Running With The Devils - A New Jersey Devils Blog
2009 / 2010 Player Reviews: #15 Jamie Langenbrunner
Written by Darren S   
Wednesday, 19 May 2010 14:48

Jamie's Numbers - In 81 games (YES 81!!! GRRR) he had 19 goals, 42 assista and spent 44 minutes in the penalty box. He scored 6 Powerplay goals, 2 Shorthanded goals and was resonsible for 4 Game winners. Against the Flyers, he only had 1 assist.

My Thoughts - Devils exited the playoffs much earlier than anyone had anticipated. When that happens, especially for the third straight season, one HAS to question the leadership of the team and that always starts with the Captain. Something isn't being done or said in the locker room to motivate this team into winning. I really thought I was over reacting when that thought floated around my head after the Flyers went up 3-1 in the series but the Devils where horrid in their final game of the playoffs.

His goal production was down by 10 this season which doesn't make me happy but the truth is that the Devils finished first in the division despite that. I'm certainly more bothered by the fact that he's just not as clutch as he once was when the post-season comes around. Jamie had issues with Lemaire and what those issues were, we don't really know. Lemaire has since retired and therefore those issues should hopefully be gone. Part of me would like to see a new coach come in and give the Captain's job to a player who is certainly more vocal than Jamie.

Jamie's Future - He has one more season with the Devils before he's free to test the Free Agency market. I believe he has a "No Trade Clause" in his contract which means Lou couldn't move him easily even if he wanted to. Time will tell if a new coach thinks he's fit for the position of Captain. Rumors are swirling that Ken Hitchcock is a possibility for the job meaning that Jamie would be reunitied with an ex-coach. Should that happen, let's hope it works out better for him then the Rolston/Lemaire reunion worked out.

 
Can Tedenby and Josefson Immediately Produce For The Devils?
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Tuesday, 18 May 2010 19:09

Last Friday, the Devils signed both Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson to three-year, entry-level contracts. The Swedish players, selected only one year apart, will attend both rookie and training camp this season. But the big question facing both players is this – can they produce immediately?

This past season was a great showing for Devils’ prospects. Players like Mark FraserVladimir Zharkov and Niclas Bergfors all received big minutes and contributed immediately. Other prospects, such as Matt Halischuk, had smaller roles, but still contributed effectively. Some players, such as Fraser, have a good opportunity to make the team next season. And it looks like both Tedenby and Josefson will have the same opportunity.

When talking about both prospects, Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello expected the players to be ready for the NHL.

“In our opinion we think they should be ready to make the next step to the NHL,” Lamoriello said to Bergen Record reporter Tom Gulitti. “They both had good seasons in the Elite League in Sweden. They’ve both had all the international competition they need.”

Lamoriello even went as far to say he believed there’s a good chance both players will be on the roster next season, even though he still has yet to find a coach. With all this positive talk and high expectations surrounding Tedenby and Josefson, I’d like to take a look at each players and weigh in with my expectations of them for this season.

Mattias Tedenby – LW

Tedenby, from everything I’ve read, seems to be the real deal. The Swedish winger, only 5’9″ tall, possess great speed and even better offensive creativity. Tedenby, the Devils 2008 first-round pick (24th overall), doesn’t shy away from contact, seemingly willing to throw his body around and play physical hockey. Scouts have also praised his acceleration, and some even compare him with Zach Parise.

But there’s always some flaws as well. In the reports I’ve read, Tedenby gets bashed for not playing good defensive hockey. Some scouts believe he can be too offensive minded, which diminishes his backchecking and defensive abilities. His size has also been questioned, but it seems like anyone under 5’11″ usually faces questions about durability, etc. in the NHL

Overall, Tedenby seems to be a solid NHL prospect. I do believe he spent some time in camp with the Devils this past offseason, but I could be wrong. From the reports I’ve read, he could easily become the next Bergfors and, potentially, the next Parise. It’ll be interesting to watch him develop through both rookie and training camp. I could see Tedenby making the team as a fourth-line winger, with the opportunity to move up the depth chart based on play.

