Tag:Pete Deboer
Posted on: December 3, 2011 10:43 am
Edited on: December 3, 2011 11:01 am
 

Is it time for more Johan Hedberg in New Jersey?

hedberg1By: Adam Gretz

The New Jersey Devils have a goaltending problem.

Martin Brodeur had one of the shortest outings of his career on Friday night, receiving the hook just eight minutes into the first period of the Devils 4-2 loss in Minnesota, after allowing three goals on just four shots. Devils coach Pete DeBoer defended his future Hall of Fame goalie after the game, saying that he re-watched each of the goals and concluded that he didn't think Brodeur "could have done much on them," pointing out that at least one of them went in due to a deflection off of a skate.

Even if that is true, Friday's game was hardly the first time this season Brodeur has struggled. Over his past three starts he's stopped just 43 of the 55 shots he's faced for a terrible .781 save percentage. In his previous start, a 6-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, Brodeur allowed six goals on just 25 shots, including three on the first eight shots he faced in the opening period.

Said Brodeur after the game, via Rich Cere of the Star-Ledger, “You can’t say you played well when you allow three goals in eight minutes or so. But when you look at the quality of the goals scored, it’s not like I was weak or anything. The puck doesn’t hit me. That’s a couple of games. I’ll try to work harder, I guess, and figure it out. You have to go back and work harder and hopefully the pucks will hit me.”

Unfortunately, the puck hasn't been hitting him all that often going back to the start of last season, and it's getting to the point where you have to ask, once again, when backup Johan Hedberg begins to get the majority of the starts. The two veterans have already split the starts this season, due in large part to Brodeur's injury earlier in the year, with Brodeur getting the call in 13 games while Hedberg has started 11. But since Brodeur returned from his injury in early November, he's received bulk of the playing time and it's hard to ignore the results.

Of the 39 goaltenders that qualify for the NHL's save percentage lead, Brodeur is currently 38th with a .879 mark. The only goalie that's been worse is Columbus' Steve Mason at .875, and he's recently lost playing time to his backup, Curtis Sanford. Brodeur finished last season 35th out of 47 goalies. His .872 save percentage during even-strength situations this season is currently the worst in the NHL.

He is one of the all-time greats, but right now he's not even the best goalie on his own team, as Hedberg has outplayed him going back to the start of last season (Hedberg's save percentage over that stretch is .914 compared to an even .900 for Brodeur).

The bigger problem for the Devils, from a long-term outlook, is that neither one is going to be much of an option in future seasons as Hedberg, set to turn 39 in May, is the youngest of the two, while both are set to become unrestricted free agents after this season. And this summer's group of potential free agent netminders leaves plenty to be desired once you get past Minnesota's Josh Harding.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 25, 2011 3:01 pm
 

Ilya Kovalchuk's role as a penalty killer

Kovy1

By: Adam Gretz

New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk is logging more minutes than any other forward in the NHL this season. At over 26 minutes per game, he's fourth among all players in the league, and the only forward to crack the top-40 (the other 39, of course, are defensemen). This is not a new development.

Kovalchuk has always been one of the top players in the league when it comes to the number of minutes he's on the ice, and he's finished no lower than 12th among forwards in average ice-time per game going back to the 2005-06 season, leading the league in each of the past two seasons. What is a somewhat new development for Kovalchuk, currently in the second-year of a 15-year, $100 million contract he signed last summer following a lengthy contract saga that involved Tuesday's opponent, the Los Angeles Kings, is one of the ways in which he's piling up that ice time.

On the penalty kill.

Throughout his career Kovalchuk has never been regarded as a great, or even good, defensive player. Seeing him on the PK isn't something one might expect. At least not that often. Especially when coming into this season he typically averaged less than 10 seconds of shorthanded ice-time per game over the past five seasons.

This year, for what has been one of the top penalty killing teams in the league (entering Tuesday's game the Devils are clicking at 89 percent, good enough for seventh best in the league) he's been playing nearly a minute-and-a-half per game on the PK.

"I think he's getting better and better," said Devils coach Pete DeBoer regarding Kovalchuk's penalty killing efforts following a 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

"He's obviously a guy we want to be able to get out on the ice in situations in games where there's a lot of speciality teams. You don't want him sitting him for long stretches because of the penalty kill, so we're using him in both situations."

Basically, they want their best player on the ice as much as possible.

Sitting for long stretches hasn't been something he's had to worry about lately, as he's played over 29 minutes in three of the past four games. Using a player like Kovalchuk on the penalty kill certainly carries some risks and rewards. The risk, of course, is that -- and let's be honest -- he's not always the most responsible player defensively. His game is about scoring goals and creating offense, and it always has been. He's not going to suddenly turn into John Madden or Jere Lehtinen overnight.

The reward, as we witnessed on Saturday, is he can still create offense and put pressure on the opposition, even when his team is down a man. Early in the third period, with the Devils attempting to kill a double-minor for high-sticking, Kovalchuk won possession of the puck in the corner (as you can see in the video to the right), taking it from Chris Kunitz and immediately took off up the ice, not only getting the puck out of danger, but also setting up a shorthanded goal for Patrik Elias.

The Devils, in what is admittedly a very small sample size at this point, haven't allowed a power play goal when Kovalchuk has been on the ice this season.

Going back to last January, when Jacques Lemaire was still coaching in New Jersey, the idea of Kovalchuk killing penalties was kicked around when he asked Lemaire what he could do to become a better player. He told him to start killing penalties.

