For some reason on today of all days, there's been a lot of conclusion-jumping involving two New Jersey Devils players: Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur.
First, there's Zach Parise who is still a pending restricted free agent. With the Devils being so very bad this season, speculation has continued over whether he wants to be in New Jersey. Yet, when Tom Gulitti actually asked Parise about the speculation that he wants out, Parise is surprised by the news and flatly denies it. Of course, whenever such speculation comes up, people are wont to read in between the lines to twist the narrative their way. And so the already-tired-out concern of "Are the Devils going to keep Parise?" returns.
Second, there's the decision that Martin Brodeur will not get the start on Tuesday against Minnesota. Apparently, this is a Big Deal. Rich Chere's headline claims the unthinkable has occurred. Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy calls it a "Devils drama." The NHL Fanhouse has already claimed that Brodeur and Hedberg will start splitting starts. All because Johan Hedberg is starting against the Wild. Yep.
Rather than just sit in a chair and do my best Tom-Coughlin-after-a-bad-call impersonation, I figure I should add my two cents whilst rolling my eyes at the news about the two Devils favorites.
Let's start with Parise. If you're going to do that or already done so, I doubt there's much I can say to change your mind. Still, I suggest this and future reports like this (and there will be more, there's speculation to be taken all of this with a grain of salt. Yes, Parise keeps saying he's willing to negotiate a new deal now. Of course, he's available He's injured. There's not a lot he can do. . However, the Devils organization and Parise's agents would probably prefer to wait. And if they don't, they should.
Please remember that Parise's knee injury has him sidelined to March. It is not in the team's best interest to sign Parise to what will likely be a large contract ahead of finding out how Parise will recover. Hopefully, the injury will be fully healed and Zach Parise remains the dynamic and explosive winger we all know and love. However, if it doesn't turn out that way, say the knee injury can become nagging or it will affect his game more seriously, then Zach Parise won't be the Zach Parise we all know and love, which makes the decision of re-signing him that much more complicated. It would certainly bring up the risk of adding a big contract that could turn sour quickly despite what the player has done in the past.
And on top of all of this, the Devils still have figure out what their team will be going forward - who they intend to keep, trade, waive, or sign will definitely impact what the team does with Parise. There's no good reason for the Devils to make a commitment to Parise now and limit their options in upgrading the rest of the roster in January 2011.
From Parise's perspective, he's not really in a good position to negotiate. When he tried to play through his current knee injury, he wasn't as effective or productive. Even if they swear up and down that he'll be OK, it remains a question mark. Should a deal be made now, it's entirely possible Parise signs for less than what he would normally be worth because of this injury issue. That would be dumb - especially if it's a long-term deal - unless it's what Parise actually wants to do. However, I'm working on the assumption that he and his agents want fair value for his services. Parise will need to be able to perform said services to make a stronger case in negotiations, and he can't do that right now.
Once again, the Devils have until June 30, 2011 to give him a qualifying offer. There's plenty of time to keep him around for at least one year, and even more to give him a bigger extension. I'm aware a team could give him an offer sheet, but I'm a little skeptical of that. Last summer only one other team was willing to drop big money for Ilya Kovalchuk; I doubt more teams will come out this summer to try and snag Parise for big money in addition to handing a several significant draft picks to New Jersey.
The main point is that nothing is likely to happen between now and until Parise gets healthy. Should that happen in March, the Devils would still have 3 more months to do something for at least 2011-12. There's going to be a lot of speculation until Parise signs any deal with any team and to get worked up about it now is just a lot of wasted energy over what could easily turn out to be nothing. Just like the speculation from Boston Globe that Gulitti inquired.
Moving on to Brodeur. The outcry of "splitting starts" has a little more teeth to it thanks to this quote from Jacques Lemaire: (reported here by Gulitti)
When asked his reasoning for starting Hedberg, Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said, "Win the game. I went with Marty, didn’t win. Come back with him (Hedberg) and we’ll see after."
And this quote by Brodeur: (also reported here by Gulitti)
"I think in a season like (this) probably," Brodeur said of spliting starts with Hedberg. "In a different season maybe not. We’ll see how it goes. I want to play a lot like always. That will never change. But it’s got to be fun for me to play hockey and not winning is not fun. So, we’ll get back winning and I’ll play more. But I don’t deserve to be in there when you don’t win. That’s the bottom line. I’ve been winning all of my career and now it’s been a little tougher, so it’s normal that somebody (else starts). If it works, good. It’s all about the team."
Huh. I didn't realize Johan Hedberg won on Saturday in Carolina.
I also didn't realize that a decision was actually made. So what are we to think if Brodeur starts in both games against Philadelphia later this week? Or if he starts for most of the games this month? Before claiming that Brodeur lost his spot and saying what a shame it is, shouldn't he actually lose it first?
Given that the Devils have shot themselves in the foot repeatedly all season - especially in this past month - with elementary errors on defense and a total lack of offense, is it really any surprise that Brodeur's numbers (and Hedberg's numbers) look miserable? I've only been saying as such in the recaps I write and what was discussed on nearly episode of Talking Red so far this season. (Self-promotion aside: Maybe there would be less drama if more people would read In Lou We Trust and listen to Talking Red?)
Since I'm asking questions, here's another one: Did everyone forget the last game each started separately? Martin Brodeur played well against the Rangers and the game winner was a puck bouncing off Andy Greene's elbow. Hedberg played well against the Thrashers, didn't get that bad break, and got some goal support - so he gets the W. You know what both of those games had in common? The Devils skaters weren't making fundamental errors in their own end that hung their goaltenders out to dry. It may sound a little crazy, but when the defensemen get to rebounds first and the backcheckers are covering who they are supposed to, it's easier on both goaltenders. When the skaters do the basic things in their own end, both Hedberg and Brodeur look better. When they don't, the goalies look terrible. I know I don't know much about anything, but perhaps that's a better clue as to why Brodeur's been 1-8 in his last 9 starts rather than assuming he magically got worse this season.
Then there's the silly thought that Hedberg is the "hot hand." Oh, he did well in Atlanta. I'll give credit where it's due and I like Moose well enough. But here come some difficult questions: Does anyone want to explain to me how Brodeur was somehow bad against Carolina in giving up 3 goals that he had to be a superhero to try and stop but Hedberg's A-OK after giving up 3 goals he had to be a superhero to try and stop? Can anyone seriously say Hedberg has been hot because he has one of the two wins last month - and ignore Saturday's "relief" performance?
To make matters worse, let me give you a potential scenario: Given that the Devils played poorly in Carolina and got worked in practice today per Gulitti's report, the team's probably going to be a little more motivated than usual to play a solid game. Hedberg will do what he does, which will be good, and benefit from a team not leaving a hot mess on the ice as has been standard operating procedure for most of the 2010-11 season. Then if (or when, depending how you feel about the games) the Flyers go out and beat the Devils regardless of how Brodeur does, this controversy is heightened without understanding the different situations they are in.
Of course, Hedberg could eat it on Tuesday, Brodeur does well against Philly, and this dramatic response today would suddenly all be forgotten.
Again: if Lemaire wants to go with splitting starts the rest of the way, fine. But let's actually call it that when it actually happens. Right now, it's just one game. It is nothing to get worked up over. Just like, right now, there's no actual reason to get worked up Parise not being immediately re-signed. It's a lost season for the Devils, true, yet there's always more value in taking a step back, taking a deep breath, and thinking about what's going on than immediately jumping to conclusions. Or at least roll your eyes first.