All About the Jersey: A shitty blog for stupid nerds

It should go without saying that I love being a Devils fan. I’m biased, of course, but  I think we have a great and passionate group of fans, even if we can be vulgar at home games. And bring back Rock and Roll Part 2 as the goal song, dammit! “Hey You Suck” is iconic!

The SB Nation fan blog for the Devils, however, contains a userbase that I consider to be disgraces to Devils fans. Formerly named In Lou We Trust, All About the Jersey is filled with some of the most pompous, boring (get used to reading that word a lot in this post), and outright infuriating people in any group of sports fans. It was one of the first blogs to use advanced statistics in its articles, but now that everyone else is using them, they’ve lost their identity and what’s left is just shit. I should mention that SBN gives no editorial requirements for these blogs, so there are some great ones in hockey and other sports within the site. Whenever I look at Lighthouse Hockey or Blueshirt Banter, I think of what AAtJ could be instead of the quagmire of shit that Devils fans have instead.

I’ll use this article as an example to go off of when it comes to everything wrong with AAtJ. Bear in mind, this is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s not uncommon to find an article that’s written in the same style as a college freshman’s essay: the article subheading acts like an abstract (“This article goes over X” or “I’m going to talk about Y here”) and the opening paragraph repeats what they’re writing about in the rest of the essay. The front page lacks a lot of fun off-the-ice news as well, further amplifying how boring it is there. The Devils have stepped up their social media game since Lou Lamariello left and they’re fun to follow as a result. AAtJ doesn’t bother with such frivolities. It’s a big boring slog through and through.

1. It’s based off an idiotic premise

Right off the bat, the author talks about putting Nico Hischier on the first line at the start of the season. This is not only a stupid idea, it was never going to happen. Playing 1C was the only thing that wasn’t going to come out of this preseason. He’s good right now and might be a wonderful talent in his career. Right now, though, pitting him against the likes of Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, and Auston Matthews at center won’t be good for his development. Even Matthews started on the third line for the Leafs this season. And that’s not even getting into the defensemen that Nico would have to face. But OK, you clearly have an argument, so let’s just see-

2. Holy shit look at all those numbers and spreadsheets, goddamn

There are some people in sportswriting who act like they’d be better off giving a statistics lecture than sports commentary, and the author is one of them. CJ peppers his articles with numbers and spreadsheets throughout. Using statistics as the only verifiable source of info in hockey is a fool’s errand- there’s a lot more that goes into the game than just numbers. Unlike baseball, there’s lots of dumb luck and different tactics involved in hockey. Stats are a valuable guide with which to make decisions, but they’re not the only thing that should be considered, and it certainly doesn’t make for fun or good reading.

3. CJ undermined his entire point

If you’re gonna use stats and numbers to solidify your case for making Nico the first line center from the start, don’t sabotage your own argument. Word to the wise, CJ: when you say that this is entirely based off of 6 whole minutes of Nico working with Hall and Palmieri, then maybe you shouldn’t have wasted your time writing this trash. Dropping a bunch of numbers, stats, and names for stats doesn’t make you smart.

4. You don’t need to ask us what we think at the end of every article

CJ, do you really lack self-confidence that much? I mean, it’s justified in your case because you wrote a terrible fucking article, but still. Anyway, sounding off is what the comment section is for. Then again, maybe this place shouldn’t have one of those, because…

5. The comment section is also boring

The responses to the article are walls of text with barely any responses, and the ones that are there are also boring. If you read Blueshirt Banter, there’s a sense of community and familiarity among the regulars. Here, it’s just a bunch of snobs and nerds trying to one-up each other. A sense of  humor also seems to be in short supply. I’d say that the comment section makes for more infuriating reading than the articles.

6. The community acts like a bunch of snobby dipshits for no reason

Somebody in the comment section talked trash about Fire and Ice, a Devils fan blog that turned into NJ.com’s reporting section for the team. Or maybe it was a different article’s comment section, but I’m not going to dig it up. This isn’t an uncommon sight around these parts. The people who post on AAtJ think that they are God’s gift to hockey fans, but they’re more like the fan equivalent of a horse’s ass. F&I got a lot of team scoops back in the day, and Tom Gulitti did such a great job with it that he landed himself a job at NHL.com. John Fischer, editor of this terrible blog, hasn’t gotten a gig through it, and I honestly hope he’s unemployed and never gets a real job. He’s probably a big boring bitch in real life, considering how horrible AAtJ is run.

