The Opossum-Palooza

It's okay. We don't know what the name means either.

9.09.2006

NHL Preview: New Jersey Devils

Welcome to the sixth part of our thirty part series previewing the upcoming NHL season. We have a special treat for you today, as today's preview (and all previews for the Atlantic division) are brought to you by Opossum-Palooza special correspondent DefDude. Please give him a warm welcome and don't throw anything at him or you're likely to find out why we rarely let him out of his cage. His first preview? The New Jersey Devils. I'll turn it over to him:

One of the most successful franchises in the NHL over the past decade, the New Jersey Devils (whose team nickname, by the way, was actually decided upon by current GM/overlord Lou Lamiorello, who said at the time: “I just want a franchise named after someone my kids can look up to.” Fucking weirdo) fell to the middle of the pack last season, placing 6th in the Eastern Conference and being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Caroli……ugh, I still haven’t accepted this. Nope, not saying it. Wait for Biff’s next set of previews before you get validation of that fact. But back to the point: The Devils’ second round elimination was, by their standards, a disappointment. And unfortunately for New Jersey fans, whose numbers have fallen back down to mere double-digits now that it’s cool to be a Rangers fan again, it only gets worse. New Jersey’s most consistent strength, the defense, was a mediocre 14th in the league at even strength last season, and with Richard Matvichuk set to start the season on the Injured Reserve while recovering from offseason back surgery, that number is likely to only get worse.

Luckily for fans in America’s armpit, the Devils have one of the league’s premier scoring lines to help offset the defensive shortcomings in Patrick Elias, Scott Gomez, and Brian Giont…….wait, what’s that? Oh right, Brian Gionta hasn’t been re-signed yet, nor have 7 other restricted free agents. And to top it all off, the Devils are already a reported $2 Million above the salary cap of $44 Million after accepting Scott Gomez’s arbitration award of $5 million, which, when combined with last season’s boneheaded decision to give Patrick Elias a new contract worth $7.5 mil, ties up 30% of the team’s cap space.

Now, many hockey writers and owners will probably decry this and similar situations as evidence that the salary cap punishes good teams by making it impossible for them to hold onto their key players (Biff, feel free to throw in a Eugene Melnyk reference here), which is kinda true. Except that I’d prefer to see successful teams being forced to come up with creative means of keeping their best payers than going back to the old days of watching the Rangers and Red Wings use not so creative ways of stealing small market teams’ best players. That, and since the Devils are the ones who ruined the NHL of the old CBA with the introduction of the trap, I feel it is only proper that they be the team to be shafted the most by the new CBA. While the combination of Martin Brodeur (whom I avoided calling overrated even once in this post, despite the fact that he is, by a longshot) in net and a continued adherence to the trap will probably net New Jersey a playoff spot, and may even let them vie for a divisional title, they are officially my sleeper pick for the 2006-07 Most Likely Team to Fall Flat on its Face and Unexpectedly Into the Lottery. And may they rot there for a good long while, because God knows damning them to hell clearly has done no good.

For more NJ Devils blogging fun, check out On Fire.

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