Devils Bloggers Town Hall

Thursday night, I had the privilege to be in the midst of greatness. Well, Patricia and Josh from 2 Man Advantage and John from In Lou We Trust, to be more accurate. We traded witty barbs and hockey insight on the Devils and the entire NHL. Here’s what transpired.

A Reminder…
SL – Yours Truly
PG – Patricia Greuter from 2 Man Advantage
JB – Josh Burnett from 2 Man Advantage
JF – John Fischer from In Lou We Trust

We begun the big show by speaking about Scott Gomez, and his legacy as a Devil.

John Fischer : Scott’s legacy? He was a winner with a winning team.

Patricia Greuter: I certainly appreciate the little bastard’s contributions, no doubt.

JF: That should detract from what he did in, say, 2000 and 2003.

Steve Lepore: he gave this team as much of a personality as they’ve ever had under Lou.

PG: But he also turned into somewhat of a diva this past season, it felt like.

SL: But if i remember correctly, he was awful in the ’00 playoffs.

PG: I mean, come on, dude doesn’t even know what backchecking is.

JF: I didn’t get that impression at all, Pat. And he was a rookie in 2000.

SL: He tore up the league in 2000 though, and he had AlMo on his wing, didn’t he?

PG: Oh he was great in 2000. He and AlMo’s chemistry was amazing

JF: It was amazing how Mogilny did even better in 2001 whereas Gomez hit the sophmore slump hard.

PG: Gomer had been benched for poor play a few times over the span of his career in NJ.

SL: Lets not get into Gomez v. Burns.

JF: Overall, Gomez gave the Devils depth at attack – someone not named Neidermayer leading breakouts was nice, as well as a specific playmaking center.

PG: Like I said, on a defensive minded team, Gomez was stifled. And that’s quite awkward coming from a guy who doesn’t like shooting the puck.

JF: Now, now, he shot the puck plenty of times 2 years ago.

SL: anyway, how do you think a new centerman will affect Elias and Gionta?

JF: Which is what probably convinced the Rangers to spend $10 mil. Thinking gomez will return to that year, and all that

PG: He’s pretty set on the fact that he can dazzle the opposition with his puckhandling, which he CAN do. I think he will shoot more, yes.

JF: He’ll have to. Jagr likes to dish too.

PG: I don’t think you’re going to see some miraculous breakthrough though

Josh Burnett: I need to type faster, points I’m on th verge of making are made before i make them!

PG: Anyway, in terms of Zubrus

SL: I dont want to deny you the excitement of discussing Dianus Zubrus

JF: Dainius Zubrus.

SL: Eh, fair enough, let’s talk some Zubi.

PG: Dainius, Steve

SL: I’m going with Zubi for the rest of forever

PG: Let’s let Josh field this one first

JF: Chere’s article indicates he’s fitting in well. He’ll have to given his contract and role on the team.

JF: Oops, my bad

SL: Does anyone think Zubi’s going to play center on the top line? He’s really more comfortable on the wing

PG: Yeah, but who are you going to put there otherwise?

JB: No problem. I like Zubi personally. I think his size complements Patty and Gio well.

SL: I really want to say Zajac, but im not splitting him and Parise.

PG: I wish Zubrus would use his size more to his advantage.

SL: And your right on the size factor.

JB: I don’t think you put Parise or Zajac on the top line, so Zubi’s your top center by default.

SL: Is Zubrus the 2nd coming of Viktor Kozlov?

JF: I do NOT want to see Elias centering the top line again. And I will cry if I see the second coming of Viktor Kozlov. Zubrus has proven more so far in his career.

PG: Although it seems Kozzie has had somewhat of a re-birth in his career

JF: He isn’t afraid to use his body and he’s versatile enough to fit on a first line.

PG: He was just awful with New Jersey

SL: Alright, lets talk about the other defector. Brian Rafalski hasnt taken the abuse it seems that Gomez has taken.

