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Archive for the ‘Post-Mortem’ Category

Hey, Gentle Reader! Happy New Year! 2013 so far has been pretty solid, and is inspiring us to look back with fond nostalgia at the year that has just passed. (Or perhaps we just had an idea to do a year-end post but didn’t get around to it before the year actually ended?) So, while our supposed reason for even having a blog in the first place — hockey fandom — has been on ice for a distressingly long time (HAHAHAHA! See what we did there?), we still have a lot of things we were happy about.

12. Three extra months without Chico

So last night we were watching an episode of Law & Order (more on that later) in which the victim was a youth hockey coach who was killed over an ice time dispute. (Uh, spoilers?) As a plot point came up about how the parents of the kids on the hockey team had a history of brawling in the stands, Pookie tried to remember the term “rabby-do” but completely drew a blank. And then she realized something we’d all been taking for granted: there is no Chico in our lives right now. Huzzah! The lockout is good for at least one thing!

11. Hitting our work/life balance strides

At the risk of sounding all touchy-feely in a corporate HR kind of way, 2012 was a banner year for both of us as far as making peace with our work situations is concerned. It’s generally less of an issue for Schnookie, who has the cushiest job in the history of cushy jobs, but Pookie took on some serious, long-term headaches in her job and learned how to process them without any extra angst or unhappiness. We know in this day and age that we’re lucky to have full-time jobs at all, but it’s especially nice to be able to honestly say that we’re both happy to get up in the morning and go to work.

10. Melvins Lite

This may come as a surprise to you, but we are massive, massive dorks. And always have been. So way back in the early ’90s when we were in high school and “alternative” music was easy to find and we were into cool bands and shit, we were not nearly cool enough to be the kinds of people who actually went to see said cool bands in concert. Then we got old enough to be able to spend our own money on tickets to things and to drive ourselves to the venues for those things, but those things always turned out to be hockey games. This fall we got our shit together and ventured into the scary world of concerts performed by rock and/or roll bands. In October we saw Melvins Lite at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, and it was awesome. Sure, the drive there was the shittiest shittiness that ever was shitty, and sure, the waiter at the Mexican place where we had dinner spilled Schnookie’s mole sauce all over her lap, and sure, we felt like massive, massive dorks who stood out like sore thumbs in among all the concert-going veterans. But damn. You know what sounds amazing live? Melvins Lite. (Also, they’re loud. Very, very, very loud.) We also spent about an hour before the show rubbing elbows with Buzz, Dale, and Trevor, and then got all the cool shit from the merch table after the show and were walking on Shevil-fueled air for days afterward.

Melvins Lite (Lite Not Pictured)

No, we didn’t bring nice cameras with us.

9. Law & Order

Every summer when hockey goes away we wile away the summer by watching full runs of old TV shows on DVD. (Who can forget such great off-seasons as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman or Walker, Texas Ranger? Not us!) Figuring this was going to be an extra-long summer, we had to break out the heavy artillery for it: Law & Order. And it has lived up to all of our expectations and beyond. For starters, it’s a lot like watching a Devils game in that when it starts, we know exactly how it’s going to end. Also, we love the patented Jack McCoy cross-examination burn! The Lennie Briscoe one-liner! The arraignments! And the fact that, six months later, we’re only halfway through the full run.

8. Double farm share

In previous years we have gotten entirely not enough vegetables from our farm share. This year we signed up for a second one, and life was abundantly vegetable-y. Sure, “we got lots more vegetables from a CSA” sounds dull on paper, but in reality it was a game-changer.

Farm Week 19

This was just one week out of 26. Oh, summer of plenty, how we loved you.

7. New House

On New Years Day 2012 Boomer read us our extended horoscopes for the upcoming year (she’d found them on, like, Yahoo or something. We’re not normally horoscope people). All three of them talked extensively about how we were going to get a new house in the coming 12 months; that was horrible. We didn’t want to leave stately IPB Manor. We love it here! It’s perfect! No, horoscope, don’t make us go!

Well. 365 days later, it turns out it was all true — we got a new couch (which, if you sit in your living room as much as we do, might as well be the entire extent of one’s house), grow lights for our garden seedlings, a new amazing front door, a new beautiful color on the outside of the house, and we converted from an electric cooktop to a gas one. Dude, it is a whole new stately manor.

April 23 2012

Look at those baby tomatoes go!

October 14 2012

Where all used to be horrible, blah, depressing blue, now there is pink!

April 7 2012

Where all used to be dreary and dark, now there is a Dutch door with massive sunlight! And that blobby thing is a kitty igloo — don’t judge us.

