Potpourri of Devils News

So, it has been kind of a slow month so far in terms of news, but there were some things going on last week so we can talk about that here.

First, the MTV Video Music Awards were held at Prudential Center last Monday and two Devils players took part.

Blake Coleman was the NewJerseyDevils.com Red Carpet Host. He interviewed New York Jets player Brent Qvale, Lizzo, the cast of MTV show Floribama Shore, band CNCO, Diplo, Ice-T and PK Subban and Lindsey Vonn.

Now admittedly, I have no idea who most of those people are, save for Ice-T and, of course, Subban, but it was some good promotion for the team to get in on this. With the event taking place at Prudential Center, it got the Devils some notoriety. According to the Devils’ official blog, Coleman even tried to persuade some of the celebrities to become Devils fans.

Speaking of the VMAs and Subban, he was even more involved in the event. The VMAs had a strong New Jersey flavor being in Newark, as Chris Wescott reported for the Devils’ official blog. He said that Queen Latifah, Naughty by Nature, Redman, Wyclef Jean and Fetty Wap (all Jersey natives) performing. The Jonas Brothers, Halsey, John Travolta, Victor Cruz and the aforementioned Ice-T were also involved in the event. They all hail from the Garden State as well.

Subban was a presenter for the event and he and Vonn told the crowd that he is training hard, looking to bring the Stanley Cup back to New Jersey.

Surely, this is the kind of thing the team was looking for when they acquired PK. He brings crossover notoriety to the team and is as at ease in a setting like the VMAs as he is on the ice.

In other, more sports-related news, Martin Brodeur, in an interview with Amanda Stein of the Devils’ website, announced his new golf tournament, the MB30 Invitational. It will take place on September 3 at the Plainfield Country Club and will feature a lot of the Devils’ sponsors and other VIPs.

Marty, an avid golfer, has invited some former and current players including John Madden, who Marty said is a great golfer, Colin White, Jim McKenzie, Bobby Holik, Scott Gomez, Bobby Carpenter, Petr Sykora, Cory Schneider, Kyle Palmieri, Sami Vatanen and John Hynes. A total of 18 Devils past and present will be there, in addition to former New York Giant Michael Strahan and even a few PGA pros.

Proceeds from the event will go to the Devils Care Foundation to raise money. Devils Care helps New Jersey youth through education and health programs.

Marty told Stein that this will be one of the first events over the year to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 2000 Stanley Cup championship.

In one final note that is hockey related, former Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy has decided to call it quits, retiring from the NHL. He announced the retirement to the fans via Twitter this week. Congrats to Lovejoy on a fine NHL career and best of luck to whatever is next for him.

Bruins’ Connor Clifton Helps Local People With Special Needs

This may not be about the Devils, but I thought it was an interesting bit of hockey-related news worthy to blog on.

In today’s edition of the Asbury Park Press, columnist Steve Edelson had a story on the front page of the sports section about the Bruins’ Connor Clifton and the work he is doing with local special needs kids.

Clifton, a Matawan native, attended Christian Brothers Academy before playing at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and eventually the NHL and the Bruins. He came within a game of winning the Cup last year with Boston, suffering a game seven loss to the St. Louis Blues.

But off the ice, he is a part of the Autism Movement Project, a “brainchild of three special needs professionals who are part of the local sports community” according to Edelson, “the Autism Movement Project has been making a difference in the lives of special needs kids and adults for nearly two years.”

Edelson described the project as a way to get kids with special needs playing sports and feeling comfortable in the whole environment of participating. He said that in addition to Clifton, the project also brings in other local athletes to work with kids. Included among them are “Rutgers national champion wrestler Anthony Ashmault; former Monmouth University basketball star Justin Robinson, now playing in France; former Jets tight end Neal Sterling, a Belmar native who was also a Monmouth University standout; and former Jackson Memorial hoops standout Eric Carter, who played at Delaware and has been vying for an NBA contract.”

Clifton appeared at St. Denis Elementary School in Manasquan where he played floor hockey with the kids and adults on the school gym basketball court. According to Edelson, the Boston d-man was there to participate in drills with the roughly 30 assembled kids and adults, teaching them a little about hockey, as well as take photos and sign autographs.

