NBCSN kicks things off tonight with Philadelphia-Boston followed by the banner raising for the Kings in Los Angeles against San Jose. Expect a few shots of Al Michaels.
The NHL continues to build momentum after another solid playoff run last year. NBCSN’s No. 1 crew, Mike “Doc” Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Pierre McGuire examined some of the story lines in a teleconference. Also on the call was NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood.
DOC EMRICK: It’s exciting to look forward to our getting now just three years away from our 100th year in the league, and I am excited that again our crews will get to do over 100 regular season telecasts. That’s phenomenal, and the Playoffs are an honor to be involved in, only because people know that they get to see all the games, whether their team is playing in the Pacific time zone or back in the East or somewhere in between. And like Sam, I’m thrilled about the notion that we have a double‑header a week from tonight.
I can only imagine what it would be like to be a Shark, and almost all the Sharks are back, and to sit in the locker room for a long time and hear the crowd and know that those guys are getting their rings out there, and so I fully expect the Sharks will be annoyed when they hit the ice.
And another team that actually has lost it 3‑0 before to the team that they lost to, the Bruins are going to be starting defense of their Presidents’ Trophy in a nice little game with those good people from Philadelphia. It is going to be wonderful fun to be a part of this again for another year.
As we look around, we see elite teams that have not really had to make very many changes, Boston lost only a couple of regulars, St. Louis brought in Paul Stastny and a fifth or sixth D‑man, that’s all. Philadelphia brought in R.J. Umberger; Chicago, Brad Richards; Los Angeles, no major players, they lost Willie Mitchell. So some of the elite teams have not really made many changes, and that means there are a lot of memories from prior years that they have coming into these initial games.
And even though there is talk of expansion that I guess has been discouraged at least by the league hierarchy, someday we may live long enough to know that there will be an NHL team across from Santa Anita, and I think if that happens, we know who is going to be the home broadcaster for them and hopefully staying with us, and that’s Eddie Olczyk.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Thank you very much, Doc. First off, I have my skates on and that beeping you heard was me skating backwards, by the way, for anybody who was wondering.
But it’s great to be back obviously with Sam and with Doc and with Pierre. There’s an excitement at this time of year. I think even for ‑‑ I don’t want to speak for our team, but certainly I can speak for myself, the excitement of getting ready to kick off another year and very proud to be able to sit in the seat that I get an opportunity to each and every night on our coverage on NBC and NBCSN. In saying that, Doc touched on it a little bit, I think there are a lot of interesting situations to be played out over the course of the regular season. I mean, you look at all the coaching changes that have gone on in the National Hockey League. You look at the players that have moved to different teams, the expectations in Tampa Bay, the expectations in Columbus, can they take the next step. We all saw what happened last year between the Blackhawks and the Kings in the Western Conference Finals. A couple of good teams, a couple of outstanding teams got beat early in the Playoffs, that being the St. Louis Blues, who Doc mentioned earlier, and also the Anaheim Ducks, who lost a Game 7 at home to the LA Kings.
To me, I don’t think there’s any team in the league that has more expectations and more pressure on them than the Anaheim Ducks. I think they have a good enough team to win. You look at the acquisitions of general manager Bob Murray from going out and really answering the bell of we need to get bigger, we need to get a little bit tougher, we need to add to our depth of our hockey club. Ryan Kessler, Clayton Stoner, Nate Thompson, they brought in Dany Heatley, hopefully he can get to the 10‑ or 12‑goal mark. They gave Bruce Boudreau a two‑year contract extension which I think is very similar to what happened in Pittsburgh one year ago when the pressure was squarely on the shoulders of the Pittsburgh Penguins after having a tough time for I believe four years in the Playoffs, and we all know how that ended up playing out.
So for me, when your arch rivals win two Cups in three years and your manager goes out and spends a lot of money, to me, both my eyes will be squarely on the Anaheim Ducks as to can they take the next step, and when you have two of the premier players in the entire world with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, you’re ahead of the game. The only question is can John Gibson be that guy, and it sure looks like he can be that guy, being a rookie in the National Hockey League.
