A Team That Could Learn From The Rangers

December 7, 2011, by

I remember the first time I visited the Devils new front office in Newark. The place was interesting to say the least. EVERYTHING was painted horror movie red. The walls. Red. The carpeting. Red. I mean even the friggan cubicles were all red. Red everywhere. I felt like I had stepped into hell.

Of course I was there on business and I had to put my observations and prejudices aside, but it was hard not to feel like I was behind enemy lines. Once I got over it though, I realized that everything was done with a sense of pride and precision. I admired that.

But then something happened to the Devils organization. For the first time ever they started making money. Revenue from their new arena came in from sponsors, corporate suites, even attendance numbers increased (marginally). Finally the organization that had gotten by on barebones all of a sudden had some resources. Most people thought this would be a good thing…hell a great thing to cement the idea that hockey can succeed in New Jersey without the help of our boys in blue. But as Biggie Smalls once said, “mo money, mo problems.”

It has been reported in small doses that Lou Lamoriello was pushed by ownership to sign Ilya Kovalchuck to that massive 15 year, $100 million deal. Some Rangers fans were bummed that Sather didn’t try to swing a deal, others (like myself) wondered what the hell were the Devils thinking? But I am not here to debate this transaction. For better or worse, Kovy is a Devil till the bitter end.

The problem is the Devils are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole by sticking with regimented coaches and defensive systems while boasting a talent such as Ilya. Add to the fact that the team’s finances collapsed and now you’ve got the Caps joining our conference, and it’s easy to see why they could have one hell of a problem across the Hudson.

So what are our rivals to do?

The organization is obviously looking for new investors to fix their financial woes, but the on ice product can improve if they follow a model once used by their biggest rival, the New York Rangers.

The year was 2004 and the star was Jaromir Jagr. The Rangers front office made a wise decision to ship out anyone and everyone associated with past teams and brought in players who Jagr wanted to play with and who understood Jagr was the man. Aside from trading Leetch (I’m still not over it), it was the right direction.

The team was built around Jagr. Czechs were brought in, finesse players were brought in, and an assistant coach/head of player personnel, who understood the dynamics of a star personality, was promoted to run the show.

Coming from the Capitals the media labeled Jagr a locker room cancer, a diva, a player that would never fit into a team concept. Some of that may or may not have been true, but what was missed was Jagr’s competitiveness and his burning desire to win.

Renney was able to convince Jagr to play a more defensive system without the puck. However, unlike the system that was forced upon Jagr in DC, Renney would allow Jagr and his linemates to get creative with the puck. The Rangers would attack the blueline and Regroup if necessary. They would Overload on the powerplay and Jagr was allowed to double shift himself whenever he wanted.

Was this the right way to build a team? Maybe not, but it worked, at least for a few seasons. The point is nothing was forced on Jagr, as Renney didn’t dictate. The Czech superstar had a say.

If the Devils want to have any sort of success with Kovy on their roster, I suggest they start doing the same. The template for their success doesn’t have to be very innovative. It already exists. The problem is, are they willing to copy our old blueprint?

Hmmm, maybe the Caps should follow this plan too.

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  1. Walt says:

    Nothing personal, the artical was good, had sound advice for the enemy. Let’s just hope that the thick skulled devils front office, and the Caps for that matter, don’t take your advice, and run with it!!!!!

    • The Suit says:

      Haha indeed. The question though, given their problems, does Parise fit into that blueprint? Can they even afford him?

  2. Matt J says:

    Problems with the Devils that they are going to run into is money, lack of quality draft picks panning out, and goaltending.

    I have no idea what the financial situation is of the Devils is but it can’t be good. I wouldn’t be surprised if Parise isn’t re-signed.

    Lack of draft picks panning out is who was the last Devils drafted player to play 100 games for the club? Travis Zajac. YES Travis Zajac. Granted they have some young talent like Larsson, Tedenby, Henrique, Josefson, and Palmierri, but that’s still a problem.

    Also, who will replace marty? He’s not eevn a good goalie right now. Also, Hedberg looks either really good or really bad some nights. They could use a good young goalie. Bernier maybe? Should they trade for him?

    • The Suit says:

      I think LA will hold on to Bernier. My best guess is that Cory Scheider will be moved before either of the Kings keepers. But IMO you’re right that the Devils need to start planning for life after Marty.

