Well, the Devils are out early again. Almost every year, the playoffs prove there are simply no guarantees. Especially in the first round, upsets will happen and I’m not even sure how big an upset this is. Philly, on paper, couldn’t match up in goal, but they obviously out-performed New Jersey.
Back in early February, I posted the following comment after the Devils traded for superstar winger Ilya Kovalchuk:
I can’t understand why the Devils, of all teams, made this move. I can’t imagine the Devils keeping Kovalchuk long-term, and I just don’t see them getting out of the Eastern conference. If this is a rental, they gave up quite a bit of their future.
In that deal, the Devils did give up a lot. Most analysts suggested New Jersey didn’t, but I’ve written consistently that I liked what Atlanta did with that move. They acquired a solid defenseman (Oduya) along with a good young rookie and former first round choice (Bergfors), who should both be strong players for years in Atlanta. In addition, the Devils gave another recent number one (Patrice Cormier) and their number one selection this coming summer. That’s three number one picks and a good defenseman for Kovalchuk.
Now, the Devils are in an awkward position. They are no longer the deep organization they once were. They are some years removed from their most recent Cup success. (Not exactly like the Leafs and 1967, I acknowledge, but...) They may be moving backwards.
They also may have to over-spend to keep Kovalchuk in order to rationalize that they didn’t just throw away four good assets for nothing. If that happens, they’ll have precious little left to spend on other much-needed upgrades.
If they lose him to free agency, then they really have given away four valuable pieces. And they didn’t even get out of the first round. They won one playoff game.
They “went for it”, and I guess you can applaud them for that. But I thought it was out of character from the get-go to get a one-way player like Kovalchuk, when Lemaire is your coach.
Lou Lamoriello is a hockey genius, but this is a deal that, if New Jersey had any fans, their fans would be talking about for years.