I like reading about my best good hockey team. I almost enjoy how the so-called experts and the established publications predict their demise at the start of each new season so I can have a good laugh when I go back months later after the Devils have racked up points, wins, a lot of division, conference and even league titles. This year I don't find it so funny....
I subscribe to a publication I'll call The Hockey Blank for impartiality sakes; no wait that's too obvious, I'll go with The Blank News. Rather than wait until we make a miraculous run with some help (until we're officially out we're still in) or until the season has a fork in it, I'd like to visit their predictions with only a hand full of games to go and see how close they came.
I'll paraphrase their blurb in each major category and give my thoughts. To quote the sometimes great Don Cherry, "Let's Go..."
Where They'll Finish: 11th in Conference: Well they may have nailed that one exactly. I realize there is lots of leap frogging that could still happen, but with the current trends of play this prediction is reasonable as we near season's end. Predictions 1 for 1.
Offense: Kovy must be fully recovered and Henrique's productivity must be a stepping stone to the next level of productivity. With the loss of that Parise fella, the door must open for Tedenby to make a 1-2 punch with Josefson to equal sucess: Hmmm we were cruising along with a healthy Kovy at the start, then 9 loses after he went down again, I don't think Henrique has had a disaster of a season but it's no where near elite. D'ags has eclipsed our new 1-2 punch on his own. I'm not saying these factors are what is stinking up our season but THN seems to have nailed these problems. 2 for 2.
Defense: We were kind of praised here with the statement that a D that looked weak on paper proved otherwise in the playoffs. Also that Larsson should start making an impact at both ends of the ice: D'oh! payed a compliment and totally can't live up to it. The D has had it problems this year. and let's leave it at that. I still have faith in Lars, as he is very young but he's not had a great year... an aside, I almost wish they'd just leave him up or down, playing or benched. Being yo-yo'd can't be great for a kid's mentality. Predictions 2 for 3.
Goalies: They didn't exactly poo poo our old guys for once. They did half joke Wedgewood, Clermont, Frazee, and Kinkaid may be too old before they ever get a chance: I had no problem with the signings of Marty and Heddy based on how they played before they were re-signed, however when Marty was getting well and the entire team was wetting the bed I think it would have been a good time to start a prospect. Yes, it would have been like throwing someone to the wolves, but if the team doesn't get better you're just throwing someone a couple of years older there anyway. I'll say 3 for 4.
Special Teams: Devils will miss that guy's 7 PP goals, but hopefully Henrique and Larsson will contribute. That guy will also be missed on the PK but the Devils remain strong in that department: I'm not sure our special teams could be grosser. Thanks for the confidence THN but nothing doin' there. Predictions 3 for 5.
Intangibles: Involved coaching and the "C". I'm not privy to practices and locker room discussions, so I'm going to leave this as a push.
Rookies: Matteau will remain in junior, the best bet for a job is Tedenby: Matteau played a contract year (well just enough) and uhhh...nope on that other one. Down to 3 for 6.
X-factor: If Clarkson cools off and if Brodeur flops they are in trouble: Well as Clarkson rolled so did the Devs, once he cooled so did the team as a whole. Brodeur has far from flopped but his absence caused head aches. Up to 4 for 7.
The Brass: Basically replacing Parise was the challenge: Well duh? Final score 5 for 8.
I realize again there is still time for things to happen but I don't think enough time to really change the way the season as a whole has broke down. I still hope the Devils manage to eek into the playoffs and make a deep run but the playoffs and the regular season are two different animals so congratulations THN, looks like you got it right. It's too bad the ones you got wrong were meant to be our saving graces and it's too bad no one could step up to remedy the ones you got right.
No matter how this season finishes let's hope we ice a team next year that proves the usual doubters wrong as per the norm.