Now that it’s after Thanksgiving, that means it’s full-time Christmas Season! WOOOO! It also means the quarter mark of the NHL season has passed, so Santa has a substantial enough body of work to assess when he makes his list of which Devils have been naughty and which have been nice. Sure, he’s still got a month or so to check the list twice, so these are entirely unofficial results, but we’re proud to say that we have spies in Santa’s workshop who have smuggled out — at great personal cost, no less — the preliminary draft. Let’s take a look at who on our team can expect a shiny new hockey stick for Christmas, and who’s in line for a honkin’ lump of coal.
Dainius Zubrus: Nice After spending last season being the 6’5″ Sergei Brylin, Zubrus has spent the last few weeks being the not-flakey Jason Arnott. We knew it! We knew he could be a good linemate for Patty! We don’t expect him to keep this up for very long, but even for just a few games, it’s worth a great present from Santa.
Zach Parise: Extremely Nice Santa should stop two or three times at Zach’s house this year for how extraordinary Zach’s first quarter has been. When all was darkness and despair, Zach was a bright shining light of talent, heart, and third-in-the-league-in-goal-scoring. We’ve been hearing for years that Zach is all but guaranteed to be the next captain of the team (we personally are pulling for Travis, but that’s a whole other post) and so far this season, we’ve seen why. When everyone else was content to say the season was a lost cause, Zach said, “Pshaw! Lost cause my arse! I’ll score fifty goals! What? Our defense and goaltending sucks so bad it won’t help? Whatevs.”
John Madden: Undecided Is it just us, or does it seem like Madden hasn’t been playing this year, even before he was injured? Santa has no idea. He’ll probably put him on the nice list, just because Madden’s a stalwart and a cranky-pants, but he’s our stalwart cranky-pants.
Brian Rolston: Naughty Oh, some people might say you can’t judge Rolston because he’s been injured all season, but you know what? That’s exactly why Santa’s stuffing his stocking with nothing but coal. You can’t go filling Devils fans with hope by being the first sought-after free agent to sign with New Jersey, then fail to make the power play instantly awesome right out of the gate, and then get injured in such a way that no one knows when or how you’ll ever be back, and have that injury happen to be the starting point for the most devastating team-wide run of injuries we’ve ever seen. No, Brian Rolton’s on the very top of Santa’s naughty list.
Brian Gionta: Nice Enough to Not Get Coal But… We had high hopes for Contract Year Gio. Those hopes haven’t really been fulfilled. He’s not been terrible, but we’re hoping Santa’s elves don’t knock themselves out making Gio’s toys this year. Give him a wooden train or two, but make them small enough to be packed in a suitcase come Trade Deadline Day.
Jamie Langenbrunner: Naughty, But Surprisingly Only Barely Langer can thank his lucky stars that Zach is a superstar and Travis remembered how to play hockey this year, because the resurgent ZZ Pops line is the only thing saving his petulant, stupid-penalty-taking, ineffective-captaining, open-net-missing, sucking-on-the-point-on-the-PP, craptacular ass. It’s hard to imagine what Patty did to make Sutter hate him so much, because there’s no way in hell that Langer is any better a captain than Patty was. But again, he’s the Pops for the Poppers (and that’s “pops” as in “lousy old man”, not “pops” as in “he’s what makes the offense pop”), so his lump of coal will at least be attractively wrapped.
Blobby Holik: Naughty There’s nothing Holik could have done to make Santa put him on the Nice List because, come on, Santa’s no dummy.
Mike Rupp: Nice As a jolly, fun-loving guy, Santa surely must love Rupper, what with his big grin and easy-going manner. We love Rupper, too, especially since this year’s he’s getting one of the greatest gifts we can bestow upon a Devil: The IPB Order of Pleasantly Surprising. That’s right, with Asham off being predictably bad with Philly, Rupper’s taken over the mantle of that player of whom we’re mostly likely to say, after a high-energy shift or an expected goal, “my, but I’m pleasantly surprised!” What fourth liner could ask for more?
Travis Zajac: NICE!, With A Capital “N-I-C-E” He’s still a tiny bit afraid of the acorn, but Travis has not only remembered how to center the ZZ Pops line, he’s become even more dynamic doing so. Santa is going to pile mountains of toys under Travis’s tree (that’s what she said!) to reward the way he’s become a dynamic, confident, powerful player in every zone. Of course, we fully put forth that we are totally blind to Travis’s flaws, but apparently so is Santa.
Jay Pandolfo: Nice, As Always Santa, like every important person of influence, is a citizen of PandoNation. Pando could have been sucking so bad that he was a healthy scratch every night and he’d still get every present he asked for. Sure, he’s not scoring as much as he was when he was in a contract year, but Santa doesn’t expect goals from Pando. We all spent half of last season with our hearts in our throats waiting for Pando to overcome his tragically shifted bits, but this year he’s bucked the teamwide injury trend and been his usual stoic, penalty-killing, defensively delightful emperor-god self. Santa will reward that handsomely.
Petr Vrana: Naughty Vrana Vrana Vrana! No matter how many times Santa sees his name on his list, it still doesn’t make him an NHL player.
David Clarkson: Nice Looking Santa’s elves are expected to be creative (no one wants the same dolly or toy truck year after year, do they?) so it would only follow that Santa would appreciate creativity in his gift recipients, too. So far this year, Clarkson has shown a shocking willingness to attempt moves other than his patented Clarkaround. Sure, those other moves aren’t really resulting in a huge increase in points, but as long as Clarkson’s still one of the prettiest names on Santa’s list, he won’t need to worry about making space in the coal bin. Santa may be smart, but he’s also pretty shallow.
