Author Archives: Mark Donatiello

Travis Zajac Cleared by Doctors: Will Return Soon

Travis ZajacTravis Zajac skated on his own last week after being cleared by doctors and appears to be making progress with his surgically repaired achilles tendon.  Though Zajac said skating was easier than walking earlier this year, getting back on the ice a big step toward seeing the top-line center on the ice for the first time.

Lou Lamoriello seemed pleased with Zajac’s progress according to NHL.com.

“Travis has been released by the doctors and is in town and skated [Tuesday and Wednesday] and will continue to do that for the next week and a half to two weeks,” Lamoriello said. “If everything is on schedule as it has been, he’ll start practicing with the team in two weeks. Everything to this point has been exactly the way the doctors predicted it would be, and it feels good…”

If everything going “exactly how doctors predicted it would be” isn’t “status quo”, I don’t know what is.  If he practices in two weeks and conditions for a few more, he’s on track for a return in 2011.

The Devils need their top center as soon as possible.  Aside from the chemistry developed with Zach Parise over the last few years, Zajac gives the Devils depth up the middle.  With Jacob Josefson out with a broken collar bone, the Devils have been experimenting with Parise and Patrik Elias playing center.  Zajac will give the Devils offense stability.

Patrik Elias leads the team with a point-per-game pace, 8 goals and 11 assists.  The next closest Devils have 11 each.  In two complete seasons from 2008 to 2010 Travis Zajac scored 129 points for platoff Devils teams.

Zajac broke Ken Daneyko’s team record for consecutive game’s played before missing the start of this season but otherwise, last year was certainly a bit of a down season.  The New Jersey iron-man was without Zach Parise.  In a new system, with a new coach and more wins, Zajac should see more success when he returns.

New Jersey Devils Viewing Party 11/15: North Brunswick Pub

North Brunswick Pub, Viewing Party w/ Grant MarshallTuesday was my first New Jersey Devils viewing party, but it certainly didn’t go as planned.  The Devils lost a close game, my ride somehow got lost in Morristown for twenty minutes and I missed the entire first period.  There was traffic on the Parkway and it was a long day of work.   French fries were thrown.  Were it any other event, this night would have been a total disaster.

However, my night at North Brunswick Pub defied a troublesome start.  A trip far from the friendly confines of the Rock proved more than hospitable when at least 50 Devils fans packed into a bar with more than 20 HD TVs.  It was a hockey paradise with drink specials and 35-cent boneless wings.

Grant Marshall of the 2003 Stanley Cup team was there to sign autographs and quite approachable.  Fellow general Kevin Lankey went home with four autographed pucks for friends, Marshall talked hockey with anyone who wanted to chat and even posed for photographs.  Other autographs were raffled away from Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias.  It was a fun night for a few lucky Devils fans.

Though the game didn’t go our way, the Devils kept it interesting.  Against the defending Stanley Cup champs, our Devils repeatedly battled back before falling in the final minutes to the Boston Bruins.  Scoring three goals against Tim Thomas is no small feat and the Devils received goals from David Clarkson and Nick Palmieri.  It was Palmieri’s first two-goal game of his career.

The result wasn’t what we’d hoped for, but the energy throughout the bar was electric and it was a great way to watch an away game.  The Devils Generals thank the North Brunswick Pub for being wonderful hosts and turning each of their 20 screens to a great Devils hockey game.

There will be another Devils viewing party in West Hampton next weekend.  The Devils Army invades South Jersey for a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  If a night filled with traffic and anger that ends in a loss can be this much fun, Saturday’s viewing party is bound to be more exciting.  We’ll see you there.

2011 Hockey Hall of Fame Announced

2011 Hockey Hall of Fame, Joe Nieuwendyk

Joe Nieuwendyk

The Hockey Hall of Fame announced on Tuesday that Joe Nieuwendyk, Ed Belfour, Doug Gilmour, and Mark Howe will be inducted into hockey immortality.  Pat Burns, who died in November of last year, was left out again despite remarkable credentials.

First, the future inductees. Ed Belfour won the Stanley Cup in 1999 and ranks third all time in the NHL in wins by a goalie.   Belfour’s 484 victories and 79 shutouts certainly make him worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. He won a gold medal for Canada in 2002, and a national championship in college. A winner at all levels, “Eddie the Eagle” got the nod.

His Stanley Cup teammate, and former New Jersey Devil, Joe Niewendyk also made the Hall. He was the Conn Smythe winner in 1999 with Belfour on the Dallas Stars and won three cups in total. Nieuwendyk won with Calgary in 1989 and the New Jersey Devils in 2003.

2011 Hockey Hall of Fame, Doug Gilmour

Doug Gilmour

Gilmour, another former Devil, had 127 points for Toronto in 1993 and won the league’s MVP award. Gilmour played 20 NHL seasons including a stint with the Devils. He had 450 goals and 964 assists. Mark Howe had 764 points in his career, which is less than Gilmour’s assist total, due largely to his five years playing professional hockey outside the NHL. Howe played there with his brother and father, Gordie Howe. He had four all-star appearances when he finally joined the NHL.

