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Archive for the ‘Bully Pulpit’ Category

Gentle Reader, you know by now that we are not glass-half-full people. In fact, most of the time, we’re “the glass is bone-dry in the cupboard it’s so not half-full” people. But desperate times call for desperate measures — particularly desperately hopeful times. The Devils have clawed their way up to 9 points out after being — let’s see… carry the one… — a million, billion points out two months ago. How can we not be hopeful?! Jacques Lemaire practically came to the house and filled all our glasses more than halfway (and yes, that is Kool-Aid in those glasses, but what can we say? It tastes like winning)! So what are the desperately hopeful measures this crazy run as pushed us to, you ask? Thinking our socks are lucky? Nope. Scoreboard watching? Uh-uh. (Well, yes, actually, but that’s not important right now.) Try… Math! That’s right, math! These tra-la-la-la-feelingsbits-loving gals actually got out the schedules, revved up Excel, and crunched some numbers! Woo!

We dubbed the endeavor “Mission: Improbable”. Could the Devils possibly or probably actually make it into the 8th spot? Should we continue to believe? Were we being optimistic fools? The answer might surprise you!

VE Mats Rolling Dice

Our methods included having Mats roll the dice…

VE Mats Crunching Numbers

… crunching numbers…

February 23 2011

… and augering with Shreikyguts.

Our conclusion… It’s possible. Maaaybe. Get back to us on April 10th and we’ll let you know whether the entrails numbers lied or not. (Hint: they said no.) (We don’t want to believe them, though, so eff ‘em!)

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This Devils season has had two consistent patterns: one, the Devils go out on the ice for a game and lose terribly, and two, we turn to Fire & Ice every morning looking for a post titled “John MacLean Fired” only to get 16 posts with variations of “MacLean Frustrated With Team, Lines Shuffled, Langenbrunner Skips Practice Again”. So it was with low expectations that we checked the headlines today. But in what can only be seen as a shout-out to yesterday’s post, what should before our wondering eyes appear? “Devils Coach John MacLean Fired, Jacques Lemaire Back as Interim Coach”!!! Hockey Gods bless us! Hockey Gods bless us all!

Seriously, it’s like Lou saw the most exciting thing going on for us what the impulse-bought packet of broomcorn and then decided to take us up on that implied challenge. Our future homemade broom was all Lou needed to decide to finish up the last bit of his Monte-Cristo-ian revenge plot against Johnny Mac. Fired two days before Christmas in a season where any other coach failing that badly would be fired in mid-November? Bet he wishes he’d never demanded that trade, eh?

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We feel like we’ve been strangely silent about the Devils so far this season, so we’d like to take a moment away from our just-started Dallas travelogue slideshow to share with you our thoughts about the putrid pile of puke that is our favorite hockey team.

— The Devils are like a red, red rose. If you are allergic to roses. And it’s got bees in it. Killer bees. And you keep forgetting that it’s covered in thousands of those little tiny thorns that get stuck in your skin and feel like white-hot metal barbs even though they’re practically microscopic. And if you don’t realize that the little tiny thorns stuck under your skin are probably covered in teensy tiny bee eggs, so then the bees hatch inside your skin. The Devils are like that.

— The Devils are like that awful co-worker who knows exactly how much time has passed since his or her working test period or last disciplinary action so that he or she knows exactly when he or she can break the rules, or show up to work late and/or drunk and/or high, or yell at customers, or steal stuff from someone else’s desk, all without being fired. Like clockwork, they can be counted on to perform when they absolutely have to so as to not get canned, but the rest of the time they’re only known for being unreliable. We can only assume the Devils knew that the game in Anaheim corresponded to the end of their probationary period. If they lost that game, people would have been held accountable. But since they won, their boss could only rip up the already drafted “written notice” and start anew. And thanks to all the injuries, they know they have a built-in excuse for poor performance, but instead of just letting it lie there, they’re going to try to play it for sympathy. You know that type — totally manipulative, lazy, self-centered, and falsely entitled.

— The Devils are like that bad book you should have put down 25 pages ago. The plot drags, the characters are boring, and whatever you’re thinking might happen to make it better if you just give it one more chapter doesn’t. But it’s not even like it’s bad in an interesting way, where you could get angry at the characters, or keep reading in the hopes that misfortune will rain down on them, or that the writing is so horrid that it’s laughable. It’s just bad.

