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Archive for the ‘Calling For The Gutless Pukes’ Heads On Plates’ Category

Shortly before the season began, we had a short discussion about the unexpected hierarchy of deliciousness of Chuckles by color:

Boomer, in the kitchen, “The green has to go first!”

Pookie, in the living room, looking dully at the remaining Chuckles in front of her, “Information that would have been useful a Chuckle ago.”

Anyway, our point is, Gentle Reader, last night? Was the green Chuckle. But remember, there’s only one green Chuckle per pack. We’ve gotten the green out of the way! Sometime in the next 15 years, we have the red and black Chuckles to go!

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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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3-2-1 Hockey: 13

August 9 2010

Not too long ago, we were all elated because the Devils had signed Ilya Kovalchuk. There was much hoopla and rejoicing, and there was a big press conference (their first one ever!!11!!!!1!), and it was all going to be awesome. And then the NHL rejected the contract. And then we found out that the team knew the contract was going to be rejected but went ahead with the announcements and the “ooh, ooh, buy season tickets!” crap anyway. And then the NHLPA grieved the contract rejection, so we all had to wait for arbitration. And today the arbitration came down in favor of the league. So Victory Euro Mats did what any sane unofficial Devils mascot would — he found a sturdy beam on the patio table out on the deck, and hanged himself.

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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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There’s a sketch from the comedy show “Stella” where Michael, Michael, and David are talking to a woman in a NYC loft. She wants to get away from the guys so she points behind them and says, “Look! A baby deer!” All three guys turn and look and she ducks out. Michael says, “I think she just wanted to leave.” David says, “You mean all that time she was talking about the baby deer, she was lying?” They go to leave, dejected, and then the other Michael says, “Hold on, guys, I’m going to go look for that baby deer one more time.” We realized this weekend that our relationship with the Devils at this point is such that we’re just sitting here saying over and over and over, “I’m going to go look for that baby deer one more time.”

On that note, Playoffs are coming! We’re going to go look for that baby deer one more time.

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For a variety of convoluted reasons, we were exploring the native wildlife situation in New Jersey last night during the Devils/Bruins game. And on the website for the NJ Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish & Wildlife, we discovered this amazing fact:

A national survey asked, “Where would you go to view wildlife if you could travel anywhere in North America?” Fifty-five percent of the respondents chose Alaska. When asked why they would choose to go there, Alaska’s variety of animals was the most frequent reply.

If variety of animals is what wildlife watchers are looking for, New Jersey provides some serious competition for Alaska. Alaska hosts 425 bird species, 102 mammal species, 10 reptile and amphibian species and 150 species of fish. New Jersey hosts 325 bird species, 90 mammal species, 79 reptile and amphibian species and over 400 species of fish. When you consider Alaska is 75 times larger than New Jersey, we are the hands down winner over Alaska in wildlife diversity. In fact, on a square mile basis, no other state in the nation has greater wildlife diversity than New Jersey.

Admit it — you had no idea! We sure didn’t, and it seems like at least half those animals live in our backyard. But here’s something that even the NJ Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish & Wildlife won’t tell you. You know all those amazing, varied, more-than-any-other-state-can-claim-to-have animals? You know how rad and awesome they are? Yeah, well, none of them can score on the power play either.

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The Flyers broadcasts have this promotion where one entrant gets his or her name drawn at random before each Philadelphia power play, and if the Flyers score on that PP, the lucky person wins $25. And if the Flyers don’t score, the next person drawn on the next PP could win $50; if the Flyers don’t score then, the next PP is worth $75, and so on and so on. At one point this season, we happened to be watching on a night when a PP drought was ended, and the lucky prizewinner got in excess of $700. With this as background, the following was overhead at stately IPB Manor during last night’s Devils/Flyers game as a New Jersey PP was winding fruitlessly to a halt:

Boomer: “It’s a good thing the Devils don’t have that power play promotion, otherwise it would be like Powerball.”

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