Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shanahan is In, So who is Out?

Tonight in Nashville, Brendan Shanahan will make his season debut for the New Jersey Devils. Now with the official addition of Shanahan to the line-up, Coach Sutter will have to make the decision of removing someone from the line-up and put them in the stands.

So which player will he choose? Here is a look at who may be in or out and why.

Jay Pandolfo
Negatives: Pandolfo ranks highest on our poll here at the DEVILS LOUNGE. Pando, who signed a three year deal in the off-season at 2.5M a year, has not lived up to his paycheck. Over the past four season he has average 12G-12A, but this year through 45 games he has 4G-5A and is playing at a minus-8 rating. Besides the 2006-2007 season, Pando has not played at a minus rating since the first two years of his career.

Positives: In Pando's defense, he has never been asked to score goals but he is expected to kill penalties and check the other teams top line. Well, he and Madden are no expected to check the other teams top line under Sutter, so he is in search of finding his role on this team. And for the penalty killing, the Devils have killed 22 of 24 penalties and they are 16 for 16 on this road trip. Pando has been very valuable on the penalty kill.

Mike Rupp
Negatives: The 6'5 forward has never been a big scorer at the NHL level, as he 27 goals in 306 career game.This season in 43 games he has posted 3G-3A. The forward has always been considered a fourth liner and is never expected to play on the power-play or the penalty kill. The end result is his $500,000 salary and his inconsistent play at times this year may be what pushes him out of the line-up.

Positives: Rupp is loved by many Devils fans because of his play in Game 7 against the Ducks in the 2003 Stanley Cup. His physical presence is needed in the line-up and he understands his role on the Devils team. Of late Rupp has not seen his name on the score sheet, but his presence in the games have been noticed as he has been creating opportunities on the fourth line with center Bobby Holik. Lastly, Rupp is the Devils enforcer and the Devils always need someone who will drop the gloves in their line-up and lets not forget he played center when Holik was injured and that versatility is a positive.

David Clarkson
Negatives: Someone voted for him on the poll and as much as I value all of your opinions, I cannot find any reason to take him out of the line-up at this time.

Positives: In the past four games he has 2G-2A, his 9 goals in 45 games ties his mark for all of last year. He is 3 points shy of the 22 he had all of last season. He fights, scores, checks, plays in front of the net on the power-play and is playing at an even plus/minus rating. Clarkson and Rolston have gained some chemistry, despite not having a center who compliments them. He may even eventually fit in well on the fourth line with Holik and Rupp.

John Madden
Negatives: Madden has never scored less than 12 goals in a season, this season may be the worst of his career. The 35 year old center, who is a UFA at years end, has 5G-9A-14pt 39 games and worst of all a minus-7 rating. As Pando, he is trying to find out how he fits in under Coach Sutter. He has played between Rolston and Clarkson, but has not been effective in getting them the puck or creating offense. In the end he or Holik could be taken out and move Rolston to center between Shanahan and Clarkson.

Positives: As Pando, he has been a big part of the improvements on the penalty-kill. He has long been a centerpiece of the Devils and is an assistant captain, despite no goals he brings something to the Devils when it matters. He is still one of the Devils top face-off men, but is more expendable than he was in the past. He should stay for now, but may be gone or out of the line-up.

Bobby Holik
Negatives: Holik is 38 years of age and a 3rd line center at best nowadays. He missed 18 games due to surgery on a broken hand, which may be the reason for his 2G-3A in 27 games. He is playing at a minus-3 rating and has not scored more than 34 points or had a positive plus/minus rating in any of the past 3 seasons in Atlanta. He was tried between Rolston and Clarkson as well, but Madden was moved back in that spot after he couldn't help find chemistry with the two wingers.

Positives: He was brought in because of his size, grit, playoff experience and his ability to win face-offs. He is the best Devil in the face-off circle winning 59.8% of his face-offs. If needed, he can play in front of the net on the power-play and he gives the Devils more size at center-ice.

At first I thought it may be Rupp who will sit, and he still may, but Pandolfo and Madden are also options. I would not be surprised if Sutter sits Pandolfo to make a statement to the veteran forward that he needs to bring up his play. Or another option is a person may sit so that the Devils can showcase some other players for trade possibilities.

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