1. Swift end to promising season
Although it was shocking to see this team go down to the seventh seed in just five games, astute Devils fans started to really sense trouble back at the start of the year, when the team that rolled to a 28-10-1 start in 2009 suddenly hit a wall, going .500 in January and 2-4-1 in February, their first losing month since October 2007. The team that was able to keep pace with the rocket-strapped Capitals quickly fell behind in the Eastern arms race, using its fast start as a cushion against Pittsburgh's weak start and barely eeking out an Atlantic Division championship. Although the acquisition of Kovalchuk fired up the fans, the on-ice magic was much more subdued (which is not to say his presence did not help as he notched 10 goals, 17 assists and was a plus-9 in 27 games). Lameriello thought he had a championship-caliber team on his hands (as evidenced by the Kovalchuk trade). Alas.
2. End of the short-lived Kovalchuk EraSure, we don't know this for sure. But given the fact that the Russian sniper was essentially a loaner player for a long playoff push, and the fact that he left his first team because they weren't willing to match his salary demands (something Lou Lamoriello may have trouble doing as well), it seems the first bonafide offensive superstar to play in New Jersey in several seasons (no offense to Mr. Parise who will soon join the ranks of the truly elite scorers) will leave town for greener (read: money) pastures.
I see him fitting in nicely with Montreal or Los Angeles or perhaps Boston. Either way, I hope we sign this guy before parting with him so that we can at least get something in return. Like a wise man once said, Kovy is a fucking valuable thing and you don't just give it away for nothing.
3. Third first round exit in three years
As the top seed, no less. We expect better. Enough said.
4. The fucking Flyers
The hated down-the-Turnpike division rivals. Since rallying back from a 3-1 deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2000 on our way to our second Cup win (a series that will forever be a part of Devils lore), the Flyers have handed us two first round five game exits. I hate this team. Add the fact that we lost to the fucking Rangers two years ago and the fucking Hurricanes, who have become somewhat of a playoff rival as of late, the past two years and I'm about ready to break someone's nose.
5. No jelly jar heroicsAfter a lackluster 4-1 loss in Philadelphia in Game 4, Lamoriello stormed into the visitor locker room and berated his underachieving team with a fiery I Expect Better From you speech. At some point during this impassioned speech, the Hall of Fame general manager grabbed a jar of jelly from the post-game food spread and smashed it onto the locker room floor. It was exactly what the doctor ordered; a kick in the ass from the Boss, an introspective moment that should have united the team and inspired them to play better and live up to the expectations of the fans, their coach, their beloved GM, and most importantly, themselves. It could have signaled the start of a new rallying cry in New Jersey every playoffs, akin to Detroit's octopus (though tossing a jelly jar onto the ice might not have been the best thing to encourage). Instead, the jelly jar incident just became another image of a team so lost, frustrated, and hapless under the weight of huge expectations.
6. Marty ain't no spring chicken
As much as Devils fans are reluctant to come to terms with it, the reign of Martin Brodeur as the best goaltender in the NHL is coming to an end. Not because any other goaltender in the league is better, but rather because the 37 year old future Hall of Famer around whom this team has been built since 1993 is surely set to retire within the next three or so years. It'll be hard to imagine this team without the player who has given us a reason to compete every single season since I was five years old. Every year Martin bows out this time of year is one less possible chance for a final crowning achievement, his fourth Stanley Cup ring.
7. Beckoning age of mediocrity?
A sobering thought has crept into my mind over these past three disappointing years. As a 22 year old Devils fan, I have really only known success and high expectations. Don't get me wrong, I have known heartbreak. I have seen failure. But as a young fan, I've seen my team win three Stanley Cups in four finals appearances, countless division titles, annual playoff appearances with the exception of just two seasons, and year after year of competitive hockey out of New Jersey. But as the backbone of our team set to retire soon, and the best GM in all of sports likely to accompany him shortly afterwards, it begs the question: have the Devils entered another age of mediocrity not seen since the 1980s? Will this team be mired in the land of low seeds and first round losses, if not consecutive seasons of not making it to the post-season. I shudder to think.
As much as this season's early end may have sucked for the reasons above, it may have a silver lining: I have no doubt Lameriello is planning a major overhaul of the team this off-season. And though this might force us to part ways with some of my favorite players, it also exciting to bring fresh faces to the team. In the face of heartbreak, I remain hopeful.
Step into the rain: secondrain.blogspot.com