Running With The Devils - A New Jersey Devils Blog
Devils Re-Acquire Jason Arnott
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Saturday, 19 June 2010 19:10

The Devils made their first big splash of the offseason today, re-acquiring former forward Jason Arnott from the Nashville Predators for rookie winger Matt Halischuk and a second round pick in the 2011 draft.

Arnott, who served as captain of the Predators, centered the famed “A-Line” with Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora on his wings. That line produced the overtime game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup finals to clinch the Devils second championship.

With the addition, the Devils acquire a center for their second line. Arnott, who had 19 goals and 27 assists in 63 games last season, hopes to be reunited with Elias in his second stint as a Devil.

“One hundred percent. Absolutely,” he said to Tom Gulliti. “I’ll never forget the fun we had playing on the line together. He’s still an elite player in my mind. It would be fun to play with him again.”

Arnott has one year, $4.5 million dollars remaining on his five-year, $22.5 million dollar contract he signed with the Predators in 2006. The 35-year-old center had a no-trade clause, so he ultimately accepted the trade back to the Devils.

Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello hopes that Arnott can bridge the gap and allow prospect Jacob Josefson to gradually gain more responsibility with the team.

“Absolutely,” Lamoriello said to Gulliti. “It gives them tutelage and support. This does a lot for the youth and takes some of the pressure off Travis Zajac. He has a good shot and help us on the power play. It also gives us experience and a player who served as the captain in Nashviille.”

Matt Halishchuk, an oft-injured player, recorded one goal and two assists in 21 career games with the Devils. The Devils drafted Halischuk in the fourth-round of the 2007 draft.

The Devils traded Arnott, Randy McKay and a 2002 first-round pick to Dallas on March 19, 2002, in a deal that brought the Devils Joe Nieuwendyk and captain Jamie Langenbrunner. The team originally obtained Arnott in a deal with the Edmonton Oilers in 1998, trading Bill Guerin and Valeri Zelepukin.

When asked about his role on the team for this season, Arnott told Gulliti he wanted to help the team win and mentor the younger players.

“I just want to help them win again,” Arnott said. “My goal is to help them win and help out with the young guys. That’s what I want to do.”

Lamoriello said he doesn’t expect the trade to hinder the efforts to re-sign free agents Paul Martin and Ilya Kovalchuk. But the team now has 16 players under contract for $11 million dollars, so I’m sure we’ll see the impact of this trade on negotiations with the two free agents in the coming weeks.

 
MacLean's The Right Man For The Job - AJ's Point of View
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Friday, 18 June 2010 16:31

When the Devils announced the hiring of John MacLean as their new head coach yesterday, a few thoughts ran through my mind. The first thought was that the team had finally decided on a coach, and now general manager Lou Lamoriello could worry about the impending free agent market and the upcoming NHL draft. The second thought was one of expectation, wondering how we’ll see a great offensive player improve a lackluster Devils attack. And the third was one of worry, that maybe hiring an unproven coach in a room full of veterans wasn’t the best decision. Even with my doubts, I believe “Johnny Mac” was the best fit for the job.

Throughout May, a mini-drama played out through the local newspapers, chronicling the issues within the Devils locker room. First came Jamie Langenbrunner’s displeasure after being a healthy scratch in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Then, after their playoff loss to the Flyers, some members of the team voiced frustration at the way the coaching staff handled situations. Even former players sounded off on the situation. As the “he said” built, ex-coach Jacques Lemaire responded with his own “he said”, coming out and defending his decisions. The Devils locker room was clearly fractured, and there was no way the team could welcome back Lemaire to coach next season.

