The collective staff of TSN.ca has been revealing their team previews for each team in the NHL, one every day for 30 days. They've started at 30th and have been moving up, and yesterday TSN.ca revealed the New Jersey Devils as their selection to finish 8th overall.
This is important to note that you, the reader, knows this from the start. The main 30 Teams in 30 Days page links each preview and immediately tells you where TSN ranks the Devils. Moreover, from reading the preview by itself, you wouldn't know that the TSN.ca staff rates the Devils so highly at all.
The preview itself is straight-forward and has only four sections. One focusing on what the team did in the offseason, another section about what they feel is the biggest issue that the team will face, a third section focusing on a particular player, and a fantasy-based look by Scott Cullen. The rest of the preview is credited to the TSN.ca staff, so they'll just be referred to as TSN.
The first section is perfectly fine. TSN notes all the players that left New Jersey, notes who was brought in and who was re-signed, and correctly points out that the biggest loss was the departure of Brent Sutter. Jacques Lemaire, as we all know, was brought in response.
This leads to the second section and this is where the frustration comes in. Once again, another previewer is so convinced in Jacques Lemaire's reputation that the Devils will now become an ultra-defensive, strictly trapping team. TSN argues that their biggest issue this coming season will be their offense. A fair point except it comes with statements like:
Instead of sticking to the status quo with a team that captured the Atlantic Division title, general manager Lou Lamoriello completely blew up the squad this off-season.
While that is sure to bring a smile to the face of Martin Brodeur, will young snipers like Zach Parise and Zajac be privately grinding their teeth? The 25-year old Parise enjoyed a breakout campaign last season, setting career highs across the board.
That being said, it will be an enormous task for the Devils to repeat their meager goal scoring totals of last year, where they finished middle of the pack.
My head. It hurts. How can you return the same starting 6 from last season, the 5/6ths of the top two lines from last season, and half of the bottom six and call it "blowing up the squad," TSN? How can you question whether Zach Parise and Travis Zajac will have issues with Lemaire as coach when they openly praised his moves after training camp opened (reported by Gulitti)? How can you state a goal scoring total as "meager" when it's in the middle of the pack; were the lower half of the league "less than meager," TSN? How, TSN, how?
This sentiment creeps into the third section, where TSN tips Martin Brodeur as "the player to watch." That's not a bad pick. Brodeur will be healthy this coming season, he's a legendary goaltender, and his performance is specifically important to watch from an Olympic standpoint. Always a good player to watch. TSN does a good job here, but again, they assume that Lemaire will force the Devils to be defensive and so Brodeur would benefit. I guess they don't remember Brodeur doing well under Brent Sutter in the last two seasons? I guess they can't go for much longer without bringing up an assumption about Lemaire, one that hasn't been true so far?
This continues into Scott Cullen's fantasy take. He points to it affecting Zach Parise's production, while noting he'll still be the top scorer for the team. Sadly, anything less than 94 points and people will point to it as evidence of a defensive scheme "holding back" Parise instead of what actually happened during the season. There's a link to a further fantasy viewpoint about the Devils, but instead it goes right to their Flyers' preview (9th overall).
Overall Outlook: Pessimistic...?, Prediction: 8th Overall (2nd Atlantic, 5th in East)
That's the thing I don't get. The preview focuses so much about Lemaire and his supposed style he will definitely bring to New Jersey. Based on what we've read reported in training camp and in what has been seen in preseason, the Devils haven't trapped or played solely defensive hockey. Maybe they wrote this well in advance and couldn't update it? Given that this is online, I doubt that TSN couldn't update it.
Yet, TSN thinks the Devils will be quite successful. Sure, I'll be quite happy if the Devils finish 2nd in the Atlantic and 5th in the East. But I'd like to know why they factor NJ will finish so high. Does TSN respect Lemaire that much despite assuming how he will coach the team? Does TSN know that doubting Lou and his teams is generally a poor choice and so they think it'll be a high ranking? Does TSN just seem down on Lemaire's style but think it'll be successful? Ultimately, I wonder whether the reasons were in there and I just missed it? I also wonder, is this essentially a backhanded compliment?
Have your say in the comments below about this preview from TSN.