So I’m looking forward to seeing what Anaheim can or can’t do coming up in this regular season, and I will for the first time this year pass it on the back end down inside the glass to Pierre.
PIERRE McGUIRE: Thanks a lot, Eddie. Well said. Great to be back on the team. I want to start with the division that Eddie knows so well, the Central Division. Doc talked about the additions in St. Louis, and I think the Central Division will be the most difficult division in the National Hockey League this year. I really expect the Colorado Avalanche who won the Central Division last year will be as good or better this year even though they did lose Paul Stastny to division rival St. Louis. I think Nathan MacKinnon is going to have another all‑world year.
I spent some significant time with Nathan and Gabriel Landeskog in New Jersey about two and a half weeks ago. You talk about maturity for young people, they’re the bright lights and the brilliant faces of the National Hockey League for years to come.
I can’t wait to see what Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith and all the great Chicago Blackhawks have in store for their fans and for the rest of the division.
St. Louis is going to be grumpy, they’re going to be nasty, they’re going to be mean and they’re going to be tough to play against, and they should be. They’ve been playoff disappointments, and they never should have been.
And finally I think two teams to watch that are going to be amazingly improved, even though Minnesota won a playoff series last year, brilliant Game 7 overtime win with Colorado, I can’t wait to do Minnesota‑Colorado on the second night of the season up in Minnesota because I think Minnesota has really improved themselves.
And the Dallas Stars I think have a player in Tyler Seguin that could lead the league in scoring. You talk about a player that’s changed in terms of maturity because he was traded, he’s grown up, really grown up over the last year and a bit. He’s 16 pounds heavier, and it’s all muscle, and you can see it when he struts around a room. He’s got game, and I really believe he’s got a chance to lead the league in scoring. So the Central Division is one of those things I’ll be watching a lot.
Eddie touched on the Tampa Bay Lightning. I think that they’re going to be a beast, one of the beasts in the East just like the Boston Bruins are going to be a beast in the East. I can’t wait to see what Mike Babcock’s young speedy Detroit Red Wings are going to be like because I think they’re going to be extremely good.
And the biggest question because they’re a team that made significant changes in the off‑season will be the Pittsburgh Penguins, new general manager, new coach. The new coach, Mike Johnson, loves to have all kinds of offensive tactics, and that should play well with the players, but I think they let up on one thing they needed to do, and that was to get a first‑line winger to play with Sidney Crosby. They added a lot of good depth players but they didn’t add a home run hitter to play with Crosby. So it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
Eddie touched on one more story, the Columbus Blue Jackets. I know they’re negotiating with Ryan Johansen. We all know that. I think the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to be much like the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’re going to be a team that is going to cause a lot of heartache for a lot of other teams around the National Hockey League.
My provincial question for any of you guys that want to tackle it or have something interesting to say about it, everyone in the world knew that it was time for the Islanders to get a new building and Nassau Coliseum is no longer viable, however, will it be a little bit sad/nostalgic watching that franchise play the last season in that building this year?
DOC EMRICK: For us old timers it will be. I’m not sure if there’s a generation that has come along in the last 10 years or so that has the same kind of memories that those who were there for not only the championship teams but some of the years after when they were so strong will have that same tie‑in. It’s difficult to know when you win something in your own arena, it doesn’t really have life until you’ve won something in it, and they won something pretty early. It wasn’t even 10 years old when they won a championship.
But now it’s been so long since they’ve really been a strong team. They didn’t have that one series with Pittsburgh, but it’s been quite a long time, so I’m not sure how the younger generation will feel about it. They may be more excited to make the trip.
I’d hate to conjecture that, but I know as an old‑timer, I will miss the play.
A couple other old timers on the call. What do you guys think?