Also possibly in this comment section (again, not checking): some unpleasant guy bringing up “I thought YOU believed THIS before!” to somebody else on some subject. Holding grudges isn’t a good look for people who foolishly want to put themselves into the community.

7. There are no swear words or .gifs because they’re not allowed

And by “swear words are not allowed,” I mean that you can’t even partially censor them. I guess in addition to making me want to die from boredom, the people in AAtJ are a bunch of prudes. And .gifs make the world go round. I guess they get in the way of the pedantic bullshit that they think makes for a good read, though.

8. Somebody honestly asked what the news about Brian Boyle is

He has cancer, you stupid and/or insensitive prick.

Bottom line: tell Fischer and his gang of terrible, boring writers to fuck off, encourage all of them to kill themselves, and let fun people run it. If Bleed Cubbie Blue didn’t exist, All About the Jersey would be the worst fan blog on SBN. And there are over 300 over them, so that’s quite an accomplishment.

Advertisements

Preseason wrapup and lineup predictions

The long wait for the beginning of the 2017-18 season has begun. After a 4-1 trouncing of the Washington Capitals last night, the Devils won’t play another game until their season opener on October 7. That’s a shame because this was a truly enjoyable stretch of hockey for a team that was undying agony to watch for most of last season.

The players who needed to step up did- Pavel Zacha made a convincing case for first-line center after Travis Zajac’s long-term injury, and the chemistry between Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri picked up where it left off. The youth movement had their first moments in the sun- Nico Hischier looks like a natural and Jesper Bratt’s probably earned himself a roster spot, if only for nine games, by continuing the rapid ascent he’s made since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 draft.

Even the defense proved to be a pleasant surprise. No longer is its spirit animal a decapitated chicken- it flowed very well with the offense. Will Butcher’s defense and 5v5 game needs some work, but he’s a power play asset on the back end where there was none before. Mirco Mueller was probably going to make the team anyway, but his goals from the point and solid defensive play made him a sure thing rather than a tenuous spot. Nobody was expecting much from Dalton Prout, but he made this final round of cuts an interesting one by playing surprisingly good hockey.

While the veteran pickups were outshined somewhat by the youth, they made a splash as well. Drew Stafford had a phenomenal preseason and gives them a second veteran in their shallow right wing depth. Jimmy Hayes bounced back from a dreadful first game to probably locking down a roster spot. Brian Boyle’s unfortunate cancer diagnosis kept him off the team in the preseason, but he’s bound and determined to make the opening day lineup.

Of course, not everything can be unicorns farting rainbows. Ben Lovejoy picked up where he left off by being awful in every way. He’ll probably make the team (more on that later) but I would think his time is running out in a Devils uniform. I had high hopes for Mikey McLeod to get through, but in spite of some flashes of brilliance, he looks he’ll need more improvement up in the OHL. The injury of unknown severity certainly didn’t help his case. I thought Yaroslav Dyblenko was going to end up in Binghamton to begin with, but it was still upsetting to see him play with such diminishing returns. After an impressive prospect camp, his quality steadily declined. Nathan Bastian was nowhere to be found, and he’s got a long way to go in the AHL. Blake Speers was a disappointment and not even the Devils’ derth of right wingers could save him from being cut. My only criticism of the overall play by the Devils was their vulnerability on counterattacks. That needs to be worked on a little.

But the preseason is behind us and now we’ve got 82 games that count coming up. Everybody likes sorta baseless speculation, so I’m also going to give my lineup projections for the start of the regular season.

Offensive lines

Hall/Zacha/Palmieri

Johansson/Hischier/Stafford

Bratt/Henrique/Noesen

Wood/Boyle/Hayes

Reserves: Blandisi, Quenneville

I already talked about the players on the first line, so all I’ll say is that I hope they keep it up going into the regular season. However, if Zacha starts slipping, don’t be surprised to see Hischier bounced up to the top line. He’s already proven to be a quick learner. The “Johansson at 1C” experiment didn’t work quite as planned, but he’s a natural winger anyway. Expect the second line to make some noise as it’s no longer the long drop in quality that it was over the last two seasons.

Adam Henrique needed to show that the first line center position was his to lose, and while he wasn’t terrible, he wasn’t as impressive as the two above him. Had Zajac not gone down with his injury, we might even be seeing him playing wing. Stefan Noesen had a solid preseason and Bratt’s stock went up the most of any Devils player. I’m still having a hard time seeing Bratt stay the whole season- I bet he’ll be sent up to juniors after nine games. But if he keeps impressing like he has, who knows?