— The Devils are like the team in the NHL with the worst captain. Seriously, how is it even possible to quantify how terrible a captain Langer is? The best part is the way he bitches every time the fans boo the Devils at The Rawk, because if he played in a market that was even just the tiniest bit more intense, he would have been stripped of his C ages ago. He’s a captain who pouted publicly after getting a “maintenance day” in an essentially meaningless game at the end of last season. He’s a captain who scores on average less than 18 goals a season (and less than 50 points total), but who has had coaches fired for not playing him on the top line. He’s a captain whose team has looked listless, unprepared, uncaring, and gutless in every (brief) postseason during his reign of terror. Wait, now that we mention it, the Devils aren’t like the team in the NHL with the worst captain, they are the team in the NHL with the worst captain.

— The Devils are like a team of idiots who are constantly trying to one-up each other with how idiotic they can be. Why is it every year there’s some guy who gets a summertime injury, but who waits until the regular season to get surgery on it? Zach’s knee injury is like a virtuoso performance at that particular game; Langer and Patty with their sports-hernia/groin surgeries are probably seething mad that they didn’t think of it. (And while we’re on the subject of injuries, we should add that the Devils are like the Flyers of the mid-’90s, in that their medical staff seems to be a bunch of malicious quacks. Wait, malicious quacks? Dr. Chuck the Duck, we presume?)

— The Devils are like the lentil balls in yogurt we got from the Indian place tonight. There were good ingredients in those lentil balls, like lentils and yogurt, and, um, tamarind? But they were really sort of disgusting. Because those ingredients weren’t working together like an orchestra. And whoever created the recipe decided they should be served ice cold. WTF? Basically, the chef had a decent starting point, but then fucked every step up along the way. That dish was a systematic failure wrapped in lentils drenched in yogurt tamarind sauce.

— The Devils are like an orchestra. An orchestra led by someone who doesn’t know anything about musical instruments, the people who play them, and, well, music in general. We had been pretty psyched for the Devils to do the same thing this year that the Flyers did that year they sucked so bad and finally fired Bobby Clarke. We hoped that sweeping changes would be made with the inner workings of the organization to finally wrest the team out of the past’s cold, dead hands and launch it into a bright future. And then the bloated corpses of the late-contract veterans would be shipped out of town to desperate renters in exchange for tasty prospects and future all-stars. And the season would end with a top-two draft pick. And then we’d all wake up the next season and have a team that goes to the ECF. But then we remembered this is the Devils. There are no organizational changes with the Devils. They don’t move expiring-contract UFAs for draft picks or prospects (because really, who would want draft picks or even just a live body under the age of 23 when we can keep the band together for one more five-game loss in the first round?). And if they got a top-two draft pick, Lou would stand there at the podium at the Draft, wearing that “cat that got the canary” smirk, while shocking the hockey world by going off the board to draft Adrian Foster’s older, less-talented, more chronically-injured brother.

— The Devils are like a team that plays in a state that’s about to start selling Devils-themed license plates! Woo-hoo! Seriously, for all this, we are some kind of psyched for license plates.

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Dear NHL,

Contrary to what you might think, Columbus Day is not a holiday that is widely observed by employers in the US. Perhaps some of the games scheduled today that featured two American teams could have been saved for any of the “no games scheduled” days later this season?

Just a thought,
The Ookies

**********

Dear Tom Gulitti,

We truly think you are the greatest beat-reporter blogger in the business, and we are inclined to agree with you that Ilya Kovalchuk alone is not going to cure the Devils attendance woes. But please read the above open letter to the NHL. In light of our observations there, perhaps the attendance for today’s game should not be viewed as a definitive statement about Kovalchuk’s worthiness as a big draw.

If you’d like to stand by your statement, though, we guess you’re free to be as disingenuous as you want.

Passive-aggressively,
The Ookies

**********

Dear Tom Gulitti,

Maybe it wasn’t Kovalchuk who was the problem. Maybe it was Crosby.

Blowing your mind,
Boomer

**********

Dear Devils,

Please see the above letters.

Yes, we had to work today. Pookie also had to work late today. That means we have the choice of tivoing your game that was stupidly scheduled when we are both at work, and then watching it beginning at 10:00 pm after Pookie gets home. In light of your effort in your previous two games, we opted not to. Thanks for proving us right not to bother.

Lovin’ Losin’,
The Ookies

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After a day of wallowing in the predictable failure — yet again — of the Devils, we find ourselves thinking, horrifyingly, of numbers. You know how much we hate statbits on the whole, Gentle Reader, but the fact is that there is one statbit we do consider worthy of significant regard. And that statbit is wins. No, no, not, like, wins in a granular sense; wins in a big-picture way. When we break down our experience with the Devils, the statbits tell a dispiriting tale.

