October 11, 2010
The New Jersey Devils and Lou Lamoriello should feel somewhat humiliated today.
Yes, injuries happen: Defenseman Anton Volchenkov's(notes) broken nose from Saturday's drubbing from the Washington Capitals and Brian Rolston's(notes) lower body injury are unfortunately. Yes, suspensions happen, as Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond(notes) serves his automatic one-game suspension for instigating a fight in the final five minutes against the Caps. (And was placed on waivers today as well.)
But to be unable to replace those players due to financial constraints is a titanic bit of salary cap miscalculation. To ice a lineup featuring nine forwards, along with six defenseman and two goaltenders, for a crucial division home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins (4 p.m. ET) today is inexcusable.
It's a one-game issue (potentially), but the Devils' cap problems will linger like an ever-present fungus this season. From Fire and Ice:
Playing just the third game of the season with only 15 skaters is an embarrassment for the Devils. "It's not something we like to see," Lamoriello admitted. "But it is what it is today. That's the way it will be."
MacLean insisted his hands aren't tied with a reduced roster. "My hands aren't tied," he claimed. "We have guys ready to go. No excuses."
Could it be a rallying point? "It could be. We have to tighten up our game, too," MacLean said.
The Devils could win this afternoon, if their defense can hold a lead and if Martin Brodeur(notes) can be better than his putrid 5.31 GAA and .813 save percentage. Or they'll be skated out of their own barn by the third period due to exhaustion.
This mess is the culmination of seasons of cap mismanagement from Lamoriello, a general manager that used to earn accolades for keeping salaries in check even as the Devils carried high payrolls overall. If there's any defense of Lou, it's that the Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) contract mess tied his hands this summer on making a cap-influenced trade to cut salary; now, when player on long-term injured reserve return, he'll have to force a move to get under the cap. (But it should be noted that it's the Devils who tried the 17-year deal.)
But that's the only defense. Otherwise, this is a franchise that's gone from rolling four lines to win championships to one that can only afford three.