6. Canning

Okay, yes, we learned to can stuff during the fall of 2011, so technically this wasn’t a new addition to our lives. But it was our first year of doing whole-hog food preservation during a summer of plenty. As the dark days of winter are rolling along, we’re neck-deep in all the flavors of summertime, and cooking is fun, fresh, and exciting for all the exotic condiments and pickles and ingredients we made ourselves.

Garden Grub 118

This is only part of it. Seriously. We did a LOT of canning.

5. Vinyl

We have become, over the last 18 months, Mike Patton completionists. So when Secret Chiefs 3 released a recording of “La Chanson de Jacky” with Patton on vocals, we needed it. Only… it was only available on vinyl. Sigh. We didn’t want to do it, but we really had no choice. We started with a little toy record player…

July 7 2012

So cute!

…and quickly upgraded to a grown-up turntable.

September 25 2012

Less cute!

Before long we discovered what audiophiles and hipsters and people who compulsively collect things have known all along — vinyl is so much fun. In fact, we read someone floating the notion that the NHL should offer Center Ice for free if they actually end up having a truncated season this year, and we hope that happens because we just spent our Center Ice budget on Big Business and Creature With The Atom Brain records.

4. Kittens

We had to say goodbye in short order to three of our family members over the last 14 months (Mahmoud, Dr. Shopdog, and Roy). But we also welcomed two new little denizens to stately IPB Manor, and they couldn’t be more delightful. Kitten mischief is something we were sorely lacking.

Happy Cat Bench Monday, Window Edition

Fabi and Zizou aren’t tiny anymore, but they’re still cute.

3. Being fully music-enabled

So, you know how we’re obsessive vinyl freaks now? Well, part of the fun of them is we invested in a set of wireless speakers that mean we can listen to our records (and digital music, but that’s less fun) all over our house now. And we keep finding more and more amazing music because Pookie, being a superstar reference librarian, is able to harness the powers of the internet to keep us abreast of all kinds of cool shit. We used to have literally no idea how to find new music, and we’d go three or four years at a time without any kind of expansion to our horizons. But now we’re not going more than three weeks without finding something new that we love. It’s like going from having only local public-access broadcasts of our local peewee hockey team’s games shot on VHS to having full-HD Center Ice. And hey, if there’d been an internet back when the mainstream stopped playing the kinds of music we liked, we would never have gone 20 years without ever attending a rock concert. Thanks, internet!

2. Devils getting to the SCF

Remember hockey? If we squint, we kind of almost can. And that’s a good thing, because dude — the Devils went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012!

!!!!!!!

Seriously! And what’s more, they beat the Flyers and the Rangers in taking the Eastern Conference. Hockey in 2012 was awesome.

1. Afghan Whigs at ATP

Remember way back in our list when we said we loved seeing Melvins Lite playing live? Well, that was small-time compared to what happened a few weeks prior.

September 22 2012: or Rock And/Or Roll

There simply are not words.

We went to see the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in New York City, because The Afghan Whigs were headlining. Back when were massive, massive dork teenagers, The Afghan Whigs were on our very short list of favorite bands, and as the years went by most of those bands fell off the list, but the Whigs stayed. To put this into hockey perspective, we were Afghan Whigs fans four years before we started watching the Devils. They had a reunion tour this summer, and that was what prompted us, after 20 years of being massive, massive dorks, to stop being afraid of going to concerts. And holy shit. HOLY SHIT. Did that day ever make up for lost time. We also saw Dirty Three and The Antlers and we ended up in the second fucking row for Mark Lanegan Band and then the Whigs. Like, ten feet away from Greg Dulli. And the show was insane. And honestly, we are still giddy just thinking about it. You know how there are those rare, stand-out, perfect days that you remember in crystal-clear detail for years and years? Yeah, this day was one of those.

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It’s been quite a season for the Devils, hasn’t it? We went from the euphoria of the Kovalchuk signing to the despair of the Kovalchuk signing rescinding, from the stratospheric highs of the first 18 minutes of the first period of the first game of the season to the immeasurable depths of the rest of the first half of the season, from the repulsive sucktitude of the MacLean Era to the “wait, when did they get good“-itude of the Lemaire 3.0 Era, and then from the “stranger things have happened! We can still make the playoffs! Wait, stranger things haven’t happened? Um… I still believe!” post-Langenbrunner run to the “well, that ended with a whimper” coming-up-short. It’s hard to believe this all happened in just the last six months. And it’s hard to sum it up in one post-mortem. Who do you blame? Who do you praise? What’s the predominant narrative angle?

