Most recent stretch proves NJ won’t be sellers at trade deadline

Jeff OConnor

As far back as July and August, there was belief that the Devils would be sellers at the trade deadline. That was certainly a realistic idea given that the team’s best player had just “retired” and their other top scorer flew the coop to Canada for the duration of his career. All this after losing their captain in the summer of 2012. We’re now past the one-third mark of the season and it’s fair to say that the Devils will absolutely NOT be sellers at the trade deadline.

Michael RyderAs of Tuesday afternoon, they are one point out of a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division. This is a Devils team that is under .500. That doesn’t speak highly of the rest of the division and the other teams below them. Besides the Capitals and Penguins, no other team is that much of a threat to run away with a playoff spot. The way the team has traditionally operated, the Devils would have to be 20 points out of a playoff spot for GM Lou Lamoriello to consider having a firesale.

The other point is, they really don’t have any assets to ship off. As far as players that would actually be attractive on the trade market that the Devils would realistically part with, the only guys that come to mind are Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder. And Martin Brodeur (I kid, I kid).

The team we saw for the first seven games is long gone. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen this team claim victories against quality squads like Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles and Anaheim. The team’s current chemistry is unparalleled to the team we saw in early October. This most recent run and an urgency to not miss the playoffs for a second straight year has stamped them as a franchise whose management will do everything to get them into the postseason. This team isn’t going anywhere in terms of falling out of the playoff race.

So when you throw in the weak division, the Devils quick rebound to relevancy and their lack of trade chips to begin with, there’s no chance this team will be sellers at the trade deadline.

Video: Scott Niedermayer inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame

After an illustrious NHL career, Scott Niedermayer was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in Toronto. He gave a fantastic speech, as he talked about his beginnings and his time spent in New Jersey where he won three Stanley Cups.

Many former Devils were in attendance including Scott Stevens, Colin White, Ken Daneyko, Jay Pandolfo and Joe Nieuwendyk.

General Manager Lou Lamoriello was also in attendance.

Is Pete DeBoer On The Hot Seat In 2013-14?

Jeff OConnor

With all the player personnel change going on in Newark, it’s easy to forget about the head coach.  Peter DeBoer is entering his third season at the helm of the New Jersey Devils.  His first season was a major success; taking NJ to the Stanley Cup Finals.  His second campaign was a pretty big disappointment, especially considering how fast of a start they had.  Perhaps it’s a bit too early to discuss it, but it might be a conversation that’s not too far down the road depending on the club’s start; how much pressure is on Pete DeBoer in 2013-14?

deboer-lamorielloMaybe it’s unfair to put last year’s collapse on DeBoer, but there’s no denying it happened on his watch, even if there was a 48-game season and injures to overcome.  In the middle of last year, I mentioned that DeBoer should be in NJ for a long time.  While I still believe he should, this is a big swing year for his job security with GM Lou Lamoriello and new ownership closely watching.

To get one thing out of the way immediately, even if the Devils get off to a rocky start and are in limbo standings-wise heading into the final month or two, I don’t think Lamoriello will axe him.  Lamoriello has been quick to fire coaches in-season before, but it appears the players have taken a liking to him, unlike the Brent Sutters and John MacLeans of recent years.  Unless the Devils are MacLean-bad, DeBoer will be here the full year.

That said, I have some doubts whether Lamoriello will keep the 45-year-old coach on board for 2014-15 if the Devils miss the playoffs this year.  New Jersey hasn’t missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 1985-86 and 1986-87.

Regardless of roster turnover, PDB shouldn’t get a free pass this year.  However, it’s very possible he won’t be held to the fire considering the team has lost its three most productive players over the last two offseasons to free agency (or “retirement”).  Very few, if any, coaches can survive such a blow.

Heck, throw in the fact that he may be given the dilemma of playing new acquisition Cory Schneider over fan favorite Martin Brodeur.  Even if Schneider is playing great and No. 30 isn’t playing at his best, will the Ontario native receive backlash from the fanbase, and more importantly, Brodeur himself?  That’s going to be an extremely delicate situation.Pete DeBoer

He basically has a whole new deck of forwards with no scoring aces.  It’s going to take some time for the lines to gel.  If they struggle out of the gate, it’s hard to get on DeBoer considering the hand he’s been dealt.

As many angles as there are to look at this, if the team makes the playoffs, DeBoer definitely stays, regardless of the outcome of said postseason.  If they miss the playoffs but finish within a few points of a playoff spot, I still think there’s a great chance DeBoer is the guy in 2014-15.