The fourth line is… well, a fourth line. Boyle was one of Ray Shero’s top priorities at the beginning of free agency, the other one being backstabbing fucker and Rangers fan Kevin Shattenkirk. He was probably picked up to shore up the bottom six, particularly the fourth line if things worked out for other centers (which it has so far). Hayes wasn’t great last season for the Bruins but he made his case to make the roster in the preseason. Miles Wood provides speed, physicality, and a bit of talent to add some excitement to the bottom of the offense.

Joseph Blandisi’s only problem was that he didn’t stand out enough in the preseason. He was solid, but it was bad timing on a roster that looks more filled out than last season. I can easily see him on the fourth line in place of Wood, as that fourth left wing spot doesn’t seem to be set in stone. John Quenneville was very hit-or-miss, but he showed his worth on the power play with the right people surrounding him. If someone proves themselves down in the AHL, I think he’s the first to go.

Defensive pairings

Greene/Severson

Mueller/Santini

Moore/Prout

Reserve: Lovejoy

Much like the first offensive line’s wingers, I don’t see the top defensive pairing changing. Andy Greene didn’t play much in the preseason but that’s because his job was secure. Damon Severson made some defensive screwups, but none of them were too egregious, and he’s still a help on offense.

Now that Mueller doesn’t have to deal with defenseman killer Pete de Boer, he’s going to given a much better chance to make a statement in the NHL. He’s been impressive so far, for reasons already outline. Steven Santini has been similar: he was probably the Devils’ most consistent defenseman in the preseason. Both of them stand to take on greater roles as the season goes on.

I was ready to write off John Moore for good, but he’s proven to be pretty decent, and he played quite well in the second game against the Caps. Prout was the wild card going in and will surely give John Hynes a tough decision when he has to make his last cuts. His consistenly good play should get him under the bar.

At some point, what somebody wants has to give way for harsh reality. While Lovejoy has played poorly this preseason and much of the last season, I think he has to screw up a little more in order to be off this Devils roster entirely. Buyer’s remorse is a powerful thing, and he three years left on his contract at over $4 million per year. He’s also an NHL veteran on a defensive corps that sorely lacks them. As it stands, though, I can’t see him playing on a regular basis unless Prout regresses, which is a distinct possibility. I already mentioned Butcher’s strengths and weaknesses up above, and I think a little bit of time in Binghamton will give him a chance to progress. I do want to see him up as soon as possible, and if I were in charge, I’d tell Lovejoy to piss up a rope. But I’m not the one calling the shots.

Goaltenders

Starter: Schneider

Back-up: Kinkaid

Not a whole lot to say here. Things went as expected on this front. Cory Schneider looked very good, and it helped that he didn’t have to face as many shots or deal with his defense screwing around. Keith Kinkaid looked as reliable as he did last season. The chances of seeing Mackenzie Blackwood getting called up this season are slim to none barring injury, but I can see him making a case for backup next season and the number 1 as Schneider gets older.

It’s a cliche to say that a team will surprise people when expectations are low. Hall said his new team would surprise last year, and instead we saw a disaster of a season that nonetheless had the benefit of them getting a player that should end up being a truly special talent. I don’t think the 2017-18 New Jersey Devils will make the playoffs this season, but I do think that there will be lots of growth this year to out them in better position to qualify next season. And if they play teams like they do on a regular basis like they did with the Caps and Senators, who knows, they may sneak in to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

My First (And Only) Words About The Sports & Politics Situation

Right now, there’s no way to watch sports these days without hearing about the political actions behind it. With that in mind, I figured that I would weigh in, put in my two cents, and then shut up about it in this space, because this is not where I typically talk about anything other than New Jersey Devils hockey. In the off-chance that this post goes viral and you want more political and sports musings from me, I’ll get it out of the way right now: this isn’t the place for you. Go to SB Nation or Deadspin for your 500th regurgitated Kaepernick protest take of the day. But if you’re interested in (among other things) what I have to say about those two paragons of trite sports journalism horseshit, then read on.

Side note: hopefully I’ll be more active on here regarding the Devils this season- most of the players in the preseason are looking good, and that should motivate me to actually watch and write about the team without getting angry. Perhaps you’ll like my writing style and think that I’m a good guide for the upcoming season. A guy can dream!

