NJ Devils Month in Review: November 2008

Well this was a different month in New Jersey… for the first time ever in my time as Devils fan, I’m not screaming about Martin Brodeur playing too much… or pretty much at ALL….Injuries, second stringers… crazy stuff… but it’s made for a fun month and a fascinating look into future life without Martin Brodeur, and what this team will be like….

Forwards:
#9 (LW) Zach Parise:
On pace to challenge Patrik Elias’ all time single season points record still… 6 goals and 7 assists in 13 games… and it feels like he COOLED OFF… tells you how GOOD October was… again proving himself as this team’s best, most dangerous and consistent player… can’t say a damn thing bad about Zach Parise again….
Grade: A

#14 (RW) Brian Gionta:
Looks at home (finally) with Elias and Zubrus, and while not the focal point of the Devils offense a VERY important secondary line which makes this team dangerous… and yeah they’re feasting on bad teams, but so what this is what the Devils NEED to do to stay in the playoff hunt while the team gets healthy… 13 points in 13 games and also 7 goals… a scorer is scoring and a +6… nothing to complain about here (BUT OH MY GOD HE’S SECOND ON THE TEAM IN SCORING… TRADE HIM NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!! Morons…), give Gio credit (or call it contract year greed… whatever… he GETS it this year and is doing well)
Grade: A

#19 (Center) Travis Zajac:
Is holding up his end as the team’s top center (well anyone who plays with Parise is our top whatever…steady on faceoffs too (no game under 40% this month)… solid on both ends… and doing his own on puck possession… maybe you’d like a few more points, but he’s not dragging down Parise which is all you ask for on this line… scoring some nice goals too!
Grade: B+

#26 (LW) Patrik Elias-A
17 points in 13 games… multiple players on a point a game ratio or HIGHER?? On the NJ Devils?? CMON OFFENSE!!! Really if you have a complaint about Elias’ game this month… you have mental issues… his level of performance this month was A-Line level good… and you can’t knock ANYTHING here! (it sucks when they all do well… I do my best work when I can get angry… what the hell can I complain about here?)
Grade: A+

#11 (Center) John Madden-A
Injury causality number 2003 this year… I’m not buying in the “well the penalty kill got better without him” theory…. The quality of power play got worse and this team as a whole is improving each game it seems… but 4 assists, a -3 against the Caps (not to mention NO ONE covering the best player in hockey by the side of the net with 2 seconds left)… he’s just becoming a faceoff specialist now more then top-end defensive forward… hopefully having Holik back will allow the Devils to share the defensive responsibilities, and take the load off of Madden
Grade: C (again, not good… but he doesn’t suck either, the lack of offense is bad)

#8 (LW) Danius Zubrus:
OK, so what he scored all four of his goals in the month in one game?? Look what his linemates are doing!! He makes space and he controls the puck for them….the 7 assists kinda show that effort too…faceoffs were ok too, not great, but not his main worry now) and I know personally feel more confident that good things will happen with number 8 out there… possession, control and chemistry with his linemates…. That’s all good things, while the stats may not show up on the scoreboard (and still he’s fourth on the team… and he IS on pace for 56 points, flirting with a career high when he was with that Ovenchicken dude), he’s become a quality depth players!
Grade: A

#15 (RW) Jamie Langenbrunner-C
Still getting too much ice time, but he seems to be 100% healthy (which wasn’t the case last month)… only one goal… but 8 assists and maybe the funniest damn thing I ever saw on that 5 on 3 pp with the Islanders where both defenders lose sticks and then Jamie blasts the poor bastard with a slapper leaving the dude limping and a virtual 5 on 1 moment as Martin scored!! (I still chuckle at that!)… hopefully once the damn minutes get back to the 17 minute range (that means HURRY BACK Rolston and Holik)… he should get even better, though he had a good, but not great month
Grade: B+

#23 (RW) David Clarkson:
He’s still… “eh” to me… seems that he can be SO much better then he is (explains why the coach has such a hard-on for him… then again he’s not from Europe)… 3 goals and 2 helpers… not awful for the 3rd 4th line type he is…but still not overly impressive either… should get some more pp time in front to just get his damn hands dirty raising hell in front, but that doesn’t seem to be our way (but SHOULDN’T it be Sutter hockey).. only two fights in the month also….one of the few forwards who could be better…..
Grade: C-

#20 (LW) Jay Pandolfo:
Two goals and an assist for ol’stonehands…least he was even for the month, and now with Madden out has even LESS of a role on this team… it’s starting to look like resiging him was a loyalty driven mistake, but we’ll see as the season goes on, another guy getting WAY too much ice time for his role (I know he’s supposed to be the shutdown forward, but he’s not doing that so well)….I’ve just not been overly impressed… if we were losing more I’m sure this would be angrier…..
Grade: C-

#22 (LW) Petr Vrana:
Who? 1:38… 2:34… 5:33… 4:07… 3:34…6:03… 4:58… 4:14…. 7:31… 7:11…8:33
How the hell can I judge this guy??
Grade: INCOMPLETE (thanks Sutter!)