JF: Because he’s now in Detroit. Do they even play NJ this year?

SL: Is it more that he went to Detroit, or that Lou probably could’ve signed him. No, NJ does not play Detroit this season

PG: Well, as I previously said, Detroit will be kicking themselves about three years into THAT contract

JB: I think it’s because he went to be closer to home. Whereas NYC is only about 6mile sfurther from home for Mr Gomez.

JF: Well, then, I can only hope the Devils do meet Detroit this coming season then. It doesn’t even have to be Detroit, come to think of it. Any Western Conf. team will do.

PG: Raffi doesn’t have too many years left in the tank

JF: I don’t know, Rafalski doesn’t have to be the #1 guy in Detroit. He’ll get less minutes than he did in NJ

JB:That might work for him though.

PG: Yeah, but he ALREADY got hurt in preseason

JF: He’ll be in the top 4, something he’s more than capable of doing. For what it’s worth, I think he’s better than Mathieu Schnieder. So Detroit upgraded there.

SL: Well, Raffy will have the benefit of not being counted on as the #1 guy

PG: And he never should have been a #1 guy…which made me hate him in New Jersey

SL: He’s not even the best offensive deffenseman on the team.

JF: Where as the Rangers didn’t really need both Gomez AND Drury. But I can’t really find much hate for a guy taking a lot of money late in his career to a team not even in our conference.

SL: He was never quite the same after Stevens couldnt play anymore

JF: Gomez on the other hand, well, it’s the opposite. And Rafalski doesn’t have to be the #1 two-way defenseman, Detroit still has the commanding defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom

JB: Maybe in other years Raffi would have gotten at least some grieg for signing elsewhere.

SL: Alright, lets talk about the rest of the replacements we found during the offseason.

PG: I didn’t really want Rafalski retained, to be honest. I was sad to see him go, but I don’t think he was all that needed here. The Atlantic has a weak defense as a whole, we could get by with what we have.

SL: So, Karel Rachunek.

PG: Rachunek has impressed me so far.

JF: If I could see more the preseason games, I could say more about Karel. I hear good things, though

SL: Absolutely. I’ve heard hes more of a body presence than originally intended.

JB: I hope what we’ve seen so far can hold up. Because the assists he’s gathering and teh plays he’s making look real good right now.

PG: I think Rachunek was in a bad situation in New York. He wasn’t that bad of a defender, he got a bad wrap (like so many players do in Manhattan), and they feed into it. He’ll be a helluva lot better here.

JF: I do worry that his unluckiness/positioning will hurt NJ like he did in NY (to the Devils’ benefit at times).

SL: Alright, lets talk Vitaly Vishnevski.

JF: Well, if you like BIG BODY PRESENCE (tm Pierre McGuire), you already like Vishnevski.

PG: Definitely, John.

JB: I really want to see VV succeed. I think he’s exactly what this team should have had last year.

JF: To be honest, he’s a third-pairing defenseman who I really think is there to add size to the blueline and to push Oduya/Greene a little bit.

PG: He’s a bruiser, fo’ sho’. He’s not going to be some great diamond in the rough though

JF: I don’t understand why the Devils went out for more size considering how craptacularly bad the offensive production was last season. But I guess the market dictated that option moot quickly enough.

PG: I think he is what he is, and that’s just fine.

PG: We need size, end of story. He’s size…end of story.

SL: My only worry about him is…will we have Janssen colored glasses for him, ignoring his actual play despite his awesome hitting power.

JB: that story ended twice.

PG: Yeah, SO? It’ll end as many times as it damn will, Josh!

SL: Fine, end of story then. [Laughs]


JB: Don’t hurt me.

JF: Just because Anaheim won the Cup doesn’t mean size is the way to go. And I would love to see one of our burgoning young RWs take Janssen’s spot.

PG: Yeah, but Ottawa pushed us around John

JF: They also outscored us, Patricia.

