In the summer of 2006, the Devils’ attempt to fill out their roster with 2000 Stanley Cup members Alexander Mogilny and Vladimir Malakhov did not exactly work out as planned. Malakhov barely played and was subsequently traded to San Jose the following offseason, while Mogilny was barely a shell of his former self before sustaining an injury which allowed the Devils to wipe his salary from the cap, finally clearing the embarassing signings from the books.
Two years later, and once again we find ourselves with a pair of free agent signings straight out of 1995. Back in that magical year, Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik were Devil regulars, one drafted and developed, one acquired from the Hartford Whalers a few years back. They went their seperate ways afterward, but here they find themselves back again, ready to help a Devils team in desperate need of offense.
But let’s be clear about one thing: unlike the last time we tried this, these signings will pay dividends in the future.
It is somewhat of an interesting phenomenon in Devil Land when former players with red and black Cup rings return to the Garden State. I mean, aside from Tommy Albelin, Claude Lemieux, Stephane Richer, Chris Terreri, Ken Sutton, Gary McAdam, Corey Schwab, Alexander Mogilny, Vladimir Malakhov, Pascal Rheaume & Krzysztof Oliwa, the Devils haven’t exactly been known for bringing back former players. But seriously, I like what each of these players brings (back) to our team.
Brian Rolston brings with him 59 more points than the Devils scored last season. Along with veteran leadership and playoff experience, Rolston can help the young Devil scorers, as well as add some fuel to the powerplay, an area that was downright anemic last season.
Holik’s role, upon his departure, was absorbed by John Madden, but that doesn’t mean that Holik will have no purpose on this team. Holik will be a valuable presence on the 2nd penalty killing unit, as well as the Devils’ second best faceoff man. In addition, he provides some grit and a big body in front of the net, something Dainius Zubrus was brought into do but failed miserably to.
Onto another matter, which is the Devils refusing to pick up Sergei Brylin’s contract option for 2008-09. A lot of people are upset about this, but I am not one of them. Yeah, Brylin’s been a career Devil, an ironman, and was the only remaining Devil besides Brodeur to be a member of all three Stanley Cup teams. But fans are forgetting the critical second part to the classic expression: “Jack of all trades…master of none.” Brylin could do a lot of things, but none of them well. And it had gotten to the point where he was a no more useful player than Arron Asham; a filled roster spot.
Brylin’s departure is sad, but necessary. It opens the door for a more skilled player or a younger prospect to step in and contribute, something Brylin clearly cannot do anymore. Fans are angry, but be honest for a moment…you know he was downright invisible last season. It’s about time the Devils stop being so loyal to players who no longer deserve it. I hope this sends a message to the other career Devils. We’ll be loyal to you for your entire career, unless it becomes clear that you simply cannot help us anymore. Keep playing hard, or you’ll be out the door, multiple Cup rings and all.
It sounds harsh, I know, but maybe Brylin’s play slipped because he was not only old, but no longer motivated. He had it set in his mind that he could do whatever he wants to at this point in his career, and the Devils would simply stand and watch with admiration. It doesn’t, and shouldn’t work that way. I don’t care if I’m in the minority here, although I hope I’m not the only one who sees this. I wish Sarge luck and thank him for everything he’s done for my team, but this move should have been done a few years ago.