Enter MacLean, who should begin to fix these issues. The former Devil spent seven seasons as an assistant, where he was able to run the bench twice. And, as we all know, MacLean went down and coached the former Lowell Devils to their first AHL playoff berth in 10 years. Not only that, but the players responded well to him as a coach. As Zach Parise said yesterday, Lowell players told the NHL players they liked MacLean. He already has the approval of both Parise and Langenbrunner, and he seems to be the guy to address the locker room issues. He seems to be more attuned to players’ needs, while at the same time demanding the respect necessary for a head coach. I think he’ll more clearly define the role players, and they’re probably won’t be confusion that could have led to dissension in the locker room.

I expect MacLean to vastly improve the Devils offensive play. MacLean was always a good offensive player, and the Devils need that mentality to fully take advantage of their talent. Parise continued to shine last season, and Travis Zajac broke out. I would expect to see other role players, such as Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias, enjoy greater offensive success. As I talked about a few days ago, the Devils need to attack more and force their opponents into mistakes. With MacLean, I would expect to see a more aggressive forecheck and more puck possession. MacLean will probably give the scorers more creative freedom, and I’ve even expect an improvement in the powerplay.

The addition of Larry Robinson as top assistant will allow the Devils to continue their focus on solid two-way play. The Devils will never become a sloppy defensive team, even with the offensive-minded MacLean behind the bench. It’s important to continue that philosophy. Most of the time, solid defensive play will lead to offensive opportunities, so it’s good to see MacLean keeping Robinson on staff.

Continue reading to find out my overall conclusion of MacLean’s hiring!

 
MacLean's The Man - Darren's Point of View
Written by Darren S   
Friday, 18 June 2010 08:23
It is quite the story when you think about it. Twenty Two years ago, John MacLean scored the an OT goal that sent the Devils to the playoffs for the first time. Back then, MacLean was the guy the Devils leaned on for success and now, after 6 years of playoff disappointments, the Devils are asking MacLean to lead this team again.

MacLean spent seven seasons as a Devils assistant coach but was passed over during Lou Lamoriello’s past two head coaching searches in favor of Brent Sutter and Jacques Lemaire. He earned it this time by serving as head coach for the Devils’ AHL minor-league team last season. He’ll have help from Larry Robinson, who will return as an assistant coach and act as MacLean’s right-hand man on the bench. Chris Terreri will be back as goalie coach, but the search is on for a second assistant coach as neither Tommy Albelin nor Mario Tremblay will be back in that capacity.

I'm very satisfied that MacLean finally ended up where we all thought he should be. I am a little less enthusiastic that Larry Robinson will be back behind the bench with him. Don't get me wrong, Larry is a great hockey mind and has a certain way with the players but his last few stints with the Devils have been less than thrilling in my opinion.

MacLean has a tough job in front of him. The Devils defense is in decline and certainly needs to be revamped. The aggressive offense that Brent Sutter spent time building took a huge step backwards last season and will need to be restored under MacLean's watch. That's not to say that the offense was terrible last season because it wasn't but they certainly had a more "kill" attitude under Sutter.

Has MacLean already made his first mistake? He believes in Jamie Langenbrunner as Captain, something I am not completely sold on. I personally feel that a Captain should live on the Blue Line but being that the Devils lack that type of Blue Liner, the next obvious choice for me is for Zack Parise to be leading this team, something he already does on the ice.

With Lemaire retiring and the Devils having a number of Free Agents this summer, there were A LOT of questions facing this team in the offseason. Hiring MacLean was the right move, the only move in my opinion and now we will wait to see what Lou has for us on July 1st. Start the countdown, it will be here before you know it.
 
Tidbits from MacLean's Press Conference
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Thursday, 17 June 2010 18:33

Here are some stories from today’s press conference:

Parise Excited To Play For MacLean

Add Zach Parise to the list of players excited to be playing for new head coach John MacLean.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Parise said to Tom Gulliti. “Hopefully, he’ll bring some new ideas, something fresh for all of us, because we need that.”

As the Devils all-time goals leader (347), the expectation is the team will become more offensive minded under MacLean. Parise believes MacLean will bring the team’s offensive game up to speed.

