Another excruciatingly long summer is over. Actual hockey games are on the horizon. Because this is the 265th most widely read hockey blog on the internets, MYFO felt a deep obligation to our dozens of readers to prepare this series of previews telling you about every single team in the NHL. By “prepare” we mean, we found other people to write many of them for us. We were looking for people who (unlike us) might have an actual clue about these teams, but were also eager/willing/dumb/not self-respecting enough to work for free. Within those constraints, we think we did an admirable job.
Today’s preview of the Devils is brought to you by Pam. Pam is not a hockey blogger. She’s just a lazy Deadspin commenter and she hates work. She still wants to be Zach Parise’s Shorty.
“Then I’m dying at the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike
And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell
And the last thing I see is my heart
Breaking out of my body
And flying away
Like a bat out of hell”
Yes, those are lyrics to Bat out of Hell. And yes, that is how I felt after the Devils’ season ended last April. The Sean Avery-led Rangers, who were better than I expected them to be last season, finished off a nightmarish (or superb, depending on your point of view) chapter in one of the NHL’s best rivalries. Let’s see, 1-7. That was the Devils’ regular season record against the Rangers. And let’s not kid ourselves, that “1” was a shootout win that ended up amounting to Jack Shit in the playoff picture. We Devils’ fans were supposed to be excited about that shootout win; it gave the team home ice advantage. Yeah right. The games can be played on the moon, if your team sucks, then they suck. I don’t need to talk about what happened in the playoffs. If you know hockey, then odds are you already know. It wasn’t pretty. Late in the season, I was so battered and bea ten emotionally as a fan, that I kept trying to sell my tickets when the word “RANGERS” was printed on them.
Unfortunately, I had tickets to Game 5, and unfortunately, I went. I left during the second period, the earliest I’ve ever left a hockey game. (The previous record for leaving a game was during the second intermission, which occurred at the St. Patrick’s Day Massacre in 2007 against the Canes.) So my sister and I began that lonely trek, four blocks down Mulberry Street to Green Lot 7, thinking that this had been the worst season we’ve ever endured. I know, there has been worse, but this was the worst one of which I’d been a part. My hockey passion is only as old as this current decade, so I was too young a fan to appreciate anything else.
Sure they made the playoffs, but they got embarrassed. By the Rangers. The same team that owned them for all but one shootout during the regular season. The same team that I hate with the fire of 1000 suns. And, to rub salt in my wounds, my dear Zach Parise lost his two front teeth, looking as gross as ever without them. The stupid Devils couldn’t even score on the ensuing four-minute power play. God I hate them. There were times last season where the Devils played so well, that I was thinking they could go deep. I would always catch myself when those thoughts crept into my brain, saying “Come on now. Be realistic.” But deep down inside, I was optimistic. My dad says of optimists: “They can only be disappointed. But pessimists, well, they can only be pleasantly surprised!” He’s right. (Note: my dad is cynical as hell.)
So now what?
Ah yes, but Mr. Rolston was not the only former Devil to be reacquired this offseason. Bobby Holik left as an angry free agent in 2002, and signed with the Rangers. We all know how I feel about the
“High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprun g,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.”
As it turned out, John Madden filled his role easily and the Devils won their third Stanley Cup. They didn’t need him! They had the last laugh in the Holik saga. He sucked on the Rangers anyway. Looking back it’s hard to believe he was top free agent then. But he’s deteriorated. He’s old and slow and doesn’t have much to offer. And guess what, he’s BACK! I wanted to kill myself when I saw it on TSN’s free agent tracker. The only words that got me off the ledge: “It’s only for a year.” Yes, I will cheer if he ever scores a goal, or does something productive. But it will never be as pure as it is when say, Jamie Langenbrunner does something productive (which is rare these days). I’m only interested in my team having success. The individual plight of Bobby Holik is of no interest to me. It’s only for a year.
Hmm, predictions. What did I say last year? Ah yes:
“And the same thing happens: they’re relatively competitive, and then they’re easily dispatched in the playoffs. I’m thinking this year will be no different. They’ll probably be like a 6-8 seed… So the 2007-2008 Devils will trot out a bunch of too-small untalented forwards led by uninspiring captain Patrik Elias… They’ll struggle to score, and they will rely on Marty more than ever.”