Tag Archives: white

Taking Lazy To A New Level

The Devils are not going to make the playoffs because they are a lazy team. Even if they get a few wins in a row, it’s not enough to offset the institutional laziness that has become acceptable on the ice.

Exhibit A: Ilya Kovulchuk does not skate hard to the end boards with four minutes left in a one-goal game. He lets the defenseman beat him to the loose puck. Again. He should be skating as hard as he can, playing the body, and gaining control.

Exhibit B: Forty seconds left and Langenbrunner dumps the puck into the zone, while Elias is in full stride on his wing. “Keep your head on a swivel” is a mantra for youth and high school players, but when you wear the “C” on this team it’s no longer necessary.

Exhibit C: On the first Penguins goal, Colin White doesn’t fill the slot, and lets Kunitz take a one-timer uncontested. If Zubrus had skated hard back into the play he may have had a chance to break up the feed from Crosby. Zubrus glides over the blue line; his body is upright and relaxed as Kunitz releases the shot. On the game-winning goal, White doesn’t bother to notice that Crosby was behind him, untouched. The Devils seem to watch the puck movement more than the MSG cameraman, but hockey plays develop in the space away from the puck. What’s even sadder is that White is playing some of the best defense on the team.

There are very few cures for laziness, other than bringing in a coach that makes the players ride the bikes for an hour after an effort like the last few. Or who dumps a bench on the ice. Or who demands that his players play the game with a modicum of respect for their leaders, their staff, their fans and themselves. What the Devils are doing now is taking lazy to a level that induces nausea.

Devils’ End

It’s just about four weeks since the Devils’ season ended and I’m finally rational enough to write rationally about it. I think this was the most uneventful, non-season in the decade I’ve been a season ticket holder, and therein lies the problem.

Lou signed Ilya Kovalchuk, but Lemaire couldn’t figure out how and when to manage him, and how and when to let him freelance, so an opportunity was wasted.

When veteran players were hurt (Clarkson, Martin, Elias) the young guns from Lowell played well, and the team had a fine November. The fire and energy seemed to disappear after Christmas. In particular, Paul Martin looked like he was afraid of contact, puck control, speed, and possibly the groundhog’s shadow after he returned. Disappointing, and you wonder what the deeper root causes are for such a tail-off in performance.

Whatever happened between White and Langenbrunner at the start of the season didn’t do much for White. I’ve never seen a veteran defenseman stand around, miss his man, and generally be useless in defensive situations. And then Lemaire put him in front of the net on the power play, which sums up Lemaire’s attempts at coaching this team. During the last game versus the Flyers, the Devils spent an entire power play passing the puck along the perimeter, without anyone moving to create space, or create time to a shooting lane to open up. When someone with a USA Hockey Level 2 coaching card recognizes this problem, you have a huge problem on both sides of the bench.

After the first of the year, the Devils just looked like they were mailing it in. Inconsistent play, random defense, and the constant juggling of lines and player head games were disgraceful. You can’t blame just the coach or the GM or the players; it’s a combined team effort from the front office to the guy who drives the Zamboni on the practice surface. Everyone has to want to win, and has to work like that every single day. Perhaps the Devils have just become complacent; playoff apperances and division titles are nice and everyone collects paychecks with a reasonable summer vacation. Look at what Mike Cammalleri has done in Montreal, where he came in with a great attitude, a love for the game and the city, and pissed off at some previous employers: They’re in the Conference Finals and Cams is leading goal-scorer in the playoffs. That’s what wanting to win does.

The fans don’t like this. The players shouldn’t like this. And I’m pretty sure that the Devils money-losing season means that the ownership doesn’t like this. I’m expecting wholesale shakeups in the off season, and the signings of Tedenby and Josefson are great starts. What they lack is a coach that will let the captain lead the team, and an intimidating presence like Stevens, and some mutual trust between players, coaches, and leadership. We can only hope that we’re able to see beyond our current, collective impression of the Devils and let the youngsters lead the way to an improved state.

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Just When It Can Get No Worse

It gets worse.