“Hopefully, we’ll be a lot more offensive minded and play more of a puck-possession game,” Parise said, “because that’s the way these teams that are winning now play.”

But it doesn’t all come down to offense. What matters is whether or not the players will respect the coach. Parise, who experienced MacLean running the bench during Lou Lamoriello’s two stints as coach. While he wasn’t the actual coach, Parise believed MacLean did a solid job.

“I really liked him then when he was doing that,” Parise said. “And when guys were called up from Lowell this year we’d always ask them how Mac was doing there and they all liked playing for him.”

So far, Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner have come to the support of MacLean. Hopefully, his hiring is this well received throughout the locker room.

Langenbrunner Will Remain Captain

Both Lamoriello and MacLean strongly supported Langenbrunner’s current captaincy, telling the media that there would be no change in captain this season.

“I think Jamie is a great leader,” MacLean said. “I actually played with him briefly (in Dallas in 2001) and, having coached him, I think he’s good for what we’re going to try to do here in the future. He’s been tremendous with the young guys and himself being a veteran he’ll be able to help everybody with the transition.”

Well, that ends any speculation from our point of view. Even though I wrote this piece about how Langenbrunner needed to go as captain, we won’t see that this year.

Robinson, Terreri To Remain With Staff

Both Larry Robinson and Chris Terreri will return to the Devils staff next season.

Robinson will return as MacLean’s top assistant, while Terreri will be back as the goaltending coach.

Scott Stevens will also remain with the organization as a “roving coach,” working in New Jersey, Albany and Trenton. Stevens requested to remain in that role during last season.

Tommy Albelin will also remain in the organization, but his position is to be determined. Albelin, who was an assistant for the past three years, wanted to gain bench experience. He may end up as an assistant with Albany.

Lamoriello and MacLean will pick one more assistant together. MacLean would prefer the assistant to be offensive minded, because Robinson can focus on defensive issues, but it’s not mandatory.

Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

 
BREAKING NEWS: John Maclean Named Head Coach
Written by Darren S   
Thursday, 17 June 2010 10:11

Devils today will introduce John MacLean as their new head coach at an afternoon press conference
Stay Tuned for Details!!

 
Happy Twenty Years, Martin Brodeur!
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Wednesday, 16 June 2010 21:57

June 16th isn’t a particularly important day in the lives of many NHL fans.

But for Devils fans, it should ring a bell and hold a special place in our hearts. Because, 20 years ago today, the team drafted their biggest star ever – Martin Brodeur.

On June 16, 1990, the Devils pulled off one of the greatest draft day trades of all time. The teams exchanged five draft picks, including first-round selections, which moved the Devils from the 11th slot down to the 20th.  The Flames went on to use the 11th pick to draft Trevor Kidd. The Devils, eyeing Brodeur throughout the draft, got their goalie at #20.

After drafting the future Hall of Famer, the Devils began to build the core of their three Stanley Cup championships. The previous October the team acquired a first-round draft selection, which brought in Scott Niedermayer. Scott Stevens came to the team from St. Louis as compensation, giving the team two of the best defenders to ever suit up for the franchise.

Brodeur took over the number one role during the 1994 season, leading the Devils to the conference finals. The next year, the team won the Stanley Cup. And the rest has been history.

Since Brodeur became the Devils number one goalie, the team has only missed the playoffs once. They’ve won three Stanley Cup titles, four Eastern Conference championships, and nine Atlantic Division titles. During this time, Brodeur has also achieved several individual milestones. He tops the goaltending record book in wins (602), games played (1, 076), shutouts (110) and minutes played (63,521). He enters the 2010-2011 season 1,013 saves shy of Patrick Roy’s all-time saves record (25,803).

When he was drafted, Brodeur could never imagine the impact he’d have on his position.