EDDIE OLCZYK: Yeah, you know, I mean, look, I think from a visiting player ‑‑ again, I played in an era where it was pretty fresh what the Islanders had just done. I was only 13 years old, 14 years old when the Islanders were in the middle of their heyday, and all those runs, so to go in there as a young guy and to go in there all those years after, look, as a visiting player, the convenience aspect of it with the hotel right across the parking lot, the walk across the parking lot, get over to the game, do what you’re supposed to do and get out of town, I mean, you have memories, and look, I played in that rivalry with the Rangers and Islanders rivalry for a couple years, so to me along the lines of Doc, I look at it from the aspect of it’s tough. It’s hard to see the past go away like that, but I think Doc said it perfectly, that that’s probably a generation or two back that really was kind of living in the glory days.
PIERRE McGUIRE: What I’ll miss is going in there early and having coffee with the great Al Arbour and all the different stories Al would tell about his playing days, about his coaching days, about working with somebody that we both worked with, Scotty Bowman. That was one of the real highlights early on in my coaching career, spent a lot of time around Al Arbour. We seemingly played the Islanders a ton when I was in Pittsburgh and when I was in Hartford, and just the respective for Al as a man and as a coach.
I remember doing Game 6 of Pittsburgh and the Islanders a couple years ago, and Brooks Orpik got the series‑winning goal, and looking up, the crowd was unbelievably crazed and it was great, but you look at still all the names up there, the banners, whether it be Billy Smith or whether it be Bowtie Bill Torrey or whether it be Al Arbour, Bryan Trottier, Denny Potvin, you look at all the great players that played there over time, and that’s the building they called home. It’s a phenomenal place. It’s a great hockey building. Unfortunately it’s no longer after this year. But I can tell you that I have unbelievable memories there, and a lot of it is because of Al Arbour and some of the wisdom that he passed on to me over time.
DOC EMRICK: The last thing from me is that people don’t want to know necessarily any working problems that you have. There was never a problem working at Long Island because you were up high and you were close, and those were the two things we liked the best.
My question is for Eddie and then I also want to get a second opinion from one of the other guys, Blackhawks related. What do you guys think of Teuvo Teravainen and his comparison to ‑‑ do you see any Patrick Kane comparisons there?
EDDIE OLCZYK: Well, I think comparisons as far as how he handles the puck and maybe the style of play, I mean, they play two different positions first and foremost. Teuvo is at the center ice position, Patrick Kane is an All‑Star MVP two time champion right winger in the National Hockey League. I think before anybody starts putting Teuvo Teravainen in the same galaxy as Patrick Kane, let’s see him play in the National Hockey League for a couple years and go from there.
I can see where people draw the comparison because of the stick handling and the quickness and what he has done in his junior career. I mean, last year at the World Juniors, not watching all the games but watching a good number of the games that he had played in and talking to National Hockey League personnel, he might not have been the best forward voted on at the World Juniors, but he was certainly the best all‑around player when it came to the forward position for the World Juniors. I think the sky is the limit. I think he has to get stronger. I think he has to understand the pro game, the smaller ice surface, but another depth player for the Blackhawks at the center ice position moving forward.
PIERRE McGUIRE: Well, I watched the entire World Junior, and I watched the gold medal game really closely, and part of what I used to evaluate players is do you have the ability to dominate against your own peer group at an elite level, and the World Juniors is as elite a level as there is for players outside of the National Hockey League. He dominated the World Junior. That’s a huge, huge thing that help propel him to National Hockey League success. It’s the same thing that I saw Patrick Kane do in 2007 in Leksand, Sweden, when eventually that summer he became the first overall pick of the NHL entry draft. He dominated a World Junior. Not an easy thing to do. Teravainen winning goal for Finland in Sweden, in Malmo, is an amazing accomplishment. But I agree with Eddie; he’s got a long way to go to be a superstar in the league. I do think he will be a star player in the league. He’s going to have to get stronger and learn how to deal on smaller ice, but this is a very special player, and to think that the Blackhawks got him with the 18th pick overall in this draft year is larceny. That player should have gone a lot earlier than he did.