#17 (LW/C) Mike Rupp:
What the hell was Sutter thinking trying to have him fill in for Madden last week??? Oh yeah.. he’s big, skates and North American… that makes him a diety here….two goals and an assist for the month… that will probably be a season for him there…. He’s fine in the 5-9 minute role on the 4th line… give him more then that… and it’s yeech time! Please just keep this stiff to a MINIMUM and I’ll be ok!
Grade: C-

#18 Nicklas Bergfors:
Has good speed, and seems like he can be a useful player on this team…again though caught in the idiot notion that young players can only play on the 4th line, and not even being thought about in a useful role and it’s a damn shame…and one of the coach’s biggest problems… the old boy’s club trash will be less annoying when we have a full team, but in this transition time of needing to be a more offensive team, it’s criminal that the team’s top two prospects are donkeyfucked before they even get out of the box!
Grade: INCOMPLETE

#21 Barry Tallackson:
Again, not giving a ton of ice time to impress… but he’s been in the bigs before and that seems to be his standard M.O…. just never seems to be overwhelming… or show the flash or hope that say Vrana or Bergfors offers… but he’s big and from the US *sigh*
Grade: INCOMPLETE

Defense:
#7 Paul Martin:
No coincidence that this team started winning… and scoring… when Martin got healthy, he’s so key to the defense… he eats minutes and makes Salvador better and adding 4 points in 8 games is acceptable offense on top of playing at a high level for 20-26 minutes a night as needed!
Grade: A-

#27 Mike Mottau:
Joke suspension aside… oh he hit a guy and the guy gets hurt so the NHL HAS to overreact and suspend the guy… ah whatever (can I do that and not invoke the spirit of Aaron Asham… oh wait.. he had no spirit….) He’s been decent again this month in his proper role as a 3rd pair defender…little offense… +5 on the month, good ice time… again nice steady and can’t complain!
Grade: B

#5 Colin White:
Colin the one-eyed wonder….+6 on the month… wow…again, like Mottau when not asked to play a top role, he’s tolerable for what he is.. will still make stupid mistakes and so on, but that’s just something you need to live with, he’s not tradable…. Or would any team WANT him at his price… so for what you get…yeah he’s okay…. And that translates into as expected….
Grade: C

#29 Johnny Oduya:
One goal… NINE assists.. now we’re talking!!! Oduya has stepped up with Andy Greene out of the line up (though the game winner was a funny level of botch and not to mention his FUBARed quasi-breakaway in the same game).. seems to have the speed and ability to help Colin White fix his mistakes, which is also important… looks like he could be a key “X-factor” guy who can make a difference and someone who you don’t really want to account for on the other team….hopefully it keeps up as the level of opponent rises this month
Grade: B+

#24 Bryce Salvador:
Didn’t seem to have too good a month, but was without Paul Martin for half of it which doesn’t help (-3 without Martin)… minimal offense, and can’t really do much to make up for it when he makes mistakes… I still like the guy but wasn’t the best month for him in red and white
Grade: C

#28 (D) Anssi Salmela:
MONSTER shot from the blueline (he’s going to score eventually you’d think) +2 on the month is good… and somehow this team has grown a nice set of mobile, younger defenders who can skate, play and add some offense and he’s an example of this… like seeing a bunch of games with multiple shots … means the blast is getting through to the goalie… which is never a negative, this kid’s gonna be a keeper… and when Andy Greene comes back there’s gonna be some decisions to float around here…..maybe not 100% ready for primetime yet… but DAMN this kid has an upside!
Grade: B-

#2 (D-RW) Sheldon Brookbank:
I don’t get how a stiff defenseman gets put on the Devils top line as a FORWARD… but hey that’s Sutter-hockey, I guess… more suited to be that physical winger on the 4th line where the things he can’t do on defense are not an issue, but still it’s unthinkable that he’s higher on the depth chart then Vrana and Bergfors (yes I know and understand he fills a role of 4th line toughie… but holy shit he’s not that good)… just look at his ice time… and results… it’s nothing special….and the on-ice looks ain’t much better… serviceable utility player though…..
Grade: D

Goaltending:
#35 Scott Clemmensen:
How in the bloody blue hell did this guy become our #1 goalie?!?!? This is a sad scary situation….yeah he’s 4-3, but he’s been no better then Weekes except for the fact that he can move the puck a little… this guy’s a career AHL guy for a REASON…but hey whatever… I guess we’re stuck with this… it’s gonna be scary when the bubble bursts on him… he’s been ok, but the big boys are coming on the schedule….guess we’ll find out.. but I kinda cringe each time there’s a shot on goal…..
Grade: B-

#1 Kevin Weekes:
I don’t understand this team… they sign Weekes to be a door opener last season because Brodeur refuses to sit, but he’s the insurance policy JUST IN CASE Marty went down they had a solid guy to hold the fort, and what does he get?? Garbage time in the Brodeur injury game… thrown to the wolves against Buffalo (20 shots in a period… yeah the team was shell shocked from hearing about Marty’s long term injury status)… assaulted by the Red Wings… and thrown under the bus for ONE BAD GOAL in the Ranger game? The rest was a HIDEOUS display of a team skating with its head cut off…. Frankly it’s bullshit and I think Weekes got an absurdly raw deal from this team and I’d not blame him for saying fuck off and never come back after this year….he gets a WEEK and he’s tossed under the bus for Clemmensen?!?!?!? 2.87 gaa and 90 sv % is not awful….I kinda really feel for the dude he deserves SO MUCH better then he got….
Grade: B+ (for being such a damn trooper!)

Coaching:
Same garbage with not playing the rookies enough… a miserable job of penalty killing (77% killed) and not much better on the power play (14%), but the team is starting to adjust and opening up the offense (though they seemed to crawl back into the old defensive shell… MISERABLE effort with the Penguins… and letting Florida tie that game at 2 was a pathetic effort to sit on a lead), but 12-10 with this roster is a nice job at this point… but I have a LOT of concerns still here….this team is still adjusting and he barely had a full roster for a week till players began to drop like dominoes… (part of me wonders if he practices them too hard and it’s adding to the fragility, but I have no proof on this)…We’ll see in the future… much like Clemmensieve… I worry about this coach and I’m erring on the more negative side…..
Grade: C