I love Chico’s comment: “This team might not be together next year.” Of course they won’t be together next year, because short playoff runs are depressing.

Colin White: miss your guy, then reach instead of skating. And his guy was Carcillo. Kind of sums it up.

Mike Mottau: Three words: “Where’s my guy?” Three of the best words fans can hear: Unrestricted Free Agent.

No even strength or single man advantage goals. Too many uncontested shots. When Paul Martin doesn’t close the gap and pressure the guy coming in, you know the team is played conservatively, scared and badly. Sure, the officiating was inconsistent, but that can’t possibly be a factor when you can’t score, don’t skate, let the Flyers run rampant and look like you’re in cement. Another three power plays wouldn’t have mattered.

Yes, the Devils might win three in a row. But they’ve been so badly, badly outplayed in three of the last four periods of hockey, it’s hard to believe they can sustain nine good ones, including scoring some goals. I am not giving up hope, and I’ll cheer until the final horn of the last game of the season, but it would be nice for the Bubba to see the Devils actually produce in the playoffs before he goes off to college (their last 3rd round or better series was when he was completing the ever-challenging 2nd grade).

The good news, if there is good news, is that sharing defeat through sports brings families together. When we pass on fan loyalty to our kids, we give it to them as another form of genetic material that can make us grow as easily as it makes us susceptible to disease. We cheer, and share the pain when our teams lose, and find ways to console each other until the season starts again. I just really want the Devils to win another Cup before I am taking my grandchildren to games.

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Pathetic Devils Effort

Why are Colin White and Mike Mottau together? On the winning goal, Colin White (a) followed his guy behind the net (b) reached, leaned and otherwise made lazy swipes at the puck and (c) left Mottau to remember to cover the weak side (oops). These two don’t belong on the ice at all, let alone playing first pair defense. The same dumb mistakes re-inforcing each other. It’s like the cyclotron of stupid. The particle accelerator of bad defensive plays. Who needs the Large Hadron Collider when you have these two ejecting pucks to the Flyers at near-relativistic speeds?

Will Elias hold on to the puck? Patty, we love you, but shoot the puck, control it, and more crisp passes please?

I’m laughing that Kovulchuk believes this post-season will help set his market value. It will, but his stock is taking it in the shorts worse than Goldman Sachs right now.

Langenbrunner either needs to step up and get pissed off, like Scott Stevens, or step down as captain. Amazing that the biggest emotional outburst from him all season was when Lemaire sat him for a game. Go listen to some more emo music, maybe that stack of Coldplay albums and Dave Matthews whining will help you find a way to get your teammates to step up.

No shots in the last fifteen minutes of regulation is a sign that either the wrong guys are on the ice, or the right guys are on the ice too long. Stop juggling the lines, let guys know who they’re skating with, and then demand that they produce. Or sit them. Why is it every coach gets this except Lemaire? No forecheck, no pressure, no movement. If you don’t create time and space, all you do is drop back and set up a shooting gallery for Marty – an appropriate description of tonight’s game.

Pair Mike Mottau with whoever else is in the press box on Tuesday. It’s a must-win game, and he’s a must-move player.

And finally, Devils fans – can we please sell out a home playoff game? I know it’s hard to cheer for an effort like the one tonight, but if we come back to the Rock even up, Game 5 matters. Let’s support the team. Then everyone who paid for a ticket can join in the call for White, Mottau, Langenbrunner, Kovulchuk and Lemaire to collectively figure out which end is the one they’re supposed to shoot in.

I don’t mind watching the Devils lose games. It’s a game, it happens. I hate to see them lose games when they look like they’re already packing it in. That’s not what professionals are supposed to do, and the lack of professional effort is flat-out disturbing, from behind the bench to lazy plays behind the net.

Marty looked great. Without him, it would have been a 6-2 drubbing. I know the Devils haven’t won in Philadelphia since my hair was all black, but three of the remaining games are there. Figure it out.

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Heartless and Winless

The Devils have become impossible to watch. Guys standing around, falling down, or making passes that are blind, ill-timed, or just flat-out stupid is not competitive hockey. It’s not even good hockey. It’s disheartening.

