The New Jersey Devils won their first Stanley Cup Championship in the shortened 1994 - 1995 season. They swept the Detroit Red Wings in four games. Here's how the Devils did the Season after their first Championship:
- 37 wins
- 33 losses
- 12 ties
- 86 points
- 215 GF
- 202 GA
The Devils roster changed little between seasons. They still had Dave Andreychuk, Uni-Brow Holik, Bill Guerin, Scott Niedermayer and uber-captain Scott Stevens. They had rising stars in Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias. The Devils even added point-machine Doug Gilmour for the final 20 games. The Devils core remained intact; they stayed relatively healthy, but they still didn't have enough in the tank to make it back to the playoffs in 1996.Deja Vu All Over Again
Much like the Devils in 1996 and the Canes after the deep Cup run of the 2001-2002 season, too much faith was placed in the leadership of a revered captain, a nucleus of brittle vets and a small collection of talented youngsters. Professor Puff (his real name) back at Miami University, used to say that there comes a time in the lifecycle of a product that you had to put some "New Blue" in your Cheer if you want to sustain market share momentum. I the NHL, I think that lifecycle runs from September to June.
Corey Stillman, Frankie Kaberle, Bret Hedican and Erik Cole have all missed games numbering in the tens this season. The Canes brass knew by August that the first three had significant health issues. The losses of Stillman and Kaberle for over half of the season meant 100+ points of '05-'06 point production would have to be covered by guys like Trevor Letowski and David Tanabe. That pre-season math still doesn't add up.
Last season, significant signings in the pre-season and again around the trade deadline put the Canes in a position to win it all. This season, JR proved timid at both junctures. Scott Walker was a solid, but not spectacular pre-season add. Big Slow Joe and Dready Locks at the trade deadline are not Recchi and Weight.
Ron Francis, Jeff O'Neill, and Sami Kapanen weren't up to the challenge in '02-'03. I think Rod Brind 'Amour, Glen Wesley, Bret Hedican et al. are not up to this challenge either. Roddy seems to be sporting that Ron Francis 100 mile blank stare (circa 2003) every time the camera pans his way.