Mid-season is upon us and this is usually when we see the Devils surge and make their way to the top of the Atlantic Division and into the playoffs. But it seems highly unlikely that such a scenario will play out this season.
Through 40 games, New Jersey remains the worst team in the National Hockey League. Even the Islanders have been able to put together some victories, setting themselves apart from the ineffective Devils.
The $100 million dollar man, Ilya Kovalchuk has a disappointing 21 points and is on pace to score only about 45 on the season. In addition to his inability to score this season, Kovalchuk also holds the NHL lead for worst plus/minus with a minus-30. Henrik Tallinder and Andy Greene of the Devils are close behind with minus-26 and minus-24.
One thing Kovalchuk can brag about is the fact that he is the only Devil player with a double-digit goal total (10).
To put it in perspective Sidney Crosby has 32 goals and 66 total points through 42 games this season. Normally Kovalchuk is a player mentioned when speaking about the top league scorers, but it seems the Devils just can’t find the chemistry this season to put the puck in the net.
With the recent firing of John MacLean and Jacques Lemaire taking over the club once again, maybe we will see a different Devil team in the second half of this season. Lemaire will shake things up, make changes, pair players with guys they haven’t played with and so on. Lemaire has been successful through his career and will no doubt bring improvement to a team that desperately needs it.
The Devils have been playing uninspired hockey to this point of the season and Lemaire wants to bring that passion back. In the NHL a simple thing like excitement and a passion for success can lead a team to wins. Although a conference championship may be out the question for the Devils this season, they can still salvage their confidence and realize the potential of their team.
Protecting Martin Brodeur and becoming more aggressive in front of their net is a major need that Lemaire will attempt to fix immediately. The Devils have been losing these battles all season and Brodeur is seeing more quality shots than ever. Getting back to basics and having every player play like he’s the team leader will generate more scoring chances that can in turn generate wins.
Trade rumors are lingering around Brodeur and Jamie Langenbrunner and hasn’t played the last two games even though he is healthy. The Devils have a lot to work out and the talent is there to have success.
With Lemaire at the helm I would be surprised if we don’t see drastic improvement over the next 42 games.