Tag Archives: jagr

The New New Devils

The last two seasons were not kind to Devils fans. After starting the 12-13 campaign in a nosedive, only to pull up with a glimmer of playoff hope before skidding off the end of the season’s runway, 13-14 wasn’t much better: inconsistent play, lack of scoring, sometimes muddled defense and an overall lack of coherence. I was hoping the ownership change would shake things up, and based on the first day of free agency, I am insanely thrilled I renewed the season tickets this year.

Martin Havlat is not a young gun, but he brings a great chemistry with Elias and that’s likely to translate into a better locker room environment. Put him in the right system with the right coach and he’ll score goals, move the puck, and create excitement. Think Jagr five years ago, and then add Jagr and Elias to the mix, and you smile.

I’m also impressed that the Devils didn’t bend and sign Brodeur. I sincerely, honestly, thoroughly hope that Marty decides to retire, rather than suffer through the ignominy of a few weeks of free agency. If you don’t have a deal early on, you’re not getting a deal, and if he waits for an early season injury and comes back to the game after an extended hiatus, it won’t be pretty for anyone. Marty is one of the all-time best, his number should be raised to the rafters amidst much fan adulation and maybe some more Elias sniffles, and that’s that. I also see this as a sign that the Devils ownership is committed to building a team, rather than replaying historical cards that held value years ago.

Then there’s one of my favorite players: Mike Cammalleri. His Canadiens player shirt was the first bit of non-Devils team wear I purchased. He’s tough, gritty, energetic, funny, and a nice guy to boot (yes, I’ve met him, and he impressed the daylights out of me by giving his father a hug before he greeted any other guests including his girlfriend). Think David Clarkson but with significantly better hands and speed. Before any criticizes his two tours through Calgary, note that the Flames were unable to produce much with Jarome Iginla either. Put Cammalleri on a line with Elias at center and you’ll see some of those fancy passing plays turn into goals. Like Gionta, he plays bigger than he is, and every time he played at the Rock, he was on the scoresheet. Maybe the place likes him already.

Free agents have a tantalizing effect on fans: they look shiny, exciting and new, and as the season unfolds you see exactly what your ticket, food and parking dollars are funding. A healthy and head-intact Ryan Clowe, a Michael Ryder with someone who can feed him the puck, and a feisty Cammalleri reshape this team with lots of potential energy – if it produces chemistry, fun, and some wins, we can still be cheering loudly for hockey in May.

Bye-Bye, Rangers

Today I experienced the delight ususally reserved for watching Duke basketball lose to North Carolina. The Rangers were out-gunned, out-hit and out-hustled for all but about 3 minutes of today’s Game 5, and they got bounced by the Penguins. It’s becoming increasingly easy to cheer for the Penguins, as they generate excitement rather than controversy. Who wants to hear about Jagr’s future in the NHL, Gomez’s monster contract that took the Rangers no further than he took the Devils, Sean Avery’s spleen venting, or listen to the Rangers whine about penalties? Another trade deadline deal – the one that brought Hossa from Atlanta to Pittsburgh – looks briliant, as Hossa gets the game and series-winning goal. Shades of Patrik Elias with that one. The Monday morning question is just how much the New York media will pick this series apart, looking to lay blame in which the guy supposedly in his career twilight (Jagr) outshone the recent imports (Gomez and Drury) when it counted.

I’m cheering for the Penguins in the Battle of Pennsylvania, and they could take either Dallas or Detroit.

Three Equals Minus Five

What happens when you add Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Jaromir Jagr together in their first pre-season game? You get a minus five rating. I don’t want to hear about rust, or chemistry, or anything else vaguely resembling oxidation or corrosion. The Rangers stunk it up against the Flyers — the very same Flyers that various hockey print mags have predicted to finish so far down in the standings that they might be better saving their points for next season.

What’s this prove? Probably nothing. There’s a reason the press is referred to as the “fourth estate” (behind the clergy, which would be the Church of Saint Patrik and Commissioner Bettman, the nobility, a/k/a Coach Sutter, and the commoners, also called fans and sometimes bloggers). Maybe the Flyers won’t be so horrible, and maybe the Rangers won’t be as much of a lock for the postseason as previously predicted in print. It’s one game, and it’s still September. But still: Lundquist was in goal, not Montoya or Valiquette. Personally, I’m betting on the Rangers blowing a lot of early leads due to lack of defense.

