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.

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“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.

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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.

Welcome to my (mostly) hockey blog!

Hey, I’m David. I turn 30 years old in less than a month, I’m studying medical coding so that I don’t have to keep doing temp work, and I’m a New Jersey native (Maplewood and Warren Township) living in Brooklyn (Kensington). But the reason why I made this blog is because I am a diehard New Jersey Devils fan and I don’t want to bore people with my constant hockey updates on my Facebook page. I have a lot to say about the Devils both on and off the ice, as well as other teams, fans of other teams, and fellow Devils fans. I might even let loose my brain droppings on other topics.

So sit back, enjoy the blog, and Let’s Go Devils!