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Top Ten Thursday Thoughts for 1/26

A random assortment of team related topics on my mind this Thursday as our New Jersey Devils head into their final pre-All-Star-Break game against the Washington Capitals.

Boston Bruins v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Every so often here at AAtJ, I take a look at a variety of topics that are on my mind related to the team. Today is going to be one of those days; our New Jersey Devils will be battling the Washington Capitals at home tonight, but that’s certainly not the only issue revolving around the team:

1.) Devils Claim Stefan Noesen from the Anaheim Ducks

In an interesting move (and somewhat unexpected as I did not know he had been waived), the Devils picked up Stefan Noesen yesterday. While he hasn’t been too impressive in his pro career, he has dealt with a number of injuries. Here’s hoping that a fresh start with a team that could use some depth on the right wing will reinvigorate Noesen. The bigger question though is if we see Joseph Blandisi in New Jersey this year, then who gets to wear #64?

2.) Tonight Versus Washington

This may be the shortest entry on here; win by any means necessary...and maybe repay Tom Wilson for last game.

3.) What’s Wrong with Michael Cammalleri?

I don’t know if there’s an answer here, but lately Cam seems like he’s in Space Jam (What would be the NHL equivalent? Space Shot? Space Trick? Now I see why they picked the NBA for that movie) and the Monstars have stolen his talent. He’s beyond ice cold in terms of goal scoring, and he’s either over or under thinking everything he does on the ice. He is probably the worst passer on the team at the moment (both sending and receiving it seems) and just keeps making more and more questionable decisions with the puck. If anybody wants him at the deadline and he’s willing to waive his NTC, I think Ray Shero would gladly retain 50% of his salary for this and next season if it gets this team some needed assets. If not, he and Devante Smith-Pelly will meet the requirements to expose for the expansion draft (unless we re-sign someone else who meets the criteria before then) and hopefully Vegas takes Mike off our hands; that, or the Monstars return his hockey skills.

4.) Defense When Healthy

An interesting conundrum that’s come up lately is what to do with the defense once Andy Greene and John Moore are both able to return to the lineup. I think the obvious first option is to send Seth Helgeson back down to Albany; the more interesting piece is who else becomes the odd player out: Steven Santini or Karl Stollery?

I was critical of the Stollery call-up, but I will eat some humble pie on that one as he has been a pleasant surprise; he’s not a world changer by any means, but he’s looked better than some regulars this season. At the same time, I feel that Santini has solidified the Devils’ defense, and outside of Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings, I feel he hasn’t really had a bad game.

So who winds up being the casualty of a healthy team? I say Kyle Quincey; yes, I’m aware I didn’t even mention him above, but if our Devils are supposed to be fast and supportive while attacking, Quincey doesn’t meet either of those qualifications. He puts up a goal from time to time, but I feel he and Moore are extremely similar players with Moore having the advantage of being mobile. Santini should be an every night guy, and Stollery is fine as a 7th; no offense to Quincey, but he’s not in our future plans, and as I said, he doesn’t fit the team’s mold; either waive him and pray he makes it to Albany, or trade him for a late round pick if anyone’s buying.

5.) Albany Moving to Binghamton

Speaking of the Albany Devils, news came out late last night that the team will reportedly be moving to Binghamton next season when the Ottawa Senators farm club moves. The approval is not official yet, but if it goes through, it will be weird to not see the Devils’ farm team in Albany.

6.) Beau Bennett to IR

Along with the Noesen claim mentioned above, a roster spot needed to be opened, and with Beau Bennett not scheduled to play tonight due to his injury, he was placed retroactively on injured reserve. Bennett has not had the statistical season that we Devils fans had hoped he would, but he has still been strong on the puck, and a more useful player than most of our right wings. When Beau is ready to go, it will lead to another interesting roster move, as either someone will need to be sent back to Albany, or placed on waivers.

I say to jettison Luke Gazdic out of the NHL when the team is healthy; shocking I know considering his “contributions” to the team. Bennett’s limited contributions definitely outweigh anything Gazdic has done, and I would rather give Noesen an extended look than keep a face puncher around.

