Sometimes it's hard to believe how bad, and how much of an anomaly, last season was. I think I would attribute that season to how difficult it was for all of us to come to terms with the fact that we had a REALLY good team this year. Yes, there were growing pains with a new system and a lot of new faces and some injuries to start the season.
But tell me, had last season never happened, and we came into preseason or Game 1 of a season with the ideal roster, this board and fanbase would be BEYOND pumped. It was what happened last season with Maclean. The defense didn't look stellar, but everyone was effective and no one could tell which pairing was the first, second, or third. And the offensive depth was PHENOMENAL.
I think a lot of us don't remember what kind of expectation there were for the start of the 10-11 season. We had arguably the best offense in the league on paper. And our team doesn't look much different from that now.
I noticed a lot of fans, including myself, were tentative to really get behind this team when they started rolling through the league after the All Star break. Last season made it really difficult for us fans to have confidence in a team made up of mostly the same players, no matter how well they seemed to be doing. The fans, this team, and it's players, are finally be rewarded for what they went through last season. It's weird looking at where we are now only a year and a half after Jacque Lemaire looked at guys like Elias, Kovalchuk and Zajac, and coming to the conclusion that they had forgotten how to play hockey.
I know this is long, but what I'm getting at, is that this team learned something last season. They learned not to take winning for granted, and the fans did as well, if maybe a little TOO much. Maybe that's why, going into tonight's game, I'm far more confident than I should be. The Devils finally have that killer instinct that seemed lacking for so many years, and which culminated in the worst half of a hockey season I've ever witnessed.
TL;DR: I'm not worried about tonight anymore. The Devils may lose, but at this point, I have nothing left to complain about.
I think what happened was at the end of 2009/2010 we looked bad. Not abysmal, but not good. We went from best team in the league in the first half to probably the worst in the second half or at least probably one of them. It became the opposite the next season. I don't know what it was, but right after that game where the lights went out against Tampa Bay the team lost it. They dropped the ball. Not sure what the problem was. Some say Langenbrunner, who knows? The team didn't look interested anymore.
Then our bald headed friend takes over. I didn't think it was a bad move. Who knew that was coming? Who could foresee it? The first month I didn't blame him. We had the salary cap problem, and a lot of AHL guys up playing. The fact of the matter is this team got worse the further into his tenure we went. I don't know if it was because he was a bad coach, but something DIRECTLY RELATED to John Maclean coaching this team, and maybe to a smaller extent Langenbrunner was causing our team to get blown out almost every game, and give up 2 goals in the opening minutes.
Once Lemaire came back it still looked bad, but I give him credit he turned the team around a lot faster than I ever thought he could despite losing 9 of his first 10 games back. Then it seemed once we packed up Captain America, and put him on a plane to Dallas we all the sudden looked like a championship team. I thought we were going to the playoffs. They showed up every night, beat all the good teams. We wound up slumping in the end, and running out of gas. Wouldn't have been so bad had Lemaire been hired back in early December. We just couldn't afford a slump at that time. Considering the first 41 games of the season was almost ALL slumping.