If I were GM and coach for a day:

Langenbrunner loses the “C”. Where is the leadership on this team? Where are the guys standing up for Salmela and Salvador? No wonder nobody wants to put in the extra effort, because no teammates will get their backs.

Langenbrunner gets benched until he learns to connect a pass. He is a turnover machine. Passes into the middle are dumb, blind passes are dumb, taking an extra step is dumb. Watch Kovulchuk pass. All of his assists are on sharp passes, not accidents.

Get a defenseman, now. It’s clearly not White, Mottau or Fraser. Salvador and Salmela are hurt, or rotate being hurt. Get someone who can control the puck at the blue line, who can clear the crease, and who plays with passion.

It’s just amazing that the Devils have blown three 2-goal leads in a week and a half. Since New Year’s Eve, they haven’t played a single, solid three period game. The glaring, stupid errors are like watching a badly coached beginner’s team. They aren’t a bunch a forty-something asthmatics (like me) playing at 11:00 PM on Sunday night; they’re supposed to be professionals. What they’re doing borders on gross dereliction of duty.

10 points out of 30. 33% point conversion, compared to 75% earlier in the year. I think fans go through a process like grieving: first we’re in denial (it’s only a three game losing streak), then angry (waive White! Marty plays too much!), then we bargain (Kovulchuk!). What’s next? Acceptance of this style of play? I don’t know of any fans that enjoy watching a high-calibre team play so far below its potential, night after night, creating new ways to lose games. Please, act like professionals. Put in the work, for a full game. Beat a team that’s streaking in the opposite direction. Or save me money on my playoff tickets.
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How To Beat The Devils

The Devils have gone from mildly upsetting to tragic. It’s Shakespeare on ice without the clever anachronistic puns. It hurts to watch, like the guy who wipes out on the ski jump slope during the intro to “Wide World of Sports” for those of you alive in the 1970s.

Here is the young person’s guide to beating the Devils:

1. Play 20 minute periods. The Devils don’t. Not even close. Between late goals in the Toronto game on Friday, and then coughing up two goals in the last 90 seconds of tonight’s travesty against Los Angeles, there was a goal with less than 30 seconds left in tonight’s game as well. This isn’t pee-wee hockey.

2. Take flagrant penalties. The Devils power play is 3 for 31. There was a stretch a few years ago when it was 4 for 100, and with the current 0-for-25 spurts we’ve seen, that’s easily equalled. If Langenbrunner is going to continue to make ridiculous passes into the middle when there’s no red jersey there, take him off the point. Put Oduya there, at least he can shoot the puck.

3. Get behind by two goals. Twice against Toronto, and then against Los Angeles, two goal leads held up about as well as a house of hockey cards in a nor’easter.

Lou lost out on the Phaneuf lottery, although I’m not sure he was a prize worth winning. But there are plenty of other defensemen who can shoot, move the puck, have a modicum more hockey sense than Mottau and White (combined) and know to clear the crease when the goalie is screened on a power play.. Maybe this is pee wee hockey.

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Pain and No Gain

I haven’t written about the Devils since mid-November because frankly, there wasn’t much to write about through the end of 2009. They were playing well, scoring goals, coming up big on defense, and Niclas Bergfors was making a bid for the Calder Trophy. A short stint as the best team in the NHL, a nice lead in the Eastern Conference, and there was much to celebrate as we came up on New Year’s Eve. Then the wheels fell off.

The Devils are 6-7 since December 31st, and are angling for the middle of the Eastern Conference pack. It’s not just one losing streak or a few bad games — it’s an entire 4-week period of inconsistent, low-scoring, badly played hockey. And as a fan, this is ugly and distressing. Of course, it’s also about the time the Devils ask us to pony up for playoff tickets. Advice to Lou: win a few games before sending bills, or your aren’t selling out the playoffs this year either.

