Misery loves company. Which is presumably why the Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils are getting together to hang out this evening. Two teams, pencilled in this summer to at least be playoff contenders, now both grasping at straws, hoping for some reason to not blow this season up already and start looking forward to next year..
Ok, maybe it's a little too soon to pull the plug on the Stars' season, at least I hope it is, but in New Jersey they're at least considering the possibility.
Obscene Alex and I talked with John Fischer of Devils' blog In Lou We Trust to find out what to expect when these two 12th place titans meet in tonight's epic contest.
Our questions, his answers:
Defending Big D: Let's start with this one. Are New Jersey fans really giving up on the season already?
In Lou We Trust: Many Devils fans are. The fact is that even if Peter DeBoer is replaced right away - and I can't see him surviving this record for long - the fact is that this team isn't very good. The defense has multiple young players and the notion of "play them so they'll get better" isn't proving true. The forwards are lacking in scoring punch, they've been hit with injuries, the shooters aren't shooting much, the grinders aren't able to get their grind going, and only a handful of players are really driving the play. All of the skaters are just struggling to make passes or even clear their own end of the rink with possession, which undercuts the lack of offense further. After two straight seasons of being very strong in possession, the low-event Devils are on the wrong side of 50% Corsi. The team is just difficult to watch unless your idea of a good night is watching the goaltender do what he can in spite of his teammates' play. Basically, if a new coach isn't necessarily going to fix this and the team is truly not that good.
DBD: An 11-14-5 record through 30 games puts the Devils on a points pace akin to that of the Stars. I would laugh at you for that, except that my team is obviously the Stars. Do you feel though that this is where the Devils should/were expected to be? Or is the season not going to script for ya''ll either?
ILWT: No. I expected this Devils team to be competitive. I expected them to fight and win a playoff spot. The hope was that Patrik Elias would continue to be good, Michael Ryder & Damien Brunner can be adding offense, Martin Havlat & Mike Cammalleri would add to the attack, and Ryane Clowe, Tuomo Ruutu, and Dainius Zubrus could help the Devils be strong down low. Instead, Elias has hit old age hard (and he's hurt now); Ryder is ice-cold at shooting again; Brunner played his way out of the league and is now with HC Lugano; Havlat is playing like Brunner did; Clowe remains out with a concussion and didn't do much before then; Zubrus remains limited (and he's hurt now). The concerns were whether the Devils would have a legitimate top pairing on defense. It turned out that Damon Severson will be great and has been good with Andy Greene while the rest of the defense has been unimpressive at best. The only expectation that has been met would be that Cory Schneider would make the Devils much better in net. Problem is that the guys in front of Schneider aren't executing well or even intelligently for the majority of this season.
DBD: Martin Brodeur now has two wins in his fledgling career with the Blues. He also sports a .904 save percentage and 2.64 goals against average. Not great numbers, but still better than most of the other guys in the nursing home. What's your take on the whole Brodeur situation this season?
ILWT: He is now a St. Louis Blue, so I would recommend asking Brad Lee of St. Louis Game Time about what he's doing.
Obscene Alex: Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, Martin Havlat, Jaromir Jagr, Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky, and Danius Zubrus. Does membership in a fountain of youth come with the contracts in New Jersey?
ILWT: No. The only one who's been playing below his age has been Jaromir Jagr anyway, but he's a special one. Or a robot.
OA: How is the New Jersey prospect system going to handle the mass retirement of the aforementioned players?
ILWT: It's not going to handle it very well. The Devils have very few legitimate forward prospects in the system, much less ones that can handle significant roles. Reid Boucher has been touted among the fanbase namely because he broke Steve Stamkos' single season goal scoring record with Sarnia, but that happened while Boucher was 19 and he is still working on the entirety of his game in Albany. Stefan Matteau may be a useful bottom six forward, but he hasn't been seen in the lineup since 2012-2013. Joel Quenneville has done well so far; there's legitimate hope he'll be a forward. But past them, there's just a lot of grasping at straws (e.g. Blake Pietila, Ryan Kujawinski).
Defense is far brighter, though it's currently in process. The young prospects are already with New Jersey and it's looking like they will hit big with Damon Severson. Adam Larsson will at least be decent. Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas are in the NHL, though they still have to learn and defend at this level. Seth Helgeson was called up due to injuries, and he hasn't been totally wrecked despite being a defense-first defensemen. There's hope that Steve Santini, currently at BC being a dude, will feature on the team one day and Josh Jacobs may have a future.
DBD: The Dallas Stars have allowed the most goals in the NHL thus far, and, if one were to exclude Colorado, have allowed 50% more goals than the next worst team in the Central (Winnipeg with 66 goals against). Can the traditionally anemic New Jersey offense take advantage of this... ahem... shortcoming of the Stars? What kind of game should we be expecting tonight?
ILWT: The Devils just played a possession-poor Philadelphia team that started Ray Emery and his 91% even strength save percentage and a defense that features Andy MacDonald on Thursday. They got out-shot 18-36, out-attempted overall, and lost 1-4. Why? Same reason why they got rolled by most of their opponents in the last few weeks: struggles to exit their own zone, struggles to make even simple passes to each other, and struggles to move the puck effectively to create offense. So unless the Devils figure it out, especially coming out of their zone and heading into the Dallas' end, I think Dallas' super-line is going to make it a hard one for me to watch and a fun one for you to watch. Especially if Lindy Ruff gets the Spezza line away from Andy Greene & Damon Severson and/or matches them with whatever line Adam Henrique is trying to lead.
OA: And lastly, is Snooki a Devils fan?