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We have a very dedicated staff working the forefront, and behind the scenes at Devils Army Blog. While I’ve only been writing for DAB since the beginning of January, the site has been around for a few years now and has truly come a long way since its inception. The admins that maintain the site, social media outlets, and provide our growing fan base with the latest game and news updates have distinguished personalities and have some great insight to offer on our New Jersey Devils and other happenings around the league.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Taz, the founder of Devils Army Blog, who started the site more than four years ago back when he was still in high school. He let me pick his brain about the Devils, the impacts some players are having on the team’s performance, and provided some insight on a few other hockey-related questions.
On the Devils…
Mike: Right wings Michael Ryder and Martin Havlat were expected to be moved at the trade deadline. Lamoriello couldn’t find any takers and both players continue to watch games from the press box. Moving forward, how do you think either of these two players (if at all) will fit into the Devil’s plans and who do you think could be better utilized if they’re given the opportunity?
Taz: I think that both Ryder and Havlat will find themselves continuing to sit in the press box for the majority of the remaining games here this season. Both players will most likely end up walking away on July 1, and I don’t think either side will think twice about it. Next season, I could see Reid Boucher finally coming up and staying up in place of Ryder. Havlat could be replaced by a free agent or maybe Stefan Matteau.
Steve Bernier and Jordin Tootoo both have taken advantage of their increased roles with the team. -AP
Mike: Jordin Tootoo, Steve Bernier, and Jacob Josefson have seen their roles and ice time stabilize or increase over the past few weeks. Who, out of this group has made the most significant impact with their increased playing role?
Taz: Without a doubt, Jordin Tootoo has made the most of his increased playing role out of the 3 players you presented. Tootoo plays with a tremendous amount of heart, he has great speed, and he is one of few Devils players not afraid to crash the net and get the dirty rebound goals. While I don’t think he should be on the power play or on the Devils’ top line, he should definitely continue to play in a 3rd line role and he deserves to come back next season.
Mike: Before returning behind the Devil’s bench, Scott Stevens said the Devils need to start winning games by playing simple defensive-oriented hockey. Their low-scoring contests, in which they’ve mostly been outshot, indicates this is the approach the team’s taken, since the coaching change. What’s another noticeable change in the team’s play that was orchestrated by the coaching staff?
Taz: Not much has really changed from DeBoer’s coaching staff to the new coaching staff. Like you said, the team tweaked their defensive philosophy, as they are allowing more shots but the quality of the shots they are allowing has decreased since the coaching change. Shots are mostly coming from the outside now as opposed to from the slot. I am also not satisfied with the amount of shots the Devils have been averaging since the change. While the old adage “defense wins championships” holds true, you’re also going to need goals. This team is not offensively talented enough to score more than 2 goals per game, and the defensive strategies need to be adjusted accordingly.
Around the league…
Islanders head coach Jack Capuano has made a strong case for a Jack Adams nomination this season. -AP
Mike: If the season ended today, six teams would make the playoffs that weren’t in it last year (Islanders, Capitals, Predators, Canucks, Flames, Jets). It would be surprising if the Jack Adams nominees don’t come out of this group. Which coach out of the teams mentioned, has had the most significant impact on their team’s successes this year?
Taz: I would definitely have to say Jack Capuano, coach of the New York Islanders. He has been their coach for a while now, and, despite the team being the laughing stock of the Eastern Conference for several seasons, managed to keep his team going in the right direction. With his young players finally hitting their prime and the team bringing in a lot of great players via trade or free agency, Capuano has some great players to complement his coaching strategy, which has been quite successful if you asked me. The man deserves to be rewarded for his patience the past several seasons and for his team’s play this year.
Mike: The Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames parted ways with their franchise players in recent years (Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla). Both of these teams have since moved forward, but took different approaches on rebuilding. If this season has been any indication, which of these two teams has rebounded better since they severed ties with the former face of their franchise?
Taz: I’ll be honest, the Blue Jackets are my second favorite team in the league. They have a solid squad who are getting better each year, but this season they were plagued by injuries and were not able to catch a break. They are close to becoming a playoff contender, but not quite yet. For that reason, I have to say that the Calgary Flames have improved more since losing Jarome Iginla. They have a plethora of young players who are making great strides with the team, and even after losing Mike Cammalleri this past offseason, they managed to get better and become a threat out in the West.
I want to thank Taz for taking the time to provide us with some of his perspective on the Devils and other NHL-related topics we talked about. I’m hoping to have more Q&A pieces that will feature the opinions of our DAB admins and other members of the hockey community. Remember to keep following us on Twitter and Facebook for live news and game updates.