NJ Devils Month in Review: January 2010

Well that was a rough month wasn’t it??? Too many games in too short a time… and not enough good healthy bodies….But yet with the major OMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE panic fits in Devils fan Universe (we do have fans out there right??)…. I’m shocked the mass suicides haven’t started piling up…. Or do people ACTUALLY realize this team is still pretty safe when it comes to the playoffs (though I often wonder that missing the playoffs one year might actually be GOOD for this team and a re-focus on life)….until then it’s survival time until we get some Olympic Rest…. And I think I’d say “tired and overplayed” for about everyone… so I’ll just say it here and re-reference it later and remember even though the sky is falling, 7-7-1 is still a .500 month :p

Forwards:
#9 Zach Parise-A: (15 games: 8g, 7a = 15pts, +6)
He got his goal scoring touch back and not soon enough!! Back to being a good steady, consistent point-getter on this team… hell at this point he and Travis is all we gots!!! It’s hard to complain about Zach or anything he’s done this year… so I won’t do it and all I will say again is… AAAAHHHHHHH!!! Elite player and PLAYING like one!!
Grade: A+

#15 Jamie Langenbrunner-C (15 games: 4g, 9a = 13pts, +1)
We had been saying for over two months now how Jamie’s play has been spotty but he was still getting points and it covered a lot of holes and mistakes in his game… well the points (least the goals)… are starting to drop a little…. Maybe this whole “Captain America” thing (great nickname BTW) is wearing on him a little… I don’t know.. and ONE goal since January 2nd… that’s just awful….it’s not all him… it’s a collective WTF going on with this team and only 9 and 19 seem immune to it of late…..but he’s one of the guys who can elevate and fix this mess….
Grade: B-

#19 Travis Zajac (15 games, 7g, 9a = 16pts, +7)
Again, like Parise… it’s been a two-man show on the Devils between those two guys… and to make it tougher on Travis… he’s THE ONLY GODDAMN CENTER WORTH A SPIT ON THIS ROSETR… so the pressure is even bigger… but night in and night out there’s no one more valuable on this team then Zajac (and people wanted to trade him two years ago.. nice…..) It’s funny how you can say TONS about the guys who suck but the dudes who got it going on… it’s quiet… well no one like good news… (which is why they get fascinated with my love life right??)… Invaluable player on this team!!!
Grade: A+

#12 Brian Rolston (15 games, 3g, 3a = 6pts, -1)
Might as well have been put on the fucking IR with Elias… he’s pretty much worthless without him now… I was defending him earlier in the year based on getting shots on net and doing things… but man that’s gone… he’s a virtual zombie (minus the nifty Indy Pro Wrestling gimmick and costume)….I’m trying to think of anything good he adds to the team and I ain’t sure I got anything for ya… *sigh*… 3 more years…..
Grade: F

#18 Niclas Bergfors (14 games, 0g, 1a = 1point, -4)
OH MY GOD!! One point in the WHOLE MONTH… I knew it was bad… but Jesus….He didn’t hit the wall he smashed into it at like 250 MPH, forgot his seatbelt and the airbag was defective…. Rough month for the kid and don’t wanna shoulder the blame on him when there’s stiffs like Rolston, tired legs like McAmmond and Niedermayer on the team, and I know he’s been messed with playing with the Pando’s, Pelley’s and other no-offense guys…. But man, gotta be better then that kid…a big reason the offense is drying up is the kid’s outta gas… hurry Olympics, hurry!!!
Grade: D (it’s not all his fault though)

#26 Patrik Elias-A (7 games, 2g, 3a = 5pts, +3)
What a coincidence…. Elias gets hurt and the whole team goes to shit….without Patty in the lineup, teams just line up and defend Parise/Zajac and the team is cooked… I’m not gonna sit and piss and complain about the hit, it was clean, it was legal, it was HOCKEY, but damn it was DEVASTATING to this Devils team….if only he had lined up Rolston we’d be in a lot better shape now….hopefully he’s back soon, the team will benefit from it in so many ways…..
Grade: B+

#21 Rob Niedermayer (15 games, 1g, 3a = 4pts, -2)
Getting 18 minutes a night, and this number is going UP as his performance level is going DOWN… what?? I know there’s not a lot here and I know he looks like Scott… but Jesus, the minute totals are going in reverse… he still does some little shifty things, but there is more “few and far between” moments on them… and frankly he just plays too damned much and could use a night or two off also… but it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna happen….especially with our “all-IR team” growing in numbers….he’s not been good, but he’s still being asked to do too much, and dammit all to hell, the idea of a checking line is DEAD in the NHL… even more so when 21 and 20 are on it, which means “offense is futile…..”
Grade: C –

#11 Dean McAmmond (15 games, 2g, 1a = 3pts, -1)
Ah what a wonderful world it would be if we could rotate him and Nieds each game wouldn’t it??? This is really what these guys should be doing… but we ain’t got the bodies to make that happen (though sitting Pelley and playing these guys makes me PIST too)…the production is about what you expect, but when you think on average HALF THE GAME that Nieds or McAmmond is on the ice… that’s frightening…..
Grade: C-

