Don't Panic Just Yet

Zajac can't quite finish a breakaway that could have iced the game on Monday. - Derek Leung

After last night's loss, it's understandable that people are getting a little antsy. Three games and three losses is not the most ideal way to start a season. Let's hold ourselves together for a few more games before we start firing and trading everyone, though.

As fans, it is our natural state of being to melt down at the drop of a hat. Sports fandom doesn't have many roots in the realm of rational thought. We all like to put on our Ed Snider hat every now and then and fire everyone, trade for everyone, and sign all free agents at all times. I'm here to tell you that, yes, there are some legitimate concerns early on, but everyone should calm themselves down and take a few deep breaths for the time being.

Issues

Speed: The Devils as a whole aren't lighting anyone up with their speed right now, but this is something we knew coming into the season. They were getting beat on the rush a lot in the first two games of the year and part of that was not being able to keep up with opposing forwards. I think the first two frames last night showed that when they are on, they can shut a team down, regardless of how speedy they are. When their positioning is good, they can hide this weakness well.

Mistakes: Some of the same warts that showed up on last year's team are appearing on this one as well. The team is prone to lapses in coverage at times and Taylor Hall alone on the doorstep was a pretty good microcosm of that issue. The team, and the defense in particular, seems to overcommit in the corners at times and leave people driving the net away from the play. Perhaps it's a product of the general aggressive mentality they have, but it's something they should address. Many of the mistakes seem fixable, it's just a matter of making those corrections.

Personnel Decisions: It's no secret that I am driving the #FreeFayne train around these parts. I don't think Peter Harrold has been as horrible as some would have you believe. I think Harrold was even decent at times in the first two games, though his third was certainly a step back. Anton Volchenkov has had some moments as well, but he is just too slow and too poor with the puck to make much positive impact. Mark Fayne should be playing over at least one of these two guys, though. I continue to not understand how he has found himself in the press box so often the past two seasons, and it is starting to bother me.

On the forwards side, I think there is a pretty good case to be made that Josefson and/or Olesz should be in the lineup over portions of the CBGB line as I don't think Carter or Gio have looked particularly good thus far. Still, this decision is a somewhat marginal one, and it's hard to say that the 10 minutes of 4th line play each night has been the reason for the Devils woes, but I'd like to see the move made, nonetheless.

Positives

New Guys: The Devils' summer acquisitions have made a big impact right out of the gate to start the season. Damien Brunner in particular looks like a steal at the moment. Jaromir Jagr was a bit rusty in the first two, but looked much better on Monday. Michael Ryder has potted two goals, and Ryane Clowe has looked pretty decent as well, despite having only the one assist. If the rest of the old guard can get it into gear, the Devils may not struggle as mightily to score points this season as we once thought.

The Team Can Still Control Play: I think for much of the Islanders game and the first two thirds of the Edmonton game, you saw the things the Devils can do when they are on. If they can clean up some of the mistakes and get some sharper goaltending, they are obviously a team that can win games. Marty hasn't looked particularly great thus far, so hopefully Schneider gets a lot of opportunities and is up for the task.

They Could Just as Easily be 2-1: I know the Devils are doing their best to test this notion (0 goals in 8 shootout rounds, really?), but I am still a firm believer that shootouts are largely a random proposition. After a rough opener, they have looked good enough to win both of the past two games, and could have if they were able to figure out how to score on a staged breakaway for once. Most of all, if they can just clean up some of the fixable mistakes, they can win these games before it even reaches that point. They have the ability and they've shown as much. They just have to keep their heads on straight and stop shooting themselves in the foot.

Hold Off on Firing Anyone Into the Sun For Now

I guess what I'm trying to say is it's a little early to get too worked up about the team or the coaching. Just because the Flyers - the poster boys for ill-advised knee-jerk reactions over the past few years - fired their coach three games into the season (an NHL record, by the way), doesn't mean we should be thinking about following suit. This team has some kinks to work out and I'm not a huge fan of some of the starts/sits, but I think the system employed by DeBoer is the best one to harness the talents that this team has to offer. The bottom line is that the players out there need to execute a little better and clean up the blown assignments. A couple wins will diffuse a lot of this tension. If they're still winless after Friday in Calgary, then perhaps it's a bit closer to panic time, but for now, take a few steps back from that ledge.

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