Monday, April 02, 2007

A Devil of a Time, Julienned

by Ken Houghton

Let me be clear from the start: I agree with Scott (usually a sensible thing anyway) when he said
All of which reminds me that I've always thought that Lemaire's great Devils teams always got a bad rap. There certainly were teams of that era that tried to win through tedious clutch-and-grabbing, but the Devils were an exciting, hard-hitting, highly skilled team that happened to specialize in defense and goaltending. If you don't allow goals because you're fast and well-coached, that's still fun to watch.

adding on that if you give me Ken Daneyko, Scott Stevens, and Martin Brodeur and I don't build a team around defence and goaltending, I wouldn't be able to keep any job except maybe GM of the Rangers, or for another Cablevision-subsidized team. (Certainly not in Calgary.)

All of which means that I would love to believe Scott Burnside in his optimism: until I remember that Burnside picked the Rangers over the Devils in last years playoffs.

All of which is to say that while I hope this statement is true:
No one but Lamoriello could make the decision to fire a head coach -- with three games left in the regular season, 102 points in the standings and wins in four of the past five games -- seem like the most logical thing in the world.

But that's exactly what Lamoriello did Monday, dismissing Claude Julien, the man he hired to take over for, well, himself, last summer.

But I don't buy it.

It's too late to rest Brodeur—and you don't want to if it means ending up with the fifth seed, and having to play, in the best/worst case (all seedings otherwise hold), Ottawa then Buffalo and then Pittsburgh as the road team.

You've now got a healthy team for the first time all year, and it can still skate with the best. And you're likely to end up with the second seed; Pittsburgh's final three games aren't exactly a cakewalk either.

So when Burnside says:
If the Devils win at least a round, Lamoriello will have reinforced the notion that it's not so much who is behind the bench or on the ice, but the system and mentality that oozes from the dressing room walls in the swamp. But if the Devils are upended in the first round, Lamoriello opens himself up to significant second-guessing in the new NHL that could chip away at his ability to attract the kind of people that have been crucial to maintaining the team's cycle of success.

he's setting expectations so low George W. Bush might be able to meet them.

On Saturday, I was asked what I expect of the Devils. I haven't watched much more than last year—the kids don't go to bed any earlier—but this is a team that should be able to make the Conference finals. If they can hold the second seed but only win one round this year, it won't be a triumph of the system, just the soft bigotry of Scott Burnside's perpetually low expectations.


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