Devils In The Doldrums

What’s it going to take to raise the Devils from the dead?  Lou Lamoriello behind the bench to scare the bejesus out of them?  Lou throwing jelly against the wall?  What’s it going to take?

I was a bit bothered by the way the Canadiens described the team they saw on the ice last week.  “Dead” was one of the many words they used.  This, especially to them, was not the New Jersey Devils. Devils In the Doldrums

So Inside Hockey reports it.  This blog shows the flipside.

Success is my only motherfucking option, failure’s not

That should be the Devils’ new motto for the remainder of the season.  This should be the motto that they play again and again in their head.  Need music to it?  Here you go.

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo

I was watching the movie “Just Wright” over the weekend about a NJ Nets player who suffered a knee injury and his battle to make it back in time for the playoffs (even when the world said this was probably a career ending injury).  On top of it all, his gold digging fiancee leaves him because of the reports that he was probably done with his career.

In comes Queen Latifah, the physical trainer that not only helped him get ready in time for the playoffs, but also helped him through the worst part…not believing in himself…losing all hope.

She helped him turn the worst around to make him into a believer that he was a winner again.

So what’s it going to take for the Devils to believe in themselves again? 

It’s hard when every news report talks about their failures.  It’s even harder when they see and hear the media say that the Devils are done for the season.  I really think they believe it now.

The truth is…the season is not done, ergo the Devils are not done.

Back during the 2005-2006 season, the Devils found themselves 19 points away from the top spot in the Atlantic Division.  Patrik Elias had been out the majority of the season after contracting Hepatitis A from the food he ate in Russia during the lockout.  When he returned, he scored eight points in the first four games and then the Devils went on to win the next 9 games, not only making it into the playoffs but capturing the Atlantic Division title.

The impossible was all of a sudden made possible.  The Devils suffered a serious blow in the first half of the season when they lost Elias.  But when he returned, the impossible was made into a reality.

It can happen again.

This time, that player we’re waiting on to come back to the lineup is Zach Parise.  Last week, I re-read a post I wrote about Zach this season and how he was a different player.  Knowing what I know now, I wonder if the reason why I saw that different player was because he was overcompensating to hide his injury. 

With Zach’s future return…the question is…will he be able to deliver the Devils to the playoffs in time?

Let’s now turn to Ilya Kovalchuk. 

One of the reporters keeps asking me, “Have you done your interview yet?”  He’s talking about the Kovalchuk interview I’m going to do.  You know…that one exclusive where we talk about the things we all really want to know about…the stuff he’s never told anyone before.  His agent, Jay Grossman, told me some of the story…and this is one of those stories that shows the other side of the man behind the biggest contract the NHL has ever seen.

Each time I’ve looked at Kovalchuk this season I think, “No, not yet.”  But since his agent knows that it’s coming…Kovalchuk is probably aware of it too.  The question is, why am I waiting?

First, I’m not sure he’s ready for what I’m going to ask him.  Second, because of all that’s occurred with his on-ice career, I’m not confident that the story will go over well with the fans.  At this very moment, if I were to publish another Kovalchuk article, I would be ripped apart left and right as another Kovalchuk/Kenneth article that glorifies Ilya Kovalchuk when the world thinks it’s undeserving.

I’ve been waiting for Kovalchuk to bounce back in order to do this piece.  But sometimes you wonder, if that’s what he needs…something positive about him out there…then what am I waiting for?

That’s the thing about the team…there’s more negative press out there (and has been all summer long and on into the season) than there is positive press.  It’s even hard for me to talk about loss after loss.  It can become emotionally and mentally draining to point out other people’s failures (at least for me it is).

These guys are not perfect and they show that in every single game.  I read recently that the key to happiness is admitting that you are not perfect and working through your faults and focusing on your assets and letting your assets shine.

You can’t have any successes unless you can accept failure.  ~George Cukor

David Clarkson is a physical player and can bring a spark to the room…what happened to him?  What happened to the toe drags and the wraparounds? 

