Tuesday, July 3, 2007


It's hard to describe how I felt after the first day of NHL Free Agency was done, but I think my buddy Nick summed up all my feelings as a Devils fan in two words via text message:


Not only did the Devils lose their top puck-moving defenseman in Brian Rafalski, but they also lose their best puck-moving and playmaking center in Scott Gomez.

Most who know me know that I am not upset that Gomez left. I always wanted Gomez to shoot the puck more because I thought he had an incredible slap shot. However, he had no aim. If there was a league leader in pucks that hit goalies logos in the center of their jersey, Gomez would not only lead the league, he might be among the most all-time.

But he went to the Rangers. The cross-town rivals, the ones that beat the Devils in 1994 en route to ending every person in every arena's ability to chant 1940. The team that gets half their fans into the Devils arena to say Devils suck over and over again because they can't talk trash about recent history between the teams.

Gomez said that it's just a buisness. I never understood that phrase. How as a player could you sign on with a team you hated for your entire career, was your chief rival and you were doing better than every year. I figured a guy like Gomez could have went to Los Angeles, where he could have ate the Latino market up and been a star for a struggling franchise. He could have went to Phoenix and thrive under Wayne Gretzky, who last I checked was a pretty decent center in his day.

Now I know how die-hard Red Sox fans who loved Johnny Damon felt after he left Boston for New York. Jokingly I texted my buddy with my Famous Traitors list (not a long one): Benedict Arnold, Johnny Damon, Scott Gomez.

Again, I am not upset that Gomez left. There was no way the Devils could afford the kind of money he could make on the open market. It was just a shock that it was for the Rangers.

However, as Devils fans, we've seen this before and for the most part the Devils could laugh at what past players have done after leaving obscurity in New Jersey for the bright lights of Manhattan. Here's a list of some of those recent moves:

Bobby Holik: signed a 5-year, $45M contract in 2002. He never had scored 30 goals in a season and got $9M a season. In his two seasons with the Rangers, he scored just 41 goals in 146 games

Bruce Driver: after winning the Stanley Cup with the Devils in 1995, Driver moved on to the Rangers and finished his career playing three seasons in NY. Driver played in 26 playoff games with the Rangers and did not score a goal

John MacLean: After leaving NJ via trade to San Jose, MacLean signed on with the Rangers for the 1998-99 season. Johnny Mac played decent hockey in NY, scoring 28 goals that first season, but the Rangers did not make the playoffs in either of his two campaigns in Manhattan

Now the real shocker was Rafalski. He seemed like the type of guy who felt settled in New Jersey and wouldn't leave for really anything. But when Sunday came and he didn't have a contract with the Devils, I had a funny feeling he was gone. There would only be one place Rafalski would go to if it wasn't NJ, that was his other home.

Rafalski is a Dearborn, Michigan native so it makes sense for him to sign a rather large deal ($6M per for five seasons) with the Red Wings. This one didn't upset me because I thought for the most part he was exposed by Ottawa in the playoffs. In Game 1 alone, he had three blatant giveaways, two that led to goals. I think him being the go-to-guy in NJ may have been too much for him to handle. He thrived with Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer alongside him on defense. Now he gets to play with arguably the best offensive defenseman of the last 20 years in Nicklas Lidstrom. I think this is a win-win situation for both the Devils and Rafalski.

Great Scott, look at what the Devils have lost via free agency or retirement in the last two offseasons:
Scott Stevens - just elected to Hockey Hall of Fame, retired due to injuries
Scott Niedermayer - signed for less money to play with brother in Anaheim
Scott Gomez - signs ridiculous contract with cross-town rival Rangers
and Brian Rafalski - underrated puck-moving defenseman, awesome power-play defenseman

So now its time to lock up the restricted free agents. Zach Parise and Travis Zajac must be first-priority before someone throws them an out-of-this-world offer sheet. See if you can bring Sheldon Souray back to the team he was drafted by. He's good friends with Marty Brodeur, hell they own a Rivière des Prairies pizzeria in Montreal. Take a $1M shot on Eric Lindros to play 4th-line center. Bring in a Curtis Joseph to back up Marty.

Just do something to get rid of the feeling from BLACK SUNDAY

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I know how to spell massive, wise ass! M.A.S.I.V is a acronym! Miraculous and so into vengeance!