This was our 13th postseason as Devils fans. In those 13 postseasons, we’ve seen a grand total of three trips past the second round. Yes, all three of those good playoff runs ended in the SCF, and we’re immeasurably thankful for that (even though the one that didn’t result in a Cup win should have, by all counts), but seriously, that is an extremely weak track record. That’s 10 playoff seasons, eight of them with a top-four seed, that involved not just coming up short, but coming up hugely short. Because only three of those 10 years saw the Devils even get out of the first round. And when they did manage the herculean task of beating a lower-seeded opponent in the opening round, the Devils never even managed to be competitive in the next round, losing in six games once, and five games twice. For all that the Devils have one of the best regular-season records over the last 13 seasons, and for all that they’re on an historically impressive streak of playoff appearances, and for all that they, for at least part of that time, were legitimately considered a modern-day sports dynasty, when you look at the big picture, the successful years were the anomalous ones.

There’s a reason we’re always such negative nellies about our favorite team — it’s because, 10 times out the 13 we’ve seen them in the playoffs, they’ve come up small. So what do we make of the latest collapse? Not much. ::Shrug:: That’s just the Devils, right? How does an observer even lay blame for this loss to the Flyers?

The first place a seasoned Devils fan should be looking to point the finger is the coaching. Lemaire said pretty clearly (in the extremely few postgame quotes we bothered reading) that the players weren’t listening to him when it came to how the power play was being run during this series. So… should we take that to mean they were tuning him out? Or that he’s not able to communicate effectively? Or that he’s too much of a hardass? Fuck that. The Devils have tuned everyone out since we’ve been fans, and the bad-cop coaches get run out of town, while the good-cop coaches have nervous breakdowns. Did Lemaire juggle the lines too much? Fuck that. Claude Julien had the top three lines set indelibly in stone, and look how that turned out. It has become pretty clear to us that changing the coach is not going to solve this team’s problems.

So let’s look next at the goaltending. Marty is, someday, going to retire, and we will proceed to think of him the way we do now of Scott Stevens — to remember his playing days as a time when the sun always shone, birds always sang, and only good things happened to the Devils. Until that day, though, we’re watching him with an ever more critical eye. He was a huge reason the Devils lost last year, and probably an even huger reason the year before, but this time around, he’s shockingly not really to blame. Sure, he wasn’t great most of the time, and he was pretty consistent about giving up bad goals at terrible times, but based on the way the team played in front of him, it didn’t matter what Marty was doing. The Devils were not going to win this series.

Which leads to the skaters. Zubrus, if you’re reading this, you can leave the room — this isn’t on you at all. Kovalchuk, we know that a lot of Devils fans aren’t all that enamored of you right now, but we kind of absolve you as well. All of the rest of the Devils? Should be ashamed of themselves. It is almost as if they realized the season was over and thought that meant the preseason was starting right up. Only we would expect them to play better than that even in the preseason. They were, as they have been 10 of the 13 years we’ve been watching this team, inexplicably and excruciatingly shitty. We’d name names (hint: one of them rhymes with “blangenbrunner” and another rhymes with “blarise” and another rhymes with “blajac”), but that would suggest that we felt this was the failing of just one or two individual players. And there have been a lot of individual players who’ve sucked over those 10-of-13 years, so that kind of brings us to…

…the organization. Look, we love the regular season winning. We really do. But we’re willing now to trade in the current Devils culture for something new. Yes, the current culture is steeped with pride and winning, but it seems to be hidebound. It’s a pride only in what has already been accomplished, not in what’s happening in the here and now. It’s like the players all just figure the fact that they are Devils is enough, and that the organization’s mystique, or its “system”, or whatever will take care of the rest. The only time this past season that the team played hungrily was during the extended stretch of injuries, when the roster was studded with minor-leaguers trying to make the most of their chance in the NHL. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence, too, that the Devils were at their hungriest last year when they were trying to prove that they could win without Marty. But when the roster is healthy, and the team is locked into its annual trip to the post-season, it looks as though all those veteran guys don’t feel like there is anything to prove. They’re the Devils, they seem to think. They go to the playoffs every year. They’ve won Cups. Isn’t that enough?

We have no idea how to make changes to this team. Among the core players, there are a lot of contracts that can’t be moved and a lot of past-their-prime veterans it’s hard to imagine any other team would want. Plenty of the peripheral guys are UFAs and likely won’t be back, but we can’t say we’re hopeful the roster is going to look wildly, significantly different next season. We’re ambivalent about Lemaire staying or going, because clearly it doesn’t matter who’s behind the bench with this franchise. It would be great if there were big personnel shake-ups, but the truth is that it won’t change the big picture if there aren’t big cultural shake-ups too. If the way this team thinks doesn’t improve, nothing about them will.