World of Fantasy

Every year, the hockey press likes to make predictions about the league leaders, playoff matchups and where the break outs will appear. I often wonder where they come up with these ideas — are they attending camps, watching guys skate, and looking at the overall team, or just pulling random numbers out of last year’s statistical pile and then hitting “puree” on their column inch generators?

Let’s start by looking at what The Hockey News had to say in their September 4 issue with “Fantasy Advice” (page 49). I’ll call it more fantasy than advice, and make some of my own predictions, and generally try to keep from laughing at the suspension of mathematics for the sake of storytelling.

Scott Gomez will finish in the top 25 scorers, with 87 points, 63 of them assists. So the Rangers are paying $10M for 24 goals? Granted, that’s twice what Gomer put in the net last year at twice the price, so maybe the math works. But wait, there’s more!! Jagr is also projected to have 67 assists. Um, who is going to score the goals from all of those assists? THN doesn’t show any Rangers in the top 25 goal scorers. Prediction #1: Jagr and Gomez play patty-cake with the puck until Gomez starts making his ill-timed, inaccurate passes and the Rangers lead the league in short-handed goals allowed, unless Gomez’ groin strains again and he gets to watch from the press box.

Similarly, fellow green-seeker Brian Rafalski is predicted to score 8 goals and notch 53 assists in the Motor City. Maybe if he keeps his stick down, and remembers where the blue line is. Prediction #2: Rafalski will be the first defenseman to earn $200,000 a point. And Chelios will complain about him at least once.

Much of Evgeni Malkin’s success this year will depend upon his wingers, if he’s moved to center as THN’s 07-08 Yearbook suggests. Put a pair of young guns on either side and he’s got room to move, pass and score; saddle him with guys who don’t move or pass and he’ll get frustrated quickly. Prediction #3: The Penguins give the Rangers a run for the money and playoff seeding.

The Devils will have a 40-goal scorer, again. Parise, Gionta, or Elias could do it, especially if Zubrus sets up the triangle and keeps the shooting lanes open. Prediction #4: At least one of the Devils’ top lines accounts for 100 goals this year.

I have the one-pager from THN tacked to my bulliten board, right by the free weekend passes (with 395 restrictions) from Avis and the raffle tickets I’ve bought to support various random charities; it’s in good company in the “fantasy” world. We’ll revisit this at the half-way point.

Czech Digits

There was a short blurb in ESPN: The Magazine about Colorado’s Paul Stastny switching numbers so that he can don his dad’s digits: 26. Got me thinking…..Elias wears number 26, previously sported by Peter Stastny during his time with the Devils. I’ve wondered why Elias chose 26, especially when he wore 25 and 22 in Albany (although they were taken by Jason Arnott and Claude Lemeiux at various times). A potential but unlikely explanation is that 22, 25 and 13 (his birthday) were unavailable (no Devil has ever worn #13, which seems weird given that the team’s crest invites all kinds of evil juju anyway, adding triskaidekaphobia to the mix might actually be a double negative kind of thing) so he doubled 13 and got 26. More likely is that Elias joined the big club shortly after Peter Stastny departed, and he took the logical Czech digits.

I’m always fascinated as to why players choose the numbers they do. Mogilny was 89 to honor the year of his defection and escape from Russia. Jagr’s 68 is a tribute the independence of Czechoslovakia, precursor to the Czech Republic. Crosby wears his birth year (87). Gretzky did an alliterative stint on Mr. Hockey and got 99. It’s not often that there’s a story behind the numbers, but the stories tend to add to the richness of the fan experience.

Study In Contrast

Study in Pennsylvania contrast: Sidney Crosby has 10 points in his last two games. Two goals on two shots, and a snowman worth of assists. It’s one thing to notch an assist from a shot that gets redirected, quite another to make the laser-like, tape to tape passes that seem to be a staple of Sid the Kid. Last night’s behind the back bounce pass off the boards, resulting in a backhand flip to Ryan Malone in front, was highlight reel material this morning. Life is good for the #1 draft pick.

Then there’s Petr Nedved. A pair of shots, one goal, and a low yo (that would be -11 to mash most appropriate craps and plus/minus ratings) in ten games. Nedved was waived for the second time this season by the Flyers, and after clearing waivers he ended up back with the Phantoms in the AHL. In a way, I feel for the guy — he’s lost his glamorous wife (Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated model Veronika Varekova) and his glamorous job in the same year. A winter of discontent, indeed. Life sucks for the #2 draft pick. Nedved was chosen second in the 1990 draft, ahead of another Czech guy named Jagr taken 5th by the Penguins in the and Martin Brodeur, chosen 20th by the Devils.