Read after the jump for my take on Jacob Josefson!

 
2009 / 2010 Player Reviews: #12 Brian Rolston
Written by Darren S   
Friday, 14 May 2010 10:53
Rolston's Numbers: In 80 games, Rolston scored 20 goals and had 17 assists. He found the net 7 times on the powerplay and had 3 GWG's over the season. He ended the season as a +2 and served 22 minutes in the penalty box. In the series against the Flyers, he found the net twice and registered one assist. It's probably important to note that the two goals scored were done so on the powerplay and both scored in the same game.

My Thoughts: If you go through the 2009/2010 archives on this site, you will notice a theme early on. I was proudly spear-heading the "We Hate Brian Rolston" campaign. After Lemaire signed on to coach this team, everyone was talking about how Rolston was going to have this incredible season and that 30 goals was a realistic number for him. He was a Lemaire type of guy and he was going to be the guy that carried this team. Early on, Brian Rolston was awful. I don't know if the expectations being put on him were just too much but he wasn't delivering. I can't tell you how many times I watched Rolston sail a shot wide of the net. When the first month and a half of the season were completed, Rolston had a pathetic 4 goals and 3 assists.

As the season progressed, Rolston seemed to get a little more comfortable. Sure, 20 goals isn't what people expected but its a much better number than what I thought we were going to get out of him by the middle of November. With that said, I guy who makes $5 Million per season should be putting more pucks in the net or helping other guys do so.

Rolston's Future: If you read the various Devils forums around the internet, there is a common thought among Devils fans which is Rolston must go this summer. In fact, on a poll on NJ.com. 77% of the voices said Rolston needs to go but unfortunately it just isn't that easy. Rolston is among a group of Devils who currently holds a No Trade Clause on his contract, meaning unless he says "Ok Lou, I will go" we are stuck with him and his mega contract. (My hatred of No-Trades is a topic for another day) So, since Rolston holds the keys to whether or not he stays, we have to assume he is staying and lets hope whoever takes over as the next Devils coach can find a way to get more production out of Brian Rolston. I will say this, when Ilya Kovalchuk and Brian Rolston were on the ice at the same time, the Devils were downright scary when it came to the velocity of their shots. Accuracy not so much but I wouldn't want to be a defending getting in the way of those two.
 
2009 / 2010 Player Reviews: #11 Dean McAmmond
Written by Darren S   
Thursday, 13 May 2010 10:41
McAmmond's Numbers: In 62 games played this season, McAmmond scored 8 times and assisted on 9 other goals. He scored once on the the power play, assisted on another and tallied two GWG's for NJ. Against the Flyers, he failed to find the scoresheet.

My Thoughts: The signing of Dean McAmmond on October 20th was a little surprising but we never really thought he'd make it out of Lowell. After the Devils suffered numerous injuries, the Devils and McAmmond agreed to a two-way contract that would find McAmmond up in the NHL for the remainder of the season. Early on in the season, the Devils 4th line was at best, pathetic. Once McAmmond came to the Devils, the 4th line had its moments. There were various points during the season that McAmmond would score a critical goal that would seem to light a fire under the rest of the team. For instance, most Devils fans can recall the Feb 5th game against the Toronto Maple Leafs that saw the Leafs up 3-1 with only a few minutes to play and McAmmond took a pass from Zharkov and beat Gustovson glove side, which seem to wake up the Devils who would go on to stick 2 more goals in the net in the next 3 mins and shock the Leafs. The question I always had about McAmmond was whether or not he could do these things when it really mattered. As I pointed out above, he went pointless in the series against the Flyers so the answer to my question was no.

McAmmond's Future: He's an UFA on July 1st and really not much of a value to this team. Sure, he made the 4th line a little more reliable once he got here but honestly I would rather see some young guys from Lowell get a chance rather than bringing him back. He's 37 which means he's not quite done yet but the window of oppurtunity is probably closing on him rather quickly. I have a hunch he might try to return to the Senators for one year before calling it quits.
 