SL: That’s the main reason they won that series.

JF: Yeah, goals kind of determine wins. Not hits.

PG: The scoring will come. Size can’t miraculously appear

SL: Yes, but physical play led to goals in that series

JF: No it didn’t. The Devils failing to be aggressive for the puck meant Ottawa had all day to do whatever they wanted in whatever space they wanted. There’s a difference between size and aggressiveness. Just look at, say, Viktor Kozlov.

SL: Well, that transitions us well into the man who plans to fix all that

JB: But when you’ve got a stature like brian gionta, your agression can only be so effective

PG: Look at the guys we’ve brought in though — they bring size AND aggression to the table. You need to find a parallel

SL; moving on…who here doesn’t like Brent Sutter.

JF: I love Brent Sutter as the head coach because he’s instilling that aggressiveness without sacrificing the talent necessary to get goals. The size helps him do this, yes, but aggressiveness is also seen in the gameplan – which we didn’t much of with Claude Julien.

PG: I don’t want to give Sutter all the accolades in the world just yet, I mean, dude does have to prove he can win games with this team first.

JB: I do like what I see from Mr. Sutter. I’m not going to proclaim him king savior of Devilland, but the spirit the team is showing so far is a nice change. Yeah, what she said.

JF: But I am serious. Getting big alone doesn’t address the problem, the mindset in terms of forechecking and puck possession is also a key in being aggressive. And Sutter has been doing that with the team so far this preseason.

JF: So, for what I know of what he’s doing, I think he’s been solid. Now to see him do it in games that count.

SL: I think sutter’s the right guy at the right time, with the relatively young team we have right now.

JF: Are the Devils really that relatively young?

PG: Not really, but they ARE younger.

SL: Elias is what, 30?

JB: Keeping in mind the his first game coaching in the NHL will be October 4th, I’m cautiously optimistic as to the prospects of Sutter as an effective, winning coach.

PG: 31, actually

SL: Gionta, Zajac, Parise, likely the 4th line, Martin, Whitey, Greene, Oduya

JF: Gionta isn’t too far behind from 30. Martin has entered the prime of his career. Yes, the Devils do have some youth – but it’s not a young team.

JF: It’s a mix. And isn’t White also 30?

PG: Right, but they are younger than the past few seasons, John. Not a young team though.

JF” Yes.

PG: I think White is 28

JF: If only there was a resource where people could access data at their fingertips really fast. On computers. Hmmm…

SL: But everyone agree, right now he looks like the guy for the job? knowing that it’s without having played a game

JB: Well he’s played a game.

JF: Preseason games.

PG: I don’t think we can proclaim him the “right” or “wrong” guy for the job until we see how he fares behind the bench. Give it 15-20 games. Then ask me

JF: But for now, he’s the guy. It makes no sense to call for his head now.

PG: Am I?

SL: Give it 79 games, or as i call it “The Lou lamoriello Barometer”

PG: I’m just saying, don’t call it either way until we see how he does

JF: No one is calling for anyone’s head. Well, except maybe me wanting more out of the marketing people, but that’s another rant.

JB: except sean avery’s…dammit stop being witty faster than me people.

JF: Fun fact: White turns 30 in December.

SL: anyway…simple, 2-part question

PG: That’s not that fun.

SL: Yes it is, it means Whitey’s one year closer to retirement 🙂

JB: the hell was that…?

PG: Yeah but there’s still too many years left on his nine-million year contract.

JF: Yeah, but it’s $3 mil/year, Pat. For a #2 d-man, that’s a bargin. Also it’s a bargain.

PG: Yeah, but he shouldn’t be a #2 (=

SL: he takes too many penalties to be a #2

PG: I dub thee Mr. Anger Management!

SL: Here’s a 2-part question, as we move on from hate for whitey

JB: $3 million a year will by good psychotherapy.

JF: He took 69 PIM last year! Janssen had more minutes!

