Sunday, October 17, 2010
Crisis in Newark after nine days?!
Well evidently I picked a good night to skip going to a Devils game, since they got humiliated 4-1 by the Bruins to drop to 1-4-1, and except for a few players didn't look like they could be bothered to try out there. Funny, I don't hear most of the people who were blaming Jacques Lemaire for the locker room problem last year taking the players to task now that it's evident locker room issues still exist. What's the excuse now for the players' half-hearted efforts and quitting on the ice?
Unlike some fans, coach Johnny MacLean is at least not putting his head in the sand...after halting practice earlier this week to try and drive a point home about professionalism he had to close the locker room door for ten minutes following last night's debacle, then came out of it stating that we 'have too many passengers' right now. Gee, I wonder who they might be - couldn't be some of the same people who were doing it last year, right? Noooo, not our great Captain America Jamie Langenbrunner. As much as I like Patrik Elias and David Clarkson they'd better start pulling their weight too and it's evident Jason Arnott (despite his two early goals) is not one of the coach's favorites either, based on his icetime the last couple games and declining faceoff percentage.
To be fair, the result last night was just as much on our leaky defense as it was our dissapointing forwards. Defensive mistakes abound on every goal and were made by just about everyone, including the vets. While Henrik Tallinder's doing his best Dan McGillis impression, Paul Martin already has six points in six games for the Penguins. You think Devil fans who were bagging on him as 'no Scott Niedermayer' are getting a bit of a wake-up call? He wasn't the problem with our defense, but Tallinder's been far more of a nightmare than I ever feared. Our rookies also didn't do particuarly well last night, evidenced by Matt Corrente jumping out of position to make a hit and then Alexander Urbom also getting lost in the middle of nowhere as Langenbrunner was the only man back left to defend on one of the Bruins' four second period goals.
At least you can excuse mistakes from them, but vets - even ones who are trying like Zach Parise - have dramatically underperformed in the early going. Parise doesn't have a single goal in six games since converting off of Ilya Kovalchuk's setup in the first several minutes of the home opener. Danius Zubrus finally scored last night though he's missed at least half a dozen other chances to convert, but hey $3.4 million salary or no $3.4 million at least he's giving effort. I would rather watch a team of Zubruses score 35 points a year and bust their you-know-what than see the floating pieces of garbage that have stunk up the joint since last January without any leadership at all.
And make no mistake, if there is an early mutiny against the coach, this time players' heads are going to roll. Johnny Mac's always been a Lou favorite and I don't believe our GM will stand for this crap much longer, considering how this poor excuse of a team finished last year. Would it be nice to have this salary cap issue flushed once and for all...sure, but if Lou's hesitation is because he doesn't want to give up Zubrus I definitely support that. However, it may get to the point soon where Lou seriously has to question Jamie's leadership or lack thereof and flush him. I'm not neccesarily counting on anything to happen since Jamie's always been a Lou favorite and until recently had the respect of just about everyone. Yet something changed in him soon after the Olympics, not only has he looked over the hill as a player but he looks disinterested as a person.
He's far from the only culprit, but as the captain he sets a tone and if he's going to get away with floating all over the place then why wouldn't other players do the same? Whatever the issue, something needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed now. I realize a 1-4-1 start is nothing to panic over, especially since none of the other teams in our division are off to a particularly great start, but if you couple that with our impending six-game road trip to the Garden, the three California teams AND Vancover plus Chicago to finish it off we could be in danger of burying ourselves early a la Carolina last year.
With four days off before our next game Thursday, hopefully that will provide a turning point with some bonding time on the road and a bunch of practices before we take on the Canadiens. One thing that should help is the likely return of Anton Volchenkov. Unless of course someone's lying and our top defenseman did suffer a concussion (wouldn't be the first time we kept one of those under wraps) when he got his nose broken with a slapshot. Assuming he is back at least one of the rookies - either Urbom or Corrente - can be dropped from the lineup. You would think we wouldn't continue to average less than two goals a game with a $40 million offense, but we better get that straightened out before it continues long enough to bury us early.
And again, some players need to start playing like they're interested or fear for their jobs instead of being sacred cows. When you have a former player talking about passengers six games into the season after the way most of those same players finished last season, that's bad.
One more thing while I'm in full rant mode...barely 13,000 in attendance for last night's game - wow. I can't remember many Saturday games that have gone under 15,000, but to have crowds of just over 12, 12 and 13 for your second to fourth home games of the year is pretty bad. Especially considering all the supposed buzz around Kovalchuk, bringing back Arnott and the other new additions. I guess there's something to the fact that in a town with baseball and football it's hard to draw well in October, usually we have fewer home games by now so this season provided an acid test to that theory, and our marketing department failed big-time.
You think having $35 box office tickets as your cheapest (other than the dopey hundred or so $10 seats that people have to sit in line for hours to get and it's usually the same people in the line) is going to draw in a non-gold mine market where hockey isn't the only thing the way it is in Canada or the number one sport like in Minnesota? I realize people at the Garden would kill for $31 season tickets, our cheapest other than the couple hundred people or so that get $15's in the extreme corners, but the cheapest just three years ago was $15. To jack up corner seats from $15 to $31 in an economy that's tanked is going to tick off some people. Predictably enough, those corner sections (209, 215, 226 and 232) were pretty barren in the last few rows.
And the uppers aren't the only problem, the mezz has been laughably empty for the last four years, no matter how many discount promos they run. Not to mention the lower corners also being overpriced. Having a promo schedule where the highlights are next Saturday with Calendar Night and March 18 with throwback jersey night aren't exactly going to bring people out either. Shoot, they're pretty much the only promos we have other than puck night, cap night and maybe one or two others. In this economy you either need to provide people with lower prices (preferably) or at least an incentive to come to the game. If our marketing department doesn't get it going soon, we may need to start slashing prices and offering refunds midseason.