The Devils Army is baffled by the “wasted season” the New Jersey Devils had. Many fans are dumbfounded, asking how a team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, were unable to make it to the playoffs this year.
Fingers have been pointed and various excuses have been made as to where the Devils went wrong. Was it losing all-star captain, Zach Parise? Or was it that two players suffered extensive injuries at different points in the season? Was it poor management, poor coaching, or lack of leadership? No answer seems to satisfy disappointed fans.
Despite the loss of Parise, the Devils started the season strong and with a similar line up to the one during the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. Clarkson scored 10 goals in the first 15 games. However in the next 33 games, he will only be able to put the puck in the net five times. The Devils were at the top of the Eastern Conference until legendary goalie, Martin Brodeur was placed on injury reserve (IR) with a sore back.
And this is where the bad luck begins. Things definitely took at turn for the worse due to a series of injuries that ensued, which were ironically correlated with superstitious events.
I do not think that it is a coincidence that the Devils season went down hill once mercury went into retrograde on February 23. This was ironically the time that Marty Brodeur was placed on (IR). The first game he missed was February 24th. Before being placed on IR, the Devils were 8-2-3. The team went into their first slump of the season as Marty would miss a whopping total of 13 games.
Incase you are not aware, mercury in retrograde can have some serious effects. Mercury in retrograde is the term used referring to the illusion that the planet appears to be traveling backwards through the zodiac; it happens three times a year. The first time for 2013 was February 23 through March 17, yet its affects can be felt a few weeks before and after this time period. Planet Mercury governs all issues associated with transportation and communication; it rules education, intelligence and truth. When Mercury is in retrograde it can be hard to work as a team, and to form partnerships and alliances.
Retrograde periods are also a time to reflect, repair and reconnect. During this time period the Devils could have made better use of their younger goalies on their AHL team, Keith Kinkaid and Jeff Frazee. After all, these goalies very well could be the future of the Devils with goalies, Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg nearing the end of their careers.
With Mercury in retrograde confusion, delays and frustrations are bound to happen; plans go askew. This is exactly what happened to the Devils as they struggled without Marty, the backbone to the team. While Marty was out of the net, Hedberg’s record was 3-8-2. Bringing the team’s overall record down to 13-11-6.
Mercury went out of retrograde March 17th and Marty returned to the net on March 21st to take on the Carolina Hurricanes. He returned in style with his 3rd career goal. The following game, against the Florida Panthers, Marty was able to earn his 666th win; the number that symbolizes Satan. With this fitting number for the New Jersey Devils, the Devils Army finally thought things were getting back on track. However, it is during this 2-1 victory, that scoring powerhouse, Ilya Kovalchuk, injures his shoulder with about 10 minutes left in the game. Kovalchuk, not only brings life to the ice, but also leads the NHL with the most short-handed goals this season; he accumulated 4 short handed goals.
After this game, it is a slippery slope for the Devils. What was thought to be a minor injury, turned into an 11 game absence for Kovy. After the 666th win, the Devils lose 10 games in a row. Coincidence? I think not.
It was at this point in time that the media was questioning if the 666th win for Marty was a curse on the team. During this double-digit losing streak, we see the Devils dominating possession of the puck, and outshooting their opponents. However, they simply couldn’t get the puck into the net. They also seemed to lose confidence if their opponents scored the first goal.
Hockey is a very superstitious sport. Players have specific traditions before each game, such as eating the same pre-game meal and wearing lucky socks or ties. And with this series of unfortunate events, blaming it on luck seems to make sense.
Just when things couldn’t get any worse, as the season winded down, captain and defenseman Bryce Salvador was out for the rest of the season due to a bruised wrist. In the same game that ended Salvador’s season, aggressive defenseman Anton Volchenkov was suspended four games for elbowing Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins. To top it off their long standing rivals, the New York Rangers, ended their playoff dreams this season; defeating the New Jersey 4-1.
The Devils finished the season 22nd in the league, with a record of 19-19-10 and 48 points; one of their worst records in history. Additionally, this is the second time in three years they fall short of making the playoffs. Consequently, their chances to win the lottery for draft pickings are quite low.
During a 48 game season there is no room for error and extensive injuries; there is also no wiggle room for bad luck. A number of factors caused this anticlimactic season for the Devils, and streaks of bad luck just seem to coincide with these series of unfortunate events. Spooky events, such as Mercury slipping into retrograde and the symbolism of the 666th win should not go unnoticed.
This bumpy season has certainly bruised egos. In their last game of the season versus the Rangers it was evident the Devils had checked out. No longer in the playoff race, since the Rangers knocked them out just the weekend before, the Devils felt no purpose in their final game.
The Devils ended the season on a sour note, with a 0-4 shutout. Many members of the Devils Army made the trip across the Hudson River, excited to watch the Devils take on the Rangers. However, the Devils did not even bother to provide their fans with an exciting show against their longtime rival, or to end the season on a positive note.
With their season ending, the Devils now have four months to prepare for the 2013-2014 season. It is anticipated that many changes will come. Key players, such as Elias, Sullivan, Clarkson, Zubrus, Zidlicky, Ponikarovsky, Harrold and Kostopoulous are all unrestricted free agents now. Which of these players will be returning for next season is unknown. Devils veteran, Martin Brodeur plans to return for his 22nd season.
At this point, the Devils Army has to have faith that general manager, Lou Lamoriello, will do his best to keep at least some of these players. He also needs to acquire and utilize new young players that can ignite this team on the ice. This includes, Eric Gelinas, who recently made his debut with the New Jersey against Pittsburgh on April 25th, as well as young goalies, Kinkaid and Frazee of the Albany Devils. This off-season will hopefully be a time to rebuild some confidence, especially for players like Adam Henrique, last year’s rookie of the year. Henrique seemed to acquire a classic case of the sophomore slump this season.
It will be exciting to see how everything unfolds for this team, and what the 2013-2014 season will hold for the New Jersey Devils. Possibilities seem to be endless and hopefully our luck will turn around.