Jamie Langenbrunner got the nickname Captain America after captaining Team USA in the Olympics.  The name stuck when he kept on saving the day.  Every one of my favorite Devils game to memory has always starred Captain America coming to save the day.  Doc Emrick night comes to mind.  The goal to tie the game and the goal to win it in overtime…that’s Jamie Langenbrunner.  What happened to him?

Andy Greene used to have this slogan on Twitter called #andygreeneequalswins.  He used to be the #1 defenseman.  What happened to him?

Ilya Kovalchuk used to be the scariest player in the NHL (I always thought so).  If he was coming to town, you were scared to death your team would not make it through whatever he was about to do to them.  What happened to that guy?  I haven’t seen him in New Jersey yet.

Rod Pelley used to be a physical player.  What happened to him?

This is where the problems lie…CHANGE. 

Sometimes a little change can do NO GOOD. 

The assets that each player brings to the table is what needs to be nurtured in order to make the Devils flourish.

It’s like Sean Avery.  Everybody hates what he brings to the table.  But when you acknowledge that’s how he plays hockey, you put what he brings, mix it with the rest of the club, throw it into a line and then you’ve got an effective player out on the ice. 

I hate to say it, but I think the Devils are in need of a Sean Avery type (oh wait, wasn’t that David Clarkson’s role?  What happened to him?). 

Sometimes going back to the basics is all the Devils need in order to win.  I’ve heard every player credit the ‘basics’ as the reason why they were able to win.  When they step away from the ‘basics,’ they lose.  I’ve heard them talk about it from one loss to the next. 

The basics are all about playing Devils hockey the way they know how to play hockey, and letting each individual talent shine.

Kovalchuk…lacks confidence in himself.  Didn’t think I would pick that one up, huh?  I don’t think he’d admit it to himself or anyone else, but you see it.  He plays hockey the way that I feel when I’m up on stage…that stage fright.  It’s not all of the time, it’s only when all attention is on him…and he knows it.  That’s when he fumbles the puck, falls down while in possession of the puck, shoots wide, hesitates… 

It’s called lack of confidence and fear that people will judge you for what you do (and what you don’t do).  After all that happened this summer, it’s no surprise that this is what would happen to him.  It’s all about being perfect and then hoping no one notices that you really aren’t.  It’s about living up to expectations, and purposely sabotaging yourself because you really are not perfect. 

So Kovalchuk can’t collect passes 90% of the time.  So he really is the worst at the shootout (I’d put Marty Brodeur in the shootout long before I’d put Kovy in).  So what?  You focus on what he does that makes him so amazing and make him do it every single time.  He’ll find a way to score goals that way. 

He’s not a physical player…so he should stop trying to be one (hit on Hal Gill???  Come on!!!).  He’s the type of player that delivers a puck so hard towards the net that it once put a dent in a Nashville Predator’s helmet.  That’s the scary kind of Kovalchuk that the Devils need.  That’s the reason why he got the contract…not because he was the all around hockey player like Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. 

So getting back to Kovalchuk basics…let him do his thing and incorporate it into the Devils way.  He’s not Zach.  He needs to stop trying to be that kind of player.  He’s trying to change too much to fit in, and losing sight of who he really is. 

Why else would the Devils be reviewing Atlanta tapes to help him find his game again?

“Don’t change, you’re perfect,” applies here to Ilya Kovalchuk.

An appeal I would like to make to Devils fans…vote for Jason Arnott/Patrik Elias on the NHL All Stars ballot.  They have been the most deserving Devils for that honor this season. 

I’m not sure if voting for Parise would benefit him, because who knows if he’ll be able to participate.  That means that Kovalchuk goes to the All-Stars.  Both Patrik Elias (points) and Jason Arnott (goals) lead the Devils.  I’m not sure why the fans haven’t been voting for both of them.

I leave you with this…

I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.  ~Thomas Edison

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.  ~Bill Cosby [That one applies specifically to Ilya Kovalchuk for today's post]

Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure… it just means you haven’t succeeded yet.  ~Robert Schuller

A man may fall many times, but he won’t be a failure until he says that someone pushed him.  ~Elmer G. Letterman

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.  ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Because a fellow has failed once or twice or a dozen times, you don’t want to set him down as a failure till he’s dead or loses his courage.  ~George Horace Lorimer

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