Right now the Devils are simply painful to watch. They don’t move the puck well, their defense is shoddy on a good night, they aren’t scoring goals, and the power play has ceased to exist. They’re getting shut out (twice in this span). Half of their goals seem to come on long feeds for breakaways or semi-breaks, which feels more like pond hockey than the NHL. One power play goal in nearly an entire game of power play time is pathetic – and that goal was more of an errant pass by Parise that happened to rattle into the net. Getting beaten to every loose puck, and making passes that So it’s time to write about this mess of a team — or lack of a team — because it’s both cathartic and because this seems to happen once every season.

What’s wrong?

Injuries: Elias, Martin, Clarkson. Zubrus is back. Oduya hasn’t quite been the same end to end rushing guy since he got hurt.

Trepidation: Way too much passing, not enough shooting. Too much thinking, not enough driving to the net. I think you hit a point when things are running badly that you worry more about not making mistakes rather than making something happen. Failing to create opportunity is the first problem. How many passes miss their target, have no target, or are intercepted by an opposing player in the slot?

Leadership: Hate to say it, but where are the reports of a team meeting? Of the team doing something without Lemaire in the room, of the captains sitting with the team and airing out whatever it is? Seeing Langenbrunner get angry and skate hard is encouraging; but this has to carry over to the guys who have the “A” on their jerseys as well.

Defense: Colin White is making dumb plays, or no plays, and when he’s on the ice with Mottau they seem to amplify each other’s bad choices. The most egregious case here was in the Montreal game over the weekend when there were three red jerseys behind the Devils’ net, while Cammalleri was eating a sandwich in the slot. Worse than basic coverage, the defense isn’t starting the puck out of the zone, and there are more times per game than you can count where the Devils get pushed back in on a forecheck because the puck doesn’t make it through the neutral zone. I’d even argue that the breakout schemes the Devils have been using through the first half of the year were well-scouted and now well-checked by their opponents. It’s only getting harder from here, not easier.

Rookie disappearance: I was expecting big things out of Bergfors, Corrente, Zharkov, Halischuk. Bergfors looked great early in the year, and now he’s just vaporized. Zharkov had his moments and now can’t produce. Halischuk is just gone. Yes, it’s unfair to ask rookies to make up for veteran players with solid locker room personalities, but absolutely no contribution from the new kids is worrisome.

This streak of ugliness, like all things, will pass. But I think the Devils need a wake-up call; a specific action and point of focus that will rally them through the Olympic break and into the last third of the season. I can’t watch the hockey equivalent of the Mets any more.
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Everybody Skates New Jersey Weekend

This weekend is a big one for USA hockey: it’s the annual Hockey Across America when USA Hockey stimulates interest in the sport, from youth to professional levels. With the Vancouver Olympics a mere two weeks away, there’s palpable excitement about hockey around the world. Next week also brings the beginning of February, the start of the NHL’s annual “Hockey is for Everyone” diversity emphasis. It’s a big deal of a weekend for snowmen of all shapes and sizes.

Coach Jon Schwartz of the NJ Dare Devils special hockey program is leading the “Everybody Skates New Jersey” cross-Garden State tour this weekend, building on the Hockey Across America and diversity themes. There are 54 rinks in NJ, yet very few offer special needs hockey programs. What Coach Jon and the ESNJ team are asking is simple: each rink should set aside one hour a week for special needs hockey, and as the program draws attention, it will become self-sustaining. The Bubba and I have personally seen the great things done by the DareDevils players and the program, and we’ve been proud supporters for the past several years. At the same time, the DareDevils program is growing, and everyone would benefit from more, local programs that get players involved as mentors and junior coaches, get the rinks involved in the community, and provide more opportunities for special needs players of all jerseys to find a place to play.

The weekend starts Friday morning at the NHL Store on 6th Avenue at 46th street in Manhattan; it then continues to visit every one of the 54 rinks in NJ over the next 54 hours, ending at The Rock on Sunday afternoon when the Kings visit the Devils.

Get involved:

Come to the NHL store and meet EJ Hradek and Bill Daley on Friday, where 20% of the morning’s sales will support special needs hockey.