I’m not going to write too much about the events that led up to this point because they’re readily available on every news channel and website that deals with making a quick buck off of moral outrage. But in case you’ve been living under a rock, or if an alien civilization reads this after we’re all dead in my lifetime, here’s a condensed timeline:

  • Then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneels during the pregame national anthem last preseason to protest police brutality
  • A few other players join him
  • Kaepernick’s contract runs out after that season, he doesn’t get signed by any team, leading some people to believe that he’s getting blacklisted by the NFL
  • A lot more NFL players join him in solidarity
  • President Donald Trump makes comments at a rally that any player doing this should be fired, calling them “sons of bitches”
  • LeBron James takes issue with these statements, as does Stephen Curry, and Trump disinvites the Golden State Warriors from attending the White House in response
  • Auston Matthews takes the other side of the argument by saying this is disrespectful to the troops, while the Pittsburgh Penguins announce that they will go to the White House

And that’s where we are today. Not mentioned: so much shit being thrown around by everyone that you’d swear the world and the internet are both sewers. They are, but that’s besides the point. If you don’t agree with Kaepernick, you’re a MAGA chud. If you don’t agree with Matthews, you’re more than welcome to move somewhere else.

I’m going to lay out my views on the issue right here: I think Kaepernick’s protest was thought out well, I agree with the reasons for which he knelt, and I know he had every right to do so, although it’s not like he had much to lose from a playing standpoint because he was dreadful in the previous season. I believe that he’s blacklisted by the NFL for his views and actions, and as bad as he is as a quarterback, there are many sub-mediocre players that stick around. I think that Trump was very much out of line with what he said and that it’s disgusting (and probably illegal) to use his position to call for people to lose their jobs. So I’m firmly on the side of LeBron, Curry, and other athletes who are calling out this behavior as well as the protesters who continue to keep it going.

At the same time, I’m also a sports fan. I watch hockey, soccer, football, etc. to escape the drudgery of everyday life, not to wallow in it. I recognize the importance of these actions, but it’s not what defines my worldview as a fan. I disagree with Auston Matthews’s views and the Pittsburgh Penguins’s White House trip, but I’m not writing them off as terrible people, although I’ll definitely tease Pens fans for it. Last but not least, I know that athletes make enough money to occupy a political sphere that isn’t my own.

Something that comes to my mind on that last point is Charles Barkley talking to his grandmother about running for governor of Alabama as a Republican, which was his political affiliation at the time. She told him that only rich people are Republicans, and Barkley’s response was simple: “Grandma, I am rich!”  Perhaps it’s cynical to assume that athletes have political points of view that I disagree with, but I’m a cynical and pessimistic guy to begin with. If you start with low expectations, disappointment doesn’t feel as bad. I should know, I said that the Giants would lose on the last-second 61-yard field goal right as they were lining it up on Sunday, and I ended up not being so mad when I was proven right.

Far from being an escape from the downs of life like it was when I was growing up, the internet has proven to be one long, unending scream over the past couple of years. If you want the best example of this phenomenon on the topic of protesting in sports, look no further than websites like the aforementioned Deadspin or SB Nation, to say nothing of general interest thinkpiece sites like Slate, Salon, or The Daily Beast that have surely dabbled in this subject as well (I wouldn’t know because I don’t waste my time by reading any of them). I was once a regular and passionate reader of Deadspin, but then Tommy Craggs took over. Back in the golden era of the site, he notably disagreed with founder Will Leitch’s view  that they shouldn’t publish content for people to agree with just because they like reading it. That differing philosophy became readily apparent when he took over- Deadspin became less about the absurdities of sports and more about a preachy, dry, hard-to-read look at society through the lens of sports. It also got quite boring and harped on certain subjects all the time. At one point, there were 17 different articles in a single day about the then-fresh Ray Rice wife hitting story. I quit reading Deadspin when I decided that the frustration I got from reading it wasn’t worth it.

Later, I stumbled upon SB Nation, which had all of the fun that I felt Deadspin had lost. The articles were goofy but written by smart people who knew what they were talking about. Unfortunately, SBN became assimilated into the Internet Content Borg when it was acquired by Vox Media. Appropriately enough, it was right around Kaepernick’s original protest when it took a turn for the worse. The fun stuff was soon outnumbered by “important” essays, and in time, I quit that website too. Well, getting banned from commenting on all 300+ sites under its umbrella helped boot me in that direction, but somebody had to say that Matt Yglesias’s online media empire fucked over what was once a good site.

sbn shit

Would you want to read a site that preaches to you like this on a daily basis? I sure don’t.

