Devils Need To Get Back To Basics

Recently, when I asked Martin Brodeur what he thought of the Devils being dead last in the entire league, he jokingly said, “It can’t be worse.”

The next night, the Devils lost Zach Parise in the second period of the game against the LA Kings. Colin White came down with the flu. Brodeur, himself, came down with an injury in Chicago which has left him a scratch from the lineup thanks to a bruised elbow.

The 3-0 shutout loss to the Rangers on Friday caused a lot of frustration in the Devils locker room afterwards. As a team, they’re mad that they can’t win. As players, they aren’t just mad at themselves, but they’re getting mad at the guys that end up making ‘stupid’ mistakes on the ice that caused the Rangers to have seven power play minutes in the first part of the third period.

The most vocal of the Devils was Patrik Elias. Forty minutes of hockey isn’t what wins the game. It took them only twenty minutes to lose the game. In those last twenty minutes, they fought off seven penalty minutes in the first 10 minutes of the period. One goal was the result of a possible mistake by Ilya Kovalchuk…but no one is really naming names on the Devils. But the way they describe the mistakes…well, you can see who they’re blaming.

Something the team continuously repeats to the media is that they have to look in the mirror and explain to themselves just what is going wrong with the Devils. They need to have more than just a mirror to look into. They need to be held accountable for their actions and inactions.

Not so long ago, Adrian Dater wrote this piece for Versus.com on the excuses teams make when they can’t win: Refrains Uttered By Struggling NHL Teams

Have the Devils used these lines? Sure, they have…after every single game. Does that mean that they are in real trouble?  Only if they really don’t believe in the status quo they are repeating game in and game out.

What separates the 30th spot in the league from the top spot in the Eastern Conference are 11 points, or roughly 6 wins. It seems harmless and an actual possibility to attain these wins and muscle their way out from the bottom of the barrel. But how are they going to do it?

Captain Jamie Langenbrunner has cited that their on-ice chemistry is what is lacking on the squad. With one player after the next hitting the injured list and new rookie faces coming in, it doesn’t seem like the Devils can catch a break. They do not have a constant roster filled with the same players. Instead, they have a constant revolving door of players coming in and going out. It’s hard to develop on-ice chemistry when they don’t have consistent linemates. So far seven Devils players have made their NHL debut in the first month of hockey this season.

There’s also the problem of having too many young rookies on the roster at one time, playing on the same line. Of the eighteen skaters and two goalies, the Devils had a total of seven rookies on Friday’s roster. That equates to 35% of the roster.

But let’s not forget that some of the rookies originally called up have also hit the injured list as well. Jacob Josefson (underwent surgery to repair a detached ligament in his hand) and Matthew Corrente (broken left hand) have suffered injuries. A few rookies have headed back to Albany, while others have been called up to take their place. Only Matt Taormina has been the constant rookie since preseason.

But the Devils are not alone with the injuries and changes in their lineup. The rest of the league has similar roster issues…and they’ve played through them and won. Just ask John Tortorella of the New York Rangers.

“Torts made sure to point out that NYR are beat up, “even the guys that are playing”, but they don’t quit,” Jim Cerny (rangers.nhl.com) tweeted following the game.

The Devils are not in a new situation.  They’ve been in this exact spot before.  Yet, they were able to get through it in the past and dominate the division.  They were in this situation last season and the season before. They struggled through it and still found wins. They were able to shock everyone.

Once again, they have the ability to shock everyone.  This time, it’s because they can’t seem to find their offense to win the games. They can’t find that on-ice chemistry that they need in order to generate goals.  That is what is uncharacteristic for the Devils this season.

Perhaps it’s time to go back to the basic mantras that the Devils have held closely to them over the years.  Many have lost sight of those mantras.  The new guys have no idea what those mantras are.

Some wisdom I picked up from the Devils over these past years (that apply here) are:

  1. Forget about the loss.  Don’t even think about it or what went wrong.
  2. You have to remain positive for the next game.
  3. Don’t get caught playing the other team’s hockey game.  Make them play your game.
  4. Think positive all of the time.  There is power in positive thinking.
  5. Sometimes all it takes is peer pressure.  You have to pressure your teammates to step up their game.

“Confidence is a huge part of [the game],” Johan Hedberg said.  “You take one step forward and the next day one step back.  We have to take four or five steps forward.”

Reading up on the latest financial articles, I came across this interesting quote on bouncing back from defeat.

“Bouncing back from defeat is something all great achievers have. They have this undying belief good things will happen and will continue to happen,” says Ed Butowsky, managing partner of Chapwood Capital Investment Management.

Once upon a time, that was the Devils.  They were firm believers in remaining positive and forgetting about their last loss and moving on. Lately, they can’t seem to forget and move past that last loss. When that happens, they are doomed for failure.

“We’re disappointed after a loss every time,” Elias said.  “We cannot go into the hockey games to be down like that.  You’ve got to clear your mind.  You’ve got to get it out of your head.”

For the Devils to return to the ‘basics,’ that includes the power of positive thinking. When they all believe that good things will happen…they will happen. That’s something I learned from the Devils the first season I started covering their team. They’ve lost sight of that, and it shows.

They’ve also lost sight of personal accountability and the importance of peer pressure. This was the answer to their on-ice chemistry problems in the past. Sometimes, it’s best to revisit the basic answers to the same problems they’ve had before. In other words, they’ve had these problems before and they got through it.

They have the tools and the knowledge on how to combat these issues.  They only have to put these tools to use in order to make this team work.  Sometimes going back to the basic mantras is all it takes to put the Devils back in the game once again.

“I understand everybody wants to try hard,” Elias said.  “I don’t give a sh*t if you’re going to fight someone.  We’ve got to win hockey games here.”

***

Stephen Gionta (brother of former Devil Brian Gionta) made his NHL debut on Friday night. This marks the fifth pair of siblings on the Devils. Previous brother pairs include Scott/Rob Niedermayer, Aaron/Neal Broten, Claude/Jocelyn Lemieux and Patrik/Peter Sundstrom.

“It was awesome,” Gionta said of his first NHL game.  “It was a dream come true in that first shift.  It was a great honor and I’m grateful for the opportunity I got tonight.”

Stephen ended up wearing his brother’s old Devils number: 14.

“I didn’t choose the number, but I’ll take any number they give to me,” he said with a big grin on his face.

So what words of wisdom did the Montreal Canadiens captain have for his little brother?

“Just go out and play your game,” Stephen said.  “You’ve been doing it your whole life.  Just go out and have fun and cherish the moment.”

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