Where would you put Marian Hossa among the best players in the game right now? Do you think he’s underrated, overrated, maybe rated correctly?
EDDIE OLCZYK: I think most hockey people know how great of a two‑way player Marian Hossa still is. He can change the momentum of a game with the way that he pursues the puck. I still believe that his ability to be able to forecheck and angle people is as good as any player in the entire National Hockey League, meaning if you have the puck and Marian Hossa is coming down on you that you may have two or three options. By the time Marian Hossa takes an angle or puts you in a spot, you don’t have any options. I mean, he just has that uncanny ability to play without the puck as good as any player in the entire National Hockey League. Now, he may not get the publicity of a Toews or a Bergeron or a Datsyuk, but he really is one of those dynamic two‑way players, and to get the appreciation of evaluating a player, it’s not necessarily when they have the puck, it’s how they play without the puck, and you’d be hard‑pressed to find a smarter all‑around player in the entire National Hockey League than Marion Hossa.
I think the hockey community knows how great of a two‑way player Marion Hossa is. Maybe the fan base or maybe the public doesn’t realize because he’s not always a guy that maybe gets the accolades or the headlines or gets the Selke nominees, but I think if you ask anyone that’s played with him or coached him or followed him for a long period of time, he would be a guy that I would tell young hockey players to sit down and watch his last 100 shifts. Whether he touches the puck or not, he can make a difference in a hockey game, and I think that speaks to the greatness of a guy like Marian Hossa.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I’m going to back Eddie up with numbers because the numbers don’t lie on this one. He’s been in the league since 1997. He’s been a minus player twice since 1997. Once was in his first year, and the other time was when he was playing for that powerhouse down in Atlanta, the Atlanta Thrashers. It’s the only two times since 1997 that he has been a minus player on any team he’s ever played for, whether it be Ottawa, Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh or Chicago. That is an amazing accomplishment. And one of the players that I use as a bellwether because he’s played for so long and he just recently retired, three‑time Stanley Cup winner Mark Recchi. He told me the most underappreciated player he ever played with was Marian Hossa because of what Eddie just talked about, his all‑around game but especially his defensive awareness.
Just a question for Sam, and this is something I talked about with Jon Miller over the summer. A lot more late games, a lot more West Coast games, a lot more California games this season and a lot fewer games on Monday. Can you talk about maybe the decision making behind that, and also if you see this as a huge period of growth, not just for the Kings but for all three of the California teams and for the NHL on the West Coast in general?
SAM FLOOD: Yeah, it’s a real effort to keep the growth going on the West Coast. I think the Kings winning the two Cups now make them a very attractive team and a national team, and it’s important that we expose them to the audience, take advantage of what we have, whether it’s these Wednesday night rivalry games that start at either 7:30 or 8:00 with a big audience and drive that audience across to these West Coast match‑ups. We’re big believers in it, and it was a strategy, and we are cautiously optimistic that it’s going to help both the growth of the sport and the growth of our ratings. So it was discussed, got through, our ratings guys got involved, and just our hockey passion bucket got involved because this is great hockey to watch, and we think it’s important that we expose it to the national audience a bit more frequently than we have in the past.
As you can see with the 10 Wednesday night double‑header rivalry games, we’re all in.
Sam and perhaps Doc, Steve talked a minute ago about appealing more to the West Coast. I wonder what you guys think of whether there’s a way to get more interest for the Canadian teams on this side of the border because everybody sees the spectacle and the atmosphere and stuff like that, but they don’t contribute to the ratings, and that’s been sometimes an issue in past years, but when you have maybe a team like a Montreal doing well, maybe they have a little more of a fan base in the U.S. What do you guys think about the Canadian teams and whether there’s a way to build attention for them down here.