For us, the overarching storyline is all about Chuckles. First, we Chucklesdoodled when he signed with the Devils. Then we sat in stunned silence when his contract was voided. Then we gave the Devils a piece of our mind for so cravenly preying on our Chucklesthusiasm. When the season fell out of the gate with the dull thud of a cold corpse, we made Chuckles cocktails. When Schnookie got a flat tire during our December advent-calendar themed series, we said it was the Kovalchuk day. Even now, when we really have nothing left to say about the Devils, it still seems to us to be the Chuckles Story. As it began, so should it end. Which is why we can eulogize this season in the most Chuckles-appropriate way possible:

A little song/A little dance/A little seltzer down our pants.

Gentle Reader, the 2010-2011 New Jersey Devils.

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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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Gentle Reader, as you know, we love statistics. Nothing tells the whole story of a hockey season like numbers do, so tonight we’re going to attempt to assign a numerical value to the ’08-’09 New Jersey Devils. Using a system of assigning numbers to the highpoints and lowpoints of the season, we’ll be able to to come to a solid, number-based conclusion about what this season meant. We have a methodology, as all good statisticians do, but we’re not going to explain it because it’s very complicated, and we all only have so much time we want to spend on a Devils post-mortem, right? Let’s just get right to it and crunch some numbers, in no particular order, as they come to mind!

+100: For the season opener, which we attended with Frisby and which allowed us to meet up with a lot of you from the IPB community. It was also a win for the Devils, but anyone from the IPB community who was meeting up with us missed the game-winner because Patty made a point of scoring it while we were all still returning to our seats from the concourse.

+94: For Zach Parise having a season that cemented his status as an NHL superstar.

+26: For Patty Elias breaking the Devils franchise scoring record on St. Patrick’s Day, prompting him to skate out for second star wearing a jaunty green hat.

+29: For the cool kids on the team (ha!) bringing cribbage to the mainstream. Here’s hoping one of them gets that magic 29 point hand some day.

+7: For Paulie Martin becoming a big-minute d-man.

+70: For more MSM types jumping on the “Paulie Martin is underappreciated” bandwagon.

+700: For MSG+ showing us footage of Paulie Martin from his high school football days. Go Elks!

-776: For Paulie Martin proving without a doubt that he has absolutely no finish whatsoever.

-227: For Nik “Talc Boar” Havelid being the single most unpleasant trade-deadline surprise evah.

-1975: For that Flyers fan who tossed a smokebomb on the ice at the very start of the season, setting the tone for the 82+ games to come.

+552: For the crazy run to the wins record after Marty came back from injury. That was as fantastic a time to be a Devils fan as any we can remember, with the fun, and the media attention, and the awesomeness, and the feeling like there was nothing that could ever stop this team…

-553: For the team deciding that, frankly, anything could easily stop them as soon as 552 was won.

+1,940: For not losing in the playoffs to the Rangers. Really, that means an awful lot to us.

-120: For coming up 80 seconds of defensive-zone coverage short.

-45: For bringing Blobby Holik back.

-40: For Brian Rolston getting hurt and then not being the game-changing superhero we were hoping he’d be.

+19: For Travis putting his sophomore slump behind him and anchoring the game-changing superhero line we were hoping the Poppers could be again.

-30,000: For the emergence of Scott Clemmensen: Prover Of Marty’s Overratedness.

+30,030: For Marty coming off the IR like such a house afire that within a week, the name “Scott Clemmensen” was nothing more than a bad dream, or a joke from his first stint with the team.

-180: For Marty playing not unlike Scott Clemmensen down the stretch and for the final two games of the Hurricanes series. And the fourth game of it. And probably the second. We don’t really remember all that well. It’s all like a blur of crap to us now.

-2000: For Brendan Shanahan thinking he was so welcome as a Devil that he could force Pando out of the lineup.

-2000: For Brendan Shanahan settling into the lineup, and, after an initial burst of scoring touch, pretty much just disappearing.

+1494: For Brendan Shanahan somehow still managing to make us grudgingly decide we don’t hate him.

+2020: For Pando’s stoic acceptance of his fate, then kick-assedness when he was finally permitted back into the lineup.

+49: For the Shanny/Pando combo (with a little Madden thrown in) making Sutter have to eat his words about the usefulness of a checking line, and the usefulness of Pando in general.

-8: For the weird feeling we had about Sutter for most of the season as the entire hockey media seemed to assume he was a lame duck.

-100: For the way the injuries and Clemmer and the Pando situation and the one-year deals for Holik and Shanny made this entire season feel like a place-holder while we waited for the real team to come along. It was a strange season for us, with some marvelous high highs but also a feeling throughout that the team was holding us at arm’s length.

So. What does this mean for the Devils season? It means the 2008-2009 Devils are a -894. Definitively. We could explain to you what the context for that number is, but it would take all night, so make of it what you will. And remember, numbers never lie.

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