A common retort to Deadspin, SB Nation, and ESPN’s occasional foray into political issues is “stick to sports.” It’s often used by people with conservative or other right-wing views as a slight against websites that they perceive as too liberal or left-wing. I don’t agree with their opinions, but it does feel like the sports writing landscape is universally dominated by people who chastise and even sometimes insult people who hold an anti-protest view. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the people writing these things are lefties, either. I’m sure that the rich people who run the family of websites that include SBN or Deadspin want nothing to do with radical redistribution of wealth.

My cynicism is speaking again, and it’s saying that those essays are performative. They’re not being written as a genuine expression of concern, they’re being written to get clicks. On top of that, they’re all boring and shallow. If you’ve read one scolding take that’s pro-kneeling, you’ve read them all. I’ll expand on the phrase that right-wing sports fans like to throw at people: “Stick to sports, because you’re not being insightful.” Either say something that hasn’t been said before or shut up. Otherwise, you’re just repeating a mantra and throwing another turd into the inferno that is modern-day Internet Content. I bet that something like Breitbart Sports will be launched very soon, and when it does, I’m going to blame these sites because they created a large audience that was alienated by their bullshit.

I suspect that my non-political views in this post are common among sports fans. Sadly, you’ll never see something like this published on SB Nation, Deadspin, or any thinkpiece website, because clicks = money and I directly insulted that business model. I certainly hope that there are people out there who agree with me.

Thanks for reading this post. I promise that my next post will be one about hockey and not one about real-world drama.

Preseason thoughts!

The Giants are so bad that I now care more about preseason NHL than regular season NFL. Luckily, the New Jersey Devils started playing games again! It’s just the preseason, but I think there’s a lot to like about this team.

cut.png

  • Nico Hischier is ready to play in the NHL. He didn’t look scared against the Caps, and that goal was amazing. Nobody played the puck that aggressively last season. I can’t wait to see more of that.
  • Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri look like they’re going to be very good again, but it’s all a matter of finding a first line center. Nico shouldn’t (and won’t) start his NHL career facing guys like Crosby, Ovechkin, or Matthews. They tried Marcus Johansson in the first game against the Caps, but he hasn’t played center in years, so I think they’ll give it to a guy who’s already center. Speaking of which:
  • Pavel Zacha should be given some serious consideration for the 1C. He played very well with Drew Stafford, connecting for this goal.

  • I don’t think Miles Wood is going to be playing on the top two lines this season. I think he’s third-line fodder and may drop further than that.
  • Michael McLeodBlake Speers were speed demons. I hope they both make the team this season, but they may go back to the OHL for one more year.
  • Adam Henrique probably has the most to lose among forwards.  He got off on the wrong foot against the Rags. Compared to Zacha, Rico looked lost. If this keeps up, I think he starts the season on the second line, and Nico may take that job at some point.
  • Jimmy Hayes played horribly against the Caps, against whom he took too many penalties. But he had a nice bounceback game against his brother Jimmy’s team with a goal and an assist. I can see him starting on the third or fourth line.
  • The defense looks competent! Then again, anything will look better than that tire fire on last season’s blue line. Yaroslav DyblenkoWill Butcher made a splash against the Caps, showing that more defenders can move the puck than just Damon Severson.
  • Ben Lovejoy is still a pylon and an anchor on the power play. I think he’ll start the season in the lineup, but when he continues to suck, he’ll be demoted in short order.
  • John Moore hasn’t started yet, but I have a feeling he’ll be outshined by the two new guys. Last season, he looked bad on defense and he wasn’t that much better on offense.
  • Dalton Prout is looking like the wild card among the defensemen. Devils fans criticized the deal to get him at the trade deadline, and he lived up to their worst nightmares. But against the Caps, Prout looked decent, involving himself in some zone clearances.
  • I’ll say that Mirco Mueller is gonna make the final team just because Shero traded a little bit too much to make it. But if he keeps playing like he did against the Caps, that won’t be a bad thing.
  • Cory Schneider isn’t leaving his number 1 goalie perch, of course. On the other hand, the competition for the backup position behind him is interesting. Keith Kinkaid has the bonus of incumbency, and Scott Wedgewood did a good job in the second half of the game against the Caps. But don’t sleep on Mackenzie Blackwood. While I think Scott and Mac will be sent down to Binghamton to start the season, I wouldn’t be shocked if the pecking order changes very soon.
  • The power play still needs work. Once again, they’re passing way too much with a man up (or, at one point against the Rangers, with two men up). The coaches still have time to figure something out.
  • The penalty kill still makes me uncomfortable when I watch it, but it was solid in both games.
  • I’m all for greater enforcement of slashing the hands. Nobody should have an injury like Gaudreau’s ever again. Now if the Devils can slow down on it, we’ll be in business.
  • On the other hand, the vigorous enforcement of faceoff interference has gotta go. It slows the game down too much, and the one against Speers late against the Rangers was ticky-tacky.

