Devils fans find themselves in a quandary. Although none of us feel that a rebuild is in the cards just yet, unless the Devs fill a very obvious hole in our puzzle, they are destined to continue to repeat what’s transpired during each of the past four postseasons time and again.
And I have this sinking feeling that we might just repeat this trend, until many of our best young players have signed elsewhere.
Look no farther than comments made by Zach Parise whilst cleaning out his locker for his fourth extended summer vacation in as many years, for proof of shattered morale, and general team discontent.
Look no farther than MSG and its vociferous Ranger fans—their posts and beliefs that Parise will be following Gomez across the Hudson sometimes in the next few years. Or the fact that highy touted Hobey Baker award winner, Matty Gilroy, chose signing for the Blue Shirts over the vaunted Red & Black for less money than Lou was willing to send his way!
Although I personally don’t see all our players paddling across the Hudson anytime soon; thank you Salary Cap, there is certainly a history of our talent ending up at MSG.
There is also a consensus of opinion among those in the hockey community that of paramount importance to the Devils most valuable asset, Zach Parise, is playoff success; something he has failed to achieve thus far with the Devils.
Unlike lesser motivated players, Zach wants to win, and if the need arises, will certainly go elsewhere to do so.
The $56.7 million 2008-09 salary cap question is; what can the Devil’s organization do to move forward?
Over the last few years the New Jersey Devils have undergone a veritable metamorphosis from a team built around an unrivalled defensive corps, led by Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafalski, and Ken Daneyko, to a squad constructed around a healthy mix of defensively responsible forwards and an inexperienced front six on defense.
Zach Parise and Travis Zajac have shown themselves to be the face and future of the organization.
Although Travis might not be a true first line center, his rapid development as a player, accompanied by his on and off-ice chemistry with Parise and Langenbrunner mean that our first line will continue to produce for years to come.
The line of Parise and Langenbrunner, centered by Travis Zajac needs no tinkering; Mr. Sutter please leave them be.
Although Lou Lamoriello has done a remarkable job constructing the Devils since taking over as general manager in 1987, he has indubitably failed us of late. More importantly, and certainly more frustratingly, he has failed Brian Gionta and Patrick Elias.
When Scott Gomez jumped ship for a larger chunk of change, Lamoriello had an obligation to find a replacement; to fill the gaping hole he’d left behind him. He did not and we are still suffering because of it.
Regardless of what pundits routinely tell you, I believe that Brian Gionta is still a 30 goal scorer. And 30 goals is certainly sufficient for a second line player. Although 2004-05 may ultimately prove to be his career year, it was certainly not an anomaly.
I played with the man in northern New York in the late 80s and early 90s and can honestly state that I’d never seen a guy with a better shot and more speed in the offensive zone than Brian.
Granted I never hit the ice with any other future NHL'ers but still, he didn’t get the moniker the "Rochester Rocket" for nothing.
Brian Gionta was a talent then and is a talent now. No one works harder on the ice and his desire to win and succeed against all odds is second to none.
Lest we forget he was only the Devils' second leading scorer in this year's playoffs, finishing off the round with five points in seven contests, trailing Parise by a single point.
Coming up through the central New York ranks, the only knock on Gio was his size.
Scouts all knew how good this guy was offensively. Their only fear was that his size would prohibit him from moving onto the next level.
As we know his size has never been an issue; ironically it's been his inability to find and take good shots—something he’s never had an issue with on any level until now.
But then again he’s never been forced to play with so many different centers, as well as non-centers filling in as centers, in so few years, until joining the NHL.
But make no bones about it, this guy’s a 30 goal scorer in any league. He’s just not equipped to do it without a playmaking center.
It is my opinion that his decline has more to do with who he’s playing with, and under, than a lack or loss of skill.
Patrik Elias, who some members of the New York/New Jersey media would love to have written off, has three to four good 60-plus point seasons ahead of him. He proved that this past season, racking up 31 goals and 47 assists in only 77 games.
That’s better than a point a game for a guy the Daily News has called “finished” and referred to as a “waste” when discussing the details of his seven year contract.
However, both of these players and the money spent on them is, and will continue to be, wasted unless the Devils provide them with a proper center they can play with for an entire 82 game season.
Dainius Zubrus has some redeeming qualities, but let's face it, boys, this guy's no second line center.
Put him on the fourth line, get him rooming with Shanny on the road, have Rupp smack him a round a bit in practice until he sprouts a pair, pray for an output of 15 goals and 25 assists, and accept the fact that we’ll be forced to swallow the bulk of his astronomical salary as a loss.
Putting Zubrus with Gio and Patty is like plopping a slice of processed American cheese on a platter of grilled prime rib-eye and slow matured, dry-aged sirloin steak, and expecting it to work for you.
Those of you familiar with Zubrus’s game know what I'm saying. I don’t want to attack Dainius, as he does put in a solid effort from time to time, but the bottom line is simple; his personality and abilities don’t match his physical size nor his inflated salary.
To see just how badly Gio and Patty need a center, look no farther than the 2009 playoffs.
Besides the fact that Elias simply didn’t produce in the playoffs, and Gionta worked his tail off for only two goals, both of which were created on his own; both of these players will fade into obscurity unless Lou does his job and finds them a center.
If that happens we can forget about future playoff success, and forget about the likes of Parise and Zajac wanting to sign with the Devils once they're UFAs.
What can we do to bring the chance to play for the Cup back to Jersey? It’s simple. Sign a proper center.
Who should we sign in the off season? To be honest I’ve not given it much thought until very recently.
I like to leave these sort of things to the experts in management and write about the more obvious; the teams shortcomings and needs. It's now up to Mr. Lamoriello to get the job done.
The only problem I foresee is the fact that Gionta might be more difficult to re-sign than one might think.
Due to his statistical decline he’s certainly no longer worth his $4 million price tag. But will he sign for less? Pundits seem to think so. I’m not so sure.
There might be a few teams out there wiling to offer him a 5 year, $20 million contract. I doubt Lou will follow suit.
If for arguments sake, no one offers him anything in the region of $20 million, my main concern is Gionta’s frame of mind. Why would he want to return when it’s the Devils, Lou in particular, that are responsible for driving his value down so much in the first place.
If the Devils don’t sign a top center, Gio walks and they can't secure anyone to strengthen the PP and defensive corps, they’ll certainly have a less productive season to look forward to next season.
However, I’m still hoping for the best.
note-sorry for the photo. its just been on my pc for ages now and i wanted to put it out there. Gionta was a really great kid. not much has changed. how many nhl players would work the till at their folks store in the offseason?