PG: Yes, but how many of those were DUMB penalties? Quite a few, my black and red lovin’ friend.

JF: I don’t know, but he’s been improving by lowering his penalty minutes every season he’s been in the league.

SL: Janssen has those things that go for 5 minutes

JF: Stupid fights, I know. As he gets older, White gets better with calls – I got no problem with that.

JB: To be fair, I think White’s due for a good year. Then again, I thought that last year.

SL: That hit on Avery in La – however, worth at least half that salary

JB: But on with the two-parter, Mister Lepore…?

PG: Yeah, but as you already mentioned, he’s almost 30. There’s only so much time he can continue to improve. He still takes a lot of dumb penalties. Cut the dumb penalties, he’s capable, but not solid. Just my opinion.

JF: That too. For a while, White has been the sole non-goon hit machine.

SL: Yes

PG: So, uh, 2-parter?

SL: How many games do you want Martin Brodeur to play this year, and how many will he play? 70 & 75 here

PG: Out of the 82 games, he will play 94.

JF: He will play….let’s say 68.

PG: He should play 65-70 games.

JB: Want: 65ish. Will play: 72

JF: I do think that Brodeur has earned the right to play 70+ games if he wants to, though. I didn’t think fatigue was his problem last playoffs as it was bad luck and a defense that got ripped to shreads by opposing offenses.

JB: I think his playing time is directly related to how tight the division/playoff races in February and March are, though.

SL: Whats everyone think about marty’s playing time?

JF: I agree with Josh. If the Devils are in a big fight for the division, Marty will get more games.

PG: I just don’t want to see Marty get hurt. His knee worries me, he’s dealt with a few MCL sprains the past few seasons. I don’t mind him playing as much as he wants to play. If he can do it, more power to the man. He’s our God.

JB: I was okay with his playing time last year honestly. Part of the reason I want to see him play 65 games this year is because I’m really liking Kevin Weekes and would like to see him get some shots.

JF: Marty played well over 80 total games last season, I think he’ll be fine with respect to legs. Weekes is a big upgrade over Clemmensen/Doyle, so the Devils can rest Marty without a big dropoff in net.

SL: Patricia loved Clemmer more than any human being alive, will you admit its an upgrade?

JB: I’m sure his mother loves him…

PG: John, he’s had a couple knee injuries in the past. His MCL isn’t as strong as it should be. With age as well, it’s always a concern.

SL: Not as much as patricia

PG: Not a big concern, sure, but a concern.

JF: None of those injuries has stopped Brodeur from playing, I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.

PG: Not true.

JF: No?

PG: Even though he played through them, he played mediocre at best. He struggled through them

JF: Oh, right, Brodeur was injured for that one game last year…or was it two? Mediocre? Last season?

PG: Over the past two seasons, he has injured his knee twice

JB: End of last season. Philly game, late March, specifically.

JF: Could have fooled me given how amazing he’s been in those last two years.

PG: John, it’s something to watch out for. He’s not getting any younger. You just need to make sure you’re number one is feeling his best. John, he had stretches of mediocrity. When he was healthy, he played stellar. Trust me.

SL: Okay…lets talk some Around the League issues

PG:…or not…[laughs].

JF: Controversial Point: I don’t hate Gary Bettman. Controversial Point #2: I don’t think Canada – or any place – deserves a hockey team.

JB: I agree with one of those controversial points.

PG: Controversial Point #3: Mayonaise is overrated.

SL: As i run out of the way, whats everyone thinking as we head into Year 3 of The NHL on Versus and The NHL On NBC

JB: 2 out of 3 now.

JF: I’m glad it’s not ESPN.

PG: Hey, as long as we have hockey broadcast somewhere, I’m content.

JF: That’s my opinion. No ESPN, hockey’s on TV somewhere, I’m good.

