Sorry New Jersey Devils fans, but it's looking like you might need to find a new hockey writer to hate.
Because if what I saw last Wednesday in Pittsburgh is any indication, I don't think I'm going to be able to rag on the way your team plays anymore. Hey, I know it was only one game, but damn if there wasn't a whole lot of entertainment value attached to their thrilling 4-3 win over the hometown Penguins.
Driving to Pittsburgh, a scenic six-hour drive mostly through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, I marveled at the vibrant fall colors knowing full well I was traveling to see the best player in the world face a team that revels in beige.
There is no taking away the success the Devils have enjoyed and on many levels I have always acknowledged their hard work on and off the ice. But, for me, they were too often drop-dead boring.
I think that will change under new coach Brent Sutter.
Oh, the attention to defense is still there. I mean, he is a Sutter. But Â– praise the Lord! Â– Sutter has also given his players the green light to stick around a little while in the offensive zone instead of instinctively retreating to defend. In other words, Sutter's leverage as the best available coach has trumped GM Lou Lamoriello's desire to always do things, Â“The Devils Way.Â”
Don't get me wrong; not only do I believe there is a place waiting for Lou in the Hall, if I could nominate him today, I'd do it myself. I don't pretend to understand everything about this complicated man, but I respect his passion for the game and his accomplishments.
It took him three years to fully digest that the league has changed, but Lou has finally adapted. Once and for all, he's finally ready to play the new game.
Watch the Devils in the opposition's end. Their players are sticking around to try to make things happen on offense rather than automatically dropping back to defend. Even defensive specialists like John Madden and Jay Pandolfo are free to take the odd chance.
Crowds have been dwindling in New Jersey, so this new style of play Â– along with a brand new building Â– may help revive interest in the team. I'm not certain the Devils have the personnel at this point to be a Cup contender, but clearly the club is moving in the right direction.
And the Devils are a heck of a lot more fun to watch.
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