Before we even get to the trade deadline, I want to do something I almost never do here anymore – talk about something NHL related that isn’t the Devils. Granted this is meant to be a local coverage type blog first, but Derek I’m sure would have been all over last night’s happenings in Toronto himself if the Rangers weren’t also playing at the same time. If you’ve been off social media and TV for the last twelve hours, here’s what you missed…the Hurricanes needed a so-called ’emergency goalie’ to play in Toronto last night when both their goalies had to leave the ice due to injury in the first period and a half. A 42-year old Zamboni driver named David Ayres was on call, and took full advantage of his fifteen minutes of fame by saving eight out of ten shots, and getting credit for the win as Carolina embarassed the Leafs 6-3 – prompting cheers for the Zamboni driver wearing a Toronto Marlies mask to finish off a great story, a minor miracle if you will on the 40th anniversary of the original Miracle On Ice.
This kind of thing just cannot happen in any other sport and what helps give the NHL a cool factor. What’s really the comparable…a position player being forced to pitch in relief of a late inning in baseball? We’re still talking about a major league player and top athlete who’s already on the roster. Same with an NBA G-leaguer or a Jeremy Lin-type that suddenly gets thrust into the spotlight. A running back or wide receiver playing quarterback in football? Well those guys aren’t gonna throw much, just wildcat plays. You don’t have random 42-year old guys coming out of the stands to play the most important position in a game, and get the win no less. I hope he and his family enjoy the spotlight and he gets a nice cut of the jerseys and shirts that are now going to get sold with his name on it.
On a normal Saturday, Alex Ovechkin hitting 700 goals against the Devils would be the story of the night. And surely it’s a tremendous accomplishment, ironically the Great 8 became the eighth player to hit that milestone number and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. I don’t remember when I started thinking the Great One would be in reach for the Great 8 but Wayne Gretzky’s 894 NHL goals are certainly within reach for Ovi at the rate he’s going, and I hope he gets there. Everyone knows Gretzky was the greatest offensive player this sport has and probably will ever see, Ovi breaking his goalscoring record doesn’t change that, but it would create a real argument for Ovi being the best goalscorer in NHL history. Not only would he have the numbers, but he’s also played in an era where it’s much tougher to score goals than it was during the ’80’s and early ’90’s when Wayne starred.
Almost incidentally – except perhaps to them – the Devils managed to spoil the party for the Caps in the end with Damon Severson’s late power play goal leading them to a shocking 3-2 win. Again, Mackenzie Blackwood starred and in a time where the Devils are clearly rebuilding again, it’s nice to know we at least have the young goalie who can match up with other young goalies in the division like the Rangers’ Shesterkin, the Flyers’ Hart and the Caps’ Ilya Samsonov, who Blackwood managed to outduel yesterday with 33 saves on 35 shots. As much of a skeptic as I am about Alain Nasreddine becoming more than the interim coach going forward, again you gotta give him credit for the way the team continues to respond giving max effort in almost all these games, or at least the ones I’m paying scant attention to.
With it looking more like Tom Fitzgerald could be the full-time GM going forward there’s at least a theoretical possibility he likes Nas enough to give him a short-term deal, especially after the acting GM recently stated that the team was looking to be competitive the next couple years, but there was no real chance of being a contender (code for: maybe they’ll scrap their way over NHL .500 but don’t expect playoff appearances). Of course there’s a lot of big-name coaches out there that are available as well, with Bruce Boudreau being the latest after getting whacked by Bill Guerin in Minnesota despite favorable recent results. How many of them will want to take over what’s clearly a rebuilding job though? So we might be stuck with Nas or another facsimilie.
As far as what can happen tomorrow, I’m kinda over speculating and waiting, let’s just get this over with and see what happens. Certainly UFA’s to be Sami Vatanen (despite his injury) and Wayne Simmonds should be on the move by 3 PM tomorrow. Of course after Blake Coleman got moved to Tampa, I’m also preparing for the total blowup scenario of fellow late 20’s players Kyle Palmieri and/or Nikita Gusev also getting moved a year plus away from free agency. I feel like I’m talking into a hundred-mile and hour tornado complaining that we need to keep someone around besides the two centers and goalie, if nothing else to have people these kids can play off of and develop with.
Perhaps the biggest fallacy perpetuated by fans of a rebuilding team is that you can just put junk or short-term patches around our key prospects and they’ll develop fine. That’s not neccesarily the case, as the Oilers, Sabres and other perpetual rebuilders have shown. Heaven forbid both Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier have unproductive wings on their flank next year the way Hughes has this season with a declining Simmonds and a guy who can’t score or play as physical as his size in Pavel Zacha. Maybe you’ll get lucky and have a 2015-16 type Lee Stempniak come into camp on a PTO. Or likely you won’t, sure we can overpay on short-term deals but how many guys worth a darn are gonna want to come here on a one-two year contract just to hopefully get deadline dealt to a contender?
I’m not saying I’m totally against dealing Palmieri or Gusev, god knows I was against dealing Coleman but the return made it impossible to argue with. That’s what needs to happen here too, IF we trade Gusev or especially Palmieri, it’s gotta be a no doubt about it overpriced return. Perhaps this may be our one chance to speed up the rebuild Rangers-style cause I’m not really in the mood for another five years of hoping for a maybe. Especially when you see other teams turning it around much faster than that. I’ll have more comment after the deadline when whatever happens, happens. For now, just wake me when it does.