One of the hottest topics this week has been the state of the Devils, playing short for two straight games because of cap constraints and injuries. In this week’s Saturday Faceoff, Patrick and Anthony sound off about why the Devils were not in the wrong by playing with less than 18 skaters.
Teaching the Devils a Lesson By Patrick Hoffman
Life is all about learning lessons and then being able to apply what you learned. As it turns out, that applies to the National Hockey League.
Just over a month ago, the New Jersey Devils signed free agent Ilya Kovalchuk to a 15-year deal worth $100 million. While Kovalchuk is an extremely talented hockey player with a ton of offensive abilities, the Devils are getting more than they asked for in a negative way.
This week against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, the team skated with only 15 and 16 skaters, respectively. The results – a 3-1 loss to the Pens and a 1-0 shutout win over the Sabres.
In my opinion, the NHL is trying to teach a lesson here – don’t sign ridiculous contracts and go over the salary cap because if you do so, your roster will be in trouble.
Devils' general manager Lou Lamoriello said the following to team beat writer Tom Gulitti regarding the 15 and 16 skaters: "It's a burden on the coach and the players and it's my responsibility to get it straightened out."
Based on this quote alone, it appears that maybe the Devils are learning their lesson.
The league is simply trying to make an example of the Devils. Even though the Devils went 1-1 with a limited amount of skaters, I believe that other teams around the league will learn their lesson.
It would be even better if the NHL also learned a lesson from this. For example, the league could change the salary cap and allow teams to call up players from the American Hockey League (AHL) when injuries occur. That is definitely something the league should consider doing, especially given the state the Devils were in earlier this week.
Yes, it’s odd for the Devils to be playing with 15-16 skaters; but folks, this NEEDS to happen because everyone involved in the league from its executives to its organizations needs to see what happens when you don’t give yourself breathing room under the salary cap.
Only time will tell if they pick up the ball. ---
Self-inflicted penalty By Anthony Curatolo
You have to wonder what Uncle Lou, better known as general manager Lou Lamiorello of the New Jersey Devils, does to help himself sleep at night?
The long, grueling summer of Kovalchuk, who as we all know signed, then had his contract rejected by the NHL, only to finally have a resubmitted approval of the said contract, is back with the New Jersey Devils this season, thus putting them in a predicament that does not seem to have an easy fix.
Kovalchuk and his enormous contract put the Devils so close to the NHL's salary cap ceiling, creating the situation that you have witnessed over the course of their first four games.
New Jersey, only able to dress between 17 and 20 skaters for their first four games, have suffered a horrendous start to the 2010-11 NHL season. They currently sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 1-4-1.
Understanding that it is still way too early to judge the happenings thus far, you do have to keep in mind that in the National Hockey League every point is important once the official puck is dropped on the start of the season.
With that being said, and as Patrick mentioned above, life is all about learning lessons and just like in life, the Devils are learning a very valuable lesson about hockey. There is a salary cap and without any breathing room against the cap, you must now suffer the consequences of being unable to dress an entire lineup.
The fatigue factor is going to play a major role for this club eventually. When we arrive to the point of the year where we are hoping for playoff pushes as teams, the Devils could potentially look back on the start of this season and realize how important these games were; you never know if you’ll be battling for the division or fighting for your playoff lives come March/April. Every point is crucial.
Playing with 18, 17, 16 or even 15 skaters as they have been doing recently is going to hurt in the end. If you watched their game against Colorado last night, you would know that though they had more skaters dressed, now the injury bug is playing a dominant role in their performance.
Lamoriello and company did this to themselves, and should not be subsequently penalized by the league (even though it’s against the rules in the CBA). It’s a penalty within itself to play with less than 18 skaters!
Something has to give soon, but what that will be remains unknown.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.