World Championships Update Team USA In Relegation Round, Russia Undefeated
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Thursday, 13 May 2010 09:40

Here are some notes from the IIHF’s World Championships:

Team USA In Relegation Round

Team USA, featuring defenseman Andy Greene, hasn’t had the best showing at this year’s World Championships. The team, which didn’t win in the opening round, will now play in the relegation round of the tournament. If Team USA cannot avoid elimination, they’ll move down to IIHF’s Division 1, which would knock them out of next year’s tournament.

The USA has really struggled on the powerplay, tallying once on seven chances so far this tournament. That’s only 14.28%, which has probably helped add to their winless record.

Devils’ defenseman Andy Greene hasn’t done very much for the national team. He’s averaged 15:08 of ice time through three games, but Greene still doesn’t have a goal or an assist. His +/- rating is -2, and he’s only recorded two shots on net.

The team will play its next game Saturday.

 

Russia Undefeated In World Championship

Team Russia, which features Ilya Kovalchuk, is currently 2-0 with six points in the World Championships. The team defeated Kazakhstan, 4-1, on Tuesday to move closer to the qualification round.

Kovalchuk has looked good in the tournament, scoring on a breakaway in their game of Kazakhstan. With an average of 15:34 of ice time in the tournament, Kovalchuk has put three shots on net. He has the one goal, but no assists so far, and his +/- rating sits at 1.

The Russian team, which failed to medal at the Olympics, sports several prominent NHL players, including Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander SeminAs Tom Gulitti explained, many Russian players promised each other that they’d play in the World Championships to avenge their poor showing at the Olympics.

 

 
2009 - 2010 Season Recap: Breaking Up The ZZ Pops LIne
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 16:42

During the off-season, I’ll take a look at some of the biggest storylines from this past season. Some will be good, others bad, and some even ugly. I’ve already reviewed the Devils’ regular season performancetheir play against the divisiontheir lack of powerplay successMartin Brodeur’s strong season, and the team’s acquisition of Ilya Kovalchuk. Today, I’ll look at a line change which frustrated fans and players alike – the breakup of the ZZ Pops Line.


When Brent Sutter coached the Devils, he had a brilliant idea – to put Zach PariseTravis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner on a line together. The three players seemed to click, and the line quickly became popular among fans. The ZZ Pops line, with “Pops” being the elder Langenbrunner, produced last season. Parise put up 94 points in 2008-2009, tops among the team. Langenbrunner tallied 69 points, and Zajac totaled 62. The line always seemed to click, and they looked more comfortable as the season wore on. Coming into the 2009 – 2010 season, I thought we’d continue to see the emergence of this line as one of the greatest in the league. But coach Jacques Lemaire had other plans.

As was his policy throughout the regular season, Lemaire attempted to find offense from different line combinations. He constantly shifted players, looking for the right combination. This was evident in the second half, when the Devils began to struggle and play inconsistent hockey. The ZZ Pops line wasn’t immune to this, and Lemaire frequently broke up the pair. In an article on NHL.com, Lemaire explained his decision to break the line, saying:

You have to find ideas to get everyone to work. Work means: have success, work together. As soon as there’s a line that doesn’t have success… you don’t want to play with the one that’s had success, but you’ve got to try to find something that won’t interfere with the success of the other lines. Like changing one piece, maybe it’ll be fine if you change only one piece. Sometimes you have to change two.

I still don’t understand that logic. I realize the Devils, throughout the season, struggled offensively. But when you have a line that clicks, the line should stay together. Parise, Zajac and Langenbrunner were the top three scorers for the Devils, finishing with a combined 210 points. The line also played solid defensive hockey, and operated as one of the best forechecking lines of the team. Lemaire tried in vain to put players together, like putting Langenbrunner on the second line with Patrik Elias. These line combinations never seemed to work. Lemaire should have left the ZZ Pops line alone. When he broke up the line, I began to disagree with his coaching style.

Clearly, the ZZ Pops line was one of the top lines on the team. Dainius Zubrus played well with the both Zajac and Parise, but he couldn’t match the production Langenbrunner had with the line. With Parise, both Zajac and Langenbrunner had better Corsi numbers. It seemed like each player knew where the other was on the ice. Their chemistry was the best on the team. I understand searching for more offense, but that line could have sparked better play throughout the lineup.

