This year has been an interesting one for the New Jersey Devils, to say the least.
From the outside looking in, one might assume that the Devils were bullet-proof. For starters they have won three Stanley Cups since 1995, that’s two more then the Rangers have been able to manage since 1940. They basically make the playoffs every year, they have one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game and while their system might be boring, by God, it works. And as if that wasn’t bad enough everything that their general manager, Lou Lamoriello, touches seems to turn to gold. Until this season.
The Ilya Kovalchuk trade was an utter failure. For the first time in recent memory Lamoriello went after a big name who was on the trading block, and he got burned … bad. Kovalchuk did bring his star power, that wasn’t the problem. What was the problem was that Kovalchuk was a square peg, and didn’t even remotely fit into the Devils "round hole" system. He didn’t play defense first, he drove his line-mate’s numbers down while he was in New Jersey and he couldn’t help his heavily favored Devils win more than a game in the first round of the playoffs.
Then the off-season came, and with it tons of questions surrounding Jacques Lemaire and his future with the team. Questions that Lamoriello answered emphatically saying: "if he isn’t returning next year then he knows something that I don’t know." Obviously Lamoriello didn’t know, because Lemaire retired shortly after.
Currently the Devils seem to want to re-sign Kovalchuk, but the odds of that happening are slim to none. Martian Brodeur isn’t getting any younger, the Devils have to worry about re-signing Paul Martin, they also need to find a replacement for Johnny Oduya, while worrying what type of an impact hiring John MacLean will have on the team this season along with the impact it will have on potential free agent targets.
So is it just me or do the normally cool, calm and collected New Jersey Devils no longer seem so bullet-proof? No, I am not saying that this signing will be unsuccessful, nor am I saying that the Devils won’t make the playoffs next year. No one knows the answers to those questions, at least not yet.
Maybe MacLean will help right the ship, maybe the ship doesn’t need righting. I don’t have those answers either. What I do know is that the Devils look more flawed then they have in a long, long time and to a Rangers fan, that’s nice to see.