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Scott Clemmensen won the Devils Unsung Hero award? Scott Clemmensen?????

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

To whomever on the team awarded him this, we don’t believe “Unsung” means what you think it means. Clemmer could not possibly have been more sung this year. People were talking about him keeping the starting job after Marty came back. There were idiot Devils fans suggesting trading Marty in order to keep Clemmer. If Marty had taken one more week to come back, there would have been 100-foot-tall granite sculptures of Clemmer erected outside the Prudential Center. If it had taken two more weeks, those sculptures would have been solid gold.

That is Pando’s award, asshole. And if not his, Travis’s.

At least it wasn’t MVP.

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We have recently had a pair of brilliant realizations about the true characters of two of this season’s most newsworthy players. The first player is Scott Clemmensen. You probably recall us claiming Clemmer was going to be Roger Moore to Marty’s Sean Connery, where he’d start off okay and then ultimately tail off into Moonraker-esque sucktitude. Well, we were wrong about that. Clemmer’s more nefarious than that. Of course, he’s hardly a brilliant evil mastermind like Moonraker‘s Hugo Drax — nope, instead, Scott Clemmensen is our Plankton. Just as ambitious a self-declared evil genius as Drax, but completely lacking in any kind of self-awareness. We are eagerly awaiting the moment when he opens the Chum Bucket (or Clem Bucket, as the case may be) right across from Marty’s stall, starts monologueing about how he’s going to run Marty out of business and get the secret recipe for Krabby Patties (or honeyed dormice, as the case may be), and just as he’s reaching his full criminal mastermind crescendo, Marty will walk by and completely obliviously step on him.

The other realization we’ve had regards Zach. The thing about Zach is that… well… it just Zach. We love him beyond measure, he’s been a clear-cut candidate for “greatest Devils forward of all time” since pretty much his rookie year, and in the playoffs two years ago against Tampa he basically declared to Devils fans everywhere that there is no ceiling on what we can expect from him. But he’s not big, he’s not (contrary to some reports) fast, he isn’t flashy or flamboyant or showy or whatever; his game pretty much starts with hard work, builds on more hard work, works a bit harder, has a heaping dose of talent and skill, and then mixes in a whole lot more hard work. It’s all about the motor with Zach, so much so that we tend to lose sight of exactly how good he is. So we’ve kind of been chortling at the way observers outside Devils circles have been calling him a “superstar”. We mean, superstar? ZACH??? Well, guess what, Gentle Reader. Those people are right. We watched last night’s game against the Islanders in a state of minor spoilage — we knew he had two assists in the match. So imagine our surprise when it turned out he also had two goals. The thing is, though, that it made perfect sense, because that’s just how a superstar rolls. For the last few years we’ve tried to temper how much we gush about him because it’s hard not to think, “How good can he be? He’s a Devil, after all.” Last night we finally freed ourselves from that thinking.

So that’s where we stand today: Zach’s a superstar and Clemmer’s Plankton. It’s this kind of brilliant insight that makes us such great hockey pundits.

(It should be noted that we wrote this post while watching the Flyers-Senators game. At one point on the Sens feed, the announcers started discussing the recent switch-up of starters in net for Philly, and they put up a graphics screen of previous Number 1 goalies in the Flyers organization over the last few seasons. The list was: Garth Snow [1995-96], John Vanbiesbrouck [1996-99], Brian Boucher [1999-00] [He’s our favorite], Roman Cechmanek [2000-01], Robert Esche [2002-03], Jeff Hackett [2003-04], Antero Niittymaki [2003-03], Martin Biron [2006-07]. As soon as it appeared on screen, Pookie sighed happily, “Look at all those old friends.” Heh.)

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You may remember, Gentle Reader, that not too long ago we invented a couple of cocktails that captured our feelings about the Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen Eras. You might also remember that we floated a theory that the Devils goaltending situation this season is going to follow the trajectory of the James Bond movie franchise. Well, keeping with that theory, today we had a cocktail that embodies what we’re feeling about Clemmensen’s play of late.

Behold: the The Spy Who Loved Me.

The Spy Who Loved Me

Sigh. We hate to have to say this — really, we do — but Clemmer’s been good lately. It’s eating at our souls. But we just can’t lie to ourselves anymore, and the fact is our goalie version of Roger Moore as James Bond is clearly in his The Spy Who Loved Me phase. And this drink basically tastes exactly like that.

