As the saying goes, the cream always rises to the top and as a Devils General newbie I was thrilled to take part in an event, that included the crème de la crème of the NJ Devils top brass. Last week, I had the privilege of joining Prudential Center’s PR extraordinaire, Kerry Graue and esteemed Devils General, @SpeakoftheDevs, Carlos Figueiredo for a press conference announcing the Albany Devils returning to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
My alarm clock was set to the unspeakable hour of 5:30 a.m. which gave me enough time to get ready to meet the group at the Prudential Center at 7:15 am. Yes, that was AM. Armed with containers of caffeine we made the trip down to Atlantic City to Boardwalk Hall. Once inside the building I was struck by the 137 foot-high barrel vault ceiling. Built in 1929 it was touted as an architectural marvel at the time. Today, it is simply just an awesome place to watch hockey. Read the rest of this entry
No matter what they do for an organization, it’s extremely difficult to replace a pair of Hall of Famers when they leave. That’s exactly what Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello was faced with upon the departures of assistant coaches Adam Oates and Larry Robinson. Oates moved on for an opportunity to be a head coach in the NHL with the Washington Capitals, while Larry Robinson moved to the west coast and the San Jose Sharks, where he can spend time with his grandchildren.
Both Oates and Robinson will be extremely difficult to replace. Oates was hired by the Devils as an assistant coach, specifically to run the power play, for the 2010-11 season. Unfortunately, the power play, like the entire team for much of the season’s first half, did not work well at all. It ranked among the bottom three teams in the league for most of the season, and the Devils missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996, despite a surge in the second half. Oates dramatically turned the power play around this past season, especially in the second half of the season. The Devils finished 14th overall for the season, although it operated at over a 20% rate once the Devils acquired Kurtis Foster, and eventually Marek Zidlicky.
Larry Robinson, on the other hand, has been with the Devils for most of the past two decades. He first came aboard in 1993 as an assistant coach, and was on the coaching staff for the Devils’ first Stanley Cup championship in 1995. After the 1994-95 season, Robinson went to Los Angeles as a head coach, but returned to New Jersey as an assistant in 1999. Between 1999 and 2012, Robinson was an assistant coach, head coach, back to assistant coach and continued to go back and forth several times, but he was a part of all three Stanley Cup championships, including winning in 2000 as the interim head coach. More recently, Robinson worked with the Devils’ young defensemen, such as Mark Fayne and Adam Larsson.
Replacing Oates will be former San Jose assistant Matt Shaw. This hiring by Lou Lamoriello surprised many, although there was not a lot of speculation as to who might replace Oates initially. When Lou Lamoriello invited Sergei Brylin to be an assistant for development camp, which is going on right now, many figured he and Stevens would get the roles, but instead, Matt Shaw has been hired. Shaw was the mastermind of San Jose’s second-ranked power play in the NHL last season. Only the Flyers scored more power play goals in the NHL last season than the Sharks. The Devils are hoping that Shaw can continue to get power play goal production out of Ilya Kovalchuk, who scored 10 such goals last season, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson, who scored eight each.
While Shaw will be running the power play, Scott Stevens will handle the defense. The Hall of Fame defenseman, 13-time All-Star and captain of all three Stanley Cup championships with the Devils, Stevens will assume Robinson’s role and look to mentor the young defensemen the Devils have coming through the organization. In addition to Fayne and Larsson, defensemen such as Eric Gelinas, Alexander Urbom, Jonathan Merrill, Brandon Burlon, Damon Severson and others figure to be NHL ready within the next few seasons. Stevens will hope to improve upon the Devils’ ninth best team goals against average in the NHL from last season.
So with Shaw and Stevens added, the Devils have completed their coaching staff for the 2012-13 season. Peter DeBoer will enter his second season as head coach of the team, while Dave Barr, who ran the NHL’s best penalty kill in the modern era last season, will also return for his second season and Chris Terreri will continue to coach the goaltenders. Hopefully, with Barr’s expertise on the penalty kill and Shaw’s brilliance with the San Jose power play last season, special teams will be a strength of the Devils moving forward, and with Scott Stevens working with the defensemen, it figures to be quite difficult to score goals against the Devils next season.
Is it October yet?
President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello has made another move. The first reaction I noticed on Twitter was how much the Devils gave up. Mr. Lamoriello stated on MSG that he is not worried what we give up, just focused on what we are getting. The Devils acquired defenseman Marek Zidlicky from the Minnesota Wild. He is 35 years old and has a reputation of being the type of defenseman that can move the puck well and become involved in the offense. During his 7 NHL seasons, Zidlicky has had 5 seasons of 40+ points including a 53 point season in 2003-2004 with the Nashville Predators. In his last 2 seasons with Minnesota, Marek Zidlicky has finished with 42 and 43 points. Not bad for a defenseman. Marek Zidlicky also holds a Nashville Predators record of 35 power play points in one season.
