I know, it's a dirty word around these parts, but the question was raised in another post and it got us wondering, what exactly does it mean to be rebuilding?
My best attempt to define it was to say it involved a turnover in personnel, be it on the ice or off; a change or otherwise perceivable tweak in philosophy, be it on ice or off; an infusion of youth; likely slow, but steady progress toward the end goal; and a willingness to accept the inevitable growing pains.
For the most part, just about all of those points could be argued either way for the Devils.
There has been significant turnover in personnel this off-season alone, both on and off the ice.
The selection of John MacLean as a coach and hiring of Adam Oates as the offensive/PP/face-off guru as well as Lou's pursuit of Kovalchuk all signal that the front office recognizes the team needs some help offensively and give the appearance at least that the team is making a philosophical shift to be a little more offensively oriented. Also, the signing of Hedberg for a very unDevils-like backup goaltender contract strongly suggests that Marty really will be playing fewer games this year.
Lou himself is quoted as saying, "I would be disappointed if out of this group here [the 43 prospects at camp] if two or three weren’t on our starting roster." Two or three could be, for a Devils team that last year filled out their roster with veterans like Rob Niedermayer and Dean McAmmond, considered an infusion of youth.
Slow and steady progress remains to be seen as I'm sure any progress (i.e. getting past the first round in the playoffs) would be seen as a success, but only a starting point.
Where it falls down is the "willingness to accept the growing pains." Losing is not an acceptable outcome for the organization or its fans who have come to take a yearly trip to the playoffs for granted. Lou has made it pretty clear over the past few years that he is concerned with winning now rather than later, though like every good GM he's still concerned with the later.
So what is the exact definition of a rebuilding period? Where is the line of demarcation between a team that is rebuilding and a team that is just making adjustments? Is it a tangible matter like getting a new GM like the Lightning did this summer, or is it something more abstract? I don't think anyone would argue that the Islanders aren't a good example of a team that is rebuilding, but why would we unanimously agree on the Islanders but not the Devils? Does rebuilding have to coincide with a period of not being competitive?
I put it to you, good reader: what to you defines a rebuilding period, and are the Devils currently in one?