7.) Wild-Wood

So, who had Miles Wood being a key contributor to the team prior to the season’s start? While 7 goals for 7th place on the team isn’t an amazing total, it’s still a more solid contribution than many other players on this team who were expected to pot some goals. His speed, peskiness and willingness to fight make him a huge asset to the team right now; Wood at 21 years old (and still needing polish) is still playing better than basically anyone else in the bottom 6.

8.) Zajac Slowing Down

Travis Zajac started out the season on fire with 21 points in his first 25 games including his second career hat trick in a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Since then, his production has dropped off to a plebeian 7 points in 23 games; so what happened?

Zajac only has two seasons of over 50 points in his career, and we’ve all seen that he produces better when surrounded by elite talent. He had until recently been saddled with Cammalleri as one of his wingers, and while that certainly isn’t the sole reason Travis’ production has dropped (we all knew or at least suspected that he was more than likely overachieving), it certainly doesn’t help when you have a line mate consistently either passing the puck to the other team, or over-stick-handling and getting stripped of the puck. Against Philadelphia and Los Angeles in the last two games, Zajac has been with Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall, so it will be interesting to see if his offensive game comes back to life.

9.) Not So Merri-ble

Can I talk for a moment about Jon Merrill seemingly regaining some semblance of confidence and ability lately? He’s seemed stronger on the puck and has been better positioned when standing up an opposing player lately. There are still some facets of his game that need work, mainly his ability to get the puck out of the zone successfully instead of putting a weak pass into an opposing player, but it’s not uncommon for defenders to take longer to develop. Hopefully Jon has turned a corner, as it will be one more useful player on the back end and one less Jo(h)n for CJ and I to complain about.

10.) And Lastly, Some Thoughts on Officiating

I feel like this is a constant topic of discussion in my articles, yet at the same time I feel like until something is done about it, the discussion shouldn’t just fade away. NHL officiating as a whole this season can best be described as a joke; congrats to the league on calling John Hynes to let him know that Karl Stollery’s five minute boarding major should have been a two minute cross-check; what good is the phone call? There’s no supplemental action taken against the refs who blew the call, and while I don’t know if it would have made a difference in the end, it was a call that turned a 1-1 tie game into a 3-1 Montreal win.

I’m sure this garbage happens to all teams, but it certainly seems like blind eyes are being turned towards the Devils; semi-dangerous side hits by Zacha and Stollery (accompanied by a good sell job in Montreal’s case) turn into major penalties (and power plays) while John Moore gets crushed with a blatant check from behind (a very dangerous hit) with no in-game action or supplemental discipline, which reeks of favoritism considering that Tom Wilson already has developed a reputation for being a dirt bag. I also don’t get how Taylor Hall was called for a four minute high-sticking double minor in a game against the Edmonton Oilers. Firstly, the actual injury and blood came from what appeared to be an inadvertent elbow. Secondly it was a bogus make-up call; there was no hand raised after the initial contact and both teams had possessed the puck before Zack Kassian went after Hall which killed the play. Then and only then was any penalty assessed. If that make-up call is allowed, why not review footage and eject Wilson while Moore is motionless on the ice? Why not listen to what Miles Wood is saying about Peter Budaj dragging a stick across his face when a Kings defender propelled Wood and himself into Budaj during Tuesday’s game?

I’m not going to sit here and pretend the Devils are a great team because they’re not; but it’s tough and has to be deflating to a squad to have ridiculous calls affecting the flow of a game. NHL refs this season have shown little to no care for the league’s players as we see once again here:

As I stated the first time I used this clip, notice how the ref (#34) shows no urgency to get to the injured player and/or diffuse the scuffle; his two linesmen who had to do a lot more skating just to get there are quicker to jump in and pull players apart! Between the above Larson incident, Palmieri Vs. “Triggered” Carey Price, and Wilson’s attempt to kill Moore, we’ve seen that officials need in the very least a retraining class.

I apologize for this turning into a bit of a rant, but I despise irresponsibility and that word and garbage from above seem to be the best pair to sum up NHL refs this season.

Your Take

I’d like to hear any and all thoughts you have about any of these ten Devils related thoughts going through my head this Thursday. Leave your comments/thoughts below and thank you as always for reading!