Once again I don’t feel like posting the lowlights, Hynes’ postgame presser or anything else from this team as the lede, so instead I’ve been posting other stuff like Major League or Wargames with DEFCON 1. Today it’s Rocky III. Why that one? Because this team looks like Rocky at the beginning of that movie, arrogant and happy – then when he fights Clubber he gets off to a great start for the first little while before totally collapsing after not listening to his trainer’s advice. That’s what this team represents right now. The Devils’ 4-0 start represents the first minute or so of the Clubber fight, after that this sorry excuse of a hockey club continues to get knocked around rink after rink now sinking to 2-7-1 in their last ten games with two straight blowouts and three in the last week and a half. Other than perhaps the December death march a couple years ago, this team hasn’t been as pathetic when it ‘mattered’ since the Macloser era in 2010.
I’d have been better off not turning this game on at all. As it was, I was with a friend during the first period and we didn’t have the game on but I did check the app a couple of times and saw things already weren’t going well down 1-0 with a horrible shot total against. Then we did turn it in on in time for the start of the second, and moaned after another quick two goals went past Keith Kinkaid, took my friend’s dog outside to do number one (basically what the Devils have been doing all over themselves) then left her with her mom so they could get some rest. I got home just after our one lousy goal but even just seeing the reaction when Travis Zajac scored was troubling. The reaction was the dead emotionless celebration you’d expect at 6-1 with thirty seconds left in the game, not when it’s still theoretically a contest at 3-1.
Of course what you would expect to happen from a team of heartless zombies happened, as another two goals went past Kinkaid and you could see him shaking his head and rolling his eyes on the MSG camera after the fifth goal went in. At that point I would have pulled KK, but for reasons known only to him coach John Hynes left his goalie in a four-goal game to start the third period when Cory Schneider got pulled at 4-2 the other night. At that point the ‘contest’ is over with, just let your backup who’s played two NHL games in the last several months get some game action and try to get him some confidence. Cory’s only good run in 2018 came after a similar no-pressure appearance in Game 2 of the playoffs that got him going. Not that I do have any faith in him to get it going for a long period but when the puck’s not hitting your goalie it’s time to take a seat.
Although the coach certainly deserves some blame for this team’s continued lack of effort or structure (and he should get it through his thick skull putting all the team’s scoring on one line isn’t going to work on the road), I actually would not fire Hynes at this point. Maybe it’s personal bias in part because he’s a likeable, well-meaning dude, maybe it’s the realization that this team just isn’t any good and last year was clearly a fluke at this point anyway. Right now I’m more mad at GM Ray Shero and the players than at coach Hynes to be honest. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, we’re four years into the ‘rebuild’, when do we actually start trying to be a real contender? If Shero fires Hynes at this point it’s quite frankly the coward’s way out when he didn’t do his job this offseason and let the team get stagnant.
And at some point this group of players needs to take accountability on themselves and be self-starters (to steal a Hynes cliche). This is the kind of stretch where something drastic needs to happen. If it’s not firing the coach then it’s a big trade, or something else earth-shattering like stripping Andy Greene of the C. Right now, to be honest nobody deserves that letter – there are no leaders on this team. If there were things wouldn’t have gotten this bad, this quick. If we had a leader, someone would be airing out their peers in the locker room but as has been the case for years this organization is too milquetoast in terms of personalities. Our last true ass-kicker as a head coach was Jacques Lemaire, although Hynes has his moments where he can be a hard-ass. We haven’t had a captain who got in people’s grills since…Scott Stevens. Sure guys like Greene, Bryce Salvador and Patrik Elias are consummate professionals – well at least the latter two were at the moment – but they aren’t the kind of guys that are going to get in someone’s face overtly. Which is okay if you have a head coach or another respected guy in the room willing to do it, but if there is nobody fitting that description…
It’s so bad I’ve actually rooted for this team to get their face kicked in during more than one third period including tonight, somehow hoping THIS will be the embarassment that wakes them up. But if getting wasted in Tampa or Ottawa didn’t wake them up or getting shut out in Brooklyn, why would being wasted in Toronto do anything? This team has no pride and until they get it through their thick skulls that jobs and reputations are on the line as the season slips away in a hurry, nothing will change.