via 4.bp.blogspot.com (this comes courtesy of my blog, downgoesavery.blogspot.com)
--> Before I begin, I want to show you a graph of the winning percentages of the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils since Kovalchuk was in the NHL. 2009-10 represents the year of the trade to New Jersey, with "a" being before the trade and "b" being after the trade. That is all I will comment on regarding the graph. You make your own conclusion (this is prior to the Phoenix game, and NJ is 1-1 since then). It has been 60 games since the trade. That is enough to look at things like this.
Lou Lamoriello is not about to get fired. I think it's important that I stress that before I begin. He has earned himself elite status that few general managers in professional sports will ever attain with one franchise. Sure, Bill Parcells was able to rebuild countless NFL organizations in a unique way, but Lamoriello's loyalty to a single organization that built a winner for two decades cannot be matched. Ray Shero took a desperatePittsburgh Penguins organization and turned into a winner as well as out of bankruptcy (with the help of Mario Lemieux) and Ken Holland built a Red Wings team that became the class of not only the Western Conference, but of the entire NHL, and Theo Epstein has established himself as one of baseball's best general managers, but most of them cannot compare themselves to that of the Devils' GM. I also argue that had the lockout not occured, when you consider rule changes and the players that the Devils lost, they may have re-signed Scott Niedermayer, Scott Gomez, Brian Rafalski, whoever, they would have won another Stanley Cup. It is almost that simple. Since the 2004-05 lockout, Lou Lamoriello has not handled salary cap management appropriately. It is always possible that Lamoriello is out to get commissioner Gary Bettman, but when it comes to one team against the league's big boss, one team usually doesn't win, and this time, the big boss may have had the general manager's last laugh.
Lou Lamoriello has several major decisions to make, and none will be simple answers, but they may have a major impact on the long-term state of the Devils organization. The number one concern, at least by most standards, is this season. Is this season lost? In all probability, yes, the Devils are not going to make the playoffs for a 14th consecutive season and 20 out of the last 21 seasons. The Devils will not win their fifth division title in the past six seasons, and will not win their tenth division title in the past 14 seasons. What Lamoriello has to consider is whether to continue to push for this season, buildup for one last run at a Stanley Cup with Martin Brodeur (which is what I thought this season was all about), or begin to trade some pieces away and build up for two or three years from now. As a fan of this organization, and a die-hard one at that, someone who has never had another favorite team in my life, and as a paying customer of the Devils and Prudential Center, I would like to know what direction my hockey club was moving in. If Lou decided that's it, and he wanted to rebuild, I would be fine and accepting of that, and I'm sure many fans would be as well. People buying tickets to games this season are frustrated, and the team will have to make a strong effort, and possibly attract fans through side events as well as events in Championship Plaza, to keep people coming to the games, but if that is necessary, so be it, and it will have its long-term rewards.
Now, another factor in all of this is how much longer Lamoriello can and wants to run this team. He was reluctant to come out and admit this, but I'm sure most people would agree that it was certainly not Lou Lamoriello that wanted so badly to sign Ilya Kovalchuk this off-season. Perhaps it was owner Jeff Vanderbeektrying hard to get an established superstar on his team to sell tickets, perhaps ownership felt it was legitimately what this team needed to push for a championship, and perhaps it was to attract Nets owner and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov into a share of ownership of the Devils. None of those options can be excluded, and whether anyone wants to face this question or not, it is relevant at this time: Is this the end of the Lou Lamoriello era?
I believe this is the end of the Lou Lamoriello era. I see a frustrated general manager who has lost exclusive "power" of this hockey team to an aggressive owner who has big plans for this organization. Hopefully that does not include abandoning everything the Devils stand for or even relocating this team out of New Jersey, but considering Vanderbeek has been a Devils season ticket holder for upwards of two decades, I am confident he has an understanding on how to win in New Jersey, and just as importantly, how to win in the post-lockout NHL. I also believe that this group of players is not compatiblewith star winger Ilya Kovalchuk. It could be the system, andprobably is to an extent, but when you have made such an investment in one player, you have to build a team around him...to an extent. This team was not build around Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk was a "final piece" to this team. What logic would tell you is that Kovalchuk possesses tremendous individual abilities, and should be able to have success by himself. With that said, however, I think it is time to make decisions regarding the current roster.
The Devils have learned a lot of lessons the hard way since the lockout. They have lost several key pieces to their past success, including Scott Gomez, Brian Rafalski, Brian Gionta and others. The three I mentioned left as free agents, and the Devils got no compensation for any of them, and you simply not afford to do that in today's NHL. The problem is, however, the Devils were in a position to make long playoff runs in each season that one of the players left the team, so it is hard to tell yourself, as general manager of this franchise, to make a trade, and in fact, it would be quite ludicrous to do so. This year, however, things are different. The situation is much different. Therefore, the Devils must handle cap management and free agency the right way. The following players should be traded; not because they deserve to leave the team, but because this is the salary cap era, and moving them while they still have value is extremely necessary in order to continue to have success long-term. This is the brutal truth, and while it is not pretty, it is true. I will start by saying that the Washington Capitals NEED to trade Alexander Semin to avoid getting nothing in return for him. They could then look at acquiring a defenseman such as Tomas Kaberle, as a rental for this season.