  3. Mark says:

    I think with Realignment coming, Parise will be shipped out at the trade deadline to one of the other conferences (maybe to the Kings) for a bundle of prospects and picks similar to the bobby Ryan packages that were rumored. You are 100% right, the Devils need to retool. The Devils had Brodeur but his time has come and gone, they need help in that area and in their depth more than they need Parise’s 7+ cap hit, so it’s a no brainer for him to be moved.

    • Walt says:


      Your comment is spot on, but the team would have “0” credibality letting go of a prized player of Parise’s stature. What message are they sending out, we give away the shop for Kovy, and then won’t sign a home grown kid of our own.

      Now fat boy in goal, he is history, and should hang it up for the teams benefit!!!!!

    • The Suit says:

      It all comes down to the severity of their finance issues and when they can get a new investor in there.

      A couple of years ago I would have told you there’d be no reason whatsoever for the Devils to trade Parise, now that logic isn’t as black and white as it used to be.

  4. Pete says:

    If I may respectfully disagree on one point, I don’t think the Rangers were particularly successful building a team around Jagr. Jagr was too moody, and just not a leader in the Messier mold (I am not saying he had to be Messier, but I don’t believe he gave off the aura of leadership like Mess did, or Cally for that matter). The teams were better than many others, but never really a threat for the cup. It was like the Gretzky years; the team was never going to be very good while it had the Great One, because the rest of the team basically stood around waiting for Gretzky to save them; it was even worse dring the Jagr years. But the current team is a true team, and for the first time in literally decades, rather exciting to watch. I like how there is no single Ranger that has to be counted on to perform well, otherwise there being no chance to win. Better under Torts then Renney/Jagr.

    • The Suit says:

      I don’t disagree with you. In fact I like this current Rangers team and their coach far better than previous seasons.

      But with that said, I wouldn’t write off this template either, especially as it pertains to the Devils. They don’t have the farm system we have nor do they have the resources and they are tied to Kovy for a long, long time. Structuring a team around him may be their only option.

    • Scully says:

      The Post Messier, Gretzky Seasons (97-98; 98-99) are completely different from the 3 full seasons of Jagr. In those 2 Gretzky seasons the team was just bad. In the 3 post lockout seasons with Jagr the team:

      05-06 : Drastically over-achieved (they were picked to be dead last in the conference by many. And Jagr had the greatest individual offensive season in the HISTORY of the franchise. Once he got hurt in the playoffs and the deep olympic run caught up with many of the Rangers they were toast.

      06-07 : Brought in Shanahan who provided great 2nd line scoring. The team started well but the middle of the season went terribly until the Rangers picked up some key players (cough Avery cough). Jagr, whom no one ever talks abut that shoulder injury, was definitely not the same player and still managed to put up 96 points. The only team that year in the entire conference that could handle the Rangers in a 7 game series was the Sabres, who the Rangers drew in Round 2 and were about 7 seconds away from a 3-2 series lead when Drury changed that.

      07-08 – Enter Drury and Gomez. This season the team just couldn’t find the chemistry needed but I’d never say they were standing around waiting for Jagr. Gomez was pretty good this year and much better in general than people remember him to be. Problem was Nylander’s game always fit much better than either Gomez’ or Drury’s with Jagr.

      Point being the model can totally work. Building a team around 1 or 2 guys is totally doable. Of course the guy would have to be someone with the individual talent of Jagr, Gretzky, Ovechkin… Kovalchuk.

  5. Sioux-per-man says:

    I like the idea of Parise on OUR team. I’m not sure he wants to stay a Devil. He wants to be on a team that can skate for the Cup, a financially sound ownership that can afford his Salary demands, and he wants to win. He would fit perfectly with Richards or Gaborik, and we could use another 80-90 point forward. He could very well be the last piece we NEED to race for the cup!!!

    It could happen…..

    • Bobby G says:

      Not by trade. I could be wrong on this but I believe that the devils and rangers have never made a single trade with each other.

      • Mark says:

        I am pretty sure youa re right and with the new re-alignemnt it won’t happen ever. The Devils have to be the best out of 7 teams in the division to advance why would they give us a guy who could help not only beat them but help us possibly win the Stanley Cup, no shot!…

        But I agree with all the points on this article but to add one other, the year of Jagr was also the year of the King, and with the King we could play Renney’s style (with all the other lines) and play for a shoot out, be just good enoguh to make the playoffs regardless of how bad our Malik, Rosival, Gomez and Drury would end up being.