With training camp starting this week, it seems as good a time as any to take a look at how the team shapes up heading into this season. Instead of doing an all-around season preview, we’ve decided to take the hard-hitting magnifying glass of IPB’s investigative team to each individual player listed on the Devils current roster (excluding
salary dump KHL defector Vish-dog) to determine which players are trending up from last season, and which are trending down.
David Clarkson: Trending… Up, But Like A Rollercoaster. Okay, we’re kind of troubled by Clarkson, because we’re not quite sure what year he’s in, so we’re not positive he’s staring down the barrel of a sophomore slump. And after looking at the recent history of Devils rookies (it’s a brief history), it seems the guys who get a few games in during the season before their official rookie years have half-year slumps. See: Oduya, Johnny. So our mad trendspotting skillz have us calling a spectacularly crappy first half, and then a reaffirmation of the Devils-fanbase-wide crush on Clarkson when he comes back with a vengeance, on an unholy tear not unlike Oduya’s last year. It’ll be kickstarted by a coast-to-coast wraparound goal against the Hurricanes. Mark our words. (Seriously, the Devils play the Canes on January 6. You can mark it on your calendar in pen: Clarkson will get the goal of the year in that game.)
Patrik Elias: Trending… Down. We’re kind of torn on this. One of us thinks Patty’s going to have a bounce-back year, “now that Sutter isn’t fucking with him.” The other of us says, “Sutter wasn’t fucking with him.” “What about the captain thing?” the first one asks. “That was long over while Patty was still sucking,” says the other. An uneasy silence ensues. We’re not in agreement until the one arguing that he’s trending down points out, “He was godawful all last year and we spent the whole season hating on Oduya and then Gio, totally ignoring Patty. He’s going to test to see how long that can last.” Yeah, he’s trending down.
Brian Gionta: Trending… Up. Two words: contract year. Two more words: we’ve spent the last year begging for him to be traded and there’s nothing the Devils love more than making us look like idiots. Hey! That was more than two words! See, Devils? We’re perfectly capable of making ourselves look like idiots, thank you very much. Gio, this means you don’t have to go back to your habit of making us all do spit-takes when we’re reminded that you once scored forty-eight goals in a single season. A single contract year season. We rest our case.
Bobby Holik: Trending… To Lowell, if we’re lucky. We considered issuing a ban on all things Blobby Holik, but then we realized that the ONLY silver lining to this dog of a free agent signing is that it will give us a worthy subject for our relentless negativity. We’re kind of a match made in heaven, Blobby Holik and us, considering he openly hates Devils fans as much as we hate him. It should be fun. (And while we understand the idea that having a guy on the team who can win a faceoff is a good thing, there’s a serious flaw in the logic when that guy is Holik. Because how does it help the Devils if they’re in a “must win the faceoff” situation, and after winning the faceoff, they find themselves with Bobby Holik on the ice?) Pookie declared at one point this summer that if Holik gets more than eight minutes a night she’ll call for Sutter’s head on a plate; we’re going to go out on a limb and start firing up our “Calling For Sutter’s Head On A Plate” tag now, just to save ourselves the time.
Jamie Langenbrunner: Trending… Wherever Travis Can Take Him. We stand by our belief that Langer’s career goal-scoring year two seasons ago was fueled entirely by skating with Travis before Travis forgot how to play hockey. Not that we want them to skate together again, necessarily, but it’s likely a totally spiritual thing. Oh, and really, we can’t expect much from Langer until he gets out from under the weight of the C — we’d call for it to be given to Madden this season (because what’s a post-Stevens Devils season without wonky captaincy issues?), but frankly, we’re wondering if maybe Niedermayer didn’t curse it. Or, more likely, Rafalski, during those random preseason games when he got to wear it.
John Madden: Trending… The Sky’s The Limit. We all saw what a man possessed Madden was during his “Let me prove to the new coach what a complete moron he is for breaking me and Pando up, for suggesting we’re not the heart and soul of our PK, and for not giving me the C” season. Yeah, and now he’s in a contract year. One of our favorite things to laugh at Madden about is his prediction many years ago that he’d be a 40-goal scorer. You know what? We’re penciling him in for that now. (But in invisible pencil. Like those white ones that come with a big set of colored pencils, the ones you wonder what the point is, because we never write with them on dark colored paper.)
Jay Pandolfo: Trending… We Daren’t Say It. We put a lot of stock in the power of contract years. Even with Pando. So we’re not expecting the kind of production he was putting up before his season-derailing shifted-bits injury. Even if his bits have shifted back into a contented, healthy place, we see him going back to being normal old Pando. And that’s more than good enough for us, considering he was our emperor-god when he wasn’t a goal-scoring machine, but still. It is, technically speaking, a downward trend. A lovable, Pando-riffic downward trend, though.
Zach Parise: Trending… Up-ish. Every year Zach has exceeded his prior year’s points total: 32 points, 62 points, 65 points. So look for Zach to get 66 points (33 goals and 33 assists, you heard it here first) and then stop short. Yeah, that’s right, we’re going against the grain here and saying Zach is not going to get 100 points. Sad, but true. Still, with the linemate upgrade from Travis to Rolston, Zach is going to have a serious opportunity to counteract some of our relentless negativity as he transitions from “future of the team” to “present of the team”. Of course, we already know how Zach handles the present, and it ain’t pretty. *Clank!*
Egg Pelley: Trending… Her?
