The 2011-12 New Jersey Devils campaign ended last night in Los Angeles. They played 82 regular season games and then 24 more playoff games. The last one ended it all not with a whimper, but a sickening thud. The Devils lost big in Game 6 to the Kings as the home team won their first ever Stanley Cup. It would be a good time to note that the sun still rose. However, you may have to take my word for it as it's been raining for most of the day so the skies are filled with nothing but gray clouds in New Jersey.
While they did lose in the Stanley Cup Finals, it's absolutely clear that this was a successful season for the Devils. There is simply no doubt about it. After the nightmare that was the 2010-11 season, where the Devils suffered from atrociously low shooting percentages, injuries, and John MacLean coaching among other matters. The Devils missed the playoffs in 2011 for the first time since 1996. In the 2011-12 regular season, the Devils went 48-28-6 to earn 102 points and cleanly secure a playoff spot. The Devils only finished fourth in the Atlantic Division but ninth in the league (tied seventh in points if you ignore ROW), which speaks to how successful the other teams were in the regular season. Given that I only wanted the Devils to make the playoffs, the Devils met that goal easily.
In the playoffs, the Devils proceeded to take it to the next level and beyond. As other ILWT writers predicted and thousands of Devils fans hoped, the Devils got past the first round for the first time since 2007. It wasn't easy. It was very nerve-racking, but the Devils came from a 3-2 series deficit by winning the next two games - both beyond regulation. The Devils didn't stop there as they stomped through the second round (against my predictions, thankfully!) and into the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2003. There, the Devils earned their fifth Prince of Wales trophy in franchise history by winning in six games - with the clincher coming in dramatic fashion. As we know now, the Devils couldn't hang with the Kings. However, they avoided the sweep and actually forced a Game 6 after going down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals series - which was the first time that happened since 1945. The team went all the way to the summit; there's no shame in losing to a superior team for the championship. Not after winning three rounds, especially when two of them eliminated the team's hated rivals.
What's striking to me is that you most likely already know and appreciate all this. I didn't have to write all of that because a majority of the fanbase knows that the 2011-12 season and the subsequent playoff run was a success. I saw it in some of the comments near and after Game 6 ended. I saw it in some of the comments of the recap of Game 6. I saw it on Twitter and on other sites. I saw it when over 500 Devils fans went to Newark earlier today to greet the team as they returned to the Prudential Center. They did it to show the players, the coaches, and the executives their appreciation; to say "thank you" for accomplishing what you've done. I'm sure there are a few fans who are sour over this ending without a championship; but I highly doubt there are any Devils fans in the world who aren't at least appreciative of what happened in between October 2011 to June 2012.
In that vein, I have to offer my gratitude. And I have a lot of it. Apologies if this comes across as sappy.
First, I thank the main subject of this site, the New Jersey Devils organization, for such a successful and eventful season. Without them, there would literally be no In Lou We Trust. Without their success or failures, we would have very little to praise, criticize, and discuss. If nothing else, there was almost always something going on with this team and I suspect there will be more to go on. The 2011-12 campaign will last in our memories for getting back in, going deep, and doing it all with a team that people. I know the larger media may not like the Devils or New Jersey, but I think I speak for all of the fans, when I say that we don't care. I didn't get out to Newark today, but do know that we love you and we are proud to support you.
Second, I thank the SB Nation network for having ILWT as a part of it. This platform has been nothing but excellent from the tools used to make content to the support behind the scenes. The hockey network as a whole is filled with excellent blogs with people who not only are passionate about their team but well-reasoned in their opinions and views. I'm grateful to James Mirtle for letting me know about this effort back in 2008 and I'm proud to still be here.
Third, I thank the larger online hockey presence. I don't know where analysis and opinion would be without the valuable tools at TimeOnIce.com or Behind the Net. I don't know how deep we could look at teams without other writers exploring the boundaries at places like NHL Numbers and Hockey Prospectus among other sites. I don't know how large this could get without Puck Daddy leading the way in terms of popularity - ditto with Backhand Shelf (a.k.a. Houses of the Hockey a.k.a. Hockey or Die! or whatever it was before that).