Left off the list is Pat Burns who died after missing out on the Hall of Fame last year. Burns is the only coach in the NHL to win the Jack Adams award for best coach in the league in his first year with three different teams. He led the New Jersey Devils to the 2003 Stanley Cup championship and won coach of the year with the Bruins and Canadiens as well. Burns made the playoffs in every season he finished except for one, 2000 with the Boston Bruins. He coached over 1000 games, winning more than 500 of them in a career that was cut short by cancer.

What do you guys think of Pat Burns not getting into the Hall of Fame?

2011 NHL Awards Recap

NHL Awards 2011The 2011 NHL Awards were not without controversy.  Nicklas Lidstrom stole the Norris from Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara despite his -2 differential on the year.  Ryan Kesler finally won the Selke, Corey Perry deservedly took home the MVP Hart Trophy, and Tim Thomas got the Vezina.  Without further ado, here are the voting results for the finalists of the major awards:

NORRIS: Lidstrom (736), Weber (727), Chara (688)

SELKE: Kesler (1.179), Toews (476), Datsuyk (348)

ADAMS: Bylsma (196), Vigneault (169), Trotz (80)

CALDER: Skinner (1,055), Couture (908), Grabner (497)

GM OF THE YEAR: Gillis (96), Yzerman (61), Poile (55)

LADY BYNG: St. Louis (994), Lidstrom (464), Eriksson (347)

VEZINA: Thomas (104), Rinne (84), Luongo (33)

HART: Perry (1,043), Sedin (960), St. Louis (332)

Roberto Luongo’s season was rewarded as part of some goalie tandem award, and I’m sure drinking from it will be just as sweet as the Stanley Cup he almost won.

Zdeno Chara won the Mark Messier leadership award, but finished third for the Norris. I don’t think anyone feels too badly for him after the way the Bruins’ season finished.

Dustin Brown best embodied the NHL’s core principals and won the NHL Foundation Award.

I got six predictions right, which is better than I did for my Oscars picks.  Dan Bylsma did amazing things with a depleted Penguins roster, and I’m glad to see him rewarded.  I thought Yzerman filled the holes in the Tampa Bay Lightning incredibly well, and was robbed for GM of the year.

Speaking of rookies, Jeff Skinner won the Calder and he deserved it after an exciting season for the Hurricanes.

Tim Thomas got the Vezina after setting the record for best saves percentage in a season, in what was probably the least surprising award of the night.

Congratulations to all the players that were awarded. Now, on to the draft!

Atlanta Thrashers Moving to Winnipeg

Atlanta ThrashersThe Atlanta Thrashers were sold to True North Sports and Entertainment. True North’s purchase of the team has been announced and the team will be moved to Winnipeg, Canada. The announcement was made at the MTS Centre in Winnepeg where the team will play after the sale is approved by the NHL Board of Governors in mid-June.

The Jets played in Winnipeg until 1996, when the team was relocated to Phoenix. After the Coyotes announced plans to stay in Phoenix for at least one more season, True North successfully acquired the NHL’s other misplaced southern US franchise.

The Jets moved out of Canada when the Canadian dollar was worth roughly 73 cents American. With player salaries paid in American dollars, but all ticket, merchandise, and other purchases made in Canadian dollars, relocation to the US made sense despite the loyal fan base. Hockey teams with small arenas were not profitable in the 1990s. Now that the two countries’ dollar values are nearly equal, Canada appears to be slated to get another team back. They also have a new arena that currently hosts an AHL team, Manitoba Moose.

The franchise’s leading scorer is our very own Ilya Kovalchuk. He had 328 goals and 287 assists for the Thrashers from 2001 to 2010, where he averaged better than a point per game.

New York Rangers Forward Derek Boogaard Found Dead

Boogaard, New York RangersThe sudden passing of New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard is a tremendous loss to the hockey community as a whole, as well as our rivals across the bridge. Boogaard was just 28 years old and was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment on Friday.

Boogaard was a well-liked and respected grinder for the Rangers and Minnesota Wild.  In 277 NHL games, Boogaard had three goals and was best known as one of the most feared fighters in the NHL.  He missed the final 52 games of the 2011 NHL season with a concussion suffered in a fight on the ice in December.

The Rangers released a statement remembering Derek Boogaard as a “kind and caring individual” and a “thoughtful person, who will be dearly missed by all who knew him”.  N.H.L.P.A. executive director Don Fehr remembered Boogaard as a well-liked representative of the players’ association. Former teammate Niklas Backstrom called Boogaard “a big teddy bear”.

It’s hard to separate the intimidating presence on the ice from the personality off the ice, but it’s important to put hockey rivalries in perspective in times like these. The Rangers lost a friend and a teammate, and the hockey community lost a key member.

We wish our sincerest condolences to the Rangers, the Boogaard family, and the friends he left behind.

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