We skate together. We fight together. #BoyleStrong

A post shared by New Jersey Devils (@njdevils) on

  • I really hope Brian Boyle plays on opening night even after he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer.
  • If the Devils play like this in the regular season with their final team, they’ll be much more fun to watch than last season. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs, but I do think that they’ll play like a competent team.

Impeaching The Judge: Why John Hynes Needs To Be Fired

Greetings to whoever has stumbled upon this blog, or anyone who’s been waiting for something new by me (not likely, but I can dream). I haven’t bothered writing a blog post here for a long time because, quite frankly, I don’t have time to bother with this Devils team. I get pissed off just thinking about them, and I was inspired to write this when my train of thought derailed and my mood worsened in kind. What I thought was going to be an improved team going into the season- probably not a playoff team, but probably one that would fight their way into the picture- has, at best, played the exact same as last season, when there were two worthwhile scoring lines and two lines worth of players that wouldn’t be welcome on practically every other NHL roster. With a team that includes Taylor Hall, Pavel Zacha (who was getting things together before he got what seems like his 20th concussion before his 20th birthday- he won’t last another two seasons at this rate), the improved Joseph Blandisi, and the speedy Miles Wood, that’s inexcusable. While they’re not there yet in terms of offense and prospects are coming as soon as next season, it’s not too much to ask to expect a step forward.

Part of the reason why they’re worse off is a decline from Cory Schneider. His struggles were mostly confined to that stretch from late November to early January, where the Devils were a dumpster fire. They could have gone toe-to-toe with the Colorado Avalanche with how horrendous they were. But every goalie has gone through a rough patch this season. Scoring is up around the league, so it’s to be expected. It also makes the Devils’ play style even more inexcusable.

And that brings me to what I think is the major culprit hindering the progress of the New Jersey Devils- the defense, and how they play it. It’s the most passive defensive play I’ve ever seen, and it’s excruciating to watch. They’re content to just block opposing passing lanes, which forces the opponents back to the point so that they can keep scouting for a target. The result is that the Devils get pinned in their own zone, seemingly praying that the puck squirts out of there… instead of, you know, aggressively going after the point players once they get a handle on the puck and forcing a turnover and transition. But more often than not, that doesn’t happen. The result is frequent minute-plus defensive possessions, followed by a quick offensive line change after finally getting the elusive clear because they’re tired and need a break. And the cycle begins anew. While this is good at reducing opposing SOG totals, it’s even better at doing the same to the Devils. The result: three straight games of 20 shots on goal or less. Surprisingly, they lost all of them.

I don’t think “lack of offensive talent” explains everything, even though all of these games happened after Zacha went on IR. When you can count on seeing this happen during every Devils game, it’s only natural to avoid watching them. Some fans say that the defense isn’t good either. But I don’t think that explains everything. Jon Merrill has exceeded my wildest expectations after his atrocious start, turning out to be a solid cog in this frequently malfunctioning defensive machine. Many fans clamored to see a call-up for Steven Santini since the season began, and they got their wish. Since then, he’s doing a good job flanking Merrill. Andy Greene and Ben Lovejoy provide a solid veteran presence. John Moore and Damon Severson are offensively-minded while sacrificing defense- quite noticeably with regards to Severson- but they’re still young and have room for improvement. In spite of all that, they keep playing five steps behind the opponent on a given night.

