Elimination is not the end for New Jersey
For the first time since the 1995-1996 season the New Jersey Devils will not be included in the the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
GM Lou Lamoriello decided in late December to make a coaching change and brought Jacques Lemaire out of retirement to try and salvage the season. He did just that. When Lemaire took over he instilled a new sense of discipline in the team that was missing with rookie coach John Maclean. He got the team back to playing "Devils Hockey." The Devils put together a 23-3-2 run to pull within six points of the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. However, they never got any closer.
In the end it wasn't meant to be. Saturday night's 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens was just a microcosm of the the 2010-2011 season. The Devils were severely outplayed and just couldn't muster enough offense to save their season.
The reality is that the hole was just too big for New Jersey to climb out of. They ultimately paid the price for a horrendous first half that saw them go 10-29-2. For a team that couldn't score consistently through the season they held on as long as they could. Their 160 goals scored is the worst in the NHL. That's 20 goals less then the next closest team, the Edmonton Oilers. Even the return of forward Zach Parise to the line-up had little effect on the team.
But the fact of the matter is that it took until the last five games of the season for this team to be eliminated. That in it's self says a lot about the character of the organization and it's players. Devils forward and all-time leading scorer in team history, Patrick Elias had never missed the playoffs until now. This is only the second time future hall of fame goaltender Martin Brodeur will sit out of the "Quest for the Cup."
New Jersey's run of 13 consecutive playoff appearance's is actually quite extraordinary. Devils fans are really quite lucky and in a way quite spoiled. There are a lot of teams that don't put a consistent product on the ice for the fans.
Since they last missed the playoffs, the Devils have won 2 Stanley Cups, 3 conference championships and 9 division titles. The team left the swamp in East Rutherford and moved into a new state of the art deluxe facility built just for them in downtown Newark. Quite an impressive resume for a team that was once referred to by the games greatest player as a "Mickey Mouse organization."
Just to put the Devils run of consistency into perspective we have had three presidents, a NASA spacecraft landed on Mars, the International Space Station began construction, a robust economy leads to the longest prosperity in U.S. history, we cloned an animal, the internet and cellphones revolutionize communication, the robust economy crashes sending the world into a global financial crisis and recession, social networking explodes and now I have a blog!
The Devils have a bright future ahead of them. The team has a solid group of young talent lead by Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson. Ilya Kovalchuk signed a deal with the Devils for life. Travis Zajac, David Clarkson and Zach Parise are approaching the prime of their careers. The Devils may be done for this season but if history repeats itself, as it so often has a tendency to do, then don't be surprised if there are another 10 plus years of winning and success from Jersey's team.