Pete DeBoer is the perfect mold of coach.  He doesn’t sugar coat things and never gets too high or low on the outcome of any specific game.  He brought an underrated team within two games of its fourth championship.  He’s probably the most likeable coach the fanbase has seen since Pat Burns.

The question is, how likeable will he be to management and ownership if he’s the first Devils coach in 27 years to miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons?

The pressure is on.

Michael Ryder Shines In Devils Debut

346px-Michael_Ryder_2008

By Jeff O’Connor

The New Jersey Devils signed Michael Ryder when free agency started, due to a need of pure goal scorers.  While he didn’t have any goals in Thursday night’s 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders at the Prudential Center, he showed that he has many more tools besides just an ability to shoot the puck.

Let’s start with that ability to shoot the puck, though.  In fact, let’s examine his first shot as a Devil.  After quickly falling behind 1-0 in the first period, the Devils were attacking a minute later.  The puck came to Ryder’s stick on the top of the left circle and he ripped a wrist shot.  While he didn’t score, Isles goaltender Kevin Poulin had to flex his left shoulder just to get his body on it.  If he doesn’t shrug his shoulder, it probably hits right under the crossbar in the back of the net.

This is what the Devils lack.  With Ilya Kovalchuk gone, there are very few guys on the squad who consistently rip the puck in challenging spots for goaltenders to make a save.  This is exactly what GM Lou Lamoriello and Devils fans thought they were getting more than anything else; a sniper with a wicked wrister.  If he gets the puck on his stick between the circles and has a sliver of space, great things can happen.

Ryder was even more impressive on the power play last night and not because of his shooting (one shot on the PP).  His vision and passing were masterful.  That was on full display for the Devils third goal.  Going up the right wing boards on his backhand, with a defender right on him, Ryder calmly sifted a backhand pass to a cutting Eric Gelinas who also made a backhanded flip to Jon Merrill, as he buried his shot from the top of the slot.  There was another play during the second period where Ryder circled behind the Isles net, streamed up the left circle and made a great cross-slot saucer pass, which would have been a tremendous scoring chance if it was handled cleanly.

“He looked good today,” said goaltender Martin Brodeur.  “He’s kind of crafty.  He’s a goal scorer but he proved today that he can pass the puck too.  He made some really nice saucer passes.”

In a game where the defense was exposed in their own zone, the goaltending wasn’t sharp and the goals came solely off point shots, Ryder was a bright spot.  One other thing Brodeur noted that was noticeable throughout the game is that Ryder is hard on the puck.  He doesn’t get pushed off the puck easily and he’s not afraid to get in the corners and mix it up, which is an attribute I’m not sure many Devils fans knew he had.  Also throw in the fact that Ryder played a solid all-around game, even though he was constantly being shuffled with different linemates due to the early absence of Ryane Clowe.

“Michael was one our brighter spots,” said head coach Pete DeBoer.  “I thought he had a good game.  He made some plays and created some offense.  It was good to get him in his first game.  I like some of the things he did.”

So did a lot of Devils fans.  There is still a long way to go but it looks like Lamoriello knocked this one out of the park.

Ryder said he’s still getting used to DeBoer’s system and that he got caught “thinking too much”, but he felt better as the game went along.

“The guys here are great.  They make me feel comfortable,” said Ryder.  “When you come to a new team, it’s what you want to look forward to.  They welcomed me in and now it’s just step by step and day by day “to get better.”

“We always played against him.  He’s always a threat so it’s kind of nice to have him on our side,” said Brodeur.

New ownership group prepared to win both on and off the ice

Harris and Blitzer are presented with jerseys (Credit- Contributor Dave Turner)

Harris and Blitzer are presented with jerseys (Credit- Contributor Dave Turner)

Dave Turner

In a deal which had the final touches completed just mere minutes before it was formally announced, the New Jersey Devils are now the property of a group headed by Joshua Harris and David Blitzer.

“I stand here today at Prudential Center with my friend, and fellow co-owner and partner David Blitzer to share with you the sense of excitement we have as the new owners of the New Jersey Devils,” Harris said. “We look forward to building excellence on and off the ice for the fans, this city and the state of New Jersey. We have an incredible opportunity in front of us to revitalize this organization, we can rethink the way business is done and infuse the franchise with the resources and talent, both on the hockey and business side and the experience necessary to give the Devils a chance to achieve long-term growth and sustainability at an elite level.”

The new ownership comes in with not only deeper pockets, but with New Jersey ties as well.