“You don’t realize it when you get drafted what path you’re going to take,” Brodeur said in an NHL.com interview. “This is the first step into doing something. I think you have to get drafted, to a certain extent. That’s the easiest way to get to the NHL. Definitely, when you do get drafted in the first round, usually teams will do everything they can to give you a chance to make it or be part of the organization, so I was really excited about that.”

Growing up in the 1990s, I began to embrace the Devils. One of the biggest reasons for choosing the Devils over my family’s team, the Rangers, was because of Brodeur. Whether it was the incredible saves or his steely confidence in net, he always seemed to be the team’s rock. No matter the situation, “Marty” always stood tall. Those qualities drew me in, and they continue to astound me today. Whenever he makes an incredible glove save or flares out his pad to deny a goal, I get that childhood giddiness and jump out my seat.

So Devils fans everywhere should celebrate today and remember today as a turning point in the history of the New Jersey Devils.

Photo Credit: NewJerseyDevils.com

 
How Much Change Should A New Coach Bring?
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Wednesday, 16 June 2010 14:16

With the Devils actively searching for a new coach, The Devils’ Den’s favorite beat reporter, Tom Gulliti, spoke to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello about the team’s coaching vacancy. While several names have been linked to the Devils, Lamoriello made an important statement to Gulliti. When speaking about what they’re looking for in a coach, Lamoriello insisted the Devils’ philosophy would remain unchanged.

“Philosophically everything will stay together and we certainly will not put anybody in a position that doesn’t have the same continuity that we’ve had for years.”

While this quote doesn’t point to any candidate in particular, it shows an important facet of the coaching search. Lamoriello doesn’t want to radically change the Devils system. But how much change should a new coach be allowed to instill?

The Devils need a shakeup. It doesn’t have to be a radical one, but the team seemed to be playing stale and uninspired hockey in their first round loss to the Flyers this spring. The lines didn’t show much creativity, and the power play looked atrocious. Many of those themes began during the second part of the season. A new coach should be allowed to tinker with the offense, which I feel is always an area of untapped potential for the Devils. They have so many skill players, but both Brent Sutter and Jacques Lemaire couldn’t find the right combination to deliver the best lines, especially on the powerplay. It’s a waste of talent, and I believe a new coach needs to shake up the Devils offensively. And even operating under a defensive philosophy, the team can still improve it’s offensive output.

I believe the Devils could become one of the best counter-attacking teams in the league. Both Sutter and Lemaire rarely tapped into this potential when behind the bench. We’ve seen flashes in the past few years, when the Devils would forecheck well for a game or two and turn those chances into goals. But the team could never sustain that effort for a majority of a season. This type of play would be tough and grinding, and the Devils would need to improve their team speed. But a counter-attacking style would still fit under the team’s defense-first mentality and allow for some offensive potency. It wouldn’t be a radical change, but it could be the shift the team needs to finally infuse great defensive play with the potential for a solid offensive team.

So, what candidate could put this on the ice? That responsibility may rest on the unproven shoulders of Mike Haviland. The assistant coach of the Chicago Blackhawks has worked with this system before, helping to coach a team ready to make plays on the forecheck. Watching Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals showed just how good this counter-attacking system can be. The team always pressed and constantly took advantage of Flyers mistakes. Ultimately, they made plays happen. That’s been missing for the Devils over the past three years, and Haviland may be the coach to instill this style.

Offensive change is a must, but so is a better locker room environment. Read after the jump for my take on how the locker room dynamic needs to change with a new coach.

 
What Was Your Favorite Moment?
Written by Darren S   
Monday, 14 June 2010 15:20

What was your favorite moment from the 2009/2010 Season? For me, it was the game on February 5th against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Devils scored 3 goals in the final 3 minutes to get the 4-3 victory over the Leafs. It was also Kovalchuk's first game as a Devil and after the comeback was complete, I remember feeling that maybe he was exactly what this team needed to get ourselves another Stanley Cup. Kovalchuk's story this season could have ended a lot better but it certainly couldn't have started any more dramatic than it did that night.

