After a third straight First Round exit, the New Jersey Devils are sitting scratching their heads, as they are the first team out of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They stalled in the second-half with an 18-17-6 record and lost nine of their last 11 games, including the playoffs. You have to wonder how much a curse the new building is for the Devils. All that tomfoolery aside, there's a lot of questions to be answered for the Devils.
First, will the pursue Ilya Kovalchuk for any kind of extension?? The addition had paid off somewhat, but the fact remains that he probably won't be back for the Devils next season, especially with his probable crazy demands for a contract. While he could be an asset in the long-run, what are the odds he will be held back in the Devils system of defense first. If Kovalchuk is gone, it will be a short-lived experience and will definitely not look good to Lou Lamoriello's track record. Kovalchuk couldn't get into the same system with the Devils and he is not a good fit in terms of this team.
Second, what to with Martin Brodeur's playing time. Another 70-plus start season for Brodeur, who is an all-world goalie, but is getting up there in age. Even so, this will be Brodeur's seventh first round exit in 15 playoffs for Brodeur. Brodeur played well and kept this team in it, but the team didn't respond and Brodeur got worn down. Many ask this a lot when the Devils exit early, did Brodeur play too much, should they have played Yann Danis or whomever the back-up of the year is more?? There has to be some sort of respect to Brodeur for being the franchise in terms of how much he wants to play, but there's time where you have to look at the team aspect of it and maybe save Brodeur from himself. He really has nothing left to prove it could be time to look for the future netminder of the Devils.
Third, what can this team do to get past the first round hump?? Is it the offense, who scored 22 less goals last year than this year?? Did the Kovalchuk trade kill the defensive solidarity they had?? Maybe it's the stability, or lack there of, of the coaching. They've gone through five coaches (one repeat in Lamoriello) since the lockout and that has to effect the players in terms of trying to get a set scheme together in order to go with the flow and actually have a direction rather than get a direction and having it change for one reason or another. If Lemaire is the guy, he has to be there for a while; if he's not-- get the long-term guy now and actually get this team stable with someone before this becomes a Mickey Mouse organization again.
The Devils will have a lot of time to think and mull over all their options, including re-signing Paul Martin; their top defenseman, by far. This is a team that should have done a lot more with their position than they did and were the victim of the first upset of these playoffs, which could have plenty of upsets in this first round when all is said and done. The Swamp is now silent, much like it has been in these playoffs and all season from the stands.