So 2015 is finally upon us and it couldn't have come any sooner for our New Jersey Devils who were not favored by the year 2014. Between injuries, illness, and general inconsistency, the year could be defined simply as a dud. A coaching change would come the day after Christmas as a present to some and a mistake to others. With change on my mind for the new year, I decided to take a quick look at a few things that boggle my mind about our team that I feel they should change in 2015.
1.) Dainius Zubrus in a Top-6 Role
Zubrus' best days are certainly behind him; if he were to appear in all 82 games this season (which he won't due to injuries) he's on pace for a whopping 13 points. His style of play and strong puck possession still makes him a somewhat useful player, but the insistence of both the old and new coaching regimes of giving him top minutes is mind boggling. Dainius was never the fastest skater, but also seems to have lost a step, which could be one of the reasons why he's not contributing much on the score sheet.
I know the team has been ravaged by injuries and the mumps, yet I still don't see that as a reason to fall back on Zubrus. Last season when he was under-performing, he was taken off of a line with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr to be replaced at the time by a revolving door of players including Jacob Josefson and Joe Whitney. If that wasn't the team saying "you're no longer a top-6 talent" I don't know what is.
2.) Players Getting the Mumps
Okay seriously, enough is enough with this; I understand stopping it from spreading is difficult, but with the amount of players down on this team, find a way to stop guys from contracting it! Vitamin C, face masks during practice/games, whatever! It seems like we're losing a player or two every week to this disease, and while this is a tongue-in-cheek comment on the problem, I do honestly hope no more Devils fall ill with mumps.
3.) Joe Whitney on the Fourth Line
I understand we're working with injuries and a patchwork team, but can anyone explain a 5'6" forward being on a line usually reserved for hitters and fighters? Maybe the Devils are trying to keep running four balanced lines, but it seems wrong to me to put a skill guy in an energy guy's role. I'm sure Joe is just happy to be getting another chance in New Jersey, but why are we putting him in a fourth line role, while Mike Sislo gets to play on the second line?
All I'm saying here is that with all of the injuries/illnesses and the team's record, would it really hurt to give an AHL scorer like Whitney a shot at a scoring role in the NHL? If it doesn't pan out, then it doesn't pan out; if it does, then maybe we're looking at someone who could help our scoring woes.
4.) Calling Up Tim Sestito
No offense to Sestito on this one, as he seems to be a pretty good dude (and happens to share the same birthday as myself), but it's just not working for him at the NHL level. He's 30 years old, and so far in 93 career NHL games, he has a whopping 7 assists. Almost 100 games with not even 1 goal to his name; even his Albany buddy that I just spoke about who has only appeared in 3 NHL games has one of those.
Sestito seems like a good fourth line energy guy; the problem is even without Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier (who went down with an injury last night) the Devils still have plenty of energy guys, and I honestly believe there are better options; give Stefan Matteau a shot and scratch Sestito for a game or two.
5.) More About Player Deployment
Again, I know the team is ravaged by injuries, but does anyone honestly think Peter Harrold is a good option on the power play? Should Stephen Gionta be centering the third line, when his face-off percentage indicates that he probably shouldn't even be centering the fourth? When they return, if the team is healthy, is there any reason for Bernier and Gionta to recieve power play time ever again? Should the Devils website still be using a picture of Scott Gomez from his initial run with the team when he still had hair?
I'm not sure even I have all of the answers to these questions that I'm asking, but to briefly close this out I'll take a shot: no, no, no and sure, why not?
So I'll be honest, I really want to hear from you guys this week; it may be a new year, but we're probably looking at the same old Devils until this summer. What mistakes did the team make that you wouldn't repeat? Are you disappointed with the way certain players are being used? Do members of this team need to stop sharing water bottles? Are our problems personnel based or deployment based? Leave any and all comments below. Thanks as always for reading and have a great 2015 guys!