Here is a fun scenario to imagine. You are a fan of an NHL franchise, and your team hasn’t had any success in years. It could be because of a bad hire, poor management decisions, or even a heartbreaking loss. You just built the world’s first-ever time machine, and you get set to go back in time for the first time. You want to change three moments or decisions in your favorite franchise to bring success when deciding what to change. What would those moments be? Here are three events I would change in New Jersey Devils’ history.
Losing the Chance to Draft Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux was a game-changer for the NHL when drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. But while the Penguins drafted Lemieux, the Devils drafted Kirk Muller, a great player for that class. Imagine, though, what the Devils could’ve looked like if they had Lemieux on their team. Having Lemieux could’ve given the Devils not only their first superstar but an NHL legend. But what would need to happen for the Devils to get Lemieux first overall in that year’s draft? Well, we would have to go back to March first, 1984, to determine the fate of which team Lemieux could play on.
On March 1st, 1984, the Devils and Penguins had the same record of 13-45-6. On that night, the Penguins played the Washington Capitals, who lost 9-1. After those games, the Devils went on a three-game win streak against the Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, and then the Penguins. Those three games I would change to make sure they all lose those games. If those losses happen, the Devils will go on a losing streak to win only one game. The final record for the 1983-1984 season would’ve been 14-59-7. That record would have been worse than the Penguins had they won that game against the Devils. It would’ve given the Devils the first overall pick, which they could’ve drafted Mario Lemieux and could potentially jumpstart their franchise around in their first few years.
Giving Ilya Kovalchuk a 17-year Contract
On February 4th, 2010, the Devils traded for winger Ilya Kovalchuk from the then Atlanta Thrashers. It was undoubtedly a big trade at the time, both figuratively and literally. While Kovalchuk would become a significant success right away, Lou Lamoriello wanted to make sure Kovalchuk got paid. Originally the idea was that Lou wanted to give Kovalchuk a 17-year deal worth $102 Million. However, it got rejected by the league. Lou, however, dropped the price to Kovalchuk was a 15-year contract worth $100 million, which Kovalchuk signed. However, problems began after the first couple of years of the contract.
Kovalchuk chose to play in Russia with SKA Peterburg in the KHL. During that same year, Kovalchuk decided to retire from the NHL officially. Even though he came back to the NHL four years later, he didn’t want to play with the Devils anymore, and they give up his rights, making him a free agent. So, if I traveled back in time to 2010-2011, what would be the decision I would make?
Well, thanks to my fellow OTH Devils writer, Joe Stanislau, he came up with a brilliant suggestion. Instead of offering a 15-year contract worth $100 million total, offer him a two-year contract that’s worth $20 million total. It may be a minor deal but considering that Kovalchuk stayed with the Devils until the 2012-2013 season, it showcases the idea of being a good contract. It’s also worth noting http://armodexperiment.com that even after Kovalchuk left the Devils during that year, the agreement still had over $77 million left. So that makes it worth it. But there is one more question, how could the Devils please Kovalchuk if he decides not to take on the contract and move him?
Well, the Devils could try to please Kovalchuk by forcing him to a team that desperately needs a player like him. A perfect team I can think of could be the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning was not a very good team in the 2012-2013 season. They lacked any other big star aside from Steven Stamkos and their two long-time players, Martin St Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. If the Devils traded Kovalchuk to the Lightning during the 2012-2013 season, they could ask for the Lightning’s first-round pick. This trade would not only please Kovalchuk because he could become a significant superstar over there, but the Devils could’ve gotten the third overall pick in that year’s draft. They could’ve used that pick to draft Jonathan Drouin, Seth Jones, or even take Bo Horvat.
Penalty Call on Jared Stoll
This moment is personal when it comes to Devils fans. In the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, the Devils forced a Game six against the Los Angeles Kings. In that game six, the score is 0-0 10 minutes into the first period. Brian Gionta, who clears the puck, gets hit from behind by Jarret Stoll. Steve Bernier, who sees Gionta goes down, hits Rob Scuderi on the board, and the referee blew the whistle. Scuderi would be slow to get up. Bernier is then penalized for a game misconduct and a boarding penalty. The Kings would get a five-minute power play, which the Kings scored three times on thanks to goals by Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, and Trevor Lewis. So, as you can imagine, I would go back in time and call the penalty on Jared Stoll first before Bernier hits Scuderi. But what would change about the game itself then?
Well, the Devils could’ve gotten to go on a two-minute power play, and they could’ve scored at least one goal. If they hadn’t, and the game remained the same, the game would’ve stayed tied 1-1 heading into the third period. Here’s where guys like Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, and guys like Alexei Ponikarovsky could’ve made an impact and fought to score several goals. If the Devils did win that game in the third period, they could’ve forced a Game 7 in Los Angeles winner-take-all game for the cup. But what happens if they win that game? They could’ve only won their fourth cup in franchise history. Not only that, the 2012 Devils could’ve been the first team since the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs to fight back from a 3-1 deficit to win the cup.
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