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(From left to right) Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Dan Girardi, Ryan Callahan, Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador

Put down the bats, and grab your sticks, it’s time to talk hockey at Yankee Stadium

(From left to right) Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Dan Girardi, Ryan Callahan, Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador

(From left to right) Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Dan Girardi, Ryan Callahan, Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador

Dave Turner

On a sweltering, humid August afternoon from Yankee Stadium, it’s usually all about balls and strikes, home runs and put-outs. But on Thursday, it was the NHL’s turn to step up to the plate.

The NHL formally introduced the two upcoming Outdoor Series games to be played at Yankee Stadium in 2014. The first matchup features the New Jersey Devils against their cross-Hudson rival New York Rangers, on Saturday, January 26, 2014 at 12:30 p.m. The second game pits the Rangers against their other metropolitan-area rival, New York Islanders. That game will be played on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.

“We are delighted to be here to discuss the playing of two outdoor games in this magnificent stadium,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, from a podium situated just beyond the Yankee dugout. “The Stadium Series is designed to give more teams, more markets, and most importantly, more fans, the opportunity to connect with the excitement of the National Hockey League and to do it with an outdoor game experience, in effect, taking the game back to it’s roots, where so many of our players first learned to skate and play the game.”

In attendance for the event were New York Yankees President Randy Levine, Yankees COO Lonn Trost, NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and NBC’s Bruce Beck, who was the master of ceremonies.

Each of the three area teams were represented as well, with GM Lou Lamoriello, Bryce Salvador and Andy Greene on the stage for the Devils. For the Islanders, it was GM Garth Snow, along with Matt Moulson and John Tavares, and for the Rangers, Assistant GM Jeff Gorton, Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.

“This will be our first experience in the outdoor games, and what great a venue to have that experience than Yankee Stadium,” Lamoriello said.  “Our players are excited, our fans are excited and we’re just looking forward to the experience. We know that the games will be heated, we know that we bring competitiveness, and the experience will be something that everyone in our organization will cherish.”

With the players sitting together on the stage, it might be the one and only time that members of the three area clubs will be together and be all smiles at the same time. Come October, the three Metropolitan Division rivals will likely be fighting each other for playoff positioning.

The heated relationships between the clubs certainly adds to the allure of the event. There’s no doubt that the games may have a huge impact in the standings. With the three teams fighting for a spot in the new playoff format, the only way to be guaranteed a playoff spot is to finish third or higher in the new eight-team division.  Finishing fourth runs the risk of losing the final spot in the newly-formed divisional playoffs to a team from the Atlantic Division.

Though there’s always the chance of warmer weather, or a rain storm, all signs point to the outdoor games being a tremendous event for not only the three teams, but the entire NHL. Throwing 50,000-plus fans into a stadium for a rivalry game should yield a fantastic experience for fans.

“The rivalries among the the Rangers, Islanders and Devils are among the most heated in sports, and we will put them on display,” Bettman said.

With the Devils slated to take the ice for their first outdoor game in franchise history in just over five months, it might be a little premature to get the coats and hand warmers ready. With a classic venue and a classic NHL rivalry, the game should be a home run.

Devilish Decisions: Andrei Loktionov

Corey Griffin

Andrei Loktionov-Ilya Kovalchuk

This is a series of posts on the Devils’ pending free agents (restricted and unrestricted). We’ll cover their strengths and weaknesses and end up with a final verdict on whether we think the Devils should re-sign the player. There will also be a poll at the end of each post so you guys can weigh in with your thoughts.

Position: Center
Age: 22
2013 statistics: 28 games with Devils/8 goals, 4 assists, 12 points/minus-2 rating, 4 PIMs
Free-agent status: Restricted
2012-13 salary/cap hit: $$575,000 (NHL) /$816,666 (NHL) (via Cap Geek)
Team history: Acquired for 2012 fifth-round pick in February

What he brings: Loktionov has very good vision, which allows him to sometimes see plays develop a step or two ahead of the other team. It’s part of the reason why he was such an excellent compliment to Ilya Kovalchuk, whose own ability to completely manipulate the ice like a chess board in truly remarkable. Loktionov is also a strong passer and has a good enough idea of timing to thread the puck through traffic. The part of Loktionov’s game that Pete DeBoer probably likes is the Russian’s two-way ability. Loktionov is far from an offense-only centerman, which is a big part of why he received such a key role on the Devils’ top line. Well, that and the fact that Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique were basically invisible offensively for long stretches this season.

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