It should be interesting to see how his role continues to evolve throughout the season.

Eventually his overall minutes are going to have to start coming down, because he's not going to keep playing 29 or 30 minutes every night over the course of an 82-game season (plus potential playoff games). During New Jersey's last game, for example, he took only two shifts over the final eight minutes of regulation when the game was all but out of reach. It's possible the penalty kill is the area that he starts seeing fewer minutes. But until then, it's interesting to watch what has been regarded as one-dimensional, all-offense player take on, on at least a very limited basis, more of a defensive role.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: October 19, 2011 4:27 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 4:35 pm
 

Martin Brodeur to miss 7-10 days

Mb2By: Adam Gretz

The New Jersey Devils are off to a 3-1 start this season and they've done it, for the most part, without the presence of their future Hall of Fame goaltender, Martin Brodeur, who has been bothered by a shoulder injury in the early going. That injury is going to keep him on the shelf for at least another seven to 10 days, according to the team on Wednesday afternoon.

Said first-year coach Pete Deboer, "Obviously when you’ve got a guy like Marty you want to take a cautious approach and a long-term approach, anyway, that he’s with you for the entire year. But it definitely makes it easier when you’ve got a guy that’s capable of coming in and playing like Heddy has.”

"Heddy," of course, is a reference to Devils backup goaltender Johan Hedberg, who will continue to make starts in the absence of Brodeur. And given the Devils' upcoming schedule, including five games over the next week, four of which come on a road trip through the Western Conference, he'll have plenty of opportunities. Fortunately for New Jersey Hedberg has proven himself to be more than capable of filling in.

Is he a player that you want starting 60 games for you over the course of a season? Not at all. But as a backup and fill-in he's a solid option, and has played well in his three appearances this season, stopping 69 of the 73 shots he's faced. Over the prevous two full seasons, one of which was spent with the Atlanta Thrashers and the other (last year) with the Devils, he's recorded save percentages of .915 and .912. So things could certainly be worse in the short-term.

Still, the Devils have a rough stretch of games coming up starting with a home game against San Jose on Friday, before heading on the road for games at Pittsburgh (the following night), Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dallas.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 1:24 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 3:04 pm
 

Devils ownership in flux amid bankruptcy report

By Brian Stubits

Last season the New Jersey Devils took a staggering stumble to the bottom of the NHL before a late-season surge brought them back to the level of respectability.

Now they are might be taking another fall. The New York Post's Josh Kosman reports the team is on the verge of bankruptcy after missing a loan payment on September 1. Typically, creditors don't appreciate that much.

The team’s financial hardships could also affect Newark’s four-year-old Prudential Center, the Devils’ home arena. Team-owned Devils Arena Entertainment operates the $375 million building and guarantees the Devils’ loans and, therefore, is in danger of also going bankrupt.

Two issues are complicating matters. First, principal owner Jeff Vanderbeek and co-owner Ray Chambers, each of whom owns 47 percent of the franchise, are on the outs. Chambers, through his Brick City Hockey unit, has been trying to sell his non-controlling stake in the franchise for a year.

But the efforts of Chambers and Moag & Co., a Baltimore investment bank, have been unsuccessful, despite, a source said, cutting their asking price 20 percent to $200 million. Forbes last year estimated the Devils were worth $218 million, No. 11 in the league, down 2 percent from 2010. The team is ranked No. 25 in attendance.

Second, Vanderbeek’s relationship with the lenders is as frosty as the rink surface at The Rock, as the arena is known.

The Devils have told their banks to get lost, the source said.

The Devils’ past-due loan payment of roughly $100 million is owed to a CIT-led lending group. Devils Arena Entertainment owes $180 million, the source said.

For their part, the Devils came out with a statement later Monday:

"Today’s New York Post story is inaccurate. The notions that the Devils are facing bankruptcy or that 'the Devils have told their banks to get lost' are patently untrue. The Devils value their relationship with their banks and are confident a refinancing will be completed shortly. As stated previously, ownership is close to finalizing an agreement that would lead to a buyout of Brick City’s share of the company."

To read the full statement, see Tom Gulitti's blog.

But what remains is that, despite their long run of success (besides last season), the Devils have struggled to bring people through the gates, plus they have loans on the still-new Prudential Center. It's a recipe that has led to the franchise losing money. Plus, minority owner Ray Chambers has been looking to sell his 47-percent interest in the organization after a falling out with primary owner Jeff Vanderbeek. It doesn't paint a very stable picture for the franchise's future.

These are certainly new times for the Devils. They suffered through last season partly because of salary cap issues after re-signing Ilya Kovalchuk. That has led to as big of a step back as the Devils have had in a long time. The have a newcomer on the bench (somebody from outside the organization) in former Panthers coach Pete Deboer. They were in the top five of the draft where they picked the concensus top defenseman available in Swede Adam Larsson.

Playing a role in the troubles, too, is the NBA lockout. That's because the New Jersey Nets, scheduled to play their final season in New Jersey at the Prudential Center this year, don't have any games lined up at the moment because of the labor strife. Nets games were a solid source of income for the Prudential Center.

While it's not a prerequisuite, it would sure help the Devils return to the top of the standings on an annual basis with a stable ownership situation. Either way, it's hardly the news a team wants to hear the week training camp opens.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
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