Fourth, I thank Tom Gulitti and Rich Chere for being the beat reporters for the Devils and providing the news online in a timely, comprehensive manner. I may be biased, but I think they're the best. It's why I always say ILWT is the third best Devils blog. Fire & Ice and NJ.com/Devils gives you all of the news you need to know about the team.
Fifth, I thank the other ILWT writers for contributing to this blog. Tom, Kevin, and the two Matts among others have spent their time and energy writing about the team they love. They've provided different voices, different perspectives, and some really great posts. This blog is too big for just one person; I think you'll agree the blog's been a lot better for that.
Speaking of more voices, I want to thank David Sarch and the many guests on Talking Red, a New Jersey Devils podcast. While he's not a writer here, his inclusion of me and the other writers along with the weekly podcasts post are as much a part of this site as anything else. The past season of TR has been particularly special with interviews with EJ Hradek, Bobby Holik, Ken Daneyko, and Doc Emrick among others
Sixth, and most of all, I thank you for reading. I put this at the end of nearly every post I write and I can see why after the first few times, it seems like a formality. Well, it isn't. I really do appreciate people reading my long-winded, detail-heavy, and sometimes-reasoned thoughts about my favorite hockey team. I'm the kind of person who can talk hockey for hours; but I wouldn't have continued doing this without the feedback that comes from each post. That can range from someone who agrees, someone who disagrees, someone who may not be correct, someone who shows that I'm not correct, and someone who just has a question.
It's because of your readership and your comments that In Lou We Trust has grown in a big way over the years. While this playoff run certainly boosted traffic, I can now say that literally thousands of people read ILWT every day. While the rules aren't for everyone, the community has mostly understood the rules and it's led to a clean, mostly civil place for fans to talk about Devils hockey. This is not just a popular Devils site, this is place that you can show to anyone from a kindergartner to a CEO to a bishop to an elderly relative and not have to worry about what they'll find beyond discussion about the New Jersey Devils. While the content can be dense at times and sometimes not so timely, there's not a lot of fluff here. We don't try to be anything more than what it should be: a Devils blog. Almost everyday, there's something of substance written about our favorite team. And the drive to write massive recaps, detailed previews, and deep analytical posts grows as you read it, you comment on it, you argue it, you talk about it offline, you tweet it, you post it on your social network or choice, you give a link to it to someone else, and however else you engage with it. It's a sign of recognition and appreciation that it's all something worth some of your time. In Lou We Trust is something I'm certainly proud of and it wouldn't have been possible without you, whether this is your first time at In Lou We Trust or whether you've been reading from the very first post back when this was on Blogspot (Hi Dad! Hi Mom!).
Now, with all of that gratitude given out, I want to make this point more bluntly: this isn't goodbye. The Devils' season is over, but we're going to keep going. I understand that now the Devils won't be playing hockey until September for preseason (I hope), interest will drop. I get it. You're a hockey fan and without hockey, well, why not do something else until hockey returns? All I ask is that you don't forget about In Lou We Trust completely.
Tomorrow, I'll have a review of the entire postseason run. For the next few weeks, we'll still keep pumping out the posts as the 2012 NHL Entry Draft approaches as well as free agency. In fact, Kevin's already got started on the latter discussing what could be the future destinations for Devils captain and impending unrestricted free agent Zach Parise. So you got draft profiles and signings to look forward to. Beyond that, there will be all kinds of analysis of the 2011-12 season, the 2012 playoffs, and looking ahead to the 2012-13 season. Like, say, reviews of goals and other opinion pieces. There could be some other surprises, too. You'll just have to keep reading to find out.
Until then, thank you for reading In Lou We Trust. I hope to see you soon.