Brandon Sierchio, who is a Toms River native who played soccer at Widener University and now works at Search Day Program (which Edelson said is “a school for autistic children in Ocean Township”), is one of the founders of the Autism Movement Project and told Edelson: “It is very rewarding. We have kids that come in and the parents are like, ‘I don’t know if they’re going to like it.’ But then they come back because they say they’re having fun and have a reduced anxiety playing sports and doing fitness, and they start surprising themselves sometimes. Sometimes we’ll say, ‘remember when that kid first started?’ And now you look at him and he’s independent, and he’s doing all the exercises well.”

Edelson said that the program was co-founded two years ago by Sierchio and Vincent Balestrieri of Wall Township. Balestrieri is “a sports psychologist and behavior analyst” as well as Balestieri’s “brother Nic, a Belmar native and former football and track and field star at Manasquan High School, who recently completed his master’s degree in applied behavior analysis.”

Vincent Balestrieri told Edelson that they “were already doing this. We used to run this program as part of a clinical practice that was closed down. And of all the services that the practice provided the fitness and sports program was the one that parents contacted me and said, ‘so you think you could just start that fitness and sports program up again?’ That kind of kicks started (sic) it.”

Sierchio mentioned that “there is nothing like this out there. There are challenger leagues, or you can pay a trainer to work out with your special needs child at your house, but you’re not getting the same thing. We have a social component where we facilitate social skills with kids who have deficits in that area, as well as giving them a safe space to play sports.”

Sierchio continued to Edelson: “some of the kids who are more cognitively aware of their surroundings and how they feel, when they play a sport they may feel uncomfortable and have some anxiety associated with it. We do our best here to coach them at their individual level and allow them to succeed so they want to keep participating in sports.”

For Clifton’s part, he told Edelson: “It’s awesome. I didn’t know what to expect today and it turned out to be a great hour. It was awesome seeing the kids and play some hockey with them. I got a lot of assists out there and they were scoring a lot of goals.”

The Autism Movement Project is a “twice-weekly program” that is “currently transitioning to a non-profit.” It does not feature athletes working with kids in every one of their sessions, but the founders see changes in the participants. As Vincent Balestrieri told Edelson, “It sneaks up on us. Sometimes you’re just like ‘wait a minute, six months ago he couldn’t do that.’ Week-to-week it’s small, baby steps, and then one day you see that they’ve made tremendous gains.”

To learn more about the Autism Movement Project, please visit www.ampfitnj.com.

Devils/Adirondack Thunder Renew Official Partnership

In a bit of news missed by me the other day, the Devils announced on Thursday that they have renewed their relationship with the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL.

According to the Devils’ press release, “2019-20 will be the third season that the Devils and the Thunder have had an official partnership.” The term “official partnership” eludes to the fact that the teams had an “informal agreement” in 2015-16 and 2016-17 when Adirondack was officially a Calgary affiliate.

The press release included some quotes from key people, including Thunder Governor Ed Moore: “(o)ur relationship is great and now that we are entering year three, we believe that it will only get stronger. With the additions and improvements that New Jersey made this offseason, we are excited to see what this year has in store for the entire organization.”

Devils assistant general manager and GM of the Binghamton Devils also added: “(g)iving players consistent ice time and exposure in all situations at the ECHL (l)evel will help them develop throughout all levels of the New Jersey Devils organization and its affiliates. We are excited to work together with the management, players and coaches for our third consecutive season in Adirondack.”

The Thunder kick off their ECHL season in Portland, Maine when they take on the Maine Mariners (the Rangers’ ECHL affiliate) on October 11. They start their home schedule in Glens Falls, New York against the Worcester Railers on October 19 at Cool Insuring Arena.

Devils to Host “Devils Down the Shore”

The Devils are going down the Shore for Labor Day weekend.

This year the Devils will host “Devils Down the Shore” at two bars at the Jersey Shore. The two bars will be The Anchor’s Bend in Asbury Park and Jenks Inlet Bar in Point Pleasant Beach. The event is free of charge at both bars.

The Devils’ website promises “a fun day of prizes, games, giveaways, and Devils player and alumni appearances.” Grant Marshall is scheduled to appear at The Anchor’s Bend while Travis Zajac, Will Butcher, Ken Daneyko and Marshall will be appearing at Jenks Inlet Bar.

Be advised that the Asbury Park event is 21+ according to the Devils’ site.

