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Should I dare say, The Beast of the East?

December 26, 2009, 12:08 AM ET [ Comments]
Roger Mussa
New Jersey Devils Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The “New” New Jersey Devils, gets a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I have been waiting a little bit to share my thoughts about this team and game-in and game-out they continue to show what a team they are. TEAMS win championships as the Devils have demonstrated before. I think, in particular, when they won their first Cup in 95 against a stacked powerhouse called the Detroit Red Wings.

This team is being talked about and getting respect around the league. They have even been called an “exciting team”. And so they should!
This year’s New Jersey Devils started out the year as they typically do; Many questions including a new coach, lack of scoring depth, a mediocre blue line ,an aging Brodeur, yadda yadda yadda.
We all know what happens - they always exceed expectations. But for Devils fans early exits in the playoffs are unacceptable, disappointment with a bad taste in our mouths and the regular season banners mean nothing.

This year’s version of the New Jersey Devils look great. I believe there are a few themes I would like to highlight:

The Youngsters - The key theme is the clutch play of the youngsters. A few guys they hoped would do a good job are fitting in and contributing more than expected.
Niclas Bergfors who is third on team with 12 goals playing like a veteran after having a few injury seasons and not cracking the Devils’ lineup. I said this was the year for Bergfors to prove his worth and he has not disappointed.
Vladimir Zharkov has stepped in due to injury and held his own.
Matt Halischuk, I believe, is carving a checking role for the Devils. We all know how important that is and he is finding his niche in the system. Will teams want him in a package should the Devils make a deadline move? Sure. The Devils have a few key prospects not too far along coming up in the system.
Mark Fraser also doing what is asked of him. With Paul Martin out he will be around for a while longer he will be asked to do his job ahead of Cory Murphy. So it is his gig to lose.
By the way, I think the youngsters will be a theme for some time as the New Jersey Devils and David Conte have put themselves on the map when it comes to their prospect pool. Watch out for the likes of Mattias Tedenby, Jacob josefson, Matt Corrente, Patrice Cormier and Adam Henrique to name a few.

Free Agent Signings – The addition of Rob Niedermayer, Dean McAmmond and Ilkka Pikkarainen did not send waves through the NHL but Niedermayer and McAmmond have paid huge dividends to this Devils Squad. Adding experience and veteran leadership helping the depth of this squad. Savvy moves by Uncle Lou.
Pikkarainen, I believe, will be bounced in favor of Danius Zubris when he comes back from injury. There is only room for one of them on this squad and one could be packaged in a deal. Zubrus’ contract may make plus I liked what I say of him this year prior to his injury.

Jersey Vets – No one had a bigger impact than Patrik Elias in my opinion. This is a guy who makes anyone around him better, just ask Brian Rolston. Elias is basically a point-per-game player since returning from injury and made the Devils’ top two lines dynamic.
Speaking of Rolston, what a difference a year and a new Coach makes. Huh?
Zach Parise and Travis Zajac continuing their success from last year. Travis has stepped up his game and playing with confidence. Parise, even though on a goal scoring drought has been contributing in many ways and still getting many chances. He is an NHL Elite.
Jamie Langenbrunner, Andy Greene (Surprise so far), Johnny Oduya, Bryce Salvador in particular having very solid seasons.
In essence, all veterans look focused and on the same page.

Marty Brodeur – Well, what can I say? What can anyone say? He is having a great year so far and will need to keep it up if the Devils are to go far this year. With the extra load with Team Canada I sure hope backup Yan Danis gets a few more starts down the stretch. It is a treat to have the best goalie in the history of the sport in your net!

The Defense – I bet the average NHL fan could not name the Devils’ defensive lineup minus Paul Martin. Along with Oduya, Greene, Salvador, Fraser the likes of Mike Mottau, Colin White, and a few cameo appearances of Murphy and prospects the defense has been resilient, to say the least. Without top Dman Paul Martin the defense could be an area where Uncle Lou pulls a deal towards or at the deadline, which is typical for his playoff teams. He always likes to have the insurance.
Question is; Does Paul Martin become expandable? What is his worth? He will make this defense better but they do not have to rush him back from injury as he recently had a set back.

Coach Jacques Lemaire – Been there, done that. And he is back. Cool calm and collected the perfectionist Coach has quickly set a culture in this Devils team that is a main ingredient to the current success.
He vowed not to be a defensive trapping Coach and he sure has followed in that promise. The Devils play a confident open game and are always pressing weather up or down in games creating opportunities at will it seems. Some of their plays become quite fancy, but not cocky, and always focused. I am quite impressed and happy at the job he is doing following the exit of Coach Sutter who I liked but fell much out of favor with Devils fans with a flaky farewell only to land behind the bench in Calgary.

As the Devils sit atop of the NHL, tied with the Penguins in points, as the year ends I eagerly wait to see what 2010 will bring to this Devils team the rest of the year. Yes it is too early to tell, but I do believe this team is different than Devils past and well equipped with one or two tweak trades away from a fruitful playoff campaign.
Just my two cents…

Congrats to Marty Brodeur who was chosen by NHL.com as MVP and All-Decade starting goalie. In my mind “All-Time” but I am biased. Many great names on that list.
Lets go Devils!

Truly yours,
The Devils Advocate
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