I have so much to say after last night’s latest fiasco but really no idea where to start this blog. Was last night’s 5-2 defeat at the hands of Detroit the worst game this franchise has played in the last ten years? Certainly not…but in many ways it might have become the flashpoint where a fanbase has finally collectively had it with years of ‘rebuilding’ and zero progress to show for it. Heck, they might actually be going backwards which I didn’t think was possible. Maybe Miles Wood was onto something calling this a must-win, because the pressure is already cooking hot underneath everyone’s feet as evidenced by an ugly atmosphere at the Rock last night.
Last night certainly didn’t start off being an adversarial atmosphere, with a couple of notable exceptions during the pregame. Although he wasn’t starting last night, Mackenzie Blackwood got what I’d call at least scattered boos – after his stinker Thursday and being bad for two years, I can understand the fans having enough of him – god knows I have, especially with some of his diva-like behavior towards the organization. Mike McLeod got booed…for off-ice reasons that I’m not even gonna get into (cough Hockey Canada investigation cough), but the boos for him are the only ones I actually joined in on during the pregame. Once they started introducing the coaching staff and they got to Andrew Brunette who received a loud ovation, I knew what was coming next when Lindy Ruff got announced. I didn’t partake in the boos, but as much as I like Lindy maybe I would have if I knew what was coming vis-a-vis some of his airhead lineup decisions on the night, namely the banishments of young forwards Yegor Sharangovich (10:56), Fabian Zetterlund (9:40, though at least he was in the lineup tonight the icetime’s still stupid low for a guy who had an impact down the stretch last year) and Alexander Holtz (9:20). Lindy might have been the only one in the building surprised at the reaction toward a coach who’d presided over two of the worst seasons in franchise history.
Sorry coach, still respect you as a human being and a hockey lifer…wish you a lot of luck in retirement and I know doggone well the problems with this organization (which I’ll get to over this post) extend way beyond you, but now I hope that retirement starts as soon as possible. Everyone who reads this blog knows how much I’ve held back on ripping the coach because of my regard for the man personally, when you lose me Lindy, then it’s time to say adios amigo. If the last two seasons weren’t enough to push me over the edge, the start of this one pretty well has – not to mention the inane response to a question on Jesper Bratt’s icetime the other night. If you’re gonna try to play an up-tempo firewagon attacking system, then you can’t be benching younger, dynamic players like Holtz and Sharangovich who in theory should fit said system. You also can’t be doing cornball things like playing RHD John Marino and Damon Severson on the same pairing when you have a balance of LHD and RHD in the lineup.
But again, the problems go way beyond Lindy – starting with the fact every doggone goalie that Tom Fitzgerald brings in immediately turns into Goldberg from the Mighty Ducks the minute they put on a Devils uniform with the latest stiff being Vitek Vanecek, who quite simply had a nightmare debut with five goals allowed on twenty-two shots including junk like losing his stick for no reason before the Dylan Larkin goal with one second left in the second period to make a 3-2 game a 4-2 game, the shortside goal by Dominik Kubalik in the third to make the game officially noncompetitive or this beaut from Jakub Vrana that broke a tie midway through the second period:
Nice shot…hah, we make everyone into a doggone sniper, except apparently our own shooters. Our overrated finesse offense has somehow managed to only score four goals on seventy-six shots in the first two games, once again giving lie to the advanced stats. But our CORSI, but our ‘deserve to win’ meter…nonsense. All the metrics don’t mean a thing if you don’t have actual finishers or a system that actually maxes their talent. Other than Jack Hughes – who’s done bupkus so far in two games – there’s nobody on this roster that’s even close to a proven thirty-goal scorer. Jesper Bratt hit 26 goals last year but he’s still more of a playmaker, and funny at least he’s enhancing his contract value with three assists in the first two games. He’s about the only one right now.
Instead of being worried over who can stop the puck or who can actually put one in, we’re apparently too worried about what Miles Wood says after a game, since he had to offer a clarification over his comments saying he didn’t mean the team was soft as any kind of a dig at anyone on the team – screw that and whoever leaned on him to walk back an actual truthful statement. If you’re so worried about how you’re being perceived inside and outside the room, forget about policing what everyone says…go and win some darn games here. Having everyone be all fake nice and polite isn’t going to rock the boat in the right direction. When the Devils were a winning organization, they had guys like Claude Lemieux and Bobby Holik who grated people inside and outside of the room, but they held everyone accountable as a result. And at least to Wood’s credit, he did his part to back up his urgency by scoring one of the two goals last night.
Fans know what they’re seeing without trying to have it be sugarcoated by social media or a broadcast. And last night fans clearly had enough by the end of the second period as boos rained down from the sky in a period where they outshot the Wings 22-11, yet got outscored 4-1. Enough with the excuses, when you get housed two games in a row by mediocre opposition after years of losing and see other teams who started a rebuild after you already make more progress in theirs, you no longer deserve the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want to hear excuses, these are the kind of games losing franchises find ways to lose and just make excuses about afterwards.
Starting in the third period the ‘Fire Lindy!’ chants were loud and frequent as were the bronx cheers for Vanecek (especially after his last goal given up in the middle of the period). On a normal night I’d have probably cleared out in the middle of the third period, especially since I knew we were going to be noncompetitive after the way the second period went…but this time I stayed for every last second to boo them off the ice. What a home opener.
Even before the game, the ‘tribute’ to Andy Greene really wasn’t much of one at all. Felt like they were saving the actual tribute for a separate night later on, though I guess it’s tough to both have the extended intros AND a ceremony in the pregame. Who cares though, it’s a Saturday night – not like staying a few minutes later was gonna kill anyone. Greene must have had flashbacks to his own dark days here watching that mess last night. He would have been better on the ice than Ryan Graves last night, who didn’t do much to enhance his upcoming FA contract with a -3 in just under fourteen minutes. I could say the same about Damon Severson and his -3 but Severson is what he is at this point, a mercurial defenseman who’ll add something offensively but give away a lot defensively. It would have been nice for him to follow up a career best season last year with a better start to this year, but alas he’s far from the only disappointment so far.
As to where this thing goes in the immediate future…at this point it seems like a matter of when, not if Lindy gets canned. If this team ever lost to a subpar Ducks team that just got wasted 7-1 at UBS Arena (and probably will get obliterated at MSG), that might be enough to push things over the edge already. You want to give lip service over the team being ready to win Fitzy, you can’t let another season get away without doing jack-all about it. And for the record, when you retain a coach on a lameduck deal AND hire a sureshot replacement for his staff then you’re putting a neon, flashing sign up. You might as well have canned him and saved everyone the 5-10-however many games of a charade we have to go through before the change is now going to be made. If you were that unsure about keeping the guy then that’s usually a pretty good indicator you should have moved on already.
I would’ve been pissed too. That line makes no sense. Holtz and Sharangovich buried. That’s insane. Especially after how Holtz was used in preseason. Give him that top 6 look and let it fly.
Sharangovich is one of their top finishers. Lindy is a good guy. But he got what he deserved.