#20 Jay Pandolfo (15 games, 1g, 1a = 2pts, -4)
Ah, back to the old school bashing Pando days… but still…. Stiffer then a tragic Viagra accident in an old folk’s home… he’s WORTHLESS on the offensive side of the ice, the whole shut down thing is dead in the NHL… though he is a part of what is a good PK unit, so I guess saying he should be executed… but holy hell….those 15 minutes a night ain’t pretty ones…..
Grade: D

#10 Rod Pelley (10 games, 0g, 1a = 1 point, -2, 9 PIM)
He’s been ok enough in his spot role… has actually grown into a one big hit a night guy and does some things too…probably should be getting a few of those minutes that are being sucked up by McAmmond and Nieds…missing a few games from injury hurt too but again… ain’t his fault, he is what he is… but his legs are younger and it would be nice to see him get a little more ice time… and NOT with Peters
Grade: C+

#28 Vladimir Zharkov (13 games, 0g, 1a = 1point, -3)
I feel bad for this kid… he tries… he puts out a good effort.. his shot’s decent… just the damn thing NEVER goes in (or rolls across the goal line yelling SUCK IT!!).. and his play DID drop in his second month of being a regular player… some of that too is the lack of useful centers to play with, I think he’s just more snake-bit and trapped playing with players that don’t fit his skills more then his own failings here…..
Grade: C (get a goal already though!!)

#14 Patrick Davis (7 games, 1goal, -2)
He’s been off to an OK start… seems to be more comfortable in the NHL in his last 4 games opposed to his first three…. But playing with Pando and Nieds ain’t gonna get no one Calder Trophy consideration….had a shifty little goal move to get his first NHL tally a week ago… and is showing drive and attack to the net and young legs are gonna look better then old legs at this point of the year…and he’s at least getting 12 minutes a game to do SOMETHING with…I’ve been almost pleased with him on the ice….
Grade: B-

#25 Andrew Peters (2 games, no points, Even, 9 PIMs)
I know he only played two games, but him even being on the team is still a disgrace… though the tie the jersey down so hard that it rips was funny shit at least….still.. the man does nothing right, well except get punched in the face… I think we’d all like to try :p
Grade: F

#17 Ilkka Pikkarainen (6 games, no points, Even)
Well he’s gone… and in case you missed it… we paid him fair tribute on his way out:
“The Devils assigned right wing Ilkka Pikkarainen to CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League today. We here at two man spent hours upon end compiling FOR YOU, the special THREE DVD, Ilkka Pikachu, GLORY YEARS SET!! In this awe-inspiring DVD set, you will see hit LONE GOAL and botched suicide attempt by Carey Price (the knife bounced off his glove and into the net!)… and SO MANY OTHER 5-Star Classic Pikachu moments!!! For example… THAT HIT with THAT GUY… or his inspired smiles from Jacques Lemaire pep talks!!! Or MORE!!!! The Third Disc is FULLY DEVOTED to his LONE GOAL….EVERY camera angle is presented in this special package and at the end…we have an EXCLUSIVE Bullet-Time Matrix-Style rendition of that MAGICAL goal-scoring moment!!!! How else could such a LEGEND say good-bye to the NHL right????
Grade: A (if for no other reason then to let me re-hash the Braden Walker bit :p)

Defense:
#6 Andy Greene (15 games, 0g, 1a = 1pt, +3, 24:27 TOI)
The offense has dried up and the Lidstrom-like minutes are catching up to him (GET THE HELL BACK PAUL MARTIN…. Goddamit….)… the defense has still been pretty good, he makes heady and smart type places… gets the puck out of trouble… yeah he can be beat up and taken out physically (go ahead kids… have fun with that comment <3 ), but also possibly having to key all this time on defense is certainly hurting his offense…it’s not his fault really, he ain’t got much help…..
Grade: A-

#24 Bryce Salvador (14 games, 1g, 2a = 3pts, -2, 19:16 TOI)
Not as obvious as an anchor to this team as Greene’s been… but just as important (if not more so because his job in road games is usually to go out there with Fraser and protect him during those bad matchups he can be faced with in road games)… maybe playing a few minutes too many… but WHO ISN’T?? There’s plenty of people to foot the blame for this month… this guy ain’t one of them…..
Grade: B+

#5 Colin White (15 games, 0g, 2a = 2pts, -2, 15 PIM, 20:08 TOI)
Had a rough middle of the month… but he really is what he is at this point a very solid and steady 2nd pair defenseman who can bang, muck and clear the puck and on occasion make a nice pass or get a big shot on goal… and now he’s fighting again a little too… guess he finally mastered that famous “one-eyed kung-fu” style.. could be a little better, but the idiot penalties are more lost in 2000 then the fools idea of bringing Petr Suckora back to this team… and another guy who is in the “not his fault” category….
Grade: B