While all three players thrived (including Zajac, who set a career high in goals), they could have done more as the ZZ Pops line. We’ll see if the next Devils’ coach decides to reunite the line.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

 
2009 / 2010 Player Reviews: #9 Zach Parise
Written by Darren S   
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 10:13

Parise's Numbers: In 81 Regular Season games, Parise scored 38 goals, had 44 assists, was a +24 and registered 32 minutes on the powerplay. He led the team in goals, assists, points and +/- numbers. In the first round series of the playoffs against the Flyers, Parise had 1 goal and 3 assists.

My Thoughts: How can you not look at this kid and not know what he means to this organization. Say what you will about the talent that Ilya Kovalchuk has and what he brings to the table but for me personally, Zach Parise is far more important to this team in my mind.

On a team who's Power Play struggled for most of the season, Parise scored 9 Power Play goals and assisted on 17 others which means that Zach Parise had factored in on 26 goals scored this season on the Power Play. The Devils only scored a total of 51 goals when up a man (they had 273 oppurtunities) so you can see how important Zack Parise is to the New Jersey Devils special teams unit. Parise also scored one shorthanded goal this season.

When it came time to decide a game in the shootout, Parise was also the man in that category going 5 for 11 which means he appeared in all the shootouts for the Devils this season. One of his 5 goals was a game-deciding goal for the Devils.

Sure, Parise fell off from 45 goals the previous year to 38 this season but became the first Devil ever to register back-to-back 80-point seasons. One has to wonder how much Kovalchuk going the Devils ate into Parise's production because when Ilya first arrived, the Devils seemed to have a "get Kovy the puck at all costs" mentality. You cannot argue that Zach Parise's effort night in and night out is anything but superb. The kid skates hard, rarely gives up on a puck, doesn't shy away from giving/taking hits and rarely lets an opponent outwork him. Sadly, that can't be said for a number of his teammates.

Parise's Future: He's a franchise type of player, a guy that you would do anything to keep in your locker room. With Lemaire retiring and making the Devils search for yet another head coach, I certainly do wonder if Zach Parise will become the Devils next Captain. I know Jamie had issues with the coach this season, (and we will get to his review next week) but right now, Parise is probably the best choice to replace Langenbrunner as Captain because of his never say die work ethic. The Devils need a guy like Parise to take control. Zach Parise is a RFA after next season but you have to believe that Lou will do everything to make sure Zach stays in NJ for a long time.

 
Star-Ledger Article Shows Devils Had Divided Locker Room
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Tuesday, 11 May 2010 18:19

While searching through some Devils news today, I came across a very interesting article from Rich Chere, who covers the Devils for the Star-Ledger. In the article, Chere spoke to Jamie Langenbrunner, who still seems angry at ex-coach Jacques Lemaire for the way he ran the team this season. As many fans, writers and bloggers (including myself) questioned Langenbrunner’s leadership this season, the article attempts to fill in the gray area on what the team felt during the season. It’s a great read, and I suggest you take a look at it. But there are some parts of the article I’d like to dissect here to try and see how exactly the locker room morale played out last season.

We all saw the strain between Lemaire and Langenbrunner, particularly near the end of the season. With Lemaire wanting to rest players, he decided to sit Langenbrunner for a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Langenbrunner wasn’t happy about the situation, refusing to speak to the media for four days after the incident. But some players believe there was more to the story.

Langenbrunner was unhappy about being a healthy scratch for the April 3 game in Raleigh, N.C., and remained silent on the matter for the next four days. He still will not discuss the incident in detail, but two other members of the organization suggested Lemaire disrespected Langenbrunner by trying to give the “C” to defenseman Colin White for that one game.