The last two weeks across hockey blogs and Twitter, there has been a lot of buzz about Zidlicky only wanting to come to New Jersey. What a player wants doesn’t always transpire, but in this case it worked out. I personally feel that it is exciting when players WANT to play for a team – it means they are enthusiastic, energized and ready to contribute. What additionally makes me comfortable with this move is Zidlicky’s experience with Elias. These two players have won an Olympic Medal as well as 2 medals in the World Championships with Czech Republic National team.
Marek Zidlicky’s NHL Totals: Games 507, Goals 60, Assists 224, Points 284
Classic barbecue food, music, games for the kids and a chance to chat with your favorite New Jersey Devils – I’d say that’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. This past weekend the Devils hosted their second annual Devils Family BBQ and Fan Fest at the Prudential Center. It’s one of the cool events season ticket holders get to be a part of and a great way to kick off the season.
Anxious fans lined up outside of The Rock waiting to get in and meet their favorite players. They opened up the main concourse of the Prudential Center and let the fans roam. Lunch was served in the Fire & Ice Lounges. If you were lucky you caught Zach Parise behind the counter suited up to serve with an apron and chef hat. Rumor has it that Ilya Kovalchuk was handing out cookies. Bryce Salvador was taking care of the sodas with Nick Palmieri and Andy Greene.
There was plenty for the younger kids to do between shooting pucks into inflatable nets, hanging out with NJ and dancing with the Devils Dancers. All the players were happy to take pictures, share stories and even play a few rounds of floor hockey with the kids (and some of the adult fans, too). Parise and David Steckel played a couple games of hockey, followed by another game around the corner with Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby, Alexander Urbom and Henrik Tallinder – only a few men short of a Swedish National team. Dainius Zubrus and NJ were hanging around the inflatable goalie nets watching our youngest Devils Army members practicing their slap shots.
Lines formed for both our veteran players and new additions to the team. Cam Janssen and Adam Larsson were pretty popular, as were Martin Brodeur and Patrick Elias of course. Even Lou Lamoriello and our new coach, Peter DeBoer, made appearances on the concourse. Every where you looked you saw a Devil in their jersey. It was surreal to see them on the concourse and to be honest, kind of weird. You learn a few things about the guys being so close. Did you know that Janssen loves to dance in place? David Clarkson seems tough on the ice but his face lights up when you mention his little girl (who will not be a hockey player). Clarkson is also a huge Jets fan and has a helmet signed by the team. Tallinder is a bit of a goofball, he was caught sneaking into pictures with other players and teasing Tedenby and Josefson when they lost their hockey game. Oh, and Rod Pelley has no front teeth – but you’ve probably noticed that before.
It’s great getting a chance to talk to the players and see them off the ice. Everyone had a great time and made sure to wish their favorite guys good luck during the season. There was tons to do and lots to see. Check out more photos from the BBQ on the Devils Generals Flickr page. Let us know if you find your face!
FINALLY. The news we have all been waiting for! Zach Parise has been signed to a one year contract for $6 million! What else is there really to say? I know I wasn’t the only Devils fan frantically checking for updates regarding one of our top forwards. I’m sure I’m also not the only one a little bit worried that he was only signed to a year, and that the news I was truly hoping for involved a contract with a bit more… length?
But, looking at this from a business standpoint, as I’m sure every GM and agent must, this isn’t a terrible or scary act for us or Parise. For starters, this one year contract allows us to completely avoid arbitration. I don’t think I could handle the suspense of waiting for that decision!
Secondly, our staff gets a chance to make sure Zach is 100% recovered from last year’s injury. I know I have absolute faith that Zach is going to come back from his surgery better than ever, but in sports, injury can be risky. There is a small chance that Zach might not be the same as he was.
Third, this is a great opportunity for Zach. From everything I’ve ever read, he has clearly indicated to the fans and the media that he wants to be a “Devil for life.” Well now he can make sure that he’s 100% happy with that decision. This one year agreement gives him, his agent and Lou Lamoriello more time to hash out all the details for a long term agreement that will make everyone happy.
So, while we all have to wait (impatiently at best) to see how well our beloved Devil has recovered, what kind of offer Lou really has up his sleeve, and whether or not Zach will sign come 2012 (I’m optimistic that he will), I say “HUZZAH!” We’re glad to have you back, Zach!
Follow Kim on Twitter: @shadowpwny