Last Friday, the In Lou We Trust staff gave their predictions on the 2011-2012 New Jersey Devils. All of the predictions for the 2011-2012 Devils mentioned that the Devils would make the playoffs. Which is actually quite interesting, seeing as there hasn't been a lot of optimism from the MSM regarding the Devils. A lot of sports outlets and pundits are saying that the Devils aren't making the playoffs. Some have the Devils at the bottom of the league, fighting with Edmonton for Nail Yakupov or Alex Galchenyuk. But what's really bothering me is how the MSM just bases their prediction over a small sample size- A.K.A The John MacLean era. It bugs me a lot how everyone's just counting out the Devils.
Case and Point- this NHL.com article on eastern conference dark horses. The two columnists, Dan Rosen and E.J. Hradek both make very bold predictions- Rosen predicts that the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to make the playoffs, while Hradek predicts the Jets are going to make the playoffs. Some arguments make sense- the Leafs do have NHL goaltending in James Reimer, and Tim Connolly and Matt Lombardi are solid additions up front. The Jets do have a lot of solid young talent like Evander Kane, Bryan Little and Zach Bogosian. The argument for the Leafs does fall apart, as if Reimer gets hurt the Leafs are probably not looking at a playoff spot seeing as their backup, Jonas Gustavsson is not very good.
The one argument that bothers me- that the Jets will suddenly become good just because they're not in Atlanta anymore. Yes, their home games won't be filled by Hurricanes and Capitals fans. But it bothers me that with fans actually cheering for them all of a sudden, they will be good? I really find that hard to buy. They're still just as bad as the Thrashers because fans or no fans, they're still the Thrashers. It's not like they bought the Boston Bruins. Did they do anything of note in the offseason? Outside of the move from Atlanta to Winnipeg, signing a few depth players and the hiring of Claude Noel as head coach, they did very little to improve their team. They don't have a lot of good prospects and none of their free agent acquisitions are going to make them better. Well, unless Tanner Glass becomes the Jose Bautista of hockey and scores 54 goals out of nowhere.
The Devils, while they didn't get moved, they had a very similar offseason. They hired a new coach, and they signed a bunch of depth players- they more or less did what Winnipeg did this offseason. Except really, the team wasn't hyped up. The MSM outlets were just like- "meh, they're not winning anything". Even if their coach is infinitely more competent (which would be this well known person called ANYONE!*) and their captain (or three alternate captains) wasn't a complete diva, they'd still be hanging out with the Edmonton Oilers in the basement of the NHL. It's not like the team was one of the best teams in the second half. It's not like the team has three 40-goal scorers on their team or anything. It's not like the team has a future hall-of-fame goaltender. The Devils are a good team, composed mainly of the same bunch of guys that put up the amazing 2nd half run- plus a few additions, like a healthy Zach Parise and potentially Adam Larsson. The Winnipeg Jets are the Thrashers, the constantly underperforming expansion franchise just in a different area with a different name. Yet it seems despite the better team, the Devils are considered the chumps, just because they're not the hip new team that everyone's talking about.
Of course, the lack of expectations is really a good thing. Simply put, the team's got something to prove now. They've got to prove that the low expectations everyone set for them were jokes. It's not like the team can't accomplish these feats. It's not like the team's attendance issues is what caused the Devils to blow in the first half of 2010-11. It's not like having 15 000 fans screaming their rear ends off will be the biggest reason the Winnipeg Jets become a playoff team. We all saw what the Devils were able to do post MacLean. Now it's time to silence the haters.
*Anyone does not include Glen Sather or Paul Holmgren.