The New Jersey Devils have been one of the two most successful franchises over the past two decades. Unfortunately though, that success has yet to be translated to a proper image across the league. While the team continues to put up strong points season after season, the Devils seem to be neglected. I'm sure all of you have witnessed the "Devils are boring" or "sorry I missed the Devils game, I fell asleep through the first 5 minutes" comments that plague Devils-related articles on multi-fan blogs. While every team gets trash talked from other fan groups (eg, Cindy Crosby), the negative image towards the Devils seems to be unanimous. It's saddening because this is why the NHL doesn't consider the Devils a marketable franchise. Why, unless Marty breaks a new record or Kovalchuk scores goals, the Devils are often neglected. Why the Devils will never be considered for a Winter Classic matchup even after this seasons 1-0 game double shutout against the Rangers was one of the most exciting and well played games all year.
The causes for the bad image, in my opinion at least are:
- Location: Newark is no metropolis. Add to that the fact that the region is NHL-team satured, and has to split the market with heavyweights New York Rangers and Islanders on one front, and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on another.
- Marketing campaigns: While I don't live anywhere near Newark, and rely on streams for my Devils games, I have noticed a major difference between the Devils and a successfully marketed team such as Pittsburgh or Washington. The organization doesn't do much to attract non-diehard fans to the game. Watching Pittsburgh/Washington games, fifty percent of the commercials in the breaks feature either a player/coach making a cameo, or a note that this is sponsored by the team. In my opinion, this is probably the biggest aspect of it all. If you don't sell the teams image, don't be too optimistic of what image will be imposed on it.
- The Trap: It's pretty ridiculous that a style of play deployed by a lot of teams (but taken to perfection by the Devils) a full decade ago still has a strong effect on the image. While the Devils don't do the trap as a primary strategy (they fall onto it at different points in the game, but then, so do the other 29 teams in the NHL), the common misconception among the league is that the Devils are a defensive-minded team. Yes, the Devils put defense as a priority, but it isn't through boring hockey anymore. It's done through defensively-responsible play. If you have talented forwards like Travis Zajac and Zach Parise who can be terrifying offensive forces, yet play better defense than half the defenders in the league, then it's ridiculous not to use them. Sure, the systems a huge reason why they are the players they are now, but that in no way should be seen as a negative thing.
- Martin Brodeur: This is the one that confuses me the most. Because Martin Brodeur is Martin Brodeur, the league tends to think the Devils are Martin Brodeur. While it would be silly for someone to ignore Brodeurs achievements, the Devils are so much more than a legendary goaltender. We saw this last year when Marty went down, and Clemmenson came in. The initial response was "woe is me", "haha Devils are done", "let's see how they play boring without Brodeur", etc etc, until Clemmenson and the rest of the Devils proved everyone wrong. What I don't get is, Brodeur isn't the only amazing goaltender in the league. Sure, he's probably the best of the bunch, but you don't hear these comments regarding the Lundqvists (though, it would be justified in his case.. considering how bad the Rangers are and all :) ) and the Luongos.
What caused this post was a side-comment on the Yahoo! Puck Daddy boards following the Canada game. A comment about how effective Rick Nash can be when his team actually helps him. A comment that allowed someone to relate the Rick Nash in Columbus situation to Zach Parise in New Jersey.
Interested to read your thoughts/opinions on this.