The Flames are in New Jersey for the first and only time this season. M&G caught up with In Lou We Trust's John Fischer to find out how the Devils are doing in this final stretch of the season, and what lies ahead for the team.
1. The Devils passed the Leafs in the standings Saturday night. How are Devils fans feeling about this late playoff push?
I think there are many who want to believe this is for real - and why not? Better to fight for a slim chance than to just witness games that didn't mean anything from March. Personally, the Devils need a miracle run and with the potential loss of Henrique and Elias, I'm not confident in it happening. I'll still cheer for it, though.
2. Martin Brodeur's numbers lately have been, uh... Has Cory Schneider taken over the starter's mantle yet?
He should've taken it over. Schneider has received more starts and from January 1 through to February 8 (Olympic break), Schneider received the majority of starts including (I think) six straight until the end. But Brodeur and Schneider essentially split March. Some nights, Brodeur justified the start. Other nights, he struggled - but the team won or whatever.
3. Adam Larsson's season appears to have been somewhat up and down. By contrast, Eric Gelinas is another young defenceman who seems to have broken out this year. What's your projection for both these players, and their futures in the Devils organization?
The worst thing to have happened to Larsson this season was getting hurt and seeing Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill play well. With six other defensemen who couldn't be moved down, someone had to be moved and the man with the ELC was it. OK, Gelinas has struggled with the defensive part of the game but he has an amazing shot and has produced enough to justify being used in someway, particularly on power plays. Merrill essentially does what Larsson could do defensively. I think Larsson and Merrill will be strong, more defensive top four defensemen. Gelinas can be that elusive offensive defenseman with a killer shot that the Devils have lacked for a while on the blueline. But he's got to get better at passes, positioning, decision making, and (if possible) learn to move a bit faster. I think they're learnable issues and the Devils will do what they can to mold the potential offensive weapon.
4. Jaromir Jagr looks like he's had a hell of a season. Do you think he comes back next year? If not, who picks up his offence?
Jagr has been amazing. Near 60% Corsi, 24 goals, 40 assists, and 212 shots. He hasn't put up a point in three games, but he's been featured often in the opponent's end of the ring and he's been continuing to get shots on net. The points will come. I think he'll want to keep playing. As much as I loved his 2013-14 season, I'm admittedly hesitant on retaining a forward turning 43 in the coming season. He's a workout freak and will definitely be in shape but Father Time always wins in the end. Honestly, I'm not sure who can pick up this kind of offense. It may have to be another attempt to find a scorer in the free agency market this summer.
5. What are your expectations for the Devils next season? Will they continue to be a bubble team, and will Devils fans be happy with that?
I think the Devils will be a bubble team again. I hope it's the Cory Schneider show all season long. I can be confident the team will be strong on defense, which will continue to make them be so strong in possession as well as difficult to play against. I can be confident the team won't generate a ton of offense. As much as I think he's been good, I doubt Peter DeBoer returns should the Devils (likely) miss the postseason. That would suck because he's a rather good coach. The next guy will benefit from the team not going 0-11 in shootouts (surely this has to end, right?) and maybe a few more goals here and there, and so get credit for something he doesn't have control over.
Thanks, John! Be sure to go to In Lou We Trust for additional Devils news and notes, and stick around here at M&G throughout the day for our game preview, gamethread, and recap.