Clearly, the team didn’t respond well to this incident. Colin White said he would not accept the “C”, even in the one game. It may have seemed underhanded, and White even believed he would be challenging the leadership of the team. This incident seemed to be the tipping point with Langenbrunner. He hadn’t meshed well with Lemaire, and now the coach was attempting to take the “C” away after sitting him. To many players, it seems as if Lemaire lost the respect of several players. While I think this is minor, it clearly played a large role in the mind of the team.

But it didn’t end there. Throughout the season, players chafed under some of Lemaire’s policies. Chere goes on to cite several complaints the team had against their former coach. According to the article:

Lemaire’s need to constantly juggle line combinations was questioned by some players and Ilya Kovalchuk’s freewheeling individual freedom and quarterbacking on the power play did not sit well with others.

Many of the fans expressed these same feelings. Lemaire decided to break up a highly successful line to redistribute the talent. It didn’t work too well, and players like Ilya Kovalchuk and other players could never find their comfort zone with teammates. Even when a line started to produce, Lemaire would break them apart. These lines changes were maddening, and I don’t blame the players for reacting negatively to the constant juggling Lemaire did.

What surprises me is the backlash towards Kovalchuk. Instead of enjoying playing with the left-winger, it seems his style of play upset some of his teammates. I especially am amazed about their feelings of him on the powerplay. Maybe they considered him a puck hog, or maybe he just didn’t fit the system. Whatever the case, I figured the team would be excited to play with him. Instead, it seems like the players never saw him fit the team’s style. I wonder if their feelings will translate into whether or not Kovalchuk returns to the team this off-season.

Continue reading after the jump for more reaction from the article!

 
Albany Clears Way For Devils AHL Affiliate
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Tuesday, 11 May 2010 12:45

The Albany County Legislature voted Monday night to approve a proposed $1.6 million dollar bond to improve the Times Union Center, which would clear the path for the Devils to move their AHL affiliate back to New York’s capital.

The bond, which included funding for a new scoreboard and rink-side advertising, was approved by a 35-2 vote.

The Devils, in their desire to move their affiliate back to Albany, stipulated that the improvements were necessary to facilitate the move. The Devils, who submitted a letter of intent for a five-year lease, expect to announce the move soon.

The organization’s AHL affiliate played in the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts for the past for seasons, but the lease ends June 30. The Devils’ AHL team played in Albany from 1993-1994 and 2005-2006.

Last season, Albany hosted the Carolina Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate. The team will move to Charlottesville, North Carolina for next season.

 
2009 / 2010 Player Reviews: #8 Dainius Zubrus
Written by Darren S   
Tuesday, 11 May 2010 10:53
For the first time in our 2009/2010 player reviews, we get to focus on a guy whos main job it is to put pucks in the net rather than try and help keep them out of the net. Today we focus on #8 Dainius Zubrus

Zubrus's Numbers: Due to injury, Zubrus only played in 51 regular season games. He scored 10 goals, had 17 assists and found his way to the penalty box 14 times for 28 minutes. Zubrus found the back of the net once in the series against the Flyers.

My Thoughts: On November 19, Zubrus blocked a shot by Predators defenseman Kevin Klein that ended up fracturing his right patella (kneecap). His 2009/2010 numbers are pretty close to the numbers that we have gotten out of him since his arrival in NJ. He missed 31 games this season due his kneecap injury but only ended up 5 goals shy of what he had last season a 8 assists shy of what he's had the past 2 seasons.

Zubrus's Future:
Zubrus is in the middle of a 6 year $20.4 million deal that he signed back on July 3, 2007. That was the year that the Sabres lost Brier, Drury and Zubrus in the free agency market. While most thought Zubrus was probably the least desireable of those 3, he certainly fits well into the Devils system. Sure, he's not a point a game type of player but he's a large guy that can throw his weight around and is extremely effective at crashing the net. Need some proof, watch his gwg against the Bruins on Ocotober 29th. (watch it here!!)

Zubrus is here to stay so we certainly don't need to discuss whether or not he should be but the answer to that question in case you were wondering is yes he should stay. At times, I feel like we don't use Zubrus enough and I am hoping that who ever is behind the bench next season can figure out how exactly to make the most of Dainius Zubrus and return him to his 20+ goals per season.
 
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