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As you might know, Gentle Reader, we are cranky about a lot of things. Also, we watch a lot of Comcast broadcasts of a certain team that plays in a city that rhymes with “Bliladelphia”. And the announcers on those broadcasts tend to get inordinately excited when the Bliladelphia head coach (aside: we’re also cranky about how awful his hair is. Bleter Blaviolette, just buzz it, okay? You look like a fool) takes a timeout at any point in the game that isn’t the final 90 seconds. The Bliladelphia team just gave up four quick goals? Timeout, and he’s a genius for it! The Bliladelphia skaters are exhausted and just iced the puck? Timeout, and no one has ever thought to strategically deploy his timeout like this! The Bliladelphia bench just randomly called a timeout by accident? Jack Adams time!

With our crankiness about the way TV guys get all worked up about timeouts piqued, we started to notice it on other broadcasts too. Play-by-play and color guys can’t seem to deal with timeouts at all. They’re either overly rhapsodic about totally expected situational timeouts, or their unduly flummoxed. Why can’t they be more like us and not care about whether a team uses their timeout or not? Why is everyone so much stupider than we are?

We think the way to solve this is to let every team have one timeout per period. Use it or lose it. And that way it just won’t be an issue at all, because people could have timeouts whenever. Wait, no… Or it could be three times the issue. Never mind.

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We feel like we’ve been very divorced from the Devils lately, what with missing the Islanders game on MLK Day, then being out late this Friday and Saturday for the Montreal and Islanders (redux) games. Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder, though? Probably not. Anyway, here’s our take on the state of the Devils, as seen from far, far away.

1. EJGRgunner made the great point after last night’s game that Zach has apparently taken the Fuck This Shit torch from Langer. And Langer has given it up without a fight. The “C” might still be on Langer’s sweater, but the true Captain Fuck This Shit of the Devils is now Zach. This doesn’t really come as a surprise, considering that Zach is ten times the player Langer is, but still. It merits mention that, from a million miles away where we’re standing, it seems to have happened this week.

2. We may or may not have mentioned in this space that we are participating in a group project on Flickr called sixty-four colors, where the assignment is to take pictures of a specific color every week, as chosen by random draw from a box of 64 Crayola crayons. This week (our first in the project), the color was sea green. Now, we assumed we’d fail, because who the hell ever sees anything that’s sea green? As it turns out, though, as soon as you start looking, there’s sea green everywhere. Likewise, ever since Zubrus got hurt we’ve moved Mike Mottau to the top of our list of guys we are most likely to forget are Devils. We never, ever, ever noticed him. Then, a couple weeks ago, Pam mentioned in the comments here that he was the player she was most eagerly anticipating getting to the end of his contract. Since then, the only thing we can ever see about the Devils is how much he sucks. Mike Mottau being a terrible hockey player is like the sea green of the NHL.

3. As has been well-documented here, we’re pretty down on the whole NHL-involvment-in-the-Olympics thing. One of the reasons why is we’re always very sure a key Devil is going to get hurt playing in what is essentially an all-star exhibition tournament.* This year we were getting big time vibes that Elias was going to be the one to pull a groin or get a high ankle sprain or break a forearm (which in our experience is the most horrible, unhealable hockey injury ever). So what do the hockey gods do? They go and give Patty a concussion well before the all-star exhibition tournament even starts so we can’t even blame it on the stupid old Olympics. (*We’re all about all-star exhibition tournaments, just not when they interrupt the regular NHL season; if the NHL brought back the World Cup we’d be first in line to buy tickets. OK, maybe not buy tickets, but we’d be all over watching it. Think about it, NHL. You know you want us being all over watching hockey in the summertime.)

4. Speaking of the most horrible, unhealable hockey injuries ever, we miss Paulie Martin. The Devils are pretty good at initially recovering from going down a key player, but it’s like everyone’s decided Paulie is never, ever walking through that door ever again, so it’s not worth trying to play well until he comes back.

5. Is anyone even sure Yann Danis is still alive? Because it seems to us like maybe he died by accident a month or so ago, and the Devils just don’t want anyone to know. They’re being all like, “Oh, he’s still with the team. He’s still an important part of the team! He’s totally alive and a key player on our roster. He’s gonna play tonight, in fact. That’s how alive and part of this team he is. Playing tonight. For reals. Totally.” Then, an hour later, they’re like, “Uh, he, uh… got stuck in traffic. He’s not gonna be able to play tonight. Um… *shifty eyes*… he’ll be back tomorrow. Or the day after. Something like that.”

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