Fifteen Games To Go: Thoughts, Observations and Trade Speculation

Resolute/Wikimedia Commons

Resolute/Wikimedia Commons

By Dave Turner

I think last night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators says a lot about this team. It was a game where they completely outshot them after the first few minutes of the first period, yet they were chasing all night.

This game had such an odd feel to it, because they absolutely dominated the third period and even did so for most of the second, but they weren’t able to score. Sure, if you want to throw in the fact that there was no Ilya Kovalchuk, Dainius Zubrus, Alexei Ponikarovsky and then no Stephen Gionta once he went down, sure, i’ll be on board with that. A little more offensive push could have led to a goal in the third period.

– The second goal that Martin Brodeur gave up last night was sloppy. He gave up a huge rebound that was able to be put home by Colin Greening to give the Sens the lead going into the intermission.

– The thing about Brodeur’s return is that i’m not so sure it’s because he’s playing that well, or because of the lack of shots he’s facing. Don’t get me wrong, Marty has been solid, but he hasn’t even faced 20 shots in a game yet. What will happen when he faces 30+ in a night?

– Give credit to the defense for that. It hasn’t been so much that the Devils are playing keep-away with their offense lately, it has been solid defensive positioning that has done the job. Ironically, they were playing a man-down for most of the night once Bryce Salvador went off, and Adam Larsson had what may have been his worst game of the season.

– I’ve been very impressed with Peter Harrold. He’s just a smart player. He doesn’t take risks in the offensive zone that will result in odd-man rushes. He’s not going to wow you with his game, but he’s positionally sound and he knows how to use his body. I can’t see him not being part of the Devils top six D-men should they make the playoffs.

– Also, similar praise for Andrei Loktionov. Yes, I think it’s safe to say that the Devils got the better end of the deal with Los Angeles. I like this kid because he has that hockey sense; the intangibles that you can’t even quantify with stats all the time. He sees the ice very well and you can see it in his positioning and passing ability. That’s a great thing from a young kid, who doesn’t have much NHL time under his belt. He also finds a way to make big plays. Whether it’s passing, or shooting the puck like he did last night, scoring on a ridiculous angle, he has had a penchant for making big plays since he’s been here.

– I saw people bantering on twitter last night as to the validity of the saying “deserved to win.”  I think in hockey, that happens from time to time. You can completely outplay the other team, outshoot them, outhit them, you can take it to them in almost every phase of the game, but the puck still has to bounce your way. If the puck doesn’t bounce to Greening, maybe the Devils win 2-1. If the puck doesn’t hop over Adam Henrique’s stick, maybe the Devils win 3-2 in OT.

– The point is, all you can do is play well enough to put yourself in position to win. The Devils battled back from two one-goal deficits and played a very strong third period. A regulation goal would have been nice, but if the effort we saw in the third period is what the Devils can give for most of the next few games, I think they’ll win more than they’ll lose.

Jaromir Jagr/ (s.yume- wiki commons)

Jaromir Jagr/ (s.yume- wiki commons)

The Trade Winds 

– As Devils fans, we’ve basically been programmed to hate Jaromir Jagr, just because he has played for some of their biggest rivals. I’m ready to give up my hatred for him. Why? I think he’d be a perfect fit for this team right now. The Stars are still only one point out of a playoff spot, but they did just deal away their captain, Brenden Morrow, to the Pens. Jagr might be done after this year, so it only makes sense for Dallas to get something for him if they’re not going to make a playoff push. The future hall-of-famer is having a very nice season and I think he’d fit the Devils system well. He can fill in for Kovalchuk on that first line until he returns. With his big body and ability to stay on the puck, I think he’d do very well in the Devils forecheck-heavy system.

– One name I recently saw linked to the Devils was Brian Campbell. Campbell has an albatross contract, so I think he’s a tough move. He still has THREE years left at 7.1 million dollars per. Is he a good player? Yes. Is he playing on a very bad team right now? Also yes. I just don’t know if it’s worth taking on a contract of that size for him. He’ll be in his late 30’s by the end of the deal, as well. He would be an upgrade to the power play, but overall I don’t think the risks are worth the rewards with him.

– Two names that I have advocated for are Lee Stempniak of the Calgary Flames and Jordan Leopold of the Buffalo Sabres. I think both of those guys would be great fits to the team. Stempniak is a grinder, who has some scoring touch. Think of a Steve Bernier with a bit more finesse. Jordan Leopold is a guy who has been traded before at the deadline and he’s a good two way defender who can log solid minutes.

– I think the biggest issue with the trade market this year is that there aren’t going to be a lot of sellers. The Sabres? they’re three points out of a playoff spot right now. I think the only team that is going to be sell-sell all the way, is Florida. The rest of the teams might need a very good offer in order to let go of some of their players. Sure, a lot can happen between now and April 3rd, where a few more teams may fall off. The point is, if you want a player this year, even a middle-of-the-road kind of guy, you’re going to pay a hefty price. A lot of teams will be inquiring about the same players. Supply and Demand! The question becomes, do the Devils have anything of value that teams may want? I don’t think they want to trade John Merrill or Reid Boucher, but what do they really have after that.