- Patrik Elias. I understand that it will be difficult to move Elias for many reasons. Elias has a full no movement clause, but it is more than that. Elias is also the franchise's all-time leading scorer, and has a chance to eclipse current head coach John MacLean for the franchise's most goals within the next season or so. He is also playing particularly well this season, and it would be hard to explain a trade to your fan base. With that said, I believe the Devils could get fair market value for Elias, which would likely be similar to what the Devils gave up to acquire Jason Arnott. The Devils could realistically ask for a 2nd round draft pick and a middle-ranked prospect (such as Matt Halischuk). The draft pick could be 2011 or 2012, and it should be considered that 2011 seems to be a weaker draft than the past few. Still, this is a necessarytrade to the Devils franchise long-term, although it would be tough to watch Elias play in a different uniform. Elias is not a free agent until the summer of 2013, but how much trade value will he have in a year or two?
- Jamie Langenbrunner. Again, this would be a difficult trade to make for many reasons. First of all, Langenbrunner is the Devils captain, andlike it or not, he has an important role with this hockey team. The second reason is he also has a clause, his is a no-trade clause rather than Elias' no-movement clause. Langenbrunner is also an unrestricted free agent at season's end and most teams that might be interested in his services could just wait for the summer. With that said, he could be the 'final piece' on a contender. His cap hit at under $3M is reasonable, and there could be suitors if the price is right. Langenbrunnercould draw a third round draft pick, perhaps more, after all, he was the captain of Team USA's Olympic hockey team just a season ago.
- Dainius Zubrus. Zubrus is a free agent after the 2012-13 season, as is Elias, and Zubrus and Elias are 1-2 in terms of the Devils best forwards game in and game out this season as far as I'm concerned. Zubrus' $3.4M cap hit is high for a player who is likely to reach 40 points this season, but he has played well and could be the right fit in the right situation. The only contenders that have significant room salary cap-wise to make a move for Zubrus would be Atlanta, Phoenix, Colorado, Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville and Tampa Bay. Zubrus could be a good fit on one of those teams, and could draw as much as a 2nd round draft pick. Zubrus, unlike the prior two, does not have a no-trade clause.
- It is hard to put any other names down. Brian Rolston, David Clarkson, Jason Arnott, Colin White, Henrik Tallinder and maybe even Travis Zajac (dare I say that) could all be moved if the right situation was presented, but it seems unlikely any of them will be moved for one reason or another. There is one more name I must throw out there. I must warn you, you have probably considered him, and it seems unimagineable to see him in another's team's colors. With that established, it is the right thing to do for him and the team.
- That player is Martin Brodeur. Yes, the Martin Brodeur that led his team to three championships, four finals, playoff berths in every season but one that he has been in New Jersey for, four Vezina trophies, a Calder as well, plus numerous Jennings trophies as well. That's not to mention he's got the most wins, shutouts and games played by a goaltender...ever. With all of that etched into our minds and the notion that someday, his #30 will join #3, #4 and possibly #27 at that point, I still argue that the Devils should do Brodeur the serviceof trading him, before his current contract, and maybe his storied Hall of Fame career, expires. The Rangers traded their future Hall of Famer Brian Leetch to Toronto to give him another chance at a long playoff run. Maybe a more successful story would be the Bruins trading Ray Bourqueto the Colorado Avalanche, where he spend one plus seasons and won his only Stanley Cup, clinching it in game 7 of his final game of his Hall of Fame career. Forgetting is was against our Devils, it was the right thing for Boston to do at that point. Plus, think about it, Patrick Roy only won twice in Montreal, he won two more with those Avalanche, andwhile there is thing to be said for playing out your career with one team, winning is important, and sports is also a business, so getting a return for Brodeur is important as well. The Devils need to do what the Ducks failed to do with Scott Niedermayer. Trade Brodeur to a contender so he has one or two last chances to win a Stanley Cup. Maybe Brodeur returns after next season. At that point, however, his era will be over in New Jersey. If the Devils do trade him, it will be the last time he ever plays a game as a Devil.
Brodeur's asking price should be high. The Devils should not be aggressively shopping Brodeur, but he should be available if the team receives the proper offer, which at this point could be a 2nd rounder, maybe an additional 5th rounder and a player of some value, similar to the Elias deal, or the Arnott deal that did occur (from Nashville to NJ). I understand the implications of a trade, but at some point, the opportunity cost of keeping Brodeur here on an older team that is not what it once was does not benefit anyone.
It's easier said than done to attempt to trade anyone. Also, if a trade were to occur, it would likely not be until the week of the trading deadline, but it is extremely necessary to keep looking ahead and not look at what has happened before. The only potential a player has is what they bring to the table at the current time and in the future, not previous accomplishments. You won't get anywhere in a salary cap era living in the past. Perhaps this is it for this group. Perhaps a brief rebuilding period needs to occur, and if that is the case, please, Lou, give the kids a chance. I would rather see a youth movement now than a failed attempt to win this year or next year and then delay the rebuilding process further. I think it's fair to say fans would understand, after all, nobody understands why this season has unfolded the way it has. Since the Kovalchuk saga, things have tumbled downhill and out of control. Should John MacLean be fired? If Lou wants to win this year, yes. If he is looking ahead, you could give him the season. Is Lou Lamoriello part of the future? Does he want to rebuild the franchise or should the youth movement include a new general manager? I don't think the team philosophy should ever change in New Jersey, but it is time to adjust to the 'new' NHL and put younger, faster players in the game. I do think the Devils roster needs to be partially renovated. Whatever the decision is, I hope it's not too late.
This season is over. Be realistic. Optimism is fine, it is welcomed, but you can't sacrifice the long-term future with an unlikely miracle. For now, nothing is the best thing to do, because if this team wins five or six in a row, then it is acceptable to regain confidence, but if the win one, drop three or more trend continues, it makes no sense to keep pushing the boulder as it rolls uphill. Decision-making is not easy, it is a delicate situation, but every decision made will impact the future, and the Devils have always been about consistency and winning long-term.