At the Devils’ website you can also enter a contest for a chance “to win access to free food & beverage, and a private meet and greet at each bar.”

This event will be replacing the “Devils Beach Bash” which was reportedly getting too expensive with not enough people coming out for the team to justify keeping it.

So, if you are a Devils fan and find yourself near Asbury or Point Pleasant Beach this Labor Day weekend, come out and enjoy some food, drinks and Devils-related events.

Devils Prospects to Take Part in NHLPA Rookie Showcase

Amanda Stein of the Devils’ official website is reporting that three Devils prospects will be taking part in the 11th annual NHLPA Rookie Showcase.

She described the event as “an opportunity for Upper Deck to take photographs and video of the up-and-comers in the NHL, with the content collected used for an array of memorabilia including Upper Deck trading cards and digital video posts.”

There will be “28 NHL prospects and rookies” attending including Jack Hughes, Ty Smith and Jesper Boqvist attending from the Devils.

Stein said that “the event involves a group activity for the players as well as wrapping up with a team scrimmage.” It will take place August 25 at the MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Virginia, the Capitals’ practice facility.

In other news, Taylor Hall was named 15th on the NHL Network’s List of Top 20 Wingers.

The Devils’ official website blogger Chris Wescott quoted NHL Network analyst (and former Devil) Mike Rupp as saying: “When he’s in the lineup, he’s contributing, he’s getting points. Look for him to have another bounce-back year this year and probably be higher on the list next year.”

The 2018 Hart Trophy winner was the only Devil to make the list.

Devils Double Up National TV Coverage

The New Jersey Devils are moving on up.

According to Marc Ciampa of the Devils’ website, the Devils will appear on NBC Sports Network a total of four times this season, up from two last year.

Those games will be: October 9 at Philadelphia on NBCSN’s “Wednesday Night Hockey” (7:30 PM); Thursday, October 17 against the Rangers at Prudential Center; Tuesday, January 2 against the Islanders at Barclays Center in Brooklyn; Thursday, January 30 against Nashville at Prudential Center (PK Subban facing off with his former teammates in the Predators).

My prediction of the American Thanksgiving Day game at Montreal being a nationally televised game back when I did the schedule preview seemingly is not accurate.

The Devils appearing a little more often on NBCSN is a direct result of their offseason. Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President of Production, NBC and NBC Sports Network, told USA Today (as quoted by Ciampa) that Ray Shero “had as good of an offseason as any GM in the league. It’s going to give the Devils some buzz in the market.”

Of course there will still be teams that will appear on the network every other night *cough*Blackhawks*cough*, but this is a step for the Devils in gaining some national exposure.

Just two years ago, they only appeared on NBCSN once, which is only because, I believe, every team in the league has to appear at least that minimum amount on the network. They have come a long way since that season.

Would I like to see them on a national stage more often? Sure. But baby steps here. At least they are trending in the right direction and people are taking notice. They are seeing guys like Jack Hughes being a potentially exciting player. They are seeing the Devils bring in Subban, one of the biggest personalities in the league. They are seeing Nikita Gusev come over and possibly be the real deal.

There are a lot of questions around the Devils right now, but there is also a lot of potential and that is what NBCSN and the other league decision makers see right now.

However, should they make the playoffs and have a good run while there, that will only boost them further as they will be on NBCSN all Spring and will likely appear on the channel much more often in 2020-21.

Devils’ 2019 Offseason

So we are now in the dog days of Summer and there has not been much news out of the New Jersey Devils since the Will Butcher re-signing in late July. Since things have been a little bit slow, I wanted to take a little bit of a retrospective look at the Devils’ offseason so far in 2019.

From trading for PK Subban and Nikita Gusev to signing free agent Wayne Simmonds to re-upping their own Butcher, the Devils have had quite the Summer.

There is still work to be done. RFA Pavel Zacha is still a priority to re-sign and Ray Shero could always make another trade just prior to the regular season starting.

The left-side defense is still a place the Devils would like to upgrade and add a piece to. Although when thinking about the D, you have to pencil in a place for Ty Smith, who will likely be added this year to the big club. Where does this place the Devils’ defense overall?

Likewise, up front you have to wonder who will make the team out of camp. Will someone on the bubble such as a Michael McLeod have a breakout camp and make the team? Where does Jesper Boqvist fit in now with Gusev in the picture? Will he be playing in North America this year or going back to Sