One of the most prominent names in the New Jersey Devils blogosphere is the Hockey Writer’s Dan Rice. A credentialed journalist, Dan has spent years providing high-quality coverage, articles, and insight on the Devils and other NHL-related happenings. He’s developed a large social media following and has become one of the most relied-upon sources for the latest developments coming out of the Devils organization. I was fortunate enough to have Mr. Rice reflect on some Devils and NHL-related questions that pertain to some of the most widely-discussed questions and issues surrounding New Jersey’s hockey team. Our latest Q&A covers the future of Patrik Elias with the team, Dan’s analysis on Albany’s lengthy playoff run, and his response to this year’s playoffs. Make sure to follow Dan on Twitter @DRdiabloTHW and visit his page at the Hockey Writers website for more of his work and isnight.
On the Devils…
There’s some disparity amongst Devils fans regarding Patrik Elias. He’s alluded to returning in 2016-2017, even if it’s not with the Devils. How obligated would general manager Ray Shero be to re-sign the 40-year old forward, in spite of the organization’s rebuilding direction?
Shero will do what is best for the team, and doesn’t have any emotional tie to Elias, but knows his importance to the franchise. With Elias having surgery and becoming a free agent, its unlikely he joins another team. They will see how his rehab goes this summer and then decide together if there’s a spot on the team and if he wants to come back.
A lack of goal-scoring from their bottom-six forwards was one of the Devil’s biggest demeanors this season. With many set to enter restricted and unrestricted free agency, the team’s third and fourth lines will have a whole new look next season. Is Shero more inclined to utilizing the free agent/trade route or the organization’s forward prospects to retool his bottom-six depth?
I think the bottom-6 next year will likely include a few players from this group: Zacha, Wood, Quenneville, Blandisi, Pietila, Lorito, Lappin and perhaps a free agent or two.
The Albany Devils had a remarkable playoff run in the AHL before being defeated in seven games by the Toronto Marlies in the conference semi-finals. Who’s one player that’s stood out to you (outside the popularly mentioned names like Zacha, Blandisi, Severson) whose postseason play could warrant him a long look at training camp?
Boucher played an excellent overall game in both series from what I’ve seen and read…was killing penalties, blocking shots; Game 2 v Utica he was all over the ice. Another player was Lappin, who had four goals over the 7-game series, three of which I believe came in the third period and or overtime.
Since his trade deadline acquisition, right wing Devante Smith-Pelley made the most of his new opportunity in New Jersey. As exciting as he was to watch, the Devils have had productive mid-season acquisitions that never reconnected with their initial scoring touch. Names like Andrei Loktionov and Alexei Ponikarovsky come to mind. How does DSP have more promise than those aforementioned forwards to be a more valuable asset beyond this past season?
I think for one DSP is younger than those guys, and has more talent quite frankly. Given a full offseason and training camp in Hynes’ system, I think he could be a real find for them, as a 2nd line or 3rd line winger and probably on PP2. I think a DSP-Zacha-Pietila third line would be very interesting to watch.
During your appearance on the Devils Insiders podcast, you said it’s possible the Devils could acquire another center…if they can move one currently on their roster. The Devils were the second-worst team in the face-off circle, and have a huge opportunity to improve that department. How much do you think this will factor into Shero’s plans on modifying his team’s depth down the middle, even if it means going with a player who has more face-off prowess than offensive skill?
I think it’d be wise to find another center besides Zajac that can win face-offs and slide Henrique over to left wing where he can be a shooter more often than a passer. I don’t think 14 is a bad center, but he’s not great on a nightly basis there without a consistent scoring winger. I doubt they bring JJ back, but think they will either promote a young player or add a player similar to JJ in age range/pay grade.
Around the NHL…
With the Tampa Bay Lightning making their second consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearance, they’ve gotten considerably far without their captain Steven Stamkos. Between his upcoming unrestricted free agent status and Tampa Bay’s playoff success without No. 91, how does this postseason run affect the decisions that will be made regarding his Lightning future?
Hugely. They can save that money and use it to lock up the Drouin’s Kucherov’s, Killorn’s Palat’s Johnson’s and add bit pieces around them. The deeper they go, less likely he is back in Tampa.
Looking at how far the St. Louis Blues have gone this postseason (making their first Western Conference Finals appearance since 2001), there was a ton of pressure on their roster’s core players and coaching staff to excel in what was largely a make or break year for the organization. What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed on this Blues team in this year’s playoffs, compared to their previous unsuccessful postseason runs in recent years?
A hot goalie who’s been on a tear since January. Their best players are playing like their best players. Brouwer for Oshie was a great swap, for what each team needed. Young players stepping up: Fabbri, Schwartz, Parayko.