So who’s the root of the problem? With every game I watch, and with every box score I browse that shows off a terrible shot total for the Devils, I get more confident in pointing the finger at the head coach. John Hynes, in addition to looking like The Judge in the Cormac McCarthy novel Blood Meridian, keeps running this low-event system like there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s easy to forget that Ray Shero, when he was hired as Devils GM, said he wanted a “run and gun” system. The Devils aren’t giving him what he wants. If they’re lucky or energetic enough to get an offensive opportunity, they inevitably give it back 10 to 15 seconds later. After the Hall deal, people questioned whether Adam Larsson could potentially tip the balance slightly for the Oilers. One doubt I heard: his inability to create chances. As fate would have it, he’s currently their number one left-handed defenseman and enabling Connor McDavid and his crew to score. If Larsson were still here, he’d be a slave to this system, much like he was last season.

john-hynes

“It makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.” -John Hynes

With Kevin Shattenkirk hitting the free agent market this year due to Washington’s cap space squeeze, Devils fans have salivated at the prospect of seeing him wear the red and black. With the money they can spend in the offseason, it’s easy to see why. I’d certainly welcome Shatty with open arms. But as long as Hynes is forming the Devils in his own undead image, I don’t think he’d help out all that much. The defensive system is the anchor holding them down. It’s not due to lack of talent, it’s due to a boneheaded playing style. Shero needs to stop showing loyalty towards his coach- a trait sorely lacking in today’s NHL- and tell him to go away. Maybe he can go back to collecting scalps or whatever the hell he did before he screwed up the Devils.

Also, Shero shouldn’t have let Scott Stevens walk to Minnesota, but that’s a tale for another time.

LOL hope is a lie

Looks like the Devils won’t be providing too much of an escape from our hell reality with Taylor Hall out for the next 3-4 weeks. They played well anyway against the Stars- they looked fast on offense and got plenty of shots on goal. But Hall is exciting while Henrique and Palmieri (OT aside) haven’t gotten going yet.

The Barclays Center Really Does Suck For Hockey

I went to the Islanders home game against the Lightning on Tuesday. The game was a badly played one for the home team- they lost 6-1 and really only played in earnest in the third period, even though they didn’t score in that one. Also they sent Jonathan Drouin out of the game early and he’s on my fantasy team.

A lot of people have talked about how bad the Barclays Center is for hockey, but they usually talk about the upper parts of the arena with obstructed views. This is where I sat when I was watching the slaughter happen on the ice.

img_1721

That far corner in the right side of the picture is distorted by the glass. The bizarre angles of the seats really make this a terrible place to watch a game. I’m obviously biased, but the Prudential Center is a much better place to watch a game.

Additionally, the arena doesn’t try to get fans into the game. It’s pretty dead during breaks in the action. Most arenas do fun little things in that time but there weren’t any for the Islanders. Intermission entertainment consisted solely of t-shirt cannons, and while I love a free t-shirt, you gotta mix it up for a truly great atmosphere. You can also tell which fans are Long Island rabble by the third period, as they’re drunk and loud, even though they’re terrible trash-talkers.

When I was walking out with my friends, I encountered a woman around my age in a Rangers sweater. We may be fans of opposing teams, but we both agreed that Devils games have better atmosphere. I can’t wait to return for a game.

Thoughts From the 10/28 OT Loss vs. Chicago Blackhawks

  1. If the Devils keep playing games with as high of a shot total as they did last night, they’ll be OK. They created a lot of high-quality chances from each line.
  2. I want to see Pavel Zacha and Taylor Hall back on the same line. They really had something special against the Coyotes.
  3. Speaking of Hall, he gets a Shame from me for missing a wide open net that would have given the Devils a goal. But he is now a True Devil for missing a SOG on an obvious opportunity.
  4. Vernon Fiddler gets a Shame for his lack of discipline that led to a double minor and tying goal from the Blackhawks. The Hell Power Play of Kane, Toews, Panarin, Seabrook, and Keith will score more often than not and they tempted fate.
  5. Auvitu gets a Shame for being a coward in overtime and not making a worthy attempt to get to the offensive end, instead turning it over for the losing goal.
  6. Are the goals ever going to come? I’m very skeptical about analytics and numbers predicting things. They’re good at picking players but I don’t think they predict the future 100% of the time. Luck is a factor- ask last year’s Hurricanes.

