The scene: A Kwik E Mart in North Jersey, late at night. Two pairs of headlights can be seen in the parking lot outside, one from a sports car and the other from a bus. The store is deserted but for two shoppers, JAY PANDOLFO and SCOTT GOMEZ, who meet accidentally at the cash register as they are finishing up their respective shopping runs.
PANDO: Awkwardly, juggling a three cases of beer in his arms. “Hey, Gomah. Uh, I didn’t expect to see you here.”
GOMEZ: Equally awkward, trying to hide the bottle he’s holding behind his back. “Oh. Pando. Um, yeah. Good to see you.”
Long, painful pause.
PANDO: Rolling his eyes at the effort needed to start a conversation. “So what are you doing out here? Don’t they have Kwik E Marts in the City?”
GOMEZ: “Uh, yeah, they do.” Uncomfortable pause. “It’s just that, you know…” Shrugging, trailing off.
PANDO: “No, I don’t know.”
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As a fan, this always sucks. Always.
We are not idiots — we understand there are a ton of reasons we don’t want to consider that go into choosing to sign with a different team when a player reaches free agency. Obviously there’s the money. We’d be fat-faced liars if we said we’d turn down, say, $6.5 million over 8 years in favor of $4 million over three years. Yes, rationally, even the lesser amount is more than enough money to live quite comfortably, but the bigger contract is, well, that much more comfy. Again, we’re not dumb. Also, there are considerations about the personnel on teams, the geography, familial pressures, future plans, blah blah blah. But all we see, as fans, is that the player who’s signed with someone else has rejected our team. And rejected us. And it sucks. So with that caveat, we present IPB’s take on the Rafalski and Gomez signings.
As full-fledged members of PaulieMartinNation, we’ve been counting on Raffie signing elsewhere since the end of the season. With two big RFA’s to ink to long-term deals, we felt it was necessary to avoid paying top-dollar to Raffie, a moderately offensive, moderately speedy d-man/PP-quarterback. But then Raffie, through his agent, said he’d be willing to sign for less to stay with the team. Since there’s a precedence for key players to sign for less to stay with the team (Marty Brodeur, Scott Stevens, Jay Pandolfo, and others), we stupidly believed it was true. It wasn’t. If you’d asked before that article was printed how we felt about Rafalski, we would certainly have said we’d wouldn’t be too upset to see him go. But since that article was printed, we’d be lying if we didn’t say we don’t feel slighted. A lot of players say they’ll sign for less, then don’t. But factor in the history of the Devils, and in light of the money and fame sacrificed by some of the organization’s biggest and most important players, and you’ve got a recipe for some bitter, bitter fans.
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[Crossposted to HLOG]
Following last summer’s angsting over whether the Devils would re-sign UFA Patty Elias, this summer is looking surprisingly stress-free. Sure Rafalski and Gomez are big names, but this year’s playoffs proved the Devils have plenty of capable young defensmen to fill Raffie’s shoes, and, well, seven years of Gomer have convinced us we can survive without him. As for the rest of the group, half of these guys played in Lowell this year. But let’s take a closer look, UFA by UFA, shall we?
Scott Gomez, C: Gomez had been a distant third to Briere and Drury in the center sweepstakes until he tried to cram an entire contract year into eleven playoff games this year. A tremendously gifted puck carrier, Gomez would be a welcome addition to any team. However, he’s downright craptacular on the face-off, can’t muster a decent shot to save his life, and has never shown any talent or inclination toward playing the other side of the puck. He’s a coaching Goldilocks, bristling under coaches who are too soft on him but also under those who are too hard. He’s one of those players who employs his father as a business consultant, which has led to strangely contentious contract wheelings and dealings, and which could cause tensions with management down the line. Irreverant and fun-loving, Gomer will likely be a fan-favorite on any team he moves to. The Devils will miss his puck-moving abilities for sure, but looking at the numbers, a) he got 40 goal seasons out of two different wingers, but both were in contract years (and Gionta’s dipped considerably lower than that the following season) and b) the Devils had the second-worst offense in the league with Gomer as the top-line center; how much worse can they be without him? (Don’t answer that.) For the amount of money that Gomez is asking ($6 million), he just doesn’t seem to bring enough to the table that would truly benefit the Devils (other than being Pando’s best bud, an honor PandoNation respects highly). And yes, we realize we are in complete and utter denial about this.
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Tonight’s Game 5 — oh wait, there’s a contractual obligation to include the word ‘pivotal’ in that phrase, let us start again. Tonight’s pivotal Game 5 could be the Devils’ last. In preparation for the big game, here’s our take on what’s been good, what’s been not-so-good and what’s been down-right awful in this round to date.
