G's up: Brian Rolston. I'll be the first to say that I don't know nearly as much about hockey as Yinzer and Mahatma. That said, this is the move I've wanted them to make since Easter. And apparently, Lou agreed. Rolston, along with Langenbrunner, provides the Devils with two power play lines of four forwards. He also gives them another forward to compliment the consistent Madden/Pandolfo penalty killing duo.
Ho's down: Rolston's age. He's 35 right now, and still has another four years to go on his contract. If there's been one downside to Lou Lamoriello's tenure with the Devils, it's been his recent tendency to spend on free agents who suck. I don't think this will be the case with Rolston, but it will be intriguing to see if Rolston is worth the contract during his 38th and 39th year of life.
G's Up: Marty Brodeur, regular season goalie. Marty is 14 wins away from breaking one of the two most important records in the NHL-Patrick Roy's wins record. Marty has showed no signs of slowing down in the season. In fact, the new NHL rules have allowed Brodeur to showcase just how great a goalie he is over the past few years. His stats over this time are nothing special, but if you watch enough of his games day in and day out, you realize that yeah, he is that good. Even at the age of 36.
Ho's Down: Marty Brodeur, playoff goalie. And as great as Marty has been in the regular season the last few years, he's been awful during the playoffs. It's not that Marty sucks when the pressure is on; 3 stanley cup rings say hi. But for whatever reason, every Devils coach has one thing in common-a hard on for starting Marty roughly 75 games each year. This inevitably leads to a decline in his performance in the first or second round of the playoffs. If Sutter would only learn to play Brodeur 65 games each year, Marty would be able to shine come the post season. And oh by the way, Kevin Weekes is one of the better backup goalies in the league, even if Sutter insists on using him as a glorified paperweight.
G's Up: A solid group of defenders. Just because there's no Rafalski, Stevens, or Niedermayer doesn't mean that this unit sucks. The top six for this unit are led by Colin White and Paul Martin, hardly Stevens and Niedermayer, but still a very credible #1 defensive pairing. Mike Mottau, Johnny Oduya, Andy Greene, and newcomer Anssi Salmela should make up the next two units on what should be a solid, if not unspectacular defense corps. Will they scare anyone? Not necessarily. But it should get the job done.
Ho's down: Still no Stevens, Niedermayer, or Rafalski. The first two were on all 3 Stanley Cup Championship teams, and Rafalski was an integral piece of the last two. More importantly, Colin White is the only member of the defense with a ring. The D isn't bad, but this defense is a lot better when complemented by a powerful offense. Which leads me too...
G's up: Elias and Gionta ARE walking through that door. For the first time in the post-lockout NHL, the Devils did not lose anyone important to free agency in the offseason. Thus, the Devils bring back Elias, Gionta, and Langenbrunner, all of whom will be keys to their offense this season. Throw in Rolston, and this is the first year that the Devils have actually improved their offensive potential from the previous season.
Ho's down: But are Elias and Gionta any good anymore? Remember when Elias was one of the top left wings in the NHL? Ah, those were the good ol' days. From the 99-00 season through the 03-04 season, Elias had annual goal totals of 35, 40, 29, 28, 38. After a near-deadly battle with hepatitis A during the lockout, Elias' post-lockout totals have been 16, 20, and 21, respectively. Now, the 16 came in a half season in which he looked dominant at times, but that's the problem with Elias; even at his best, he hasn't been his old self for more than a few weeks at a time. And you can't have that from one of your only best scorers.
Oh, and Gionta? Well, since he set the Devil single season record with 48 goals in 05-06, he scored 25 goals in 06-07 (while playing in 62 games) and then scored 22 last year in his first season without Gomez. Gionta might be the Devils' best scorer, but it's clear that he needs a center who can feed him the puck. And as solid as Elias or Rolston could be playing center, it's going to be very difficult for them to match Gomez' passing skill. Or put simply, Elias and Gionta could continue to be shells of their former selves.
G's Up- Lou Lamoriello. The greatest General Manager in sports still resides in New Jersey. Say what you want about the man, but he turned a Mickey Mouse organization into one of the most well run, efficient organizations in sports. Other than Detroit and their unlimited payroll, the Devils have been the most successful organization in the NHL over the last 15 years. And Sweet Lou, the GM/President/Any-other-position-of-power has been the man who has been running it all.
Ho's Down- The Farm System Still Sucks.
-Yeah, Lou's great and all, but um, the farm system sucks. Hockey's Future, my source for all things minor league hockey, ranks the Devils' farm system as 28th of 30. The only credible prospect coming through the pipeline is Nicklas Bergfors, and he's been a year away now for the last 2-3 seasons. Has Lou lost it? Maybe, maybe not. Can they find a way to transform these no-names into prospects? Again, maybe, maybe not. But right now, the future's not looking too promising.
G's Up- The Rangers got a little weaker, and the Islanders still suck. So the Devils might still be the best NHL team in the tri-state area. Ignoring the Islanders, the Rangers lost Sean Avery and Jaromir Jagr, while only adding Wade Redden, Markus Naslund and a few others, moves that would have been phenomenal if made in 2004. There's a good chance that the Devils will surpass the Rangers again this year.
Ho's Down- The Penguins lost some, and the Flyers didn't lose anyone of importance. Yes, the Pens lost a lot, in Marian Hossa, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, and George Laraque. And they're going to be without Gonchar and Whitney to start the season. But simply having the big 3 of Crosby Malkin and Fleury healthy and ready to go should be enough to keep this team at a high level. And if that's not true, they'll still be better than the Devils. And the Flyers, with the young core of Richards, Carter, Briere, and others should be a pain in the ass for the Devils, and will probably be too much for them to overcome.
G's Up-A gut feeling. For no good reason whatsoever, I always thought that Marty Brodeur had four Stanley Cup Championships in him. As great as it was to win in '95, '00, and '03, Marty never had to will those teams to victory like Roy with the Canadiens in the 80's. For Marty to be unarguably the greatest goalie of all time, he'll have to win one more Stanley Cup, this time with a fairly inferior team in comparison to those of Devil Championships' past. So based on nothing more than a gut feeling, I think that Marty, in the next 3 years will take this team to one more Stanley Cup Championship.
Ho's Down- Other gut feelings I've had in the past, including but not limited to:
- Yankees would win in '01.
- Giants would win in '02.
- John Kerry would win in '04.
- My prom date would bang me in '00.
- The Giants would lose to Tampa, Dallas, Green Bay, and New England last year
But for an actual prediction: Let's give the Devils a 5th place finish in the East, 3rd in the Atlantic, and a loss to Philadelphia in the 1st round.