Patrik Elias: Nice-ish, But Trending Nicer There was a time this season when Patty was heading up the Naughty list, but Santa’s been swayed by his recent resurgence. It might be because he’s got the same linemates every night for the first time in the Sutter Era (thanks to all the injuries making it impossible for Sutter to keep shuffling guys as much as he’d like to), it might be because Zubrus has been possessed by ghosts of the A Line, and it might be because he’s suddenly realized that with Marty out, the team MVP award is up for grabs (psst, Patty — as long as Zach’s on the team, that award’s not actually up for grabs), but whatever the reason, Patty’s playing decently again. For that, Santa will be bringing, like, an orange to put in the toe of his stocking, and maybe some shampoo, like a friend of ours always got in her stocking as a kid. He’ll need a few more good games before Christmas if he wants to upgrade past hair care products.
Sheldon Brookbank: As a Defensmean, Naughty; As a Forward, Nice Santa doesn’t usually do the conditional thing (if there’s too much wiggle-room, the elves get confused), but in Brookbank’s case, there’s not much choice. Maybe he’ll get a Transformer in his stocking that goes from coal to toy and vice versa depending on where Sutter puts him in the line-up.
Colin White: Nice He didn’t spend the beginning of this year devastating the Devils d-corps with an eye injury, so Santa’s bringing him that pony he’s always dreamed of.
Andy Greene: Undecided Uhhh… right. Santa’s highly likely to accidentally fly right over Greener’s house, completely forgetting that he’s supposed to stop there.
Paul Martin: Nicest! Two seasons in a row now we’ve seen the team go into a tailspin when Paulie’s missed more than two games due to injury. No, he’s not the Niedermayer replacement we were promised (remember those days, Gentle Reader? Ha! Sigh.) but he’s clearly the North Star leading the d-corps to respectability. He’s also played well enough to convince Sutter to let him have carte blanche in the offensive quadrants — now if only he can convince all of us (especially his father) that he can finish. Fortuantely, Santa’s a Devils fan (we mean, duh! Whose team colors does he wear? Yeah. We rest our case) so making the nice list isn’t contingent on being a good finisher. (Unless your name rhymes with Blian Blionta.)
Bryce Salvador: Super-Duper Nice The Iron Boar went from “guy who was so bad in the playoffs last year that it was later reported that he was playing with an injury” to “guy we don’t really like being a Devil” to “Pookie’s fifth- or sixth-favorite Devil”. That’s quite a trajectory of niceness!
Mike Mottau: Naughty Sorry, it’s too soon after his deserved two-game suspension for Santa to be bringing Mottau the guitar and dog he asked for when he was a kid. Sure, it was an accident that he threw such a dirty hit, and he truly didn’t mean to hurt anybody, but still. Santa can’t go rewarding that kind of behavior. If Applesauce really wanted those things, he should have waited until after Christmas to go around hitting people in the head.
Anssi Salmela: Nice, And Batshit Bonkers Finally — finally — there is a d-man on the point on the Devils power play who will wildly fire the puck no matter what things look like in front of the net. And more than that, he so loves firing the puck no matter what things look like in front of the net that he is remarkably capable of retrieving it after it ricochets off people in front and keeping it after defenders have been able to stop his ill-advised shot attempts. But he’s crazy! It’s marvelous! We love it! And so does Santa.
Johnny Oduya: Much Nicer Than This Time Last Year Santa’s all about rewarding improvement, and for that, Oduya’s going to get some wicked awesome educational toys that teach fine motor skills — just like us, the elves don’t want Oduya regressing back to his “dropping the stick at every key opportunity” ways.
Marty Brodeur: Naughty Every other record that Marty’s approached in his career has caused his game to go into a giant tailspin — just look no further than every time he approached 48 wins in a non-shootout season. So we fully expected that trait and his traditionally slow starts to seasons to combine to make the first two months of this year excruciating as we waited for him to round into form before surpassing Patrick Roy on the all-time wins list. So what does Marty go and do? He comes out of the gate on fire, plowing his way mercilessly toward the wins and shutout records. But that’s not how it was supposed to be! More than that, he changed his mask. As soon as he put on that douchey, stupid, website-promoting mask, we all knew bad things were going to happen. And oh how terribly, terribly bad those things have been. We hope he enjoys his giant lump of coal this Christmas, and more than that, we hope that “MB30″ mask of his makes him happy this June when he’s watching one of his rivals accept the Vezina. In the meantime, we’ll just keep vomiting on the floor every time we have to hear the words “Scott Clemmensen, New Jersey Devils starting goaltender”.
Kevin Weekes: Naughty Sure, it’s not his fault, but he’s naughty by circumstance here. If he’d been even remotely passable as a starting goalie, we’d all have been spared the Clemmensen Reign Of Terror.
Scott Clemmensen: Naughty Just… no. He’s still on Santa’s naughty list for the way he whined to The Sporting News about how unfair it was that he had to sit on the bench because the Devils were giving too much playing time to a guy who can rightly consider himself one of the all-time greats. And now that he’s smugging it up after games with Stan Fischler about what a total bad-ass goalie he is just because the Devils finally had to pay for putting all their eggs in one goaltending basket, he’s doubly on Santa’s shit list. In fact, Santa isn’t even going to bother giving him coal, because to add insult to injury, Clemmensen’s been very good in net simultaneously with being very bad. No, Santa’s just not even going to stop at Clemmer’s house. He’s going to be like us and keep pretending Clemmer isn’t even on the Devils roster. Wait, Clemmensen who now? Isn’t he the guy who couldn’t crack the Leafs depth chart last season? Sigh. Is it March yet?