Wednesday, February 02, 2011



Thursday; February 3, 2011

New Jersey Devils




I'll be there!  Look for the #4 Greschner jersey.

New Jersey Devils:  It Just Keeps Getting Worse For Devils, Just When Coach LeMaire Has Team Playing Better.
The Devils are coming off a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at The Rock Tuesday night.  Since January 9th, the Devils are 7-1-1 in their last 9 games.  They are playing for respect as a playoff spot is very unlikely at this point.  But they are still a talented collection of players that can make some of the Atlantic Division teams very miserable down the stretch.  They followed up a win over Pittsburgh back on January 20th by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers on the 22nd at a time when everybody is having problems with the Flyers.  Either it was just a matter of time before they collectively started to play better Hockey together, or Coach LeMaire is starting to have his affects on the team.  In either case, it's probably way too late anyway. 

In three meetings against the Rangers this season, the Devils are win-less.

The biggest news out of the Land of Devils was a Bloomberg report the Devils were put up for sale by Owner Jeff Vanderbeek.  The Devils have released their statement regarding the matter, and you can read the entire summary and Jeff Vanderbeek's statements HERE.  While there is potentially a stake of the team for sale, it's not Mr. Vanderbeek's.  His stated intention is to remain as Majority and controlling Owner of the New Jersey Devils.  Mr. Vanderbeek's partners are the ones who seem to want out.  Mike Gilfillan and Ray Chambers referred back to their original intentions for backing the Devils and the Prudential Center which was to help boost Newark along with revitalization efforts.  Feeling like they have achieved what they set out to do, their interests in the team are now up for sale.

Trouble has been pounding on the Devils' door looking to wreak havoc for years:

*First and foremost, the debt on the new arena and overall attendance are still not in sync.  The Devils continue to draw around 88% capacity (on the good side) in spite of the new arena and efforts to improve the surrounding area in Newark.  For the most part, they never really enjoyed the intended appreciable spike in attendance like they hoped.

*There has been for some time, a contentious battle with the City of Newark over back-rent payments, parking revenue sharing, and payments for infrastructure costs associated with the site the Devils were responsible for per the construction agreement.  Most of these issues may or may not have all been settled.  But it does nothing to take the sour taste out of their mouths after having gone through a bitter haggle with the City.

*Diminished results on the ice; beset with an onerous contract to Ilya Kovalchuv, and being dead-last in the NHL standings, I'm sure are exasperating any sentiment to sell the team.  The three partners were not all in agreement offering Kovalchuk that contract.

*The reality that the End of an Era is at hand, once Martin Brodeur retires, compounded by their spot in the standings my give one (an owner) a bleak outlook for the future of the team.

*Then there is the never-ending Devils' coaching dilemma to contend with.  Jacques LeMaire has already announce he will not be returning next season to Coach the Devils.

*Without knowing the details of their Partnership Agreement, it's possible Jeff Vanderbeek may have to sell his stake also.

Now here's a rub..  The Buffalo Sabres just got sold.  The Dallas Stars and the Los Angeles Kings are undergoing their own ownership turnovers.  The question is how many more buyers are out there looking to purchase into a Hockey team as a minority owner (if indeed Jeff Vanderbeek stays on) in an area/fan base that won't fill arena seats to capacity...and who have a restrictive Salary Cap problem on their hands.

And here's the food for thought...  There's always Kansas City and their brand new arena with no tenant, and Quebec who is clamouring for another NHL team.  What if the Devils are made to be sold in full?  A new owner can get out of the lease agreement with the Prudential Center with money of course.

The Devils escaping the NY/NJ area would shape up to be the easy part.  Keeping them here however, has a small but real chance of turning into something difficult to stop.  But of course these are just my speculations gone wild.

NEW YORK RANGERS:  Blueshirts Suffer From Getting Healthy.

*No Crosby; No Malkin; No Ranger Win.

*Vinny Prospal is Coming Back But There Is Only One Place For Him To Play.

**Jordan Staal was ejected from the game between Pittsburgh and the Rangers Tuesday night with a Match Penalty; for intent to injure, as he punched Brandon Prust with his glove on.  There will be no suspension for Staal.

The game?  With no Crosby or Malkin in sight, a 2-0 lead against the Penguins went "POOF"! 
They ALL skated with cement blocks on their feet...(eh hem; Girardi and Del Zotto I think may have broken an ankle pivoting on one of the goals against, if I'm not mistaken).

Pittsburgh answered back with three goals in the second period to take the lead 3-2.  Then with less than a minute left in the second period, Ryan Callahan scored on a deflection during a Rangers' Power Play to make the score three all.  That's the way regulation time ended.  And that's the way Over Time ended also.  They went to a Shoot-Out to decide who skates away with the second point.  Fleury outlasted Henrik Lundqvist in extra, extra innings, and a long night at the Garden due to the late VERSUS start time, turned into a long trip home for the crowd in miserable weather.  The Ranger lost at home again.  They are now 12-12-2 at Madison Square Garden. this season.

Sean Avery was limited to 9:32 minutes.  Ponderous!  Only Drury and Newbury had less.  In his nine and a half minutes, Avery had just as many shots on goal as anybody.  I just don't know anymore!  Everytime Coach Torts jacks up Avery's minutes, he takes them away the very next game.  His last game before the break Avery logged 22:00 of ice time paired with Gaborik.  And Gaborik hasn't played better than he does with Avery this season.  Ponderous!  ...The Rangers committed four penalties and none by Avery.  Isn't that part of the fear?  His 140+ PIM?  So, what is it Coach?  What's the deal?  Shift to shift, he's arguably one of the Rangers' most consistent players and he's caused ZERO trouble.  It's Ponderous now.

I was surprised to see Brandon Dubinsky play last night.  But I'm dreading Vinny Prospal's return tomorrow versus the Devils.  Newbury is probably on his way back to Connecticut as we speak to make room for Prospal.  That's fine.  But I'm dying to see where Vinny Prospal's playing time will come from; or more accurately, at who's expense?  I understand Coach Torts has a lot of good feelings towards Prospal, but he must be relegated to the fourth line to start out.  Being a healthy scratch over the next two months is a pipe-dream.  I get that.

But allow me to list the names and you tell me who you would deflect ice time from and give to Prospal:

*I'll stick to the Wingers.

*Marian Gaborik?  No.
*Ryan Callahan?  No.
*Brandon Dubinsky?  No
*Brandon Prust?  No.
*Sean Avery?  You know me...Hell No!
*Mats Zuccarello?  I wouldn't.
*Wojtek Wolski?  I wouldn't

Why even bother talking about players out of position. What Centers we have are set without Prospal causing a domino effect. It needs to be considered because of the way Torts mixes and matches within a game and breaks line integrity.

So where does that leave Vinny?  Yep...He must be in the fourth row!  The only factor alleviating this situation, if by only a fraction, is Ruslan Fedotenko will be out for another month.  If the roster stays healthy is it stands right now, Kris Newbury and Erik Christensen might have seen their last bit of action on Broadway this season.  For Prospal, that's fair enough.

The problem I have is I don't want Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury to disrupt any part of our game that was built with hard work in their absence (and/or for Drury) lack of productivity.  We are where we are and we are who we are this season with little to no contributions from those two players.  This team has evolved away from the team they signed-on to.

So far with Chris Drury, Coach Torts is getting it right.  Last night Chris Drury didn't see action in the third period and only had just over 9 minutes of ice time for the night.  Again, it's not my want to criticize Chris Drury, but he has become the most inconsequential player on the team.  And I'll say it until it happens...The C must be taken from his jersey, and applied to Marc Staal's.  Your team Captain can not be on the fourth line and missing whole periods due to lack of effectiveness.  In the face of the hustle, grit, and new, young, eager legs, now on this team, Chris Drury is completely mis-cast.  And now Vinny Prospal returns very far removed from game speed and timing, and I feel is similarly mis-cast on this New Rangers Team.  The last time Prospal played on Rangers' ice, we wore one of the "A" on his jersey.  All I'm saying is that should not be the case when he returns!

I'm already clear on all that.  Marc Staal should be the New York Rangers Captain, while *Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky are the two A.  That would be more truly representative of this team's identity.

But back to Prospal and Drury, let them be 2/3 of one of the most notable fourth lines in Hockey history (if by name only).  IF.. they can manage that.  But mark my word, if Sean Avery comes anywhere near the fourth line again, I'll flip.  From this moment forward, to relegate Sean Avery to eight and nine minutes or less, is indefensible and damn near impossible for Coach Torts to explain or rationalize without me yelling BULL.

As far as finally getting our forward lines in order, the excuse in the beginning of the season for all the line juggling was that Torts was in observation of..,  and feeling-out mode.  Before injuries really took effect, Torts juggled lines to try and infuse more offense.  Then the injuries did set in, and we were forced, obviously to juggle the lines like a circus clown out of necessity.  But what we all talked about was a return of our regulars to stabilize the lines and gain some continuity again.  Right?

Well, here we are.  Coach Torts has all his wingers back and according to the "past speak", our forward lines should get settled down now...right?  So why do I feel like Coach Torts is going to try and magically kick-start Marian Gaborik into high gear again by reuniting him with his old line mate from last season; a Mr. Vinny Prospal?  There is just now way the soon to be 37 year old (this month) is going to be up to snuff right out of the box.  I couldn't care less if he was able to chase down a chicken like Mick made Rocky Balboa do.  He should not be given minutes that are taken away from Avery, Zuccarello or Wolski.; - UNLESS they are earned the hard way; from the fourth line up.

Enough.  I'm going to the game.  That's why I'm posting tonight.

Let's Go Rangers!


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