Breaking Down The Devils: Roster Changes, Adam Larsson and Coaching

Outcoaching with his eyes closed. - Paul Bereswill

We sit down with John Fischer from In Lou We Trust to talk about the 2013-14 Devils.

In Lou We Trust is invaluable for all hockey fans, not just fans of the New Jersey Devils. The site balances news, prospects, game coverage and analysis (the goal-by-goal breakdowns there are incredible) and delivers it in an easy-to-grasp manner, and manages to maintain an outstanding group of writers. The man behind ILWT is John Fischer, who began the site eight years ago and has built it into an indispensable NHL site and required reading for all.

We sat down with Fischer to talk about the Devils ahead of tonight's matchup.

Copper & Blue: Is this the most roster turnover you can recall in New Jersey?

John Fischer: It very well could be. The closest I would say was 2010, when the Devils lost Paul Martin, Mike Mottau, Rob Niedermayer, Yann Danis, Andrew Peters, and four other minor players. That summer, the Devils signed Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder, Johan Hedberg, and Adam Mair among minor and entry level deals (most significant turned out to be Mark Fayne) after acquiring Jason Arnott in a trade. I'd say the 2013 summer had more important players getting signed, though. Some fans think the current team needs time to gel. I think Peter DeBoer is still figuring out who works well with who. Both processes won't take that long. Some positive signs came up on Friday night against the Islanders as a line of Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, and Michael Ryder dominated in possession and Damien Brunner has shown courage and offensive spark early with two goals right at the crease to go with ten other shots on net in the first two games.

C&B: Is Adam Larsson going to play as long as he's healthy this season?

I think Larsson will improve but as he gets more and more games, then he's got to prove that he deserves significant minutes.

JF: He will. The question really will be, can he justify his minutes? Larsson played over twenty minutes on the top pairing with Andy Greene against the Penguins on opening night. He wasn't all that good but neither was Greene. On Friday night, he was caught flat footed against the Isles in the first period that saw him demoted to a third paring with Volchenkov. That pairing's minutes were cut after some poor shifts in the second period. With Mark Fayne, who really should've been in the lineup as a tough-minutes defender, on the bench, the pressure is on Larsson and other defenders to perform. He's in his third season in the NHL and so he should be expected to be perform like one instead of getting the pass young players get from some fans. Yes, he should eventually be better than guys like Peter Harrold, but when Harrold does well - and he did alongside Greene in the second and third periods against the Isles - and Larsson comes up slow, firing pucks into traffic, and taking too many hits, then it's clear who should be getting more minutes. I think Larsson will improve but as he gets more and more games, then he's got to prove that he deserves significant minutes.

C&B: The Devils also have a non-difference-making defenseman [Bryce Salvador] as captain. Does it matter?

JF: It does to a fault. The moment he was named captain last season, it guaranteed his spot in the lineup as long as he was healthy. Salvador is 37 going on 38, he's been getting slower on the ice, he adds very little on offense, he was one of the few Devils to have a negative on-ice Corsi rate in 5-on-5 play last season, and he can be too physical to a fault. That's not someone who should get top-four minutes. Yet, DeBoer found it fit to give him an average of at least 21 minutes per game and make him the first choice on penalty kills. The Devils were hardly a sieve in terms of shots against but Salvador was a notable weak link. Now, if DeBoer limits his minutes more and does throw him out against the toughs, then he wouldn't be as much as a detriment. Honestly, he's been OK in the first two games but that isn't likely to last.

C&B: What's your take on Peter DeBoer as a coach? Is he a difference-making coach either way?

JF: I really do like DeBoer as a coach. As Tyler Dellow showed, the Devils have been strong in possession. He prefers an aggressive forecheck (that may change this season) and along the blueline, sometimes to a fault. But when it's on point, the Devils are remarkably difficult to play against and it's been that way for two seasons going. Some fans lament his lineup decisions but for the large part, the issues with last season lied with the shooting percentage and goalies not being all that good. The process had merit even if the results didn't come. I do think he's made a difference. As Devils fans like myself who suffered through the 2010 part of the 2010-11 season will tell you, a coach who doesn't have a set game plan with buy in from the players can wreck an otherwise talented squad. DeBoer recognizes what he has on the roster, he makes in-game adjustments with respect to what's happened on the ice (e.g. the Devils started to pull away from the Isles in possession from the second period onward), and the players by and large respect him.

C&B: Thank you so much.

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