Certainly it looked like last night's embarassing loss to the Sabres at home might have been rock bottom for this underachieving Devils team but tonight in some ways might actually be worse. Sure the score's only 2-0 after two periods but if it was Johan Hedberg instead of Martin Brodeur in goal tonight it would be about 7 or 8-0. Our offense continues to look like it's in a pot haze, our defense is nonexistent and we've been outshot 28-16 in a game we needed before the real meat of this road trip gets underway Wednesday in San Jose.
Is there anything really worth talking about from this game so far? Not unless you're Derek. So I'll beat the dead horse that is the Ilya Kovalchuk scratching some more...apparently the veil of secrecy finally got pulled back by The Record's Tom Gulutti on why the Devils' $100 million man did not dress for last night's game:
A source said that Kovalchuk was late for a mandatory team meeting prior to Saturday’s optional morning skate at Prudential Center.
When I asked Kovalchuk if there was a team meeting before the morning skate, he said confirmed that there was. When I asked if he attended the meeting, he said, “no comment” and then said he had to go and would talk again after the game.
MacLean also would not comment when I asked if Kovalchuk attended the team meeting.
Assuming that's true I have two main thoughts...number one I'm fine with the benching, even if a more benign punishment like being sat for a period might have gotten the message through without compromising the team's chances to win last night. Still, sometimes you have to go overboard to really stand on principle. However, my second thought is that if that's all that happened, then what exactly was the reason for the initial secrecy in the first place?!
I mean really, the Devils would have been supported in the media and the fans wouldn't have batted an eye if the team had just put out a statement saying that Kovalchuk was scratched and this was the reason. Instead, nobody knew that Kovalchuk was a healthy scratch until at least two periods into the game and we - as fans and paying customers - deserved an explanation why. It's one thing to scratch a random fourth-liner or hide an injury from the opposition (god knows we've been doing that long enough with Anton Volchenkov and his 'stiff neck') but no tactical advantage was gained by this cloak-and-dagger nonsense with our supposed franchise player. And as a result, the Devils looked like a Mickey Mouse organization being mocked for healthy scratching a $100 million player for no apparent reason...there I said it.
Of course after all the hulabaloo that followed, the Devils finally had to leak what happened otherwise it would still probably be a secret but why did it even take the fact that this became an international news story to do it? Someone in the PR department or Lou Lamoriello himself should have recognized when you scratch your marquee acquisition that people all over North America are going to be asking why (and inventing theories when you don't tell them), starting with your own fanbase. It's not like indicating he was being disciplined for off-ice reasons would be talking out of school.
Sometimes I honestly think we keep secrets just for the principle of keeping secrets. And you can get away with keeping everything in house when you're a winning organization but when you're about fifteen minutes away from being 2-6-1 with a team that's been awful for the entire 2010 calendar year you can't get away with hiding every little thing. Especially after an offseason where we, as a fanbase, were continually kept in the dark over what was going on during those six weeks where Kovalchuk was in an NHL-induced purgatory.
We also made our rookie coach look like the second coming of Mike Keenan seven games into his tenure by not coming clean initially. Not that I think Johnny MacLean will be in trouble, even as the zombified performances multiply at an alarming rate. I wonder how long it'll take Lou to throw the jelly jar this year...this time around he might throw a grenade, and it won't land on the coaching staff. I wouldn't be entirely shocked if one or more big-name players don't make it to San Jose on Wednesday, because something has to give and right now. When you have Jamie Langenbrunner committing nine million penalties, Patrik Elias continuing his invisible act and so on, you know that something beyond just firing yet another coach has to be done to shake things up.
Especially since our cap situation isn't fully cleared up yet and won't be until something is done. Maybe it hasn't helped this band of mental midgets that Lou keeps that axe over their heads as long as possible, but tough noogies. They honestly don't deserve the benefit of the doubt after what happened last year, and I thought if anything Lou did too little to change the culture of the locker room this offseason. At this point though, they're forcing his hand and fast.