JB: I’m glad to see NBC trying to do something to grow the game, even if it is out of needing something to show on new year’s day

PG: With that said, though, I wish Versus would upgrade the quality of its broadcast. The camera angles are still awful.

JF: I also want Brian Engbloom to see a hairdresser.

PG: Like I said in that SFM interview, I’d like to watch the play as it happens, not three seconds after.

PG: Sidebar: If I see one more Levitra spam ad, I’m going to personally go to the makers of Levitra and murder them all.

PG: Josh will get it.

JF: Cialis would love your murder spree.

SL: factoid: Bill Patrick’s cell-phone ringtone is “Brass Bonanza”

JB: i added the aol email address to my list, he hasnt been on yet.

SL: I like him over Clement already

JB: good for bill patrick I guess. mine is Stronger by Kanye West. aw yeah.

JF: Anyone who doesn’t grunt as a part of his commentating style is an improvement over Bill Clement.

PG: Mine is Freak Out by 311. I win.

JB: you really don’t.

PG: I really do. TIMES INFINITY. Now I do win.

JF: You can’t win with cell phone ringers.

JB: n-n-now that that dont kill me, can only make me stronger…

JF: Like you can’t win hockey games without goals.

JB: we really ought to move on.

SL: Thank goodness

SL: What’s everyone think of this outdoor game?

JF: I think it’s a great idea. A big hockey game which will sell out thousands more than 2 arenas combined on a day where there isn’t much sports-wise. Great call.

PG: I get it in the sense that NHL’s golden boy is playing and that Buffalo is the logical destination for nice, cold outdoor hockey…but I still don’t like the choice of teams.

JB: Like I said before, glad to see NBC trying to grow the game, even if it’s only for their ratings.

PG: But the idea is brilliant, even if copied

JB: Casual American sports fans won’t understand the significanc ebut might get drawn to the gimmick if they’re flipping by.

PG: True.

JB: It’s great for hockey fans though, and that’s what’s important.

JF: The league NEEDS casual fans though, to grow. Hopefully the game will turn a couple of them into hardcores.

PG: Sad though, I don’t think it will. I think it will bring more casual fans, if anything. And we need all we can get, so that’s good.

JF: Well, it’s still people. If the NFL still reaches out to the casual audience, pretty much every league has to.

SL: BoNY friend Jodie Lemaster of Battle of PA and the SIdney Crosby Show will be there in person

JB: it’s a gimmick based in history. in theory, it should be great for hockey fans and casual/non-fans alike. hopefully it draws some of those fans who stop on it because they see an outdoor hockey game into the game. into the game of hockey in general rather, beyond just the one game.

JF: Exactly. Nothing wrong with a spectacle. the NY Red Bulls drew a lot of people to Giants Stadium to see one player and even if only a hundred stay as fans, it’s a benefit.

SL: Lets face it, 1PM has a bunch of meaningless bowl games

JF: Oh, there are bowl games that day? Like…the Meinike Car Care Bowl? Yeah, minor bowls aren’t a thing (unless Rutgers is in one, then, well, you know…go RU but…)

SL: Alright, real quick…how far can NJD go this year?

PG: They can go as far as their little hearts desire!

SL: Be honest, is this a team that can go further than round 2?

PG: This is not a team equipped to win the Cup.

JF: All the way. They can go all the way. But they’ll likely end up losing in the Eastern Finals.

PG: But, what Cup winning Devils team HAS been equipped to win the Cup?

S: 2001

JF: Good point, Patricia. 2003 was quite unlikely considering the flaws on that team

PG: Well, we didn’t win the Cup in 2001, Steve.

SL: 2001 was more equipped to win a cup than 2003

JB: I think that this team CAN win the Cup. Whether they will depends on all those variables falling into place. Which seems highly unlikely.

JF: Definitely, but they ran out of gas. I do think they can advance beyond the second round.

SL: Alright, lets talk atlantic division

JF: I just don’t see them dodging teams that have their number for 3 straight rounds. I also don’t see another division title…the Devils will narrowly miss their third, I think.

PG: It feels comforting knowing that if the boys really need a boost at the deadline, it’s possible to go out and grab something because there’s cap room

SL: rank ’em 1-5

JF: Pittsburgh will capture it now that they dumped some of their trash players for better ones. Penguins, Devils, Rangers, Flyers, Islanders in that order.

SL: Pens, Rags, Devs, Failures, Isles

JB: 1, 2, 3, 4, are all interchangable between Philly, NYC, Pittsburg, and NJ. The only definate in this division is the Islanders finish dead last.

JF: You’re not making many friends with that Rangers over Devils prediction, Steve.

PG: Agreed with Josh

JF: The Flyers can finish last. Trust me.

PG: I think the Flyers will do considerably better.

JF: It’ll be a tough division.

SL: I do to, I have them pegged at 7th

JB: I don’t think they can John, because I don’t think the Isles can finish 4th.

PG: Biron is a better goalie than people think.

JF: We all could be wrong. And don’t doubt the failing possibilities of a team.

PG: I wouldn’t mind seeing DiPo keep the crap outta a Rangers goalie again though.

JF: The islanders weren’t “supposed” to make the playoffs last year either.
Incudude530 (9:25:56 PM):
I’ll be killed if i reveal my top 8.

JF: I have a hard time gauging each team year to year, admittedly.

SL: Because…i dont think the sabres will make the playoffs

JF: What.

PG: I don’t really like making predictions [laughs]

SL: I think there are 8 teams in this conference better than the sabres

JB: I haven’t tried to come up with a top 8. there’s too many teams that are too evenly matched to come up with a definitive prediction.

SL: alrite, lets do some quick hits before we go

JF: Very quick.

SL: Simple question, simple answer

JB: I can’t even tell you if the Devilswill finish first or fourth in the division let alone the rest of the conference

SL: Eastern Conference Champ.

JF: Not the Rangers.

SL: Penguins

JF: Probably the Senators. Again.

JB: Devils, of course? (non-homer answer: Senators)

SL: Western Champ? Ducks here.

JF: No. Let’s say…Crap, who do I want to say…

SL: C’mon, even without Nieds an Teemu, they still are tops in the west

JB: I’ll say Detroit, mostly because I don’t want to say Anahiem.

JF: San Jose. A sleeper pick if there ever was one.

SL: Stanley Cup Champ? Based on your two conf. winners…i say Ducks

JF: San Jose because I want to continually laugh when Ottawa gives up another own goal in a SCF game.

JB: I’ll go Detroit again.

SL: MVP of the league

JF: Crosby.

SL: Sid the Gentleman

JB: sigh…Crosby

SL: MVP of the Devs

JF: Poor Ovechkin. Brodeur.

SL: Zach

JB: Brodeur. Taking him out, Gionta.

SL: Devs Top Scorer…Patty here.

JB: goals or points?

SL: points

JB: Elias

JF: Elias. Again.

SL: Top Rookie

JB: Greene still qualifies as a rookie, so…Andy Greene

SL: Clarkson

JF: I’ll guess Pelley.

SL: Marty’s ballpark # of wins

JB: 40

JF: 40. To keep that streak going and to make Roy sweat.

SL: 39-44. Finally…Number of times Jay Pandolfo makes Gomez & Jagr cry this season

JF: Can’t answer, Gomez won’t cry. But…twice. If you must have one.

JB: I’ll tell you that one when the season’s over.

SL: alright boys

SL: Thank you so much, this hasnt been a total failure, and at the end of the day, i think thats all we can ask for

JF: Thank you. This was a lot better than typing all by myself.

SL: say goodnight felas

JB: goodnight felas. sorry, couldn’t resist.

SL: damn you, beat me to it

JF: Goodnight.

PG: Alright, have a good night boys, had fun.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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