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Written by Darren S | 01 October 2009

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This is surprising but Brendan Shanahan will not be a NJ Devil this season. Shanahan issued a statement through the Devils.

"I have decided not to continue with the New Jersey Devils for my 22nd NHL season," Shanahan said. "When I signed this past summer, Lou Lamoriello, Jacques Lemaire and I agreed that if I were unable to find a suitable fit in which I would be able to compete and contribute at the level I expect from myself, then I would simply step aside.

"I have great respect for Lou, Jacques, and the entire Devils' organization. This decision is both mutual and amicable. I am planning to spend the next couple of weeks with my family to reflect on and evaluate my plans for the future.

"Most importantly, I would like to thank my former teammates and wish them the best of luck for this season."

I'm failry sure that it will come out that this is a youth movement and that Shanahan either didn't fit on the team or didn't fit in the top lines where Lemaire wanted him to be. Whatever the reason, I am a bit stunned. I'm sure more will come of this story.... stay tuned!!

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Written by Darren S | 30 September 2009

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The Devils have announced the final roster cuts (not that they cut anyone today) this afternoon. The 2009/2010 NHL season is here!! For a handful of teams it begins tomorrow night but for the Devils, it begins on Saturday night when the division rival Philadelphia Flyers come to town, but we'll get to that.

As for the final roster, it looks like...

Goaltenders (2): Martin Brodeur, Yann Danis

Left wings (5): Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Jay Pandolfo, Zach Parise, Andrew Peters, Brian Rolston

Centers (4): Rob Niedermayer, Rod Pelley, Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus 

Right wings (5): Niclas Bergfors, David Clarkson, Matt Halischuk, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brendan Shanahan

Defensemen (7): Andy Greene, Paul Martin, Mike Mottau, Cory Murphy, Bryce Salvador, Johnny Oduya, Colin White

that leaves Ilkka Pikkarainen, Mark Fraser and Patrick Elias on IR to start the season. Congrats to Halischuk and Bergfors for making it to the big leagues.

Over the last five seasons, the Devils have a winning record on opening night, going 3-1-1 so I feel pretty confident going into Saturday's game against the Flyers.

October 10, 2008: Devils 2 - Islanders 1 - Brodeur stopped a penalty shot and finished with 25 saves and the Devils spoiled Scott Gordon's NHL coaching debut with a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders. Marty looked good in this game and Devils fans were filled with hope.

October 4, 2007: Lightning 3 - Devils 1 - The Brent Sutter era got off to a very bad start. In fact, if you go back and look at this game, the story in this game would be a major sour note for most of Sutter's career in NJ. The Devils were tied with the Lightning with 3:52 to go in the third when Vinny Lecavalier put home the tie-breaking and winning goal. How many times did the Devils lose a close game late, like this one, during Sutter's tenure?

October 6, 2006: Devils 4 - Hurricanes 0 - The last time the Devils met the Hurricanes prior to this game, the Canes knocked them out of the playoffs en route to their first Stanley Cup. This time, the Devils left Carolina in a much better mood.

October 5, 2005: Devils 5 - Penguins 1 - The lockout is over and its back to watching hockey. Sidney Crosby has dominated at every level of hockey he's played. This night, the night of his life, he wasn't even the best rookie on the ice. Zach Parise, New Jersey's first-round draft pick in 2003, scored a power-play goal and assisted on one of Brian Gionta's two goals in an outstanding debut that led the Devils to a 5-1 victory over Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins.

October 8, 2003: Devils 3 - Bruins 3 - I remember very little about this game, it was all about the pre-game ceremony as the Devils raised their third Stanley Cup Banner to the rafters. This was the final opening game before the 2004/2005 lockout and before all the rule changes. It's funny, you look back at the schedule prior to the lockout and the tie games look funny now.

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Written by Darren S | 23 September 2009

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The start of the season is just a few days away so there is no better time to put together my Devils season preview.

Last Season: Finished third in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division champions (51-27-4, 106 points), eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes in a shocker in the first round of the conference playoffs, 4-3.

For the second year in a row, the Devils saw their season end early in the playoffs, this time to the sticks of the Carolina Hurricanes. To be truthful, I thought Carolina and NJ were very evenly matched teams, the killer about that series would be the come from behind wins in Game 6 and Game 7 as well as the Jussi Jokinen buzzer beating goal in Game 4 which turned Marty from a fun loving guy into a monster his own daughter wouldn't talk to. (He's since seen the error of his ways!!)

