By Dave Turner
Though it’s a hard concept to wrestle with, because the Devils have been a perennial playoff team for the last two decades, but after their latest slide, I believe it is time for the Devils to do something different; sell at the trade deadline.
At this point they’re only two points ahead of the Rangers and Islanders and can we really feel good about a matchup with the Penguins/Bruins/Habs at this point?
Sure, I understand anything can happen if you just make the playoffs, but this isn’t the team that was a six seed last year. Don’t even try to use the Kings as an eight seed defense, because the 2013 Devils are nothing like the 2012 Kings.
The Ilya Kovalchuk defense? Okay, I’ll buy that one to an extent. Having Kovy back along with Alexei Ponikarovsky, Dainius Zubrus and company would be nice, but I think that there are deeper issues than that.
Though there is offensive talent on this club, they’re just not scoring. David Clarkson has become invisible lately after his hot start to the season. Patrik Elias, who seemed to be doing everything right during the first half of this season, has cooled off some.
Now, I’m not saying have a fire sale here. That would just be stupid. What might make a lot more sense to do is trade some of the role players on this team.
Try these for thought-
– Trade David Clarkson. I know he’s a gritty player and he has shown some flashes of being a big-time goal scorer, but he’s not a complete player. He’s a weak skater and a lot of his goal scoring ability is based on being in the right place at the right time. He’s not a sniper and he doesn’t have the skill set to make other players around him better. Because he’s going to command a lot of money on the open market next year, the chances are that he might price himself out of the Devils budget anyways. I could see him getting upwards of $4 million. Is he worth that? No way. Not after already giving $5.5 million per to Travis Zajac, which was an exorbitantly high number.
– Trade Steve Bernier. Bernier has some offensive skill and honestly, I think he’s very close to Clarkson in terms of offensive ability. He’s a guy who could be traded for a solid prospect, something the Devils are sorely lacking; organizational depth, especially at forward. Outside of Reid Boucher, there’s not much there.
– Let’s take into consideration that as of right now, other than some young and completely unproven prospects, the Devils have a big hole to fill after Martin Brodeur is gone. Can Keith Kinkaid/Scott Wedgewood be good? Sure, but there’s no guarantee of that, plus having a rookie goaltender in net in two years could be a scary proposition.
– Patrik Elias is getting towards the end of his career. He’ll be a big void to fill. The Devils already have trouble scoring and they’ll need to begin to bring in some new bodies to reverse that trend. Throw in the fact that Dainius Zubrus will be 35 next year if he’s re-signed. Bryce Salvador will be 38 by the end of next season. The likes of Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov seem to be done. There are a lot of holes to fill.
– Marek Zidlicky is the only Devils defenseman with real offensive ability at this point. Will Adam Larsson get there? Perhaps, but that is another huge issue that this team needs to address. Since Brian Rafalski left, the Devils have struggled to find a real power play quarterback.
Okay, so what is the point of this post? The Devils need to begin building for the future. This has been a “win now” team for as long as any of us can remember, but with the Brodeur era coming to an end (another personnel issue), the smart move is to begin to load up on young talent. With guys like Boucher and Jon Merrill in the wing, there are some pieces, but it’s not enough.
Would trading someone like Clarkson be giving up on the playoffs? I don’t think so. It’s not like he has been contributing anyway. It’d be nice to get something for a player that has a chance of departing, something the Devils have done a poor job of doing in the past.
I’m not saying that the Devils aren’t going to make the playoffs. They can. The two games to end the season against the Rangers could decide that berth. The point is that this team needs to begin keeping an eye on the future, in a post Brodeur/Elias/Salvador world.
The WORST thing this team could do now is move prospects and put a band-aid over the bullet wound that this team seems to have this season. Ryan Clowe? I don’t think he’d make them anything better than a seven seed at best.
I understand that the idea is to make the playoffs every year, but you can’t sacrifice the future just to make a run at the playoffs. Trading away a valuable asset for a mid-range player does nothing but hurt the future of this club. Let’s be honest, as it stands now, this team is going to need to rebuild, so why not do it on the fly instead of falling towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference in the post-Brodeur era.
The right thing needs to be done, this team needs to acknowledge the future and set themselves up for success.