Teams That I Don’t Like

While I do love the Devils and other teams that I support, hatred is a more powerful emotion for me. When it comes to sports teams and players, I hold grudges that don’t go away very easily. Some teams are natural rivals but others I hate for personal reasons. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • New York Rangers: Of course. They’re the Devils’ natural rivals from across the Hudson and I live in their territory (Brooklyn isn’t Islanders territory even though they play here). To many of their fans, it feels like it’s always the 1994 offseason. While I’m a New York sports fan in baseball and football, Rangers fans show off denial that some people find typical of fans from that area. They are harmless, though, unlike some others. My cousin is a Rangers fan and I enjoy bantering with him in spite of this flaw.
  • Philadelphia Flyers: The other regional rival, and the main one during the glory years of the Devils. They’ll always play like the Broad Street Bullies to some extent- the fans love it and they always have mafiosos like Radko Gudas. And yes, the fans are bad in Philly. They get far more shit for it than a different fanbase that hardly ever does, but I’d say they’re worse because they can get violent. Throwing commemorative bracelets for their deceased owner onto the ice during a playoff game because the Flyers were losing is as “typical” Philadelphia sports fan as it gets.
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: Today they’re division rivals and Crosby carries himself like a crybaby. Back when I was first getting into hockey, they were playing in a separate division, but I always hated how they had a player that led the league in scoring every year. It was always Mario Lemieux or Jaromir Jagr (a player that I only started liking recently). My hate for them was in remission when they were terrible, but as soon as they got the number 1 pick that would get them Sidney Crosby, my very first reaction was, “Well, I guess I hate them again.”
  • Boston Bruins: Going to a boarding school in Central Massachusetts for part of my high school life fostered a lifelong hatred of New England sports teams and their fans. It’s just that the Bruins were awful or not that good for a long time. But boy was I angry when they ruined the purity of the recent Stanley Cup in 2011. I hate seeing their fans happy so much that I was one of the only American fans to cheer for the Canucks. And while Boston sports fans don’t get nearly the media coverage of their counterparts in Philadelphia (indeed, they are oversaturated in sports media and Hollywood), they can go toe-to-toe with them in being horrible examples of humanity. Massholes are all bark no bite when it comes to obnoxiousness, but they’re definitely the most racist fans in America. It’s a long and storied history and I might get into it later.
  • Florida Panthers and the Las Vegas team: They’re both owned by Army fetishizers who use their teams as a way of showing off their militaristic views. I don’t know how a jarhead moron like Bill Foley got his money, but he should call his team the Lobos or Scorpions instead of visibly jacking off to the military with the Black Knights or whatever the hell he wants to call them.

Needless to say, I can be irrational when it comes to hating things.

My Life As a Hockey Fan

My love affair with sports started when I was around 8 years old. It started not with hockey, but with basketball. My dad gave me a book about each team and their players after the 1993-94 season. I read through it many times, and I was hooked on sports ever since.

In those days, basketball was my favorite sport by far, even though I just followed the NBA and had no real favorite team. I got into baseball in 1995 as a Yankees fan, and I would keep abreast of football and follow both the Giants and Jets (I’m a Giants fan but I will watch the Jets if they’re on). Hockey was kind of an afterthought. I was aware of hockey because one of my cousins was, and still is, a huge Rangers fan, and I was pretty happy about the Devils winning their first Stanley Cup in 1995. I also didn’t take too kindly to them missing the playoffs the following season. Still, I didn’t watch too much hockey.

One Thanksgiving, my uncle gave me a present. It was his Hanukkah gift for me, because it fell close to the holiday that year. The gift was a book by Ted Montgomery about the 1995-96 NHL season. It contained capsules of the 26 teams that made up the league at the time, two articles apiece about each team, a small blurb about every single NHL player for fantasy hockey purposes, and a review of the playoffs and the draft from that season. From there on out, I was hooked on hockey. I would read that book and the book that I got for the following season in the car and at home. I would watch games on our big TV or in my playroom. I loved watching Martin Brodeur and Scott Stevens. Over the years, I’ve gotten several shirts, a couple of posters, and a waste paper can that I still have to show my loyalty. Combine that with the 1998 NBA lockout, Michael Jordan’s retirement in that offseason, and the next couple of years of low-scoring Laker-dominated basketball, and there was nothing in the way of being a hockey fan first and foremost.

I’ve grown older, players have come and gone, and the Devils’ fortunes have waxed and waned, but I will never abandon my team. In fact, I’d say that living in New York City for the past five years, and coming back home from college and grad school before then, has only strengthened my fandom. Living in Rangers territory with a fair number of Islanders fans mixed in can be tough, but staying loyal to the Devils is a way of saying who I am and where I’m from. I eagerly anticipate every season and say that the NFL is a one-month bridge to hockey. With football getting more boring by the year, I don’t think I’ll be changing my mind any time soon.