Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy is one of the premier bloggers on hockey on the Internet. Puck Daddy is a regular must-read at Yahoo! and so when he puts something up, it gets noticed. Today, he posted his Devils preview for the 2009-10 season. As part of full disclosure, the preview does reference this site and features a quote by a John Fischer of In Lou We Trust (which would be me). Regardless, I feel I can give a fair assessment of what the preview has to offer and to see whether Greg was on the mark
First, a clerical issue. My last name is spelled F-I-S-C-H-E-R. You'd think someone with a vowel-deficient last name would double check that, but I guess not. This was fixed. Thanks, Greg. Still, he points out that the Garden State has no gardens which is a big tell that Greg isn't all that familiar with southern or western New Jersey. Maybe the Greasetrucks reference kept his mindset in Hub City?
Anyway, those are largely inconsequential, let's look the actual preview. Last season, he ran a high school yearbook theme and this time it's an infomercial theme; but the kind of content is largely the same. Unlike Chuck Gormley's and Rich Chere's previews, Wyshynski has the advantage of the Internet. Chere and Gormley had to commit words to what the Devils' situation was when they wrote their stuff; Wyshynski can and did get his preview up to date as possible.
Overall, Wyshynski did his homework and it makes the preview worth the read alone. However, I have an issue with the conclusions he came to as well as some other minor bits.
Again, I cannot emphasize how refreshing it was to see references to even today's Devils news in a season preview. Under the defensemen section, he even included Alexander Urbom - who just recently joined the team earlier this week - as possibly competing for time. Wyshynksi knew Urbom would be in that first preseason game and included him. Wyshynski noted Patrik Elias' injury and even included a quote from Lemaire yesterday that Gulitti reported on that stated that you can't sit on leads anymore.
Though, he did have a pretty big mis-step when he quoted a Chere article that reported Jamie Langenbrunner had an argument in the locker room and walked out on reporters. Wyshynski used that as an example that Langenbrunner is "frustrated" and to make a point that a new coach will lead to new roles, new problems, and suggested that Lemaire was a fine fit - "14 years ago." Mind you, this is listed under "Biggest Issues facing the team"
Here is the Chere article; I don't know how you can conclude what Wyshynski states based on what Chere reported - much less To me, it seems like Colin White and him fought hard on the ice and they kept talking it out and Langenbrunner took some words the wrong way. It could even be that Langenbrunner just had a bad day. I Moreover, Gulitti reported the same thing but in more detail - including what Langenbrunner said, the context it was in, and how Gulitti was involved (he was the one who brought up a "dumb question"). Lemaire wasn't involved, it was just between the two players; so again, I don't see how this event is evidence of Langenbrunner being frustrated with his role on the team. I don't believe it's not evidence of a larger team issue - regardless if one read the Chere or the Gulitti article.
The other issue of whether or not the scoring will be enough is a fair one to ask. In fact, much of the preview is largely correct. The Devils didn't add too much in the summer, John Madden may be the biggest loss, offense will be led by Zach Parise, the defense works well enough, Martin Brodeur is a legend, and once again, David Clarkson is listed as a "breakout player." One minor note to Wyshynski, Clarkson does not only do wraparounds. He also has a toe drag. I agree with most of this.
Though, this really irks me and nearly caused my eyes to roll out of my head:
Blame the offense, blame the defense, blame whomever -- that's the best goalie in the world with eight goals on his record in two elimination games.
This is just lazy, boxscore punditry. Had you seen the series, both Brodeur and Cam Ward played excellent in net all series. Were the Devils to win that Game 7, I guarantee the opposite would not take effect - outsiders would rightly praise the team's performance. But should the Devils lose in the playoffs, it's suddenly Brodeur not playing well enough? Are you kidding me? Do people write this about Henrik Lundqvist or Roberto Luongo, who both haven't seen the other side of the second round - at all? I guess not. Again, if you have to find something to criticize and don't want to work for any insight, this works.
Again, while that sort of logic is something that annoys me, I think Wyshynski gets the Devils mostly right in the preview. Which makes his final conclusion a bit confusing. At the beginning Wyshynski sets up the eventual conclusion:
The surprises will have to continue for a team that will have to commit to the system (again) to overcome their offensive and defensive deficiencies. Anything can happen with Marty Brodeur between the pipes, but these Devils aren't a lock for the playoffs.
And then here is his "prediction:"
But in that division, and in this conference, the current configuration of the New Jersey Devils is going to have a hell of a fight to make the playoffs. Even with Brodeur healthy and Lemaire back, nothing is predestined this season. They could finish out of the money for the first time since 1996.
If you take these two sections out of the preview, you'd come away with a positive overview of the team. Wyshynski even graded the Devils in each area, only giving a low grade to special teams. He thinks the offense and defense is good and he gave high marks to the goaltending, coaching, and management are top notch. Yet, he's bringing up the possibility of missing the playoffs.
He says it'll be tough in the Atlantic Division and in the Eastern Conference, but when is it ever not tough? This is a franchise that only lost one key player from last year's team that won 51 games, with a legendary goaltender out with injury for most of the season. They know it'll be tough; but no where does Wyshynski state how it'll be tough. Is it offense? Is it defense? Special teams? Longetivity? I know Wyshynski gets right to the point; but an extra sentence or two to explain further would have helped.
Also, where's the prediction? He says they could miss the playoffs. Note that he didn't say that they will. I'll give him that much; but seriously, you got to commit to something if you're going to make a prediction.
Overall Outlook: Eventually Pessimistic, Prediction: "Could miss the playoffs" but no actual prediction.
Now I don't agree with the conclusion of the preview; but I think the preview is worth your time and if you need something quick, it's probably your best choice. Even over the one I'll be writing soon. One last comment, though. Sorry, Greg, I respect you and I thank you for including what I've written in the preview, but the only remotely funny/witty thing you wrote in that preview was this:
There's every reason to expect he'll be back on a line with Jamie Langenbrunner (29-40-69) and Travis Zajac (20-42-62); which means there's every reason to expect [Zach] Parise will
infect the NHL with a serious case of the adoreablescontinue to grow into one of the League's most lethal offensive players, even in Lemaire's system.
Every other attempt at humor worked as well as Mike Milbury manages teams. Just stop with the stupid Brodeur-is-fat jokes, I'm pretty sure you and Sean Avery are the only ones who make them - and do you really want to be associated with Sean Avery?