The Devils were a surprise to everyone last season because of the injury to Marty Broduer that forced him to miss 50 games. Scott Clemenson came up from Lowell, made Kevein Weekes continue to sit on the bench and saved the season for the Devils. Parise had an incredible season creating talk of being the first Devil in franchise history to reach a 100 points, something he eventually fell short of by only 6 points.

Off-Season Action: Brent Sutter stepped down as head coach and duped the organization into thinking he wanted to be with his family. Technically, Calgary is closer to his family and he gets to work with his brother but I am still calling foul on this situation. Lou turned to his good friend Jaques Lemaire to return to the Devils bench after leaving Minnesota. John McLean was given the head coaching duties in Lowell, which part of me wonders if this is to prep him for being the Devils head coach in the future. Scott Stevens was given a more active coaching role with the team (another preperation for the future) and Jaques good friend Mario Tremblay is along for the ride.

Long time favorite of mine, John Madden traded in his NJ address for one in Chicago while Scott Clemmensen, Brian Gionta, Niclas Havelid and Mike Rupp also opted for a change of address. Bobby Holik officially hung up his skates and Kevin Weekes took a job with Hockey Night in Canda (add your own HNIC jokes here!) Lou has never been a major player in the Free Agent Frenzy and continued that trend this year adding only Yann Danis and Cory Murphy well after July 1st deadline. Ilkka Pikkarainen hopes to follow in the footsteps of John Madden and Brian Raflaksi as guys that no one drafts, gets a chance from Lou and eventually becomes a major contributor in the NHL and as fans, we do too!! Brendan Shanahan returns to the Devils for a second straight season signing another one-year deal with team, which begs us to question is this going to be it for him? Travis Zajac and Johnny Oduya sign long term deals with the club.

Leading The Way: Zack Parise will continue to get more and more people to open their wallets and buy a #9 jersey. Last season he was on a line with Zajac and Langenbruuner and we watched him score 45 goals and 94 points which were almost record highs in both categories. There is no reason to believe he won't be able to at least equal those numbers this season, even on a team coached by Lemaire and thus aggrevating the Rangers fans out there because they have to live with knowing they took Hugh Jessiman over Zack Parise. Brian Rolston SHOULD step it up this season. He's back with his coach, back on the wing and should find a system that he's familiar with and does will in.

Breakout Player: Without a doubt this has to be David Clarkson this season. There is no reason to believe he can't be a 20 goal scorer this season and even put up 20 assists. Clarkson went from 9 goals in 2007/2008 to 17 goals last season and continues to remind every long time Devils fan of Randy McKay. Like McKay, he'll find himself in front of the net a lot putting in those so called "garbage goals" and, like McKay, not hesitate in throwing down the gloves. McKay scored a career high 24 goals while playing for Lemaire.

Blueline Hero: Paul Martin scored 33 points last season, led all D-men in ice time and average shifts by a long shot but doesn't get the praise like certain D-men before him. He's a critical player to this organization. Right behind him some would put Colin White's name here but I am going to go with Johnny Oduya (am I the only one who quotes Fargo when people talk of him?? Oh do ya now?) because he is so gifted with moving the puck.

Between The Pipes: The usual debates have already begun about whether Marty (who turns 38 in May) should play 70+ games but it's a bit moot after he played only 31 last season and still had inconsistency in the postseason. If the Devils make the playoffs again, it will be (as always) on Brodeur's shoulders.

2009/2010 Preseason Report Card:

Forwards: B
Defense: A-
Goaltending: A
Special Teams: C- (hard to give it that much considering the lose Madden on the P-Kill).
Coaching: B (Lemaire didn't have great recent success in Minnesota).
Management: A (Come on it's LOU!!)

Predicitions:
The Atlantic Division is once again a tough division. It has seen 4 of its 5 teams make the playoffs for 3 straight seasons. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are two teams that I think could finish ahead of NJ and the Rangers and Islanders are two teams that could finish behind the Devils. I see the Devils finishing third in the division and fifth overall meeting the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs. Is a cup in the future for this team? I can't answer that question but the Devils should continue their consistent march to the playoffs in the Spring and as a Devils fan, that's all you can ask for, a shot!

Before we move on to the 2009/2010 season, let's just go back a visit the highlights from last season one more time!!