Visit the web site or Coach Jon’s blog. Follow @54in54 on Twitter.

Sign the petition supporting the ice time allocation for special needs hockey. Join NJ Devils Colin White and Jamie Langenbrunner who have lent their digital sharpies to the cause.

Come see the Bubbas at the Ocean Ice Palace in Brick, NJ, on Sunday morning around 9am, when we’ll be joining the tour for the home stretch.

Remember that NJ’s autism rate is among the highest in the nation, with about one in 94 kids diagnosed along the spectrum of autism. As the common Facebook status thread reads, kids with autism don’t want to be cured, they want to be accepted – what better way to demonstrate acceptance than in one of our most tribal groupings — joining a team. We need more teams for these prospective hockey players to join. That way everybody skates.

The Kids Are Alright (I Think…I Hope)

It’s been progressively harder to get ready for Devils hockey each year. Training camp became a mystery to be revealed by proper beat writers, rather than open to the public as it was at South Mountain Arena. While other teams play exhibition games daily, the Devils haven’t played in a week. At least tonight’s game was on MSG (and MSG2, minus any Devils broadcast crew).

There were a bunch of things to like tonight: Cory Murphy looked like he could skate with the big boys and delivered on the third power play according to expectations. Halischuk had 4 shots and seemed to control the puck well once he settled down in the second period. Rolston and Shanahan showed poise. Rod Pelley played a very solid game at center. Given that Elias is still broken, Parise had the night off, and the blueline was missing Mottau and Salvador, it was a respectable game.

And then the not so good: Colin White’s puck control is still a random event generator. Over his stick at the blue line, under or around him behind the net, bad passes — I saw enough of that in the Carolina playoff series. He either needs to seriously get to work or get ready to be a 7th defenseman. I wasn’t in the locker room when White and Langenbrunner went into the verbal corner, but maybe Jamie is pressing White as well.

Finally, the truly weird: The Islanders broadcast was a John Tavares love-fest. Too bad he only had one shot, but turned the puck over more times than I do in a beer league game, and got his pocket picked by that ever-shifty Danius Zubrus. Tavares will most likely grow into a first-line player, but he was much more Daigle than dangle tonight. I had much more fun watching Brett Westgarth play defense for the Isles — Princeton ’07, minor league grinder, now following his younger brother Kevin (Princeton ’07 as well, LA Kings) to the bigs.

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Gulitti’s White Indictment

Tom Gulitti covers the Devils for the Bergen Record, and in addition to fulfilling the dual roles of a beat writer and blogger, he brings a lot of hockey sense to the net, electronic or nylon. He’s a great read; he listens (reads) his comment threads; and he (I think) genuinely cares about the team. I’m much prefer to see him get the stringer job for The Hockey News over Rich Chere of the Star Ledger. Bottom line: Gulitti tells it like it is, in the words of Howard Cosell, and when TG is posting at 3:00am, you know there’s something to be told.

Read his last post deconstructing the destruction in the last 80 seconds of last night’s game. He says “Colin White ran out of position to hit Chad LaRose in front of the Devils bench. LaRose made a good pass to Staal, who had a lot of room to carry into the Devils’ zone with speed before letting go his shot for the winning goal from the right circle.” I had it wrong; I thought it was Havelid who made the season-killing decision to play the body instead of the puck, but it was White.

White can’t race anywhere. His perception, and puck play, were miserable for the entire playoff series. How many times did he attempt to clear the puck out of the zone with a saucer pass that either lacked height or distance, typically landing along the boards to be kept in by the Canes? I expect to see that in PeeWee hockey, when they’re learning how to clear the zone and play the body properly. One of the maxims of coaching younger levels of hockey is that there’s a difference between “contact” and “checking”; at Mite and Squirt levels there’s contact (body position) but no checking. Hockey is a contact sport, not a checking sport. White fails to grasp the difference, and he let his guy get off the game, series, and season-ending assist.

Rip that “A” off of his jersey. Give it to Parise. Show him the door, along with Havelid and the random smattering of free agent signings who moved this team backwards this season.