One shocking development over the course of the first half here in the NHL has been the state of the New Jersey Devils. Picked by many in the pre-season to not only win their division, but to be a Stanley Cup contender as well, they have been just the opposite.
Standings-wise, the Devils’ neighbors are no longer the Penguins, Flyers and Rangers; it’s the lowly Islanders, which just about sums up where they are in the present, and where they are headed in the future.
The most staggering thing to me is how quickly things have turned in New Jersey. Veterans like Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Arnott and Brian Rolston were all thought to be important pieces to the puzzle. Now they are either on the trade block or afterthoughts – or both.
Martin Brodeur, a Vezina Trophy finalist a year ago, looks like an aging goaltender that could be near the end of the line.
Ilya Kovalchuk, signed to a 15-year mega-deal over the summer, is on pace for his lowest goal total and boasts the worst plus/minus figure in the entire league.
Zach Parise has been injured since October, while defensemen Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador have spent time on IR this season.
With just nine wins here on Dec. 19, anything that could have gone wrong for the Devils has gone wrong.
Now you have to wonder where GM Lou Lamoriello goes from here. Lou has been adamant about keeping rookie head coach John MacLean on board; but if things don’t get better soon, will he stay true to his word? Will Lou start a fire-sale at the trade deadline and attempt to start from scratch?
A lot of people who follow the organization feel a rebuild is needed. If this is Brodeur’s last season, I’d have to agree. This is a team at a crossroads; and if they can get rid of some expiring contracts over the next two years, they may be able to get back on the right direction.
But will Lou have the patience to go through a ‘rebuilding’ process? For all the Cups they won pre-lockout, this is a team that hasn’t advanced past the second round since 2003 (when they won it all). Obviously, patching together a roster has not worked over that time if their realistic goal every year is to win the Cup.
For the last decade and a half, we have grown accustomed to seeing the Devils looking down on the rest of the NHL. The shoe’s on the other foot now.
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.