. His attention was not entirely on the team as it needed to be, and the results showed on the ice. I had a lot of friends who follow the Devils point out the same thing. He wasn’t able to coach the team the way you thought he was going too. Lou made the decsion he thought he had too, and it worked to an extent. They didn’t make the playoffs, but they certainly improved. If Parise was healthy, they would have definitely contended for the eight seed that year.
“The Devils enter training camp with almost the same team intact as they had at the end of last season, minus veteran forward Brian Rolston, veteran defenseman Colin White, tough guy Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and defenseman Anssi Salmela. Trent Hunter, the player acquired by the Devils in the Rolston trade with the Islanders, was bought out and placed on waivers with two years and $4 million total left on his contract.”
The departure of these guys may sting, but should not leave a permanent bad taste in any fans mouth. Rolston would have been nice to keep, but the Devils will need every penny they have to keep Parise in town. Rolston’s three million helped in that sense. Colin White was a fan-favorite defenseman, but nothing that couldn’t be replaced. He should be a nice fit in the Sharks organization though. Letourneau-Leblond was nothing more then a goon, though he seemed to be liked by the fans. He spent a good portion of his time in the AHL. Salmela was alright on defensive, nothing impressive, but nothing you would complain about either. As for Trent Hunter, I think he was a Devils for all of about 30 seconds. The Devils had no intentions of keeping him from the start it seems.
“The biggest player acquisitions were left wing Eric Boulton from the Winnipeg Jets and right wing Cam Janssen of the St. Louis Blues. The 34-year-old Boulton had six goals, 10 points and 87 penalty minutes in 69 games with the Atlanta Thrashers last season, including a hat trick in a game against the Devils.
Janssen was 1-3-4 with 131 penalty minutes in 54 games with the Blues last season. In 95 games with the Devils spanning two seasons (2005-06 and 2006-07), he had a goal and 205 penalty minutes.”
Boulton will be a nice third line grinder type player. He seems to play about 60-70 games a season and spends a majority of his ice time in the penalty box. Janssen is another bully that the Devils acquired. He is willing to scrap with anyone, and likes to watch the games from the penalty box. Some of my memories of watching Janssen play in Continental Airlines Arena is as soon as the puck dropped, so did his gloves and the crowd would erupt. Expect more of the same this year.
“The Devils will also give 2011 first-round pick Adam Larsson every opportunity to make the team out of training camp—he’s already labeled by many to be among the team’s top four entering training camp. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound defenseman, who signed a three-year, entry-level deal on July 15, had a good showing in rookie camp.”
It seems that he should be ready to go for the start of the season. If he needs some time, reports are saying that he is not opposed to spending some time in the AHL. Look for him opening night though, as I feel the Devils will try to push him right up onto the pedestal without hopefully hurting his ability to grow.
“DeBoer knows he’ll have his work cut out for him if he intends to duplicate the team’s 23-3-2 run under Lemaire from Jan. 9 to March 15. Not only is he taking over a team that finished with a League-worst 2.08 goals-per game average, but the Devils had just one 30-goal scorer (Kovalchuk) and one 20-goal scorer (Patrik Elias) last season. Does he give Kovalchuk more opportunities offensively? The Devils can ill-afford to play a run-and-gun style—that was painfully apparent last season.
The Devils’ top two lines might consist of Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, David Clarkson and Parise, Elias and Mattias Tedenby. The defense could include Andy Greene, Henrik Tallinder,
Anton Volchenkov, Mark Fayne, Larsson and Bryce Salvador, who missed all of last season due to a concussion. DeBoer must also manage the playing time of 39-year-old goalie Martin Brodeur, whose .903 save percentage was his worst since 1995.”
DeBoer does have his work cut out for him. He has a lot to prove to the Devils fans and the organization that he has what it takes to accomplish what has been done before him. The team does have talent, but it will be the ability to mesh this talent all into one. Kovy has been known to be a selfish player, and if DeBoer is looking to play a defensive game, what could happen to the locker room vibe? Does team morale go down? What happens if they don’t start winning games? These will be questions that DeBoer will have to toil with for a little bit.
Looking at the projected lines though, it does not look so bad. If Bryce Salvador is good to go for the season without any post-concussion syndrome, he will be a welcomed back member to the defensive system. Brodeur will need to also be typical Brodeur, in order to help the Devils reach their goals and success.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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