SAM FLOOD: Well, we’re already all in with the Montreal Canadiens. We see a value there. The fact that Toronto played in the Winter Classic last year, and that was an incredibly high rating for Winter Classic with only one U.S.‑based team. We believe, and we treat the Montreal Canadiens like the Green Bay Packers. They’re a national brand in a very, very small market. In the Canadiens’ place, there’s no market. In the Green Bay Packers’ place, there’s a tiny market, but they carry nationally and people pay attention to them nationally, so the Canadiens sell across our country, and I think the Green Bay Packer analogy is a working one, and we’ve gone with that, believe in it, and I love watching the Canadiens play. I saw them throughout my youth playing against the Bruins and breaking the hearts of a lot of Bostonians, and they continue to be a team to watch.
Toronto is in the same category. They’re just nipping at it. Things just keep going wrong for them and let’s see if this year they can break through. Doc, I’ll hand off.
DOC EMRICK: Yeah, a couple of the Wednesday Night Rivalry games are really exciting to me because we’ve got Toronto playing in Detroit and we also have Boston playing in Toronto, and you don’t have to have a very long memory to go back to some really exciting games, and as Sam was alluding to, crushing games that have been played between those two teams. So those are a couple that I’m certainly looking forward to, and being granted a position to sit up high and watch in a good arena and watch these two teams go at one another, in both cases, Boston and Toronto and Detroit and Toronto, too.
I think also across the country as the teams become stronger and become more branded like the older teams, the two I mentioned in Toronto and Montreal, there will be more attention paid.
But the good thing that we can pay off, too, at the end of the year is that any of those teams that wind up in the Playoffs, their games are going to be shown here, so there’s a greater chance for people, if Vancouver makes it, for example, to get to see Vancouver more often than they might otherwise.
SAM FLOOD: As we learned in the Finals a few years ago, that fan base is very mellow after a loss.
DOC EMRICK: Yeah, they don’t take it seriously too much, do they?
I’m hoping that Doc, Eddie and Pierre can each take a turn completing the following sentence: The LA Kings will or will not repeat as Stanley Cup champion because…Doc?
DOC EMRICK: The Boston Bruins will win ‑‑ this is how I see the horse race. I see those teams out West being so strong and probably there will be a 97‑point team that’ll miss, but there are physical battles that will take place involving probably St. Louis and Los Angeles and even Chicago before it’s all done, and I think the carnage factor, even though Los Angeles has disproved this in the past with their size and kind of hiding in the weeds until the Playoffs, I think this is Boston’s year.
I think that Eddie has said this to me this summer and will probably ‑‑ I don’t want to take it away from him, but I guess I am, he said I can make a case for eight teams winning, and I think he’ll make a case for either Los Angeles winning or losing. I’ll hand it off to him. But I really think this is Boston’s turn. They’ve got almost everybody back, and they’ve just signed a couple of their very important younger players, and I just like the looks of what I’ve seen in Boston already in preseason, and I think this is their year to get it back again.
EDDIE OLCZYK: LA will not win because the numbers say we haven’t had a repeat winner in 18 or 19 years, whatever the number is, 16 years, whatever the number is since Detroit. It is so difficult. You know, you need a lot of things to go right. You’ve got to have some luck, and you look at the hole they dug themselves out of last year. It’s well‑documented. But you know what, in this era now, with changeover and salary cap and what have you, two out of three, that’s pretty stealthy in my eyes. But the numbers say they won’t be able to because we haven’t had one in a long time.
PIERRE McGUIRE: Ditto for what Doc said, ditto for what Eddie said. I’ve agreed with everything they’ve both said. I think another compounding thing is you just don’t know on the health of Jonathan Quick. He had another off‑season surgery. He gave me one of the best lines I’ve ever gotten from a player when I asked him, do you think a lot of young people will try to copy your goaltending style over time because it’s proven to be successful. He goes, they may try to copy it, but they’re going to end up in an emergency room, and I think that the way he plays is so super aggressive, and Sam Flood has used this line many times when he used to talk about Tim Thomas, Tim Thomas plays the position like a linebacker in football. Well, Jonathan Quick does the very same thing, and I worry a lot about whether he’s going to have enough juice left in the tank, so I think that’s the end of what I can add to why I don’t think Los Angeles will win.