 

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Written by Darren S | 22 September 2009

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The Devils announced their first round of cuts and sent 13 players back to Lowell and 5 players back to their junior teams. The good news for guys named Matt Corrente, Nik Bergfors, Matt Halischuk, amd Patrice Cormier is that they were not among the guys cut. As I mentioned last week I thought guys would get cut based on their one game performance against the Rangers but that doesn't seem to be the case. If you played in that game, you're still fighting for a roster spot.

A big scrimmage in Training Camp happened with Lemaire coaching the "white team" which consisted of veteran forwards and young defense and Tremblay/Stevens coached the "red team" which consisted of young forwards and veteran defense. Lemaire lost 4-1 and was quoted as saying "Defense wins again, I thought I would be fine with the forwards, but that's not enough. Defense and goalies (win)." which makes me a little nervous.

11 Days until the start of the season and the Devils have 4 preseason games within those 11 days. I'm certainly looking forward to the start of the season.

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Written by Darren S | 18 September 2009

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As a Devils fan I notice that it seems that the same two questions get asked every year and it always seems to turn into the biggest stories going into the season. Will Marty play so many games and can the Devils actually score a respectable amount of goals?

Marty Brodeur - Playing a lot of games is something Marty does, something he usually does. The exception was last season when he got injured and was forced to miss a large amount of games. Every season prior to the 2008/2009 season, it seemed that Marty took on too many games and come playoff time he seemed tired and the cause of the Devils exit from the post-season. Last season, Marty only played 31 games because of his injury and the Devils STILL left the playoffs early, so what does that tell you? At this point, who cares how many games Marty Broduer decides to play in net. It's really not worth asking him because it is an impossible question to answer. Injuries could happen, decisions made during the season could happen, who knows but it's not worth bothering him with this question. Miikka Kiprusoff played 76 games last season, Turco 74 games, Backstrom 71 games and Lundqvist played 70 games and NO ONE has asked them is they plan to log so many minutes this season. Let it go, he plays what he plays. If its all 82 games and they still make the playoffs, then good for him.

Scoring - The media always seems to question NJ's ability to score goals. Last season the Devils ended with a respectable 238 goals and finished 15th in the league in that category. Parise had a team high 45 goals, Elias had 31 and Langenbrunner had 29. Two other players also broke the 20 goal mark for the season. A few years back, Brian Gionta set the team record for number of goals scored in the regular season, a mark that Parise did not reach with his 45 goals last season. I do believe the goals will come again this season and it has been several years since the Devils played the defense first style of hockey. This team has a lot of talented scores and I would expect, unless injuries prevent it, that Parise scores 40+, Elias, Zajac and Langenbrunner put in at least 30 goals and I wouldn't be surprised to see David Clarkson be a 20 goal scorer this season.

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Written by Darren S | 17 September 2009

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First pre-seaon game is in the books and it was a 3-2 shootout win over the rival Rangers. Devils looked good through most of the game but they had a tendency to just stop doing whatever they were doing and the Rangers made them pay for that. Devils were up 2-0 at one point and the Rangers capitalized on the Devils mistakes and were able to tie the game. Yann Danis looked very good in goal and went the distance, including stopping five of six shooters he faced in the shootout.

David Clarkson looked very good and to me, he showed us he's the time of guy who is comfortable standing in front of the net and putting home those "garbage goals." I liked the fact that Lemaire put him on the PP because he's the type to stand in front of the goalie. Shanahan got to wear the "C" for the night because Langenbrunner got the night off and even though Shanahan was playing in Langenbrunner's spot as well, doesn't mean that Jamie will lose either position on the team.

Zack Parise's shootout goal to extend the shooutout to extra frames was certainly a beauty. In fact, I'm not sure Parise even needs more time to get ready for the regular season. I was commenting at the TV that I thought Zajac should have followed Parise in the shootout, thinking he would end it, which he eventually did in the 6th round. I wasn't impressed with Bergfors at all during the night, especially in the shootout.

I know it was a preseason game but didn't it feel like a regular season matchup between these two? A lot of intensity, a few fights, a close low scoring game settled in a shootout. The bad thing is that the Devils don't play again for another week, and its likely that a few guys will get a ticket back to Lowell based on one game. The good thing is that the Devils get a week to try and tune-up the mistakes they made last night that allowed the Rangers to jump back in the game.

Overall, I thought the Devils played a very good game. I don't normally talk about other teams in the league if they aren't playing NJ, but I just wanted to mention that the Devils attendance last night was a shade over 10,000 and the Phoenix Coyotes first home pre-season game was seen by just over 4,000. Maybe the league shouldn't worry about keeping the franchise where they are.

