Devils Fall To Rangers; My Take on the Kovalchuk Benching

9 games.

That's a little over 10% of the season gone by.

5 points out of a possible 18.

Yikes.

The question many Devils fans have been asking recently is “When do we push the panic button?” Tonight’s 3-1 loss in New York to the Rangers is a clear indication that the button needs to be pressed as soon as possible.

The team is not performing up to expectations, that part is obvious, but what some players, coaches, and analysts don’t realize is that awful starts can absolutely KILL teams. With every early loss, the chance of sneaking into the playoffs in one of the final spots (if it should come down to it) gets less and less. The team isn’t used to being in this type of spot. Heck, a couple more weeks of this, and it’ll be the deepest into the season that I can remember the Devils not being in a playoff position, and that scares me.

What insight can I possibly bring to this situation, you ask? Unlike most Devils fans, I am from Ontario. I get the Leafs shoved down my throat every day.

Every. Single. Day.

Imagine the torture I go through! I can’t have a hockey discussion with anyone from the area without getting a “…well in the Leafs game the other night” or a “omgz Nazem Kadri gonna rip it up!11!!1!1!!!” My point is, I am practically forced to follow them. I am the evil offspring of a Leafs fan and a Canadiens fan. But don’t feel bad for me. Everything happens for a reason, my friends.

Last year I was treated to another shit-tacular season from the blue and white, and had the privilege of learning more about players like John Mitchell, Fredrik Sjostrom, and Jeff Finger than their parents probably know about them, thanks to the Toronto-centric media and my Toronto-centric friends.

I did take away one piece of insight from last year’s Leafs season, though; slow starts really kill your chances of sneaking into the playoffs. They really do, and the Leafs learned first hand last season when they kicked things off with a bang. And by a bang, I mean not being able to get a win until their 9th game.

Long story short, despite a somewhat strong second half, the Leafs never fully recovered from that terrible start, and missed the playoffs yet again.

I’m sorry, but I have to interrupt this blog for just a second to soak in that last sentence. Leafs…terrible start…missed playoffs yet again. Mmmhmmmm.

Ahem.

Anyway, the Devils can at least take solace in the fact that they have 2 wins and those precious 4 points. Right now it’s only a slow start, but it’s on the verge of becoming a crippling start. It’s clear that things need to be turned around fast.

Onto another issue that I haven’t weighed in on yet:

As everyone knows, Ilya Kovalchuk was benched last game for an unknown reason. Call it a coach-player rift; call it a missed meeting, whatever. I am one of the few that would have been all for it, whatever the reason being, even though it is a waste of a significant amount of money. It’s a pretty huge message to send to the team by benching a player like that. Some teams don’t even have a player of that much significance who they could bench that would send shockwaves through the hockey world like we saw with Kovalchuk. That’s a pretty big power to have if you’re John Maclean, and a pretty big statement to make to the team. That’s putting-your-job-on-the-line kind of stuff right there.

But like I said, I would have been all for it. John Maclean showed great boldness in making that move, which he claims was his own, except for the fact that HE DIDN’T TELL THE PLAYERS WHY HE BENCHED HIM.

Seriously, John?

I don’t know if the players were flat out lying, but numerous quotes from players in the dressing room after the game showed that they were just as clueless to why Kovy was benched as the fans were. With statements like this: "I'd love to give you some insight, [but we] don't know what's going on” from Jamie Langenbrunner, that leads me to believe that they weren’t lying. They actually didn’t know why Kovalchuk was benched. If they were lying, it’s a pretty elaborate one because all the players were on the same page.

Either way, tonight should be a night where they get past all of this. Most of the media is probably going to try and dwell on it for as long as they can, as it is a pretty big story after all. I’m not going to, though. I say start fresh. You can look back and see that after nine games you were the team with the worst goal differential, or you can bear down, look ahead, and hopefully right the ship to a point where you can get into a playoff position.

I get my fair share of negative news reports from the Toronto media about the Leafs, and I definitely don’t need to turn on the TV to see a full panel discussion on why my Devils have been sucking so far. I can live without that.

Greg Balloch
twitter.com/eggshmeg

3 Comments

George Prax's picture

The whole way the Kovalchuk situation has been dealt with is an absolute joke. I'm always willing to give a little on Lou's leash knowing the decision to sign him came more from management, but it's still a little enraging that someone like Lou Lamoriello would let this happen. At least, finally, that team's shenanigans when it comes to circumventing the cap are finally being exposed and dealt with. If the Devils miss the playoffs this year, what happens? Does the coach get fired again? Does the GM get fired? You still have Kovalchuk on your roster for 14 more years, and you can't buy him out, that would be insane and it would kill the team financially.

It's just an absolute joke and a shame that it might actually kill what has been a very good team over the last 20 years.

As for the benching, Kovalchuk came back and scored the only goal for the team. The irony and symbolism in that is just ridiculous.

Greg Balloch's picture

I know for a fact that there is a ton of hidden information about this situation, so it makes it really tough to form an opinion on it. Kovy messed up, Maclean put his foot down, and that's the end of it. Time for the team to move on and start winning games (please?)