Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Devils Going to Hell In a Handbasket; Enzo Bearzot, 1927-2010

Let me get my thoughts on the blizzard out of the way: We got 17 inches where I live, and other areas got more. Elizabeth, New Jersey was the "winner" in the New York Tri-State Area with 31 inches -- which tops the 30 inches that set a record for me on January 6-8, 1996 -- and Toms River topped the Philadelphia metro area (even though it, sort of, belongs to both areas) with 28 inches. Cape May got 26.

It was nice to see Mayor Mike shoveling a citizen's driveway on the news. But it was Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York doesn't even seem to be aware that there are FIVE Boroughs. Mayor Moneybags can't be bothered to attend to an actual emergency, while Mayor Nutter -- not aptly named -- literally too matters into his own hands!

As for my own town, a lot of side streets, including mine, remain inadequately plowed. I swear, what's the point in voting for Democrats if they're going to care as little as the Republicans do?


Tonight, the New Jersey Devils host The Scum, a.k.a. the Manhattan Muggers, a.k.a. the Broadway Boozehounds, a.k.a. the New York Rangers, at the Prudential Center in Newark.

I don't know if you're aware of this, but I hate the fucking Rangers.

Right now, the Devils rank 30th out of the NHL's 30 teams with just 20 points. Dead last. The pathetic New York Islanders are 29th, so they're not quite as pathetic. The Rangers rank 10th.

The Devils have lost 9 of their last 10. They are just 5-12 at home. (I'm counting an overtime or shootout loss as a loss, even though you still get 1 team point for it.)

The Devils can be summed up in 2 letters: P.U.! This is the worst Devils team since 1987, when Alain Chevrier was the main goalie, and the top 3 scorers were Aaron Broten, "Captain Kirk" Muller and... John MacLean. To borrow a line from a movie about another sport, "What are these boys thinkin' about? 'Cause it sho' ain't hockey!"

Last Thursday, John MacLean was fired as Devils head coach. After waiting for years to get this chance, including winning a minor-league title and serving as a Devils assistant, he lasted just 33 games.

As The Who would say, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Jacques Lemaire, who coached the Devils from 1993 to 1997, including the 1995 Stanley Cup, and coached them last season as well before "retiring" (that may have been his intention at the time), has been installed for the rest of this season.

One of the greatest players of his era, scorer of 366 goals in the regular season and another 61 in the Playoffs (including an overtime winner that clinched the 1977 Stanley Cup, though it was a sweep), winner of 8 Stanley Cups from 1968 to 1979 with the Montreal Canadiens, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame before his 40th birthday, the man who turned the Devils from pretenders to contenders to champions, and the man who turned the Minnesota Wild from an expansion franchise to a Western Conference Finalist in just 3 seasons, Lemaire is now 65 years old, and he looks it.

Brought in as his assistant is Larry Robinson, his former Canadiens teammate, one of the best defensemen who ever lived. Robinson was his assistant on the 1995 Cup, coached the Devils to the 2000 Cup, and assisted him again last season. (Sadly, with the recent death of Pat Burns, a reunion of all 3 Devils Cup-winning coaches is no longer possible.)

To be totally fair, I'm sorry for Johnny Mac, who finally got his chance to be an NHL head coach and deserved better than to run into an absolute buzzsaw.

There's the injuries. Martin Brodeur had an elbow injury, although he's back. And Zach Parise, who has a chance to become the greatest offensive player in team's history -- assuming he doesn't get hurt again, and he doesn't get let go in yet another salary dump, he should surpass MacLean's team record of 374 career goals in 2017 or so -- has been hurt all year, and may not come back at all this season. MacLean has already dressed 33 different players, 9 of whom made their NHL debuts this season.

And speaking of salary dumps, there's also the matter of general manager Lou Lamoriello, who seems to be following the Charlie Finley model: Bald and cheap. You could make a pretty good starting lineup out of players the Devils let go just since the 2004-05 lockout: Center, Scott Gomez or John Madden; right wing, Brian Gionta; left wing, Sergei Brylin (still playing in the Russian league); defensemen, Brian Rafalski and Brad Lukowich; goaltender, Scott Clemmensen. Then there's the cheapies that Lou Lam has NOT gotten rid of, the Colin Whites, the Sheldon Brookbanks, the Dainius Zubruses.

Ilya Kovalchuk got a lot of money? Doesn't mean there's nothing left to spend on anybody else. You know, Jeff Vanderbeek is not crying poverty.