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Written by Darren S | 16 September 2009

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Well this certainly isn't a good start to Lemaire's time in NJ, not that this has anything to do with him. Patrick Elias will miss the next 3-6 weeks after having surgery yesterday to remove some scar tissue in his groin. Elias initially had surgery in June to repair a torn labrum, a tear in his adductor muscle and an impingement on his hip. He's been experiencing some discomfort with the groin since that has kept him from skating in training camp.

It's hard to lose someone like Elias for any amount of time and at any part of the season but the good news that I can see in this is that they figured out exactly what was causing the discomfort and were able to go in arthroscopically and take care of it. If I have to lose him, I prefer October to April. The Devils insist that this isn't anything like the surgery that Elias had earlier in his career or the sports hernia surgrery Jamie Langenbrunner had two years ago.

"We'll be looking for another center," Lemaire said on Tuesday. "He's an important part of this organization, but we have to expect that. I'm getting used to this, missing the top player." I will agree, Lemaire seems to be getting used to missing his top guys as he had to deal with a missing Marian Gaborik for much of last season in Minnesota.

In other Devils notes, Yann Danis will start in net tonight against the Rangers and rookie Jeff Frazee will play the second half of the game. Also, Kevin Weekes has signed with Hockey Night in Canada and the NHL Network as a commentator.

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Written by Darren S | 15 September 2009

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I don't get the oppurtunity to sit in on Devils training camp, it's just not a privelage I have. I would be cool to be able to do so but that's just not my job. So instead I read many journalists sites that do get that oppurtunity and try to piece together the things that are happening.

It would seem that Lemaire has been pairing Shanahan with Zajac and Parise on the top line early on in training camp. This doesn't mean that this will eventually be the Devils number one line just that its something Lemaire is toying with, for one reason or another. I personally thought the Zajac/Langenbrunner/Parise line last season was very effective and put up decent numbers and is something I wouldn't change. I understand you want to switch lines around in practice in order to have guys feels comfortable playing with other guys in case on an injury, so maybe this is what Lemaire is doing. Whatever it is he's doing, I think a lot of other sites are making a bigger deal out of this then is neccessary but when talking hockey, this time of year can be a little slow. The Devils open the preseason against the Rangers tomorrow night at The Rock and I'd imagine Shanny will probably be on the top line tomorrow night. I've also read on various sites that Pandolfo and Langenbrunner probably will sit out the Pre-Season opener, which is very normal because we need to see some if some of the young guys have what it takes. Marty will most likely sit as well and it's thought Denis will have the job of stopping the Rangers shots.

Pre-Season or not, we ALWAYS want to bury the Rangers!!

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Written by Darren S | 10 September 2009

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Here's the full training camp roster. There are seven goalies, 19 defensemen and 34 forwards for a total of 60 players. As expected, Rolston is listed as a wing this season and Elias has been moved to the center postion. Time will tell if that holds up once the season gets started.

Centers: Dainius Zubrus (8),  Rod Pelley (10), Travis Zajac (19), Patrik Elias (26), Ben Walter (45), Tim Sestito (47), Michael Swift (53), Stephen Gionta (55), Patrice Cormier (57), Adam Henrique (59)., Brad Mills (68).

Right Wings: Brendan Shanahan (14), Jamie Langenbrunner (15), Ilkka Pikkarainen (17), Niclas Bergfors (18), David Clarkson (23),  Kevin Cormier (44), Vladimir Zharkov (48), Nathan Perkovich (49), Patrick Davis (51), Nick Palmieri (62), Matt Halischuk (63).

Left Wings: Zach Parise (9), Brian Rolston (12), Jay Pandolfo (20), P.L. Letoruneau-Leblond (22),  Alexander Vasyunov (52), Myles Stoesz (54), Brad Snetsinger (56),  Louis Robitaille (58), Ashton Bernard (61), Kory Nagy (64),  J.S. Berube (66), Eric Castonguay (67).

Defensemen: :Jay Leach (2),Colin White (5), Andy Greene (6), Paul Martin (7),  Bryce Salvador (24), Mike Mottau (27), Cory Murphy (28), Johnny Oduya (29), Matt Corrente (32), Mark Fraser (33), Rob Davison (34), Olivier Magnan-Grenier (36), Tyler Eckford (37), Alexander Urbom (38), Matt Cohen (39), Harry Young (41), Eric Gelinas (42), Matt Delahey (43), Matt Taorima (65).

Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur (30), Jeff Frazee (31), Yann Danis (35), Mike McKenna (40), Gerald Coleman (50), Dave Caruso (60), Jeff Lerg (70).

They way I see it, there is going to be a battle for a spot on the wing. One would think the time has come for Bergfors and and Halischuk to make this team and stay but when you look at this right wing position, Clarkson, Shanny and Jamie are locks for those jobs and Lamoriello has mentioned in the past he expects Pikkarainen to be a 3rd or 4th line center, so where does that leave these young guys? I am also a little disappointed that I can't figure out where to put Matt Corrente in the defense on a regular basis.

My early lines would be this:

Zach Parise--Travis Zajac--Jamie Langenbrunner
Brian Rolston--Patrik Elias--David Clarkson
Jay Pandolfo--Dainius Zubrus--Ilkka Pikkarainen
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond--Rod Pelley--Brendan Shanahan

and my defensive pairings would be:

Paul Martin--Johnny Oduya
Bryce Salvador--Andy Greene
Colin White--Mike Mottau

We won't even deabte about the man in between the pipes really. Marty is going to play his normal amount of games taking injury out of the equation and I expect Yann Danis to assume the role of sitting on his tushy most of the season.
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Written by Darren S | 09 September 2009

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With the start of rookie camp this morning, its very clear that the season is just about upon us. With Brent Sutter lying his way out of NJ, the Devils have welcomed back a familiar face in Jaques Lemaire. I've thought about this move all summer and finally decided to put those thoughts to paper...paper being this blog.

Bringing back an old face to the organization is nothing new to the Devils but is bringing back Lemaire the right move? Hard to say at this point in time. I was in favor of bringing in a young coach (for the record I never wanted to give the job to John Maclean) and keeping him there for a number of years because I am tired of this revolving door of head coaches and I have to believe Lemaire isn't a long term solution given his age. Lemaire is known for his defensive style which doesn't exactly work in this league anymore but I want to believe that he recognizes that. I do believe Jaques Lemaire as the Devils coach has the ability to work out for several reasons:

1) He's a take no nonsense type of coach who will demand respect on the bench and in the locker room. There will be ZERO question as to who is in charge and who the players will answer to which is something I always questioned about Brent Sutter.

2) As I stated earlier, he is a defensive minded coach. This doesn't mean that the Devils will or should abandon the offensive style they've been working on over the last two season but that Lemaire should fix some of the weaknesses they did have on defense. While they were fourth in GAA's last season, the Devils did have issues holding on to a lead late in the game, a weakness pointed out by the Hurricanes in Round One of the playoffs. I am hoping Lemaire will be able to use his defensive knowledge and boost the confidence of the defense which will translate into holding on to leads in tight games.

3) Brian Rolston should make more of an impact this year. Rolston didn't succeed under Brent Sutter but came to NJ at the price he did because of his success under Lemaire. The is no doubt in my mind that Lemaire will look to Rolston to help lead this team (Langenbrunner rightfully remains the captain). I wouldn't be surprised to see Lemaire give Rolston "A" that Madden used to wear and that type of responsibility should benefit both the Devils and Rolston. I'm sure we will see Rolston back on the wing where he played for Lemaire in Minnesota, which should also increase Rolston's production.

4) The young players who are going to replace the guys that left get to learn from an excellent teacher. If you think about the young guys that Lemaire has taught in his career, you would absolutley agree with the statement I just made.

The one thing that remains clear is that the Devils can not afford to take a step backwards in their approach on the ice, something that a lot of fans fear will happen with Lemaire back in charge. The Devils have spent a lot of time trying to adopt an offense first attitude and escape the "Trapping" image that Lemaire brought the first time around and Lemaire must recognize that. Players like Parise, Zajac and Elias must be given the oppurtunity to play their game and the defensmen must be given the green light to pinch up and create offensive oppurtunities when they present themselves. Lemaire is smart enough to understand this and recognize that this team is much more talented than his Minnesota teams or even his 1995 Stanly Cup Champion.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I am not sure Lemaire was the right move (because I believe his time here is limited) but I believe 100% that he can work and I am willing to give him that chance. Of course there will be a transition period as there always is with a new head coach but that transition starts today as rookie camp opens up and kicks in to high gear when the veterans get here on Saturday. Get ready because the puck drops on the 2009/2010 season in exactly 24 days.
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