We’ve been feeling for the last 48 hours somewhat disconnected from our peers in the Diablogosphere because, well, we’re not stunned and horrified by what happened to the Devils in Game 7 against Carolina. Sure, there’s no question it’s a terrible and humiliating loss, but it’s also completely in character for the Devils. If it was at all uncharacteristic, we’d be feeling like we were punched in the gut, but since it’s not, we’re feeling a lot more like it’s something you just shrug your shoulders at and maybe roll your eyes.
Now, we’re sure there aren’t statbits to back this up, but our tra-la-la-feelingsbits about the last three-plus seasons have been that the Devils are simply terrible at closing things out. It is not uncommon to see them give up a late lead. In the seminal “blown late lead” Carolina/Jersey playoff game, Game 2 in 2006, we chorused afterwards, when a national television commentator asked, “Who saw this coming?”, “WE DID!” It is not uncommon to see them wilt down the stretch after a powerhouse January and February. When Claude Julien was fired with three games left in the season in 2007, we weren’t stunned — nope, that’s just the Devils. Not the coach-killing (well, yes the coach-killing), but the late-season craptitude. It is not uncommon in the Sutter Era to see the Devils stop pressing late in a game when they have a one- or two-goal deficit as soon as they pull the goalie for the extra attacker. In the moments when they should have the most advantage in the clutch, they disappear. Basically, the character of the New Jersey Devils over at least the last three seasons is that they are not closers.
So when they couldn’t get a two-goal lead in the third period on Tuesday, we knew, as seasoned Devils-watchers, that every minute that ticked off the clock was just getting us that much closer to a more legendarily colossal collapse. And now that’s back-to-back playoff years that have concluded with Lou saying it’s the worst loss he’s ever seen the franchise suffer. Last year it was a complete failure against our hated rival, this year it was 80 seconds of suck. So what do we need to change all this? What is the key to making this franchise into a finisher, or, better yet, a winner again?
Is it a new coach?
New players in the place of departing graybearded free agents?
Or maybe just a motivational speaker? (NSFW)
If this isn’t what the Devils’ exit interviews play out like this year, maybe it’s time to get a new GM, too.