1. Scott Gomez. This might be his last game as a Devil. And for all that we’ve been snarking that he’s only playing this way to make up for his catastrophic contract year, the fact remains that he’s been fantastic. Every time he hits the ice he changes the dynamic of the game with his unparalleled skill at skating with the puck; if only he and his linemates could parlay that into generating (and finishing) more scoring chances.
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We would have written this reaction right after the game (we hate to keep you waiting, Gentle Reader), but we were too busy running around our neighborhood screaming like maniacs and banging pots and pans together. And we wonder why all our neighbors are Flyers fans…
As much as we are clearly delighted with how things ended up last night, there is still a lot we would like to see fixed. But first, let’s consider the positives:
1. We won. It can’t be stressed enough how huge it was that the guys didn’t fold (a la Carolina, Game 2 last year. Not that that game doesn’t haunt our dreams still or anything…), and furthermore killed two penalties in OT. Going into the first overtime session having just choked away their hard-fought lead, and having to kill Gio’s moronic penalty right off the bat… well, lesser Devils teams have succumbed in that spot in the past. The Devils spent three full periods getting skated into the ice by Ottawa, but somehow managed to find the resilience to just barely hold them off long enough. It speaks volumes of the character of this team that they found a way to win this one.
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Posted in Brian Rafalski, Bully Pulpit, Jamie Langenbrunner, Marty Brodeur, Ottawa Senators, Paul Martin, Playoffs, Post Game Reaction, Scott Gomez, Travis Zajac, Zach Parise on April 26, 2007|
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We can’t think of a clever title for this post because our spirits were beaten down by this game.
Needless to say, the first 15 minutes were a complete disaster. Every player, top to bottom, was atrocious. Our nightmares tonight will be haunted by images of defensemen turning pucks over at the blue line and Marty’s ineffectively waving glove hand. So. Putrid. The only positive we are taking out of the defensive showing tonight is this: how often can you possibly expect the entire team, to a man, to play at their flamboyant worst? (Don’t answer that.) Most glaring tonight was Rafalski’s short-handed turnover — was that karmic retribution for the “Hey Ace” goal Madden scored against Pittsburgh in 2001? (If so, it was still worth it.) Raffie looked tonight like he was trying to make Oduya feel better about his rookie penalty mistakes in Game 1 against Tampa; Raffie, we think Johnny’s over it. You can stop now. More subtle, yet still as wretched, was Paulie Martin. He played the best hockey of his career during the Tampa series… and now this. Has he peaked?
And speaking of players we’re afraid have peaked, how about that Marty Brodeur? Four goals on nine shots in the first period? Seriously? Thanks, Marty, for giving us a chance to win tonight. Sure, the D was hanging him out to dry, but the foundation of the Devils gameplan is that Marty is supposed to be the gamebreaker. And he was tonight. But for the wrong team.
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Posted in Andy Greene, Bully Pulpit, Marty Brodeur, Patty Elias, Paul Martin, Playoffs, Richard Matvichuk, Scott Gomez, Travis Zajac, Zach Parise on April 22, 2007|
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We just spent a few minutes wandering blindly around stately IPB Manor repeating over and over through our giggles, “Oh my God! Oh my God! I can’t believe it!” That can only mean one thing: the Devils advanced out of the first round. As our biorhythms have settled back into a state of relative normalcy, it’s time to assess the good, the bad and everything in between from our beloved boys’ series with Tampa
Our Three Stars for the series:
1. Duh — Zach Parise. This series gave Zach a chance to demonstrate to the league something he’s known since 2003: he shouldn’t have fallen so far in the draft. (We bet the Islanders would really have liked to have had a player like him during their first-round loss… And no, we’ll never get tired of saying that.) He’s had that crazy motor all year, but in the first four games he just kicked into overdrive. He got skill goals, hard-work goals, lucky goals… whenever the Devils needed it, Zach was there to score. The best part about having a player like Zach on the second line is that externally it takes a lot of pressure off the top line as they know there are other reliable sources of offense, but internally it puts a ton of pressure on the EGGers to keep up. At least we hope that’s the case. Surely Gio, Gomer and Patty have enough pride to want to be more than just the nominal top line. Right? Right?
2. Richard Matvichuk. How is it possible that a guy who played only one game all year makes us completely unconcerned that Colin White missed the bulk of this series? Matvichuk led the way for our entire D-corps, playing smart, solid minutes and blocking shots as consistently and intelligently as any guy in the NHL does these days. (The general media obsession with defenseman shot-blocking is one of our major pet peeves. So often you see guys leave their feet and get out of position, or stick out vulnerable body parts and end up injured, or deflect pucks into the goal, or screen their goaltender. But the Devils, and Matvichuk in particular, are brainy blockers, knowing when to let Marty handle shots and managing to stay engaged in plays or in position when they do take the blocks.)
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