All is quiet in the world of the Devils right now. Fans and players alike have one eye on next season while the other looks back at the year that was with a disgruntled groan of frustration. There has been a distinctly empty stretch since the team cleaned out their lockers, not that this is unexpected. So while Devils fans watch their lesser sports and wait for some news, here is a brief update of what has happened in the world of the Devils since they packed up and took another team picture that won’t surface until next winter thanks to some very lazy web designers.
May 12: Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek ranked NHL's second best owner by SI.com
No one's ever had a bad thing to say about Vanderbeek, at least since it was a forgone conclusion where our new arena would be placed...but even so, I have to admit I was surprised at 2nd place. Not because he's not a great owner, he really is…but one of the other top-5ers in particular could have taken second place and it would not have been surprising either. Mario Lemieux not only displaced contract money as a player to keep the Penguins financially stable, he also kept them in Pittsburgh and away from Jim Balsillie, all while a new arena finally got started. But I'm happy for Jeff and he really does deserve to be placed right under Detroit's Illitch family. Any owner who would stand at Newark Penn Station handing out playoff towels to the fans deserves to be recognized.
May 12: Gionta's Predicament and and Lamoriello's Biggest Failure as GM
Jack Vallon at Bleacher Report examines why Gionta and Parise have reason to follow Gomez, and wouldn't blame them for thinking about bolting to the Rangers. He puts into words what every Devil fan should have been thinking for the past two years: Really, Lou? You replaced Scott Gomez with...Dainius Zubrus? Zubrus is hardly a second line center, as the powers that be seem to think he is. Great, he had a career year the season before the Devils signed him, but he was also playing on a line with ALEX OVECHKIN! I didn’t think it took a rocket scientist to figure out that every last member of HockeyBuzz.com could put up impressive numbers with Ovie as their winger. But back to Vallon: This writer has made me a fan, especially for constructing the best Dainius Zubrus analogy of all time:
"Putting Zubrus with Gio and Patty is like plopping a slice of processed American cheese on a platter of grilled prime rib-eye and slow matured, dry-aged sirloin steak, and expecting it to work for you."
Pure. Brilliance. And very true, as well. I'd bet anything that if Sutter had actually given an Elias-Rolston-Gionta line time to gel, they most certainly would have. Giving them one game together is no way to examine all your options. Brent, I think you're terrific, but let's be real here for a second. Dainius Zubrus should be on the fourth line, third if he's having a hot streak. That's all he'll ever be, and every second you put him on the top two lines is a second in the lives of Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta that they will never get back.
May 12: Devils AHL prospects 2008-09 review
HockeysFuture.com is a great website which chronicles the development of every team's prospects. I've noticed, however, that despite the Devils' ability to continue to churn out great drafts and prospects, the website always ranks the Devils in the bottom two in the league in terms of best crop of talent waiting in the wings. This year, we come in at a disgraceful 30th. Read their explanation and see if you don't just get the same question in your heads that I did:
"Strengths: Mattias Tedenby, acquired in the 2008 Entry Draft, joins fellow countryman Nicklas Bergfors at the top of the list of New Jersey Devils prospects. Both are exceptionally gifted and well-rounded players. Beneath them, however, viable top-six forwards are scarce. Matt Halischuk and Mike Hoeffel are part of a quality cast of checking forwards. The Devils also boast a fairly deep and diverse group of blueliners, from the gritty Matt Corrente and Mark Fraser, to Brandon Burlon and Anssi Salmela (note: you really couldn’t update this an entire month after Salmela was traded?). The Devils organization possesses size throughout. Weaknesses: A significant problem for the Devils is their lack of quality prospects between the pipes. The Devils haven't drafted any goaltenders since 2005, when they took Jeff Frazee. Once highly touted, he was unseated as Minnesota’s starting netminder and turned pro early. He is off to a decent start so far as a pro."