Brian Rolston: Trending… We Don’t Care. We don’t care because he was a big-name UFA who chose to return to NJ. That’s all we need to love the guy. Also, he didn’t have any statbits as a Devil last year; how can he do worse? As for that whole, “he’ll score 30 goals” thing, meh. He’s a Devil. We’ll pencil him in for a more sensible 12-15. 12-15 goals other teams can’t have because he wanted to return to Jersey.
Mike Rupp: Trending… Down. There’s quite a bit of competition for the fourth line spots and we’re afraid the lovable, scampish folk-hero inventor of the Rupp-around is going to be one of the victims of Project: Overstock On Fourth Liners. This makes us endlessly sad because Rupp’s suggestion box was one of the highlights of last season for us. Who else on the team would do that? Zubrus? He’s too unassuming. Pelley? He’s too short; the suggestion box is a giant’s job! Holik? He’s more likely to put boxes in everyone else’s stalls to stuff with suggestions on how to improve.
Travis Zajac: Trending… Up. Travis can’t possibly trend down after last season. His statistical season went beyond a cute-sounding Sophomore Slump — it was like a Post-Rookie-Year Post-Apocalyptic-Wasteland. His spiritual season was even worse, though. Think about it. The highlight of his season was getting bit by Darien Hatcher. There is literally nowhere to go but up. Unless he’s going to get bit by someone worse. Someone like… Bobby Holik. Oh man. Let’s move on before we consider the possibilities of how much worse Travis can be.
Dainius Zubrus: Trending… Up. Now that he’s unburdened of the mark of shame he had last season (namely, Bobby Holik’s number), and now that the original Sergei Brylin is gone (but never forgotten, unlike when he was actually on the roster), it’s time for our 6’5″ Brylin to become the all-purpose tool we know he can be. Considering he had a pretty underwhelming season last year but still came out of it looking like one of the few functional forwards on the team, we can only assume things are going to get better for him. Or at least he’ll be more comfortable with the notion that Sutter is never going to ask him to do the same thing twice.
Sheldon Brookbank: Trending… Up. Brookbank’s future looks bright only by virtue of there no longer being nine “NHL caliber” (a questionable title last season) d-men on the team. This means he’s mathematically less likely to be the odd-man out on any given night. Right? Right? Of course, given his proclivity for hitting Patty Elias injuriously with his point shots, he’s probably Sutter’s favorite blueliner, and is thus likely to get top-pairing ice time this season.
Andy Green: Trending… It’s a Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma Wrapped in a Puzzle. Andy Greene’s season made Travis’s Sophomore Slump look like Gretzky in his prime. The words “wet”, “hot”, and “mess” come to mind. Maybe having another season defending against NHL-calibre players under his belt will help. Maybe having Tommy Albelin on the bench coaching the d-corps instead of Larry Robinson will be a shot in the arm for him. Maybe not being one of nine d-men will take some pressure off and allow him to be the cheap Rafalski replacement we were all hoping for last July. Or maybe he’ll continue being too small to go to the Super Bowl. Only time will tell.
Paul Martin: Trending… Comfortably But Not Spectacularly Up. Paulie was predicted when he was drafted to be another Niedermayer, and last season he proved the one way that was actually true: he very quietly, with absolutely zero fanfare, rounded into a form that is not at all what anyone really had in mind originally. Now he has to wait for everyone else’s expectations to be reshaped as we all come to terms with what he is, just the way things did with Nieder back in the day. Of course, Nieder then won a few Norrises. Paulie? Is probably not going to match that, as much as PaulieMartinNation thinks he should. No, the best Paulie can probably hope for is Devils fans someday not cringing when they think about the fact that he’s their top defenseman.
Mike Mottau: Trending… Wicked Up. After years of career-minor-league-titude, Applemotherfuckingsauce is starting this season as an established NHL defenseman. That and he’s wicked hot. But more on that in our next post.
Johnny Oduya: Trending… Down. He spent the first half of last season being constitutionally incapable of hanging onto his stick whenever he was faced with a defensive situation, and somehow still finished the season as a +27. There is no way he’s not falling back to earth a little bit next year. He just flew too close to the sun for our liking. But at least he’s not a full-on laughingstock or anything. Anymore.
Bryce Salvador: Trending… Down. Our prediction for Rolston should suggest that we’ll be happy with Bryce “The Iron Boar” Salvador thanks to his decision to re-sign with NJ but… We recognize every team needs a serviceable d-man, but we already have Colin White. Despite his kick-ass nickname (which the Devils players and media are more than welcome to run with), The Iron Boar doesn’t really blow our skirts up. As it were.
Colin White: Trending… Ever Increasingly Invisible. Now that Brylin is gone as the team’s resident Devilishly invisible player, doesn’t Colin White strike you as the newest Devil You Most Quickly Forget?
Marty Brodeur: Trending… He’s Chasing Records And We All Know What That Means. Considering how Marty’s always struggled as he’s approached milestone wins, we suspect this is going to be a long, painful season. And that’s all we’ll say. Move along, Hockey Gods. There’s nothing to see here.
Kevin Weekes: Trending… Up. If Marty’s tying himself in knots chasing the all-time wins record, Weekes is likely to see more minutes. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Just kidding.