 

 
Albany Home To Devils…Again
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:20

The city of Albany will once again host the Devils AHL affiliate.

The Devils will officially move their AHL affiliate to Albany, beginning in the 2010-2011 season.

The team will be named the Albany Devils and will play their home games at the Times Union Center. The move has been expected since the team submitted a letter of intent to lease the Times Union Center for five years in late April. On May 10, the Albany County Legislature voted to approve a $1.6 million bond to improve the arena as part of the movement plan.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello shared his excitement over the move with Tom Gulliti of the Bergen Record.

“We are all looking forward to bringing our AHL team back to the Capital District area,” Lamoriello said. “The support we previously received from the fans in Albany was tremendous.”

Albany hosted the Devils AHL affiliate for 13 years before the team moved to Lowell in 2006-2007. The team won the Calder Cup as the Albany River Rats in 1995.

The team’s lease with the Times Union Center is for five years.

 
Debating the Devils Free Agents – Paul Martin
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Thursday, 10 June 2010 09:28

As free agency quickly approaches, the Devils face a significant question – which big-name free agent do they pursue, Paul Martin or Ilya Kovalchuk? Both are impact players, and both are a huge asset to the team. While the Devils have almost $16 million to spend, both will command big money. Facing this decision, I’ll debate the pros and cons of deciding to sign either Martin or Kovalchuk. Today’s post focuses on Martin, a homegrown talent who's shown he can produce at the NHL level.

When Martin came into the league in 2003-2004, the defenseman was expected to become one of the team’s better defenders. Ex-Devil David Hale and Martin were tagged as the next Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer, respectively. Martin enjoyed a successful rookie campaign, playing in 70 games and recording 24 points (six goals, 18 assists). After returning from the lockout in 2005-2006, Martin increased his total games, skating in 80 games. He upped his point total to 37, with five goals and 32 assists, his highest point total in his career. Since then, he’s been a consistent producer, totaling 25+ points until last season, when he missed significant time with injury.

Martin has continually improved not only his own play, but the team’s play as well. Some advanced hockey statistics, such as Corsi %, tag Martin as one of the better unrestricted free agents of the summer. He’s been a workhorse for this team in his career, playing significant time even strength and skating on both the power play and penalty kill. As his stats show, Martin has offensive potential, and he shows a knack for setting up teammates. A look further at his stats can give more depth to Martin’s skills.

Martin At Even Strength

One of the first areas I’ll discuss is Martin’s play during 5-on-5 situations. Since last year provided such a small sample size, I’ll refer to 2008-2009 as my basis for analysis. In his own zone, Martin played sound hockey. As you can read at Behind the Net, when Martin was on the ice, shots against and goals against both went down. Only Mike Mottau had better goals against statistics than Martin. Clearly, Martin is a responsible defenseman in his own zone. But what about his offensive zone play?

Martin’s 2008-2009 offensive zone play was subpar at best. His 14 even-strength points ranked third on the team behind ex-Devil Johnny Oduya (23) and White (15). Martin’s 14 even-strength points tied him for 81st in the league. His shots on goal weren’t impressive either. His 107 shots ranked one behind team leader Johnny Oduya and 59th in the league. By looking at these stats, you could figure that Martin didn’t contribute much to the team’s goals for per 60 minutes. And he didn’t, only providing a -0.3 differential. But he did improve the shots for per 60 minutes, giving them an average of 2.5 shots when he was on the ice.

Martin’s offensive numbers don’t overwhelm you, and that’s one of the main drawbacks for the defenseman. We’ve all expected Martin to become a Niedermayer-like player, leading the offensive charge on the blue line. But the only stat he’s really improved is the team’s overall shots. During even strength play, Martin hasn’t had an immense impact offensively. But maybe the powerplay will show some different statistics.

Continue reading after the jump for Martin’s powerplay and penalty killing statistics!

 
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