#27 Mike Mottau (15 games, 0g, 4a = 4pts, Even, 22:27 TOI)
A new-found whipping boy of late… but again his issues are a symptom of the whole damn team right now…the mental tired factor on this team is HUGE, and it’s even worse then being physically tired… it makes you that one step slow that makes you miss that shot with one minute to go in the 3rd period…. It’s that one missed play reversing to a guy on the other team without turning to double check…. It’s that one stride slower that stops you from covering a breakaway… but yet oddly enough he improved from a -7 last month to even this month… sometimes stats are weird man… but there’s no clearer example on this team (well maybe the goalie) then Mottau… in more irony, the 4 points he had this month were also his best numbers of the season….but still the numbers and the minutes are piling up on him… and it’s shown with some MAJOR gaffes in key spots over time…and that odd mix of him and Colin White is just deadly fail against fast lines… still… and always will be…. He wasn’t all that good the last two months… but we got nothing else…..
Grade: C-

#29 Johnny Oduya (15 games, 1g, 2a = 3pts, +3, 21:11 TOI)
Well at least his offense is picking up… a little.. it’s still not enough and if there is one guy on this team who should have enough in the tank to be able to better himself and help this team get through these struggles, it HAS to be Oduya now… Greene’s gone above and beyond… and no one else has the skill set to do it… his only REALLY bad game was the Toronto one and still seems out of place with Fraser.. I don’t want to say he’s been lost without Martin, because he wasn’t good this year WITH Martin… it’s been a tough year for Johnny, but I do really think and hope he’s starting to pick it up (if not he is a useful and tradable commodity at least)
Grade: C+ (starting to turn the corner)

#2 Mark Fraser (15 games, no points, -2, 19 PIM, 12:01 TOI)
People have grown to like this guy because the coaches have been VERY careful to protect him and he hits people and fights as well, personally I like the guy too… but when he gets caught out there against the top talent… geesssshhhhh…. It might be a small part of the wear-down problem on the Devils defense… things get tight, his minutes get cut and the other 5 can’t handle it… I’m not blaming him, I’m not saying he’s being handled wrong… I’m just saying it’s an issue….like I said I liked the guy years ago when he came up and he will grow into a Colin White-type player (with two eyes mind you), I wish he had inspired more confidence in the coaching staff… the time is gonna come sooner or later though….
Grade: B-

Incompletes:
** #23 David Clarkson (DNP in January)
** #8 Dainius Zubrus (4 games, 1g, 3a = 4pts, +2)
Just didn’t get enough games in to be rated, but God DAMN his 4 games back have been impressive (time with Zajac and Parise helps though)… next month we’ll get a better feel of what the king of the Zubbie-Counter brings to the table!
** #16 Nick Palmeri (6 games, 1 assist, Even)
Has a good nose for the net and getting his shit dirty, and I love that kinda player, but still probably isn’t ready for the NHL (like most of our wealth of prospects), but still not enough of a body of work to rate him fairly
** #22 Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (4 games, no points, -1, 5 PIM)
Again I like the kid, but didn’t see enough of him… he fights, and probably spent a lot of money on his “healthy scratch suit”… so they wanna make sure he gets VALUE out of it eh?

Goalies:
MB30 (7-7-1, 2.35gaa, 91.5%, 3 SO)
Well you gotta say he was pretty damn good this month… but he’s certainly showing signs of running out of gas (LA game much ??)….it’s hard to rip on him now with this team sorta in shambles around him… but they can’t run this horse into the ground and expect him to get up again… maybe it’s the nature of my job and how I make my money at work… but PREVENTIVE maintenance is the key here… rest him BEFORE he gets tired and it’s too late! And hell he did get the first game off in Feburary… that’s a sign that maybe he is gonna be saved for what matters the most this time….
Grade: A

#35 Yann Danis (3 games played, 0-0-0, 0.87gaa, 96.3%)
One goal allowed in 69 minutes of mop-up work… that’s not bad, and I guess in an odd way it’s a show of faith in Yann, that Lemaire will even pull mb30 to let him in the game at this point and has CERTAINLY earned more starts in the future… I just hope this kid stays around and we have our possible successor here……
Grade: A

Coaching:
Well it’s easy to bag on Jacques…. “He’s playing guys too much”… “He’s fucking with the lines…”… he’s why we had so much snow in January… you name it and he got blamed for it… but to use a poker analogy, he was the big blind who got dealt a 2/9 off-suit hand and just said AW SHIT and is trying to play his way through it… the only thing he could do is maybe rest some vets, but the kids ain’t ready yet…. He’s not been perfect but I don’t think this is a total fail on the coaching staff… though playing 20 and 21 till they bleed isn’t helping ANYONE…..Jacques has a bad hand, but he raised off the flop which was kinda foolish too….
Grade: C+

Front Office:
Lou’s in a weird spot too… we have this pack of 2-3 years away type players that will be good in the future.. just not yet… so he got some stop-gap players… who ran out of gas…. So what does he do?? I do think a trade is coming… or does he ride out the suck and know the team will be better down the road?? Awfully hard to throw away a season from a 37 year old HOF goalie (he’s done enough of that in the past though)… the next few days will be VERY key into what we think of Lou’s job this season…..
Grade: C-