Damon Severson made his return to the Devils Tuesday night in his first game since Dec. 15, and it felt good (Fire and Ice, March 3).
“I felt pretty comfortable out there,” Severson said. “I think that’s the main thing with me as a player and as a person, just being confident on and off the ice and just doing my thing no matter what. The coaches put their trust in me and the management put their trust in me to put me right back in the fire and I just tried to do my thing out there and have some fun.”
Severson, who missed time with a fractured left ankle, ended the night playing 16:21 in the Devils 3-1 victory over the Predators while posting two shots on goal. Interim coach Lou Lamoriello was happy with the rookie’s return performance.
“For being off for the time he was off and he’s still not there in game shape the way you get by playing, but I thought he did an outstanding job for the first night,” Lamoriello said.
The Devils squeaked by with a 2-1 shootout win over Buffalo, but despite 35 shots on goal, the squad still struggled to pick up a win in regulation (Fire and Ice, Feb. 19).
The team posted 30-plus shots for the first time in 10 games, but it came down to Scott Gomez, who netted the deciding goal in the shootout.
“We had 20 (scoring) chances,” said Devils GM and interim coach Lou Lamoriello. “The first thing you look at is chances to score and chances against. We had plenty of opportunities and that’s all you can ask for. The win, I was pleased with the way we did a lot of things tonight: the penalty kill and the power play had a lot of good looks and 5-on-5 we were creating chances. We just have to put them in the net.”
Adam Henrique, who missed the net on a penalty shot in the third, echoed those sentiments.
“I think we had a lot of looks tonight,” said Henrique. “I think the goalie played well. I had a bunch of chances, a bunch of shots on net from good scoring areas. I think our D did a good job getting pucks through. We’ve just got to keep pushing. There’s some games we get 15 shots and we get three goals. I think we’ve got to stay with that mentality to shoot pucks, get pucks to the net.”
Ultimately, the Devils are happy to kick off their six-game homestand with a win, even if it’s in a shootout.
“If that’s the way we’re going to win, that’s the way we’re going to win. It’s two points in the column,” said Gomez. “We want to make it interesting and to start the homestand like that, we’ll take it.”
Stephen Gionta participated in a full practice with the Devils Monday, having been cleared for contact following a broken hand, which had sidelined him since Dec. 29 (Fire and Ice, Feb. 16).
Gionta is unsure if he’ll suit up for Tuesday night’s game against Buffalo, but it hasn’t been ruled out.
“We’ll see how he is. We’re not sure yet,” interim coach Lou Lamoriello said Monday. “We’ll just see how he feels. We won’t know that until tomorrow.”
Gionta started skating on his own for a week before he was able to work into the first 15 minutes of practice twice last week.
“It’s felt good for the last week or so and it’s just getting the conditioning back,” Gionta said after practice on Monday. “It’s been a long road back. It was good to get out there with the boys today.”
No surprise, the center has been itching to get back on the ice, especially while his squad has been struggling to turn things around after the coaching change on Dec. 26.
“It’s difficult any time you have to watch your team play,” Gionta said. “You want to be out there with them. You want to be in the middle of it. You want to be in the mix. You want to be able to help the team out and, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to for the last seven weeks. And it’s always tough just watching. No matter whether you’re winning or losing, it’s tough watching.”
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.
As 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.
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.
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?
Maybe 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.
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.
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.