After comparing the stunning game 7 loss the Devils suffered to the Carolina Hurricanes and the events that occurred...well didn't occur at yesterday's free agency opening, I couldn't figure out when I was more speechless. Like many Devils fans yesterday, I experienced a whirlpool of emotions, emotions that lasted into today. I was frustrated, outraged, upset, stunned, mortified...the list could go on. Last night I was at the point where I could not even think straight and was tossing and turning as I repressed those angers and frustrations I developed as I, like most Devils fans, helplessly watched key parts of our team leave for greener pastures and new opportunities.
Based on how yesterday's events panned out, I think it's obvious that Lou is implying he is trying to rebuild on the fly and give the kids a chance. I remember one of the four options I hypothetically assumed Lou may consider as he contemplated on how to utilize this summer to steer the Devils in a particular direction was letting his UFAs walk and let the kids replace them. I remember between the time after the trade deadline and now, a lot of Devils fans wanted significant changes to be made that could affect the team. Changes have been made, but I'm sure this is not what most Devils fans had in mind.
Don't get me wrong. I thought the core of the Devils was solid and with a few upgrades over our departing free agents, could have made another solid playoff run. At the same time, certain players were getting older and it was showing in their play. After evaluating the performance of the Devils in recent years and the players that left yesterday, I guess it was time to move on.
A lot of Devils fans here and on other sites said the departures of Gionta and Madden weren't bad, but the holes they left in the roster because of their roles raise concern. After scoring 48 goals three years ago, Brian Gionta's hockey career can be compared to the musical career of Mary J. Blige, a one hit wonder. John Madden was 36-years old and if the Devil's next coach continues the offensive fore checking system Brent Sutter instilled, he wouldn't have been much use anyway and would have had an identical performance to the one he had this year. Rupp was dead weight all season and should have had a rookie in his place and Clemmensen deserved a shot at being a No. 1 goaltender. Best of luck to all of them to success on their new teams.
As it stands, we have 8 signed forwards (assuming Zajac re-signs) and 7 signed defensemen. In the unlikely event Lou moves a player or two, there are four open forward spots and at least 1 spot on defense that a rookie can outplay a veteran for. Lamoriello said he thinks certain prospects are ready. On offense, I'm assuming, we'll see the likes of PL3, Nikilas Bergfors, Rod Pelley, and Matt Halischuk fill those roles and Matt Corrente and Tyler Eckford battling with Mike Mottau and Andy Greene for one or two openings on defense. I remember over the past year, Devils fans complained the kids weren’t getting a chance to play...that certainly won't be the situation next year.
As it stands, my expectations for next year are bleak. The Devils will take a step back so our annual cup run might not be a realistic hope. If all goes the way it is now, next year will be an adjustment and learning year for the Devils. No matter what happens, next year could be a win-win situation. If we get into the playoffs, great. If we're below .500 with our playoff chances looking slim, don't be surprised if Lou guts the team even more and trades guys like Elias, White, Langenbrunner, and yes possibly Brodeur. It would restock our minor league system and give us an early pick in this year's draft, something we have not had in almost 20 years.
Overall, the Devils entering this stage in franchise history was inevitable. You could say Lou played a huge role in this when he let Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafalski, and Scott Gomez walk, while never properly replacing them, but at least now it seems Lamoriello is guiding the team in a new direction and is sticking to it. Devils fans, would you rather Lou sign players to lengthy expensive contracts, get your hopes up on another winning season only for the Devils to tank? If that were the situation, we'd have no cap room with the cap presumably decreasing significantly next summer and probably no teams willing to take any gross contracts off our hands.
Maybe going young is the right direction, maybe Lou was a move or two away from fixing this team. We'll never know. The Philadelphia Flyers proved a team can rebuild in one year. If that's the path Lou has the Devils on, I guess I could bite my tongue and see how it all pans out. Last night, Ken Daneyko was on MSG and said Lou is trying to change the fabric of the team after they failed to advance past the first round two playoffs. Daneyko, who normally tells it how it is, said Lou knows what he's doing and has a plan in place. Panic if you want, scream and cry, threaten to switch teams. Whatever you do, try to come to your senses, sit back, and actually see what happens.