Can you just talk about the outlook for the Red Wings, and is there a veteran you think might be ready for a big year or a young guy who might be ready to break out?
DOC EMRICK: Well, I’ll watch Gus Nyquist play any night of the week. But he is the young guy who broke out last year. I think Tatar and Jurco showed us a lot at the Olympics. They were the best players on their team, and I think that the fact that they’ll have some stability this year and be there start to finish, those guys, and actually be healthy will mean an awful lot.
But boy, when you have two guys that are so important to a team that don’t get a chance to play together because they’re not healthy too often, and Pavel is not going to be available at the start of the season as all of you that are listening to this know, that really does represent a concern.
I think Brendan Smith will get even better than he did toward the end of last season. Maybe he’s the guy that rises to something important because they’re going to really need some help on defense.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Doc touched on it there. To me they’re really going to need the back end of their defense to really play up and beyond maybe what they can. I mean, to me there’s a huge dropoff from Niklas Kronwall, Danny DeKeyser and Jonathan Ericsson. I mean, there’s a wide range there, so you’ve got to play the hand that’s dealt. You’ve got to play the cards that are dealt, and for me they look like they have some good young players.
They’re going to have to continue to evolve and to play the way we’ve seen Detroit play and the way that Mike Babcock wants to play. What’s going to happen with Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard. You’ve got I think Gustafson is still there, so you’ve got a lot of interesting dynamics, there, as well, but for me the question mark will be besides the health and the aging as Doc mentioned of the Detroit Red Wings is can those four, five, six, seven number defensemen really be invincible guys night in and night out and help the Red Wings because that to me is one of the biggest holes that they have.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I’ll finish it up with saying that unfortunately for the Red Wings, Anthony Mantha broke his leg in training camp. He’s coming off back‑to‑back 50‑plus goal seasons with Val‑d’Or and the Quebec Major Junior League. He’s a 6’5″ over 200‑pound power forward with unbelievably good hands. I think that he would have been one of the few Red Wings that ever would have been under Kenny Holland’s watch anyway that would have been rushed into the National Hockey League. I think Mantha has got the potential to be that good.
Eddie talked about there’s a limitation on defense, and I would agree with him on that, but I’m with Doc on Brendan Smith being able to take his game to another level. They’ve got a couple young guys on the way, Xavier Ouellet is a tremendous young player out of the Quebec Junior League that’s done some time in Grand Rapids playing for Jeff Blashill, and they also have Nick Jensen out of St. Cloud State, who I think has a chance to be extremely good. And then finally, Ryan Sproul out of the Ontario Hockey League, so actually they’ve got some guys that aren’t NHL names yet that have a chance to be very good NHL names, but the one up‑and‑coming, you talk about breakthrough players, I hope he gets Anthony Mantha. I think he’s got a chance to be really special for the Red Wings.
DOC EMRICK: I think one thing else is that whenever the Red Wings have had a chance to, in an open marketplace get what they need to win a championship, they’ve always done it. Now, we’re not in an open marketplace anymore except for general managers and coaches, and they already extended the general manager who was regarded as the best or one of the best in the league, and they’re in the process of discussing it with the coach. If you go back even to the Sergei Federov challenge from Carolina, when push came to shove, if there was excellence there, the OH family always stepped up. I’m not anticipating anything other than that in the case with the coach.
This would be for Eddie and Pierre but anybody can answer. Looking at the Carolina Hurricanes this year, they bring in Bill Peters as the coach, asked him or given the mandate, more or less, to try to get the team in the Playoffs. Don’t change the team hardly at all, and of course now Jordan Staal is out. Is this kind of an impossible mission for him, and were you surprised that maybe Carolina didn’t make more personnel changes?