Doesn't sound so bad, right? Their only true knock on us is a lack of goaltending depth, and hey they're kinda right. Jeff Frazee is currently our only shot at a homegrown goalie of the future. Granted, Frazee had an incredible season in 08-09, but certainly won't be ready to break the NHL for another few years, and if he doesn't pan out, we've literally got nothing. But is that alone really enough to rank us DEAD LAST? Calgary's system was described as "incredibly thin everywhere but between the pipes," yet they land 28th. Colorado's cupboard is as empty and vast as the Colorado River, and yet they earn a mildly respectable 18th. The article itself paints a rosy picture of quality talent coming up from all areas: Frazee, Matt Corrente, Tyler Eckford, Matt Halischuk, Nicklas Bergfors, Mattias Tedenby, Alex Vasyunov, Mark Fraser, and Pierre-Luc Leblond. The only negative aspect of the entire review was Petr Vrana, who missed most of the season with a broken leg, and let's face it, that makes it pretty hard to play hockey. I didn't read any other team's report, but surely for all the positive words written about the Devils of the future, that can't possibly still mean we're as bad as it gets in the NHL, can it?
May 13: Ken Daneyko will host radio discussion with Rangers bad boy Sean Avery
Dano and former Ranger Ron Duguay host a weekly radio show on Sirius-XM, and Sean Avery was this week's guest. I have not heard this show, but Ron must have pleaded with Dano beforehand, and I say that because Sean is still alive. Disheartening, I know, but Avery was apparently not at all like himself during the course of the day, so Dano probably had no reason get angry at him. Still...disheartening.
May 14: Niclas Havelid signs to play next season for Linkoping in the Swedish Elite League.
...And may I be the first to say, thank you dear god. I would have accepted him signing with another NHL team, but I'm sure he realizes, as we all do, that if the choices are returning to New Jersey—where he not only couldn't fit in but stuck out like a sore thumb, or returning to Atlanta—or as I like to call them Ilya Kovalchuk and the Chicago Wolves, he might as well go play in his home country and the third best league in the world. Havelid's departure leaves the Devils with $2.7 mil that thankfully will not be wasted on him, hopefully leaving us that much more to put toward keeping the only Swedish defenseman that matters to us, Johnny Oduya.
May 14: Sutter no closer to decision on his future with the Devils
Brent Sutter is relaxing in Red Deer, evaluating his position as he does every year. This has gotten him into a lot of heat with both media and fans, who interpret this as a sign that Sutter is not committed to the Devils. A faulty statement when you consider he did the same thing last summer, and obviously came back. For those who are still worried, however, John Fischer from In Lou We Trust, one of the best Devils blogs on the web, gives us some reassurance via simple logic.
"First, Sutter is actually open about this evaluation. Yes, he's repeating the same message; but he's actually engaging questions about it. If Sutter were truly thinking of leaving, then I would think the best thing for him to do would be to stay quiet to the media and simply just consult with Lou. Instead, he's stating that any rumors of him coaching elsewhere aren't true and that the playoff loss — shocking as it was — won't effect his decision."
All indications are that Sutter will be back, despite what the Canadian media wants you to believe. Just remember, they only WISH he would stay home and coach in Calgary or Edmonton because those two teams are in desperate need of new coaches.
On the free agent front, Lou Lamoriello has said only that he wants to re-sign all four Restricted Free Agents: Travis Zajac, Petr Vrana, Pierre-Luc Leblond, and Andy Greene. The Devils need to get younger in a hurry, and this would be a great way to do it. No news on the Unrestricted's, although expect Johnny Oduya to be priority #1, and either John Madden or Brian Gionta to return, but probably not both. Expect Scott Clemmensen to be retained only if he sees the market for him as a starter somewhere else is not as great as he thought it would be, which is probably not going to happen. If he does leave, however, Kevin Weekes will return.
Looking toward the draft, my pick would be David Rundblad, a great offensive defenseman from Sweden, if he’s still on the board. If not, look for the Devils to do what they always do and go off the beaten path. Also, look for the Devils to draft their first goaltender since Frazee in 2005. Surely, they cannot overlook this position for another year, right? (I said that last year also...)