The Devils' style of play has come under scrutiny since 1995. Certain offensive players have wanted out of the Devils' very conservative, defensive system. Lou Lamoriello has dispatched players who didn't buy into the team-first concept. Mike Van Ryn was never given a chance to be a Devil because of his me-first mentality.
Yet I can't help but think when I watch the Devils play that certain players on their team are being grossly misused. I'm thinking of Johnny Oduya and Paul Martin and to a lesser extent, Salmela. I think Oduya and Martin are more offensively skilled than they're allowed to demonstrate because the Devils are so much about taking care of their own end. Martin only has four assists this year and his career high in points was only 37, but Martin makes great choices with the puck in the offensive zone. He's very effective on the power play and I'd like to see him be given the green light a little more.
Salmela is young and he's just learning the ropes in the defensive end, so it is probably a little much to ask him to be a huge offensive contributor. But he's shown brief flashes of immense creativity. He's also a defenseman who is not at all shy about firing the puck. Which brings me to:
Oduya is the one who has shown Devils' fans flashes of brilliance. He's had some remarkable goals for the Devils. I think most Devils fans remember this one against the Canes from last year:
Oduya is one of the better skating defenseman the Devils have ever had. Scott Niedermayer was clearly number one, Rafalski was also good, but Oduya is probably somewhere between Nieds and Rafalski in terms of pure skating ability. He also has a better shot than Niedermayer could've ever hoped for.
So what am I asking for? Allow the Devils defenseman to activate more often. Let Oduya pinch a little more frequently. The Devils have responsible forwards who can cover when a defenseman activates. I mean, I feel very comfortable with John Madden covering defense when a Martin or an Oduya pinch.
I know this will fall upon deaf ears because the Devils do things the Devil way. That means not taking risks and playing percentages. But if they do want to survive during the time when Martin Brodeur is out, they might need to win more 5-4, 6-5 games than they're accustomed and that means generating some extra offense from somewhere. I think the personnel is there. Do you?