Thanks to Puck Daddy for highlighting this Atlantic Division roundtable at View from My Seats. Matt Reitz had a blogger from each team in the Atlantic division answer a few questions regarding their team going into the 2009-10 season, finishing off with a projected final standings. Representing the Devils was Carlos Figueiredo of Speaking of the Devils. He may do one of his own in the future, but all the same, let's take a look at what he had to say as I kick off this year's edition (here's a link summarizing last September/October) of reviewing Devils previews.
Incidentally I'm not going to just quote what Carlos had to say, as it defeats the purpose of going to see the rest of the round table. I will comment on it after the jump and we can discuss it. But seriously, I highly suggest reading the round table first. Before commenting on his words, let's go to the end of the round table and see where the five bloggers slotted New Jersey in predicting the final standings of the Atlantic Division.
Carlos is positive and confident enough in New Jersey that he thinks they'll finish first in the Atlantic. I'm not sure I would come out and say the same thing (right now), but I don't think it's an outlandish prediction. After all, the Devils won the division last season. Then again, he's alone in that opinion as the other four bloggers in the round table have picked Pittsburgh to take the division. The Mouth of Rangers Crisis (heh) think the Devils will finish second in the division. Damian of Pensuniverse feels the Devils will finish third in the division (with 98 points) but will make the playoffs. Those at Clockwork Flyers agrees with Damian on the Devils finishing third, but had this to say in general:
Devils - As a Flyers fan, you get a warm and fuzzy feeling when you think about the day that Marty Brodeur retires. Well the Devils spent the first half of last season destroying that feeling. As long as they have Marty between the pipes and Lou Lamoriello putting the team together, they’ll be playoff contenders.
The Islanders blogger, Michael of Islesblogger, thinks the least of the Devils having them finishing fourth. Yet, he does state that the division will send four teams to the playoffs. Therefore, the whole roundtable - that's five completely different bloggers who support different teams - agrees that the Devils will once again go to the playoffs. Where the Devils will end up beyond that varies, though.Despite that each blogger only had four questions in the roundtable before stating a prediction, Matt Reitz did a very good job selecting questions that go right to the heart of the matter. The first one was similar one of the most common questions a fan has after the offseason: is my favorite team any better than they were last season? Reitz put a spin on it and asked why each blogger's team is going to be better than before - forcing each blogger to look for positives.
Carlos' response was interesting as his two reasons were the (hopefully!) improved play from Brian Rolston and having Brendan Shanahan. Now, as I wrote earlier, I'm expecting quite a bit from Rolston. If he meets those expectations, then he will truly make the Devils better. I'm not as sold on the thinking for having Shanahan for whole season will make the Devils better. Yes, his experience will be useful - especially for the younger players on the team (and at age 41, maybe some of the older players too?). Beyond that, will Shanahan even play outside of the fourth line and special teams, or even on a regular basis? I'm not sure. I will say it's an original response.
The second question went in the opposite direction, asking the roundtable what about their team worries them the most going into next season. Carlos points out the defense as his biggest concern. He is right that it is a "solid, but not spectacular" season. However, his main concern is that the Devils are returning the same top 6 defenders, pointing to the Game 7 collapse against Carolina as a reason that the defense isn't to par. Truth be told, I can't except that as evidence as that was a failure by all the Devils on the ice. Getting back to the larger point, it's possible that the Devils defense could perform better since all of the regulars are familiar with each other and had at least a season together. On the other hand, I do agree with Carlos stating that Bryce Salvador didn't perform so well last season; and the blueline - on paper - could use some improvement.
The third question asked each blogger to name a player who will breakout in the coming season. Carlos tabs Travis Zajac for his selection and I think it's a good selection by Carlos. Zajac just got a big contract after a big bounce back season. If he can maintain his form, continue to play with Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner, and still thrive after facing additional attention from opposing defenses, then I don't see why he can't do better. In fact, I'm expecting Zajac to do just that; thus, I think Carlos could end up looking good with this pick.
The fourth and last question for the bloggers was to name a player who isn't getting enough respect. An unsung hero, if you will. Carlos nearly veers into head scratching territory by starting with Zach Parise - who the NHL named as the best American player in the league earlier this month - but he rights himself with a very good selection: David Clarkson. Carlos pointed out Clarkson's intensity along with his potential to put up 20 goals one day as the main reason for his selection. I'm big on Clarkson - again, I think he's Randy McKay Ver. 2.0 - so I agree with his selection. Though, I also think opponents throughout the league are aware of Mr. Clarkson and what he can do.
Overall, this was a solid roundtable with good questions and reasonable responses from Carlos. It doesn't drag on, it doesn't fall into a bland report, and you get a sense for what to think about the team going into the next season. I would have liked to have seen more explanation on the final standings predictions, like what Clockwork Flyers had. On the other hand, I'm just glad to see that they all made a proper prediction of final positions. While I would probably give different answers, I happen to agree with most of Carlos' responses and see where he's coming from for the most part. Always a good trait in any kind of preview.
Overall Outlook: Optimistic Prediction: Yes, 1st in Atlantic
Now it's time to have your say. Do you agree with Carlos' responses from the Atlantic Division roundtable? Did anything else from the round table stick out at you for one reason or another? Do you have any suggestions for the format of doing these reviews of previews? Please leave your relevant comments and thank you for reading.