Of course, there is the matter of the salary cap, the result of which is that Kovalchuk's contract had to be seriously restructured so he could get all that money and not have all of it counted against the cap.

Still, Lamoriello has let too many good players go, and not gotten players good enough to replace them.

For a few years, the Devils were resembling the Atlanta Braves. Well, guess what: Division Titles are not enough.

The Devils are starting to more closely resemble Arsenal. Same red shirts, same weak passing, same fear to get off a good shot, same laziness. Same willingness to go just so far (Playoffs for the Devils, 4th place or higher and thus guaranteeing UEFA Champions League play for the following season for Arsenal), and not willing to take a risk to go for it all.

Except I can't say THAT anymore, either: On Monday, Arsenal beat Chelsea! They go into tonight's game against Wigan on a tremendous high. They will go into the New Year no worse than 3rd in the Premier League, and still alive in all 3 cup competitions (FA Cup, Carling Cup, Champions League).

Besides, Arsene Wenger still has all his hair. It's all white, but it's still all there. Lamoriello? I don't know what's going on in that geodesic dome of his.

UPDATE: Devils blew a 1-0 lead and lost to The Scum, 2-1.


However, as long as we're being totally fair, John MacLean he took the hand he was dealt and played it very poorly. So, in spite of MacLean facing the old line, "Be careful what you wish for, you may get it," I say... Thank you, Santa!

Maybe we can make it up to him by trading Jamie Langenbrunner, assigning the Captaincy to someone more deserving, and retire Number 15 for MacLean.

Come on, Jacques Lemaire, get this team going again. Remember the pride you and your teammates felt in Montreal. Remember the pride you built in this team in the Meadowlands era. Bring it back in Newark.


Enzo Bearzot died last week. A native of Aiello del Friuli near Udine, Italy, he became a star soccer defender, playing for several teams from 1946 to 1964, including Internazionale of Milan and Torino of Turin. He played 1 game for the Italian national team, in 1955.

He went into management, and in 1975 was named manager of the national team. He got them to 4th place in both the 1978 World Cup and Euro 1980. After poor performances in their 1st 3 matches of the 1982 World Cup in Spain, he ordered Silenzio Stampa -- media silence, not talking to the press.

It worked, as a team led by Juventus (the main team in Turin) stars Dino Zoff, Gateano Scirea, Claudio Gentile, Antonio Cabrini, Marco Tardelli, and the hero of heroes, Paolo Rossi, knocked out defending Champion Argentina, a much-hyped Brazil squad, Poland in the Semifinal, and West Germany in the Final.
Italy didn't qualify for Euro 1984, and crashed out of the 1986 World Cup in the Round of 16. Bearzot faced criticism for relying on the older players (not the first time an Italy manager would be so criticized, nor the last), and he resigned in disgust. Still, his 104 matches are the most of any Italy manager. He died last week at age 83.


Hours until the Devils play another local rival: 9, tonight, against the Rangers at the Prudential Center. Next game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Saturday, January 8 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. Next game against the Islanders, Monday, January 17, at the Nassau Coliseum.

Days until the next North London Derby: 59, Saturday, February 26, at White Hart Lane. Under 2 months.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 100, Friday, April 8, 2011, at Fenway Park.

Days until Derek Jeter collects his 3,000th career hit: 178. Under 6 months. (estimated: June 14, 2011)

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 246, on Saturday, September 3, although nothing else is known. Apparently the Big East Conference hasn’t set its conference schedule for 2011, meaning only 4 nonconference games are yet set: At North Carolina on September 10, home to Ohio University (thank God it’s not Ohio State) on September 24, home to Navy on October 15, and against Army at the new Yankee Stadium on November 12. In fact, aside from the Yankee Stadium date, every date is in flux, due to the whims of the TV networks: September 3, 10, 17 and 24; October 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29; November 5, 19 and 26; and December 3.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 252, on Friday night, September 9, 2011, and the opponent and location are TBD.

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 319.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 330.

Days until the last Nets game in New Jersey: 481 (estimated).

Days until the 2012 Olympics begin in London: 537.

Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 885 (estimated).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 1,007 (estimated).

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 1,132.

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 756th career home run to surpass all-time leader Hank Aaron: 1,627 (estimated).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 763rd career home run to become as close to a "real" all-time leader as we are likely to have: 1,741 (estimated).

No comments: