ILWT Audition 2014: Uncertainty Looms as Devils Approach a New Era

Writer O's submission is the last for the 2014 ILWT Audition. It's about the uncertainty looming for the Devils. With that in mind, here's a picture of the owners. - Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The ILWT Audition for 2014 ends with this final submission. This post is by Writer O HenryDoernberg, who believes the New Jersey Devils are heading towards a new era - for better or worse.

At the end of April, I put out another call looking for new writers for In Lou We Trust to write about the New Jersey Devils. I've opened up the audition to the community at large in order to get some new perspectives and additional voices on the front page with regularity. Since then, I've received eighteen entries that met the submission criteria. Regardless of how they're received, I thank the writers of each and every one of them - you know who you are - for stepping up and submitting an entry.  (One more instruction for those who made submissions and received letters, by the way.  Please do not comment on your submission or any of the other audition posts.  This will help allow others to freely judge the work and show that you can handle online reactions.  No drama is the best drama.)

Throughout the this week, I will post each one under an anonymous name so you can discuss and critique the post without regard to who actually wrote it. I can ensure you that I did not change any of the content outside of formatting it in to the SBN platform.  To that end, please note that I don't necessarily agree with what the posts actually say. I'm just letting them stand on their own. Please be constructive in any criticism and do offer your thoughts about whether you liked (or disliked) the post in addition to discussing it's content. Don't be mean, but be fair.

Now, I assigned a letter to each writer based on when I received it.  However, I decided to mix up the letters in terms of order of posting.  So this process now ends with the submission of Writer O HenryDoernberg, who believes the New Jersey Devils are heading towards a new era - for better or worse.

***

Transitions are never easy; leaving the proven and familiar behind in favor of the ambiguous and indefinite is a scary prospect. And with the inevitable departures of certain pillars in the New Jersey roster, Devils fans are on the cusp of stepping into the unknown. Yes, after years of murmurs and preparation, the fabled New Era of the New Jersey Devils is nearly upon us.

We speak, of course, of the looming exits of Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias, the only remaining players who have won a Cup with the Devils. Brodeur seems destined to end up somewhere else next year. Whether he’ll be wearing another team’s sweater or retired to his Montreal cottage remains to be seen, but there is substantial evidence that he will not (and should not) be back with the Devils in 2014-2015. Elias is signed up for two more full seasons with the Devils, but with his last two seasons shortened by injuries and his effectiveness dwindling accordingly, it’s probable we won’t see him sign another contract with the Devils at age 40.

Brodeur is the last of the team’s hallowed three-time Stanley Cup winners, while Elias’s two championships and franchise scoring record seat him in the pantheon of Devils greats. The only other roster players with their names on the Cup are Jaromir Jagr, who has had over two decades to let the memory collect dust, and Michael Ryder, who may be gone as early as this summer. Fans will soon face pulling for a team with no established winners on the roster. There are whole generations of Devils fans who have never known such a team.

It’s important to start considering what this team will look and feel like, as it will greatly impact how the Devils organization fairs both on and off the ice. On the ice, the Devils roster will be comprised of a team with no link to the great teams that captured three Stanley Cups, other than the crest on the front of their jerseys. There will be no Devils mainstays in the locker room to share championship experiences and views of the team’s unique culture with younger players. 2003 may be in the rearview mirror by more than a decade, but the presence of Elias and Brodeur has allowed the team to feel less removed from the past. Their departure will make the final cut to the cord that has tethered this team to the glory years.

Arguably more noticeable than the loss of Brodeur and Elias on the ice and in the locker room is the sentimental shift their departure will elicit with fans. Take a moment to recall the feeling of seeing Scott Stevens and Scott Neidermayer jerseys in the Prudential Center after the 2005 lockout had ended and the pair had left New Jersey. While the names were still familiar and the numbers were as recognizable as ever, something was off. Rather than honoring the players on the ice, these jerseys now carried the torch for the dearly departed. Numbers 3 and 4 became epitaphs, and soon 26 and 30 will share the same status - monuments to what once was, and all the success that came with it.

What kind of team will fans be left with then? Barring any impressive acquisitions (they could happen), the most notable figures will be the likes of Cory Schneider, Travis Zajac, and Adam Henrique — talented and capable players in their own right, but hardly names that approach the familiarity and unwavering confidence of former Devils greats. They’ll be tasked with leading this team back to a plateau of winning and league-wide respect, a destination that has largely eluded the organization for the past 4 years.

They’ll also share owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer’s burden of populating the Prudential Center with paying fans. Winning and popularity aside, Brodeur and Elias’s value ultimately lies with their ability to sell tickets and generate earnings for the organization (a stark approach to their worth). Though their best days are behind them, these two players still draw fans who want to revel in their contributions for another season, another game. Even superstar players without a lengthy Devils resume could be counted on to sell jerseys and fill seats, as Ilya Kovalchuk was once the integral centerpiece of Jeff Vanderbeek’s plan for a post-Brodeur era. Now that the Devils inch closer to becoming a team without legendary favorites and world-class talent like Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, one might not be faulted for feeling skeptical about fan interest in the coming years. After all, the franchise has never enjoyed consistently lucrative ticket sales, even when they were winning Stanley Cups and boasting a roster replete with Hall of Famers and proven fan favorites.

Uncertainty abounds. Great players come and go as organizations rise, fall, and rebuild. The Devils have lost great players before, and found new talents in turn. Many fans have eagerly anticipated the moment when the Devils can finally turn the page on old triumphs and embrace a new approach to success. However, the loss of Brodeur and Elias will be the final punctuation mark in an unrivaled chapter in this team’s history. And while every draft, trade deadline, and free agency season provides the Devils with a chance to buttress their future, it is safe to say that a sense of disquiet is beginning to cast a shadow on the organization’s coming years. In any case, Devils fans must brace themselves for a new era of Jersey’s team. Like it or not, it’s coming.

***

Now that you read Writer O HenryDoernberg's post, I want to know what you think about it.  What do you think of the subject matter? What did you think about how Writer O HenryDoernberg wrote this post? Based on how it was written and what was it about, is this the kind of post you would want to see regularly at In Lou We Trust? Please leave your answers and other comments about this post in the comments. Thanks go to Writer O HenryDoernberg for the submission and thank you for reading.

Thanks to all those who made proper submissions.  The fact that you all made the effort is something to be proud of, regardless of result.  Thanks to all the readers who put up with this for most of the past week.    In a few days, I'll be making decisions so look out for that.

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