Personally, I made a point of it not to get too worked about what others predicted before this season. With the Devils on their way back to the playoffs with several in-season successes, user Alamoth decided to contrast reality against the predictions of ESPN's Scott Burnside. I'm glad Alamoth didn't do what I did. Otherwise, there wouldn't be this FanPost that I could put onto the front page to give it more attention. - John
Traditionally one of my favorite things to do after the New Jersey Devils secured their post-season position is to go back through the archives of the hockey media and track down people's predictions of how the Devils would collapse and flounder and laugh to myself at the absurdity that some of these people actually get paid money to write about a sport they clearly don't understand. Chief amongst these 'analysts' is our favorite, Scott Burnside.
Here is a link to EPSN.com's preview of the New Jersey Devils' 2011-12 season, written by Burnside. After the jump I'll laugh-out-loud at the 'concerns' Burnside raised way back when on October 3rd 2011.
Burnside's first prediction comes before he gets into his 'ten points' about the upcoming Devils' season. He states:
But if, as we expect, this season represents a second straight playoff miss, we're guessing big changes are afoot at The Rock.
Well, the Devils didn't have a second straight playoff miss (and haven't since 1987) and the only big changes around The Rock were the addition of NJ State Lottery vendors and the re-vamped musical selections which I'm sure Dainius Zubrus was involved in.
1. The Big Man
Burnside opens with the hot topic of Zach Parise. Like everyone else with a blog, Burnside ignores Zach's commitment that his pending free agency will not impact his season or distract him in any way. Working off of his ignorant assumption that the Devils are bound for another early spring, he makes this bold prediction:
Our guess? Parise is in a different jersey by the end of the season and creates a frenzy next summer that makes the Brad Richards sweepstakes look like a junkyard swap meet.
While it's still possible that Parise will hit the UFA market on July 1st, and yes that would be much more exciting than Brad Richards considering Parise is actually worth the kind of money Sather threw at Richards, he's still wearing number 9 for the Devils. Good job Burnside.
2. The Shadow
Clearly unable to talk about anything other than Zach Parise for the first 20% of his column, Burnside continues to instill doubt that Zach, or even the team, will be able to coexist with Parise's looming free agency. How did that work out? The Devils have the 10th best record in the NHL this season and Zach's 66 points, while a drop-off from his pre-injury production, are still good enough for third-best on the team. Oh and he broke the 30 goal plateau for the fifth time in his career.
3. Trouble Down the Middle
You might want to give Burnside the benefit of the doubt here when addressing the Devils' struggles at the center position. His assumption though is that Lou will be unable to fill the void at center and will have to resort to having Petr Sykora and David Steckel down the middle. Steckel was essentially replaced by Ryan Carter (for much less money) and the emergence of Adam Henrique quickly calmed any nerves about the Devils' depth down the middle. Now, the Devils boast one of the more impressive corps of centers with Zajac, Elias, Henrique and Josefsson down the middle (with Ryan Carter and Dainius Zubrus able to fill in the position in the bottom six temporarily if necessary).
4. Mr. Contract
11th in the NHL in Goals Scored
14th in the NHL in Assists
5th in the NHL in Points
23rd in the NHL in PP Goals
4th in the NHL in SH Goals
29th in the NHL in GW Goals
3rd in the NHL in Shots Taken
1st in the NHL in TOI/G Amongst Forwards
Is that enough for $100 Million dollars Scott?
5. Last Hurrah for The Greatest of All Time?
Obviously not. Another popular trend coming into this season was that it would either a) be Martin Brodeur's last in the NHL or b) it would be his last in a Devils' jersey. Marty didn't need to return to Vezina form to have success and it's now looking like he'll be minding the net for the Devils for at least one more season.
6. The Experiment
So, let's just say last season's much-debated Parise/Kovalchuk line combo experiment during camp will not be repeated this season.
I'll give you a few minutes to laugh to yourself about this statement for a while. Again, you might want to give Burnside the benefit of the doubt because who would have predicted Adam Henrique stepping up to fill the void between these two All Stars. However, they also flourished with Patrik Elias between them and are now playing at the same elite level with Travis Zajac centering. This combination has become one of the most dangerous lines in the NHL. Laugh to your heart's content.
7. Petr Sykora
19-22-41 is a pretty impressive point total for a guy who Burnisde claimed was "near the end of the line." There's something to be said for reuniting a proven NHL sniper with his long-time buddy and one of the NHL's most elite players in Patrik Elias. Sykora has three games left to reach the 20 goal plateau for the 11th time in his career.
8. Who Needs Scoring?
The Devils are currently 15th in the league in Goals-per-Game and 17th in Power-Play efficiency. These are vast improvements over last seasons' 30th and 28th place finishes respectively. Burnside doubted DeBoer's insistence that the Devils had scoring depth. At the time PDB mentioned Palmieri and Tedenby but it was Henrique and Clarkson along with the veterans Petr Sykora and mid-season acquisition Alexei Ponikarovsky that provided the offensive depth DeBoer knew the Devils would have.
9. Not All Bad
Okay, Burnside got this one right. The Devils remain in 9th place in GA/G and will most likely finish the season with the NHL's #1 penalty killing unit.
10. The Future
Burnside, again working on the presumption that the Devils would flounder this year, predicts that Adam Larsson would be a big impact in the future. Instead Larsson was a huge impact on the blue-line prior to his collision with PK Subban. More importantly the Devils found even more depth in their farm system thanks to Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson and recently Peter Harrold along with an impressive sophomore performance by an underrated Mark Fayne.