The recipe is actually for a “Ballet Russe”, which, when topped with ginger ale becomes a “Russian Fizz”, which is only appropriate for The Spy Who Loved Me. It’s a sickly sweet mix of vodka, creme de cassis, lime juice, lemon juice and simple syrup. And because we didn’t have any ginger ale, we topped ours with ginger beer. Ultimately, it’s just like its movie namesake — a bit clumsy, a lot overdone, not really all that great when you’re in the moment, but overall leaves an extremely positive impression. The only thing its missing is that totally puzzling slow-moving chase scene with Jaws at the Pyramids.

So there you go. Our alcoholic way of saying that Clemmer doesn’t suck. Right now. This very moment. But we’re not worried — before too much longer we’ll be drinking Moonrakers.

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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.

Forwards:

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.

Defense:

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.

Goaltending:

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?

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Gentle Reader, if you remember back to the first post-Marty game of this season, you might recall that we compared Kevin Weekes in that godawful Sabres game to George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. We were really just patting ourselves on the back for the obscure cultural reference, because we’re of the generation where obscure cultural references are almost a currency, but it’s suddenly struck us how deeply — and troublingly — apt the comparison is. Think about it, Gentle Reader: a handsome man is brought in deep over his head to replace an iconic face of a franchise. He fails miserably. And then he is replaced by a vapidly handsome, less talented hack who goes on to inexplicable success because the franchise around him becomes increasingly its own creature, less and less reliant on the insubstantial man at its core.

That’s right — Scott Clemmensen is the New Jersey Devils’ Roger Moore.

We can only assume that Sunday’s win in Tampa, and Zubrus’ four-goal night, were this season’s The Spy Who Loved Me, and it’s all going to be downhill in quality from here. What have we got to look forward to? Yeah, you guessed it. Our very own Moonraker.

So this has us wondering: how will the goaltending Bond trajectory play out after the season bottoms out? We figure Clemmer/Moore will finally be put out of his misery and then either Weekes will come back in for an atrocious Never Say Never Again encore or Marty will come back too soon from his injury to play the role of the over-the-hill Connery. After that, Lou will be forced to swing a trade for Dwayne Roloson/Timothy Dalton, with predictably dour results. And then? We’ll jubilantly return to the giddy, goofy heart of what the Devils are all about, in the form of a fully recuperated Marty/Pierce Brosnan. Sure, it won’t be his Cup-winning, Rangers-beating Connery-in-his-prime self, but there’s no denying Brosnan brought the Bond franchise back to relevance, and as long as the NHL still insists on the trapezoid rule, it’s not like Marty could ever return to his full Connery form anyway.

And the best part about the Bond trajectory is that it means that Marty will either turn into a sleek, ass-kicking Daniel Craig at the end of all this, or it means that after Marty’s gone, the Devils will reinvent themselves again with a super-foxy new goalie with steely blue eyes. Either way, we’re on board. We’d try to spring some sort of clever Bond line on you now to wrap this up, but all we can think of is Clemmer/Moore in Moonraker spouting lame “pithy” lines like “He had to go into space.” Yeah, we’re not trying either.

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As we’ve come to the crushing realization that our Devils are, unexpectedly, going to really and truly suck this season, alix has been helpfully suggesting a way to make the long, miserable months ahead much more fun. Her recommendation? Invent cocktails and name them after the reasons why our fandom is such a terrible burden to bear. This is an activity we can totally get behind, and we kicked things off last weekend.

The Kevin Weekes Era

The situation was that we had half a bottle of red wine leftover from the night before, a hankering for mixed drinks, a limited number of ingredients, and a plan to name our cocktail of the day “The Kevin Weekes Era”. So Schnookie perused her library of mixology books and discovered a recipe for a noxious brew that combined a lot of gin with a little bit of the wine, some rum, and a dash of orange juice. The finished product was lovely (see above), but as nasty-tasting as you’d expect.

We hastily poured them down the drain and decided to drink vicariously through an episode of Semi-Homemade Cooking With Sandra Lee. Well, what do you know? That day Sandra was making things with wine, and her Cocktail Time concoction was a red wine spritzer. We still had most of that half a bottle of wine, so, inspired by Sandra, Schnookie mixed that up with seltzer, some brandy, and some Cointreau. It was considerably more palatable, but still not the finest beverage known to man. We decided the first drink should be renamed “The Scott Clemmensen Era” and the tastier one “The Kevin Weekes Era”.

Well, it turns out we were right the first time. The Kevin Weekes Era apparently sucks worse than the Scott Clemmensen one, but you know what? They’re both not as good as the wine would have been on its own. And the moral of the story is you should only subject yourself to either of these Eras if you have no choice at all.

On that note, let’s all sit back, have many drinks, and enjoy an open thread for tonight’s hockey.

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