John MacLean looking concerned by the bench. Only six games into the season, his team finds themselves at a crossroads of sorts.
The New Jersey Devils, despite their struggles at 1-4-1, continue to say the right thing, as John MacLean says to Tom Gulliti, in his Fire & Ice blog:
“As far as scoring chances, we are getting some quality chances,” MacLean said after today’s practice. “We are definitely getting quality chances and I’m confident with this group if we keep getting those chances, the puck is going to go in. Wins will solve all ills,” MacLean said. “If it goes along with winning the hockey game we’ll begin to solve a lot of ills.”
Lou Lamoriello is also quoted as follows by Gulliti:
"If we would have taken advantage of a couple of opportunities we’ve had at different times, our record would be the other way. Except for the Washington game (a 7-2 loss on Oct. 9), I think that every game statistically in the areas that we look at—scoring chances, power play, penalty killing—we have done well. We have not finished and this is a team that should finish and I feel that will come."
All of these words are pretty easy to say. The real answers will be given by the actions out on the ice and ultimately with how the team performs. Otherwise more questions will emerge, such as the following: Is age catching up with the Devils? Is John MacLean in over his head? Is MacLean's voice being ignored? Does the team have a leadership problem? Is Martin Brodeur too past his prime?
NOTE: I'm not saying any of these questions are relevant, but if the team continues to under-perform, they will be come relevant, that's for sure.
Starting Thursday night in Montreal, the Devils find themselves at a bit of a fork in their road, also known as a season. They can turn their bad play around with a strong effort and good work ethic for 60 minutes, letting the results take care of themselves, or they can go with the status quo, and likely find themselves wondering how a team with this much talent couldn't find a way to make it to the playoffs.
With seventy-six games remaining, there's obviously plenty of time to turn it all around, however, a big improvement is needed. Time for the big boys like Zach Parise (1 goal), Ilya Kovalchuk (2 goals), Jamie Langenbrunner (0 goals), Patrik Elias (1 goal) and Martin Brodeur to step up and help lead the Devils back to where they are accustomed to being, and that is at or near the top of the standings.
You can also imagine if things don't turn around quickly, GM Lou Lamoriello will not sit around and watch his team flounder, you could definitely expect there to be some major changes. But, we aren't there just yet.
Talking a good game is great and all, but actions speak louder than words. After a four day break to get their game in gear, how they respond against Montreal will be a telling sign. Winning would be great no doubt, but what will be more telling will be how well the Devils play, more so than the result itself.
Want to talk Devils hockey, or the NHL in general? Follow me on TWITTER @ LEVINAKL. Until next time...