ESPN Ignores History and Picks the Devils to Finish 12th in the East

By Steve Palumbo

I opened up my mailbox today and found my latest issue of ESPN the Magazine. This type of thing usually doesn’t garner a story about it except this was the issue that included the 2010-11 NHL Preview. I’m always fascinated to read what the geniuses at ESPN have to say about hockey and especially about the New Jersey Devils and this issue didn’t disappoint.

An understandably poor showing in 2010-11 has lowered the expectations for the Devils in the upcoming season. However, ESPN suggests that despite a predicted improvement in offense the Devils will not make the playoffs. I had to chuckle a bit when I read this because what else would I expect for the “total sports network.” Since as far as I can remember ESPN has had a misguided view for hockey and especially towards the Devils. ESPN never tried to hide their disdain for the Devils and it’s defensive style of play. In fact, it was ESPN that labeled the teams style of play as “boring.” They probably still think the Devils play “the trap.”

Like clock work September rolls around and year after year ESPN’s so-called “experts” predict the decline of the New Jersey Devils. So it must have given them great joy when New Jersey actually did fall off for a year. After I read the two-page spread entitled “Measuring Cup,” it become quite obvious last seasons collapse was the green-light ESPN needed to put the final nail in New Jersey’s coffin. I should have known better. Once ESPN dropped NHL games and NHL2Nite, I gave up on them as a source for legitimate NHL news.

The article which was researched by Alvin Chang, whom I have never heard of. He has the Devils penciled in to finish 12th in the Eastern Conference just ahead of Winnipeg, Florida and Ottawa. It appears that Mr. Chang used some kind of scientific analysis to determine the final standings. Well, Mr. Chang you can take all your expert analysis and toss it out the window because it’s dead wrong.

The magazine uses the following logic to justify the Devils spot in the standings, “Zach Parise’s return will ensure that the Devils up their dismal 2.09 GPG average. But with a 2.52 GPG estimated for 2011-12, it’s still the league’s third worst projected mark.”

Here is whats wrong with that type of thinking. First, all the goals against average are never taken into consideration and that’s a big red flag. Second, if New Jersey scores 2.52 goals a game they are almost assured to grab a playoff spot because historical evidence says so. There is no reason to think with the return of Parise, another year of Ilya Kovalchuk and the maturity of some of the younger players the team wouldn’t be able to increase the goals per game by more then 0.41 as the article suggests.

If we dig into the numbers just a bit you will clearly see what I’m suggesting. A pick-up of nearly half a goal a game would be an increase of almost 34 goals over 82 games. Last season the Devils lit the lamp 171 times. An additional 34 goals would have ballooned that total to 205. Parise could add 30-40 goals himself and if Kovalchuk returns to his normal 40 goals form, it’s not inconceivable that the Devils could picks up 50 goals over last year. The added 50 goals would have given the team 221 last season.

If you look at the last 10 years you can see the team has only scored over 216 goals in a season three times and didn’t miss the playoffs in any of those years.

2009-10 – 216 goals and finished 5th in the league with 103 points.
2008-09 – 238 goals and finished 5th in the league with 106 points
2007-08 – 197 goals and finished 6th in the league with 99 points.
2006-07 – 206 goals and finished 5th in the league with 107 points.
2005-06 – 233 goals and finished 8th in the league with 101 points.
2003-04 – 213 goals and finished 9th in the league with 100 points.
*2002-03 – 216 goals and finished 4th in the league with 108 points.
2001-02 – 205 goals and finished 10th in the league with 95 points
2000-01 – 295 goals and finished 2nd in the league with 111 points

*Won Stanley Cup

I haven’t even factored in the fact that new head coach Pete DeBoer is stressing a more aggressive attacking offensive. So contrary to what ESPN says, these numbers don’t lie and the Devils will make the playoffs this season. It appears Mr. Chang and ESPN failed to take the teams history into consideration and you know what they say about those who forget history.

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