The New Jersey Devils once again proved their superiority and consistency by putting together another tremendous regular season. But unfortunately for them they once again couldn’t continue their success into the postseason. And with this disappointing postseason the offseason dominoes have begun to fall.
It has started with the retirement of head coach Jacques Lemaire. The 64-year-old coach has stated that he doesn’t have the energy to coach in the NHL any more. Lemaire won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 1995. He has also admitted to thinking about retirement throughout the 2009-2010 season, claiming to be worn down.
The Devils have made the playoffs in 13 consecutive years, but in the past three postseasons the Devils have been eliminated in premature fashion exiting in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
This is unacceptable for a prestigious and successful franchise like the New Jersey Devils. General Manager Lou Lamoriello won’t accept such displays to continue year in and year out due to his competitive nature and history of success.
The New Jersey Devils clearly didn’t bring the intensity and fire that it takes to make the long journey and to win Lord Stanley’s Cup and there is plenty of blame to go around.
The blame could start with the retiring coach Jacques Lemaire. He was out-coached all series. After every period and break in play the Devils seemed to always come out of the intermission the slower less motivated side. Lemaire failed to make adjustments to fix the Devils struggles on both ends of the ice and they paid the price for it. Another mistake by Lemaire was his constant line switching in the regular season that clearly disrupted the players in their comfort zones and chemistry building with their linemates.
Philadelphia was the absolute worst matchup the Devils could have asked for as they were the only playoff team in the Eastern Conference they had a losing record against in the regular season and it wasn’t even close, as the Devils only managed to win one of the six games they played.
The Devils played it off that the meaning of the regular season matchups was minimal, but after watching their performance it clearly was in the back of their minds from the get-go.
The most common misconception that was stated after this series is that the reason the Flyers took down the Devils was because Brian Boucher outdueled the great Martin Brodeur between the pipes. Not taking anything away from the Flyers goalie, who had a tremendous series, but this was in no way true and just a simple generalization for the so-called experts on TV.
Not saying Martin Brodeur was immaculate in anyway or that he lived up to his normal expectations but the Devils didn’t provide much, if any, help for Brodeur.
Jaime Langenbrunner was far from his normal self this postseason. The captain barely had any positive influence on the Devils on and off the ice in this series. He committed two bad-timed penalties and only mustered one point in the five games.
Ilya Kovalchuk may have brought some flair to the New Jersey roster, but the bottom line is he didn’t hit the back of the net enough to live up to his reputation. When Kovalchuk’s name is heard one immediately thinks of a top-five goal scorer in the league and he was far from that in his brief time with the Devils.
Yes, patience is required to allow this superstar to develop chemistry, but the chemistry never came. Many are going to claim to be correct in predicting that he wouldn’t fit into New Jersey’s system and there is much ammo to oppose that argument. He tried to one-man team it way too many times for someone who couldn’t hit the net for the most part. He still managed to lead the team in points in the series with six (two goals and four assists). But four of his six points came on the power play and another came on an empty net goal, so his five on five production barely stood out.
Now a big decision lies ahead with Kovalchuk being an unrestricted free agent. Does Lamoriello break the bank to keep the winger and hope a new season sparks him back to the top of the NHL scoring list or does Lamoriello let the superstar go and choose to spread the money out wisely to improve the overall team?
Patrik Elias has been the consistent reliable producer for the Devils throughout the decade, but even he seemed to lack the initiative and aggression needed to be the normal scoring threat he has grown accustomed to being. Elias seemed way too passive in the series.
Zach Parise hasn’t given New Jersey fans many reasons to complain, as he has quickly become the face of the franchise and maybe even is soon to be the captain, but even he lacked in scoring production as the lackadaisical Devils behavior obviously became contagious throughout the locker room. Parise missed the opportunity to come in and save the Devils from this series’ struggles. He could have took lead of this team and grabbed command of his future captaincy, but instead he got mixed in with the Devils’ dismal offensive performance.
Rob Niedermayer and David Clarkson became absolute playoff busts. They were basically terrible in everyway for the Devils in the playoffs. Complete ghosts on the offensive end and a bulk of bad penalties in addition. They combined for 28 penalty minutes and zero points.
Brian Rolston really didn’t perform well at all, as the only thing holding back a ton of critics on his play was his two goal performance in game two on the power play during the Devils only win in the series.
Dainius Zubrus impressed many spectators in the series despite the fact he only produced one point, a game-winner in game two. He may have saved himself a roster spot for next season because he was one of the few Devils that stood out.
Andy Greene is one of the very few Devils that may have actually came out of the playoffs looking better than he did going in. Greene proved that he is a tremendous talent in the making and sure to be a dependable New Jersey Devil for years to come.
Paul Martin spent the majority of the season on the shelf with a broken left forearm, but a big decision lies ahead with him becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer. Lamoriello is likely to re-sign the talented defenseman. Martin also didn’t perform up to standards in the series as he was a –2 and was held pointless.
Colin White didn’t really impress in this series against the Flyers, but he did show New Jersey what they lacked against Philadelphia and that is the physicality on the defensive end. Despite a collection of some fine names and talents in New Jersey’s defensive pairings, not many of them are known for physical play. And this was exposed in the series.
Young defenseman Mark Fraser only played in one game, but he made a critical mistake in Game 3 that led to a huge goal for the Flyers and that really swung the momentum back into Phily’s favor.
The New Jersey Devils just didn’t bring the fire and desire it takes to survive and advance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They didn’t play with the intensity or aggression to overcome the tough physical Flyers.
The Devils couldn’t provide a consistent offensive flow and they were a disaster on defense in front of the crease. New Jersey had a rough time getting shots to the net, as the Flyers did well to block shot after shot.
It didn’t help the Devils at all that the officials were extremely inconsistent with their penalty calls. Nobody wants to hear the blame-the-official reasoning, but every bad call they made torched the Devils on a vital goal. The Devils obviously didn’t play well enough to win this series and they probably didn’t deserve to win, but it is unfortunate that they paid the price on such key moments in the series on what were some very soft and questionable calls.
So some big decisions lay ahead for the New Jersey Devils. Who will be the new coach? Will Kovalchuk be re-signed? Will the Devils make a blockbuster deal? Will there be a new captain next season?
The morale may be low due to the playoff disappointments, but in the end having a general manager like Lou Lamoriello is a luxury and he can be depended on to make the right decisions to guarantee success in the present and future years for the New Jersey Devils.