PIERRE McGUIRE: Well, I think they’re going to have a tough time winning only because I don’t think you can win with Andrej Sekera and Justin Faulk as your one‑two on defense, and that’s basically what they’re looking at right now. I’ve done a pretty thorough evaluation of their roster. I’m a huge Billy Peters fan, by the way. I think Billy Peters will do a fantastic job with under-manned roster. I just don’t know if they’re going to have enough on the back end to make it work right now. I think Ronnie Francis adding Joe Nieuwendyk helps them a lot in terms of identifying players around the league. Ricky Olczyk added to that staff, too, Eddie’s brother, and he knows contracts as well as anybody in the National Hockey League.
So I think that helps their front office, but this is really a remake, especially with Jordan Staal and the situation that he’s faced with with being out three to four months. I don’t know if they’re going to have enough firepower and I don’t know if they have enough overall depth on defense. Again, it’s not a knock, I think Sekera and Faulk are good players, I just don’t see them ones and twos in the National Hockey League.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Yeah, I think patience is certainly a word that I would anticipate being used with the Carolina Hurricanes, and I know it’s been ‑‑ I think it’s been five years since they’ve been in the Playoffs. I’m not sure if that’s the right number, but I know it’s somewhere in that number. To me they’ve got to get Cam Ward back to where ‑‑ I guess I can just speak from experience, standing behind the bench in Pittsburgh when he won his very first NHL game in a shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he shut down Sidney Crosby, Ziggy Palffy, and a guy by the name of Mario Lemieux to win his first NHL game in a shootout, and it must have been bad coaching because I was standing behind the bench shaking my head wondering how this rookie goaltender just stopped three of the sharpest shooters in the National Hockey League.
In saying that, I don’t think goaltending is an issue. I mean, I think Khudobin is a very, very good goaltender, but to me is the key is Cam Ward. It sounds like reading some clips and talking to Tripp Tracy, who does a great job on the local TV side, the condition that he’s gotten himself into, that will be a big key, and hey, you know what, we’ve seen teams overachieve and we’ve seen teams find lightning in a bottle for a long stretch, so for me, patience and can they get that consistent goaltending from Cam Ward or Anton Khudobin.
Pierre, what’s your take on the New Jersey Devils this season, a team that didn’t score the last five on five last year and had some mixed goaltending results. Do you think the combination of the addition of Mike Cammalleri and some other pieces and Cory Schneider taking the No. 1 job makes them a playoff team this year? If I could just get your thoughts on that.
PIERRE McGUIRE: Well, I think the biggest thing with the New Jersey Devils if you really look at it, it’s going to come down to three young defensemen, and they’re going to have to elevate. Eric Gelinas is going to have to be tremendously good for them, Jon Merrill is going to have to be really good for them, and Adam Larsson is going to have to be really good for them.
The addition obviously of Mike Cammalleri brings you 25 to 30 goals. That’s the positive. That’s going to take a lot of pressure off of Jaromir Jagr and Patrick Elias, but I think that if the Devils are going to make the Playoffs, three names that are going to have to be resoundingly strong are Eric Gelinas, John Merrill and Adam Larsson. If those three guys can stand and deliver, that’s going to help the Devils keep their organizational identity of being a solid defensive team that can also provide offense. All three of those guys can skate, they can handle the puck, and they can shoot it.
Doc, how strange do you think it’ll be not only for Devils players but for the fans to begin a season without Marty on the roster for the first time in almost two decades here?
DOC EMRICK: Yeah, I was just going to ask the other two guys on the panel who they thought would find work first, whether it would be Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma or Marty Brodeur, and I think my answer would be Marty Brodeur, probably one of the first two or three No. 1 goaltenders that go down, he would have to be considered, especially if it’s a long haul injury, something like that. But it will of course seem strange, but there is always that handoff, isn’t there. There was that same question that was raised the first year after 20.