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Devils Season a Success

The Devils season in 2009-2010 could only be labeled as a success, even after losing in game 7 of the first round of the playoffs.  Early on the team was thought of as a playoff caliber team by management but constant struggles from both the D and in net held the team out of the playoff picture all season until almost literally the last game of the season.  After trading off some players at the deadline and picking up Salo on waivers the team thought they would just coast to the bottom 10 of the league and end up with a top 10 draft pick.  However, John Curry would have no part of that as he got some starts after Roloson was both tired or hurt and he just kept winning.  When Roloson was healthy, the team put him in and...he lost, so screw it they went back to what scouts call "one of the worst goalies to ever start in NEFHL history".  But the whole team was behind Curry as he absolutely carried the team past team after team and jumped the team from around 10th in the East all the way up to 7th at one point before Roloson started the last game and thankfully won which secured the team a playoff berth.

Curry knew he wouldn't start in the playoffs and after starting strong, Roloson made it look like Curry wouldn't get into the series at any point.  But after a huge collapse late in the series, Curry managed to get in some minutes during what will probably be his only NEFHL playoff icetime - a nice reward for a player who was merely an afterthought the last 3 years.  While New Jersey would love to say they are bringing him back because of his heroics late in the season - they just can't afford to.  Between having a 1a/1b next year of Roloson and Varlamov as well as having around 10 prospects from the 2008 draft to sign the team just has no room for a nice gesture.  However, after the awfulness that Ramo showed for a couple years in jersey as a backup - Curry's numbers for his talent are actually very impressive and even though he's a "waste" of a signing a couple years ago I would say just based on his heroics and getting the team to the playoffs - that easily makes him worth the small contract and roster space he took up the last few years. Plus...go Hockey East!

The series against the Thrashers was a great one and while the team choked it away in the last 2 games - it had to be expected. The Devils went into the playoffs with a goalie who had a losing record during the regular season as well as a goal differential that was in the minus.  Even though the team had the best PK in the league as well as one of the top 5 forwards offensively (Savard - albeit he had way over a PPG for Chicago before coming to NJ) the team was inconsistent all year offensively.  Kane was somewhat of a disappointment and while Ryan's final numbers are impressive - he finished the last month of the season incredibly strong including a 4 goal game; hopefully something that can continue next season.

The series against the Thrashers came down to goaltending in the final couple games and the Devils just didn't get it, with Roloson doing his usual imploding that showed in a couple game span what he did all season.  The team did manage to get some great offensive production from key players like Backes and Kane but between the D and Roloson...and the Thrashers president trophy the team had no chance in the end.  Either way, quite the accomplishment for the team to take the President trophy winner to 7 games after barely making the playoffs anyway. The team got some much need experience for it's young team as well as some money to use to buy out players if need be and confidence to try and make it back next year.

While the team won't be stronger next season individually, hopefully the team game that the PK showed carries over to the PP and even strength and propels the team back to the playoffs.  Goaltending won't be "better" but with a tandem of Varlamov and Roloson, I imagine both will start around 40 games which gives NJ something they haven't had in ...ever?  One goalie won't be overworked although it also means that the team can't rely on the goalie to steal games.  The D also won't be better and could be worse as, looking at the group, they look putrid defensively but offensively still have some talent. Unfortunately this season showed the Devils that a bunch of offensive d-men is a recipe for disaster as really only Wisniewski (for the first 40 games) and Edler were good offensively while Hejda was awesome all year and really helped the Pk be #1.  With D coming in bunches from the prospect pool the team hopes that will be resolved with guys like Despres, Kulikov, Moore and others a few seasons away.

Even crazier, the team finished 8th and was only a couple points away from the division banner...