With the New Jersey Devils returning to action tomorrow against San Jose, let's quickly review how each Devil did at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Specifically the players, since I don't know how you can rate assistant coaches; given that Jacques Lemaire was an assistant on Canada and Tommy Albelin was an assistant on Sweden. These are the players who stayed fresh by playing throughout the Olympics, so they should hit the ice in-form in San Jose. I decided to rank them based what I felt from their performances and accomplishments. All stats come from the IIHF's 2010 Olympics page (Note: all stats are in .pdf files because the IIHF apparently doesn't believe in more intuitive and quicker data storage like, say, NHL.com)
1. Zach Parise, LW, USA (Silver Medal) - Parise was named by the media to the Olympics' all-star team, and it's entirely deserved. He led the Americans with 4 goals and 4 assists; only Marian Hossa and Pavol Demitra put up more points in the entire Olympics Parise played an average of 17:03 per game and recorded 20 shots on goal; only Patrick Kane put up more shots with 22. On top of that, Parise took no penalties, scored 2 power play goals, scored 2 game winning goals, and 1 incredibly clutch equalizing goal in the gold medal final against Canada. While losing that game in overtime was hugely disappointing, he did earn his silver medal and became a hero in the eyes of the millions of Americans who watched on Sunday. Devils marketing and management, if you're reading this, you need to promote him. He's guaranteed his superstar status in Vancouver. Americans who want to see more of Parise, go to Devils games and/or watch them on TV. You will love him like Devils fans do.
2. Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, USA (Silver Medal) - It took two games in the preliminary round before head coach Ron Wilson decided to place the captain on the first line with Parise and center Paul Statsny. The chemistry between the Devils' Pops and the first Z (Parise) was apparent right away as their line contributed to three goals in their 5-3 win over Canada. While Langenbrunner's production was good - 1 goal, 3 assists, 12 shots on goal - his experience (e.g. screening goalies when possible), leadership, and backchecking really made him an asset for the Americans. He took no penalties either, while playing in all situations in averaging 17:25 per game. He was the right choice to captain the United States.
3. Patrik Elias, LW, Czech Republic - The Czech Republic got bounced from the tournament to Finland in the Quarterfinals in a close game. Elias was understandably disappointed by the loss, lamenting chances to get the go-ahead goal, in reviewing his Olympic experience to Tom Gulitti. I don't think he should feel so bad. While Jaromir Jagr got the lionshare of attention on the team for looking good despite his age and that he's been playing in the KHL, Elias had a fine Olympic tournament in captaining the Czechs. He led the team in shots on goal with 16, he led the team in average minutes with 18:56 per game, and his 2 goals and 2 assists put him only one point behind Marek Zidlicky (5 assists) for the team lead. I don't know what more you'd want in 5 games from a player? Elias did well, but like the rest of the team, it wasn't enough against the Russians or the Finns when it counted.
4. Martin Brodeur, G, Canada (Gold Medal) - Yes, the whipping boy after the USA beat Canada 5-3 in the final game in Group A. I don't think he was the worst Devil in the Olympics. I would like to remind Canadians who ensured the win against Switzerland in the preliminaries in the shootout, not to mention that Switzerland's equalizer was all Patrick Marleau's skate than Brodeur doing anything about it. Even in the U.S. game, he was beaten by a Brian Rafalski shot by was deflected by Sidney Crosby in the slot; beaten by Rafalski while Langenbrunner was screening him, made an ill-advised poke check to get him out of position while Chris Pronger did nothing about it; and beaten by Langenbrunner tipping Rafalski's shot in whilst standing in front of Brodeur. It's not like Brodeur gave up soft goals or could do anything different on at least the deflections. Yet, under the bus he went; and Canada's gold medal retroactively justified the move. That said, it's a results-oriented tournament and regardless of how the goals went in, I can't say getting relegated to the bench meant it was a good Olympics for Brodeur. Just so you know, his stat line: 1-1 record with a G.A.A. of 2.90 and a .867 Sv%.
5. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Russia - Yes, Kovalchuk put up 1 goal, 2 assists, 14 shots, and averaged 17:57 for Russia. Yet, I feel he was symbolic of Russia's performance at the tournament. Not bad on paper, but from game to game, you honestly expected much more than what was actually done on the ice. His one goal, one of his assists, and 5 shots came in Russia's 8-2 beatdown of Latvia. That game padded his (and many other Russians) stats. Kovalchuk's other assist came in springing Maxim Afinogenov scoring his goal against Canada, which made the score go from 6-1 to 6-2. Not exactly good timing. That means nothing in that shootout loss to Slovakia (including a miss on the shootout) and not much against the Czechs. Even with 4 shots (2 in third period) and an assist in the 7-3 loss to Canada, he looked lost more often than not - just like most of the Russian team. Shooting aside, Kovalchuk wasn't as productive as I would have expected due to his skillset and time on the ice (third highest among forwards). He could have and perhaps should have been an impact player on this team. He wasn't. At least Brodeur had that win over the Swiss that saved Canada's bacon. Kovalchuk can't say that.
Let me know what you thought about each of the Devils' Olympians at the 2010 Winter Olympics in the comments. Do you feel differently about Brodeur and Kovalchuk than I do? Are you harsher on Elias? Do you agree with how I ranked them?