The woes of the New Jersey Devils; but doesn't every team have them? Trade this guy, sign that guy, buy him out, waive that guy, fire him, he should retire, blah blah blah. I swear if we the fans dictated what moves our teams made, we'd see more people come and go than on the Apprentice.
Since The Devil's 2008-2009 "Red Bull" campaign ended, the same ideas and opinions on how they should approach the off season and entry draft have circulated throughout this site and countless others. Who we want to sign, retire, leave, stay, etc. In particular, three people Devils fans pick on and have expressed the most desire to see leave are Brian Rolston, Colin White, and Danius Zubrus. I could understand the resentment Devils fans have towards Zubrus, arguably the worst signing in Devils history, but I feel obligated to contradict the criticism directed towards Rolston and White.
First, it seems that everyone refuses to acknowledge that Colin White had a tremendous comeback season after his play suffered greatly last year when he spent the beginning out with an eye injury that allegedly almost ended his career. In 71 games this year, Colin White had a goal and eighteen points, his highest totals since his sophomore season in 2000-2001, not to mention he was a plus 18. Colin White has not played a full season since he put up career numbers, and was on pace to match those numbers if he played a full season this year.
I know Colin White's defensive game can be put into question at times, but everybody makes mistakes. Nonetheless, Colin White is still a big body that does his job in front of the net and in the corners. He's still a gritty physical defenseman that might not drop the gloves anymore, but still gets into his opponent's faces and sticks up for his teammates. As a second or third pair defenseman, White is expected to play shutdown hockey, whose priorities are patrolling the front of the net and getting the puck out of the zone. While fulfilling his role for the better part of his play, White's offensive upside only broadened his quality as a player this year. He finished third in points amongst Devil's defensemen, trailing Johnny Odyua by ten points and Paul Martin by fourteen, averaging considerably less ice time than both.
Colin White is no Bobby Orr or Scott Niedermayer but the man plays his role and seems to know where he stands. His contract may raise a few eyebrows and we all know he is probably worth less than the three million he receives annually, but who was he to say no to that salary when it was offered? Would you? You could say I am defending him because he had a good year, but it's for other reasons too. He's a loyal player to the team and his totals this season are a reminder of what he is capable of contributing, especially in a full season. Odds are White won't be going anywhere any time soon or put up Norris worthy numbers but I would have Colin White on my team anytime.
When people label Brian Rolston as a bust or disappointment, I want to pop out of their computer screen and slam their head against their keyboard. People even acknowledge his injury and still call him a waste of $5 million. It seems everybody expected Rolston to return and put up thirty goals without missing a beat, unaware that there's more to getting back in game shape than resting an injured ankle or arm. Rolston said it would take him about ten games to get back into the swing of things and he was right.
Consider the first four Games Rolston played before his injury and disregard the first ten he played after he returned. His totals were fourteen goals and 28 points. In a full season, those totals calculate to 21 goals and 42 points...while playing mostly third and fourth line roles throughout the season with regular ice time on the special teams. Last season, the Devils finished bottom five in power play percentage due to lack of a power play quarterback. With the arrival of Rolston and the surging play of Zach Parise and Patrik Elias, the Devils power play finished fourteenth overall this year. Rolston was third in power play points with sixteen and scored eight goals. Ten games after returning he totaled fifteen points on the power play and even scored one of the Devil's few power play goals in the playoffs. Had he played a full season, Rolston was on pace for twelve goals, which ties him with Elias and 24 power play points.
Considering the duration of Rolston's season, I think he played solid hockey and contributed as much as he could. Despite his age (36), Rolston is still healthy, effective, and has at least two or three seasons of legitimate play left in him. He possesses size, speed, and a strong shot that make him a sound offensive asset. Rolston's role may increase next year if Brian Gionta does not re-sign with the Devils. Should Gionta walk, Rolston could replace him on that line. Elias and Rolston would complement each other nicely as line mates, especially with a center that can keep up with them and contribute in the offensive zone. My confidence is still high in Rolston and I am confident he is going to rebound strongly next year, especially if his role increases.