I must begin by saying that this draft may go down in Devils history as the time when seeds were planted for the new era. Quite frankly, it’s about time. Defense alone will win you games, yes, but one needs simply to look back upon the last few playoff series where the Devils were eliminated to know that changes are necessary. In 2007 and 2008, the Devils were knocked out by a team that was simply faster than they. There’s something about the daily grind of the regular season that leaves the Devils sluggish come April. Where other teams frequently seem unaffected by the months of monotonous trudging, the Devils get stuck in the sludge. By some cruel twist of fate, it seems that recently we happen to only get playoff matchups against those teams who are flying high, as if their training camp had begun in February, rather than September.
There is a point to all of that, and the point is this: with the 24th pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the New Jersey Devils have tipped their hand. While all the cool teams in the league decided long ago to opt for speed, the Devils remained convinced that despite the NHL adding three new rules every offseason accompanied by a conniving glare at the corner of one Martin Brodeur and crew, defense still wins championships, right?
Well, sorta. But let’s not forget, the team who scores the most goals typically wins the game. And in order to score, speed isn’t necessary, but it definitely helps. Swedish center Mattias Tedenby, according to the scouting report, might as well have tiny jetpacks strapped to the backs of his skates. And if Central Scouting did their homework correctly, we nabbed the 16th best player in the draft at 24th.
All in all, the post-lockout reign of Lou Lamoriello has ranked somewhere in between “We should have paid the man” and “For god sakes, just pay him!” Players have left not because they felt they couldn’t win in New Jersey, but because New Jersey refused to pay them a penny more than their worth, while other teams simply didn’t care.
All in all, I feel optimistic about the future. If the Devils are now going for speed and skill, that just proves to me that we CAN win in the world of the salary cap and too many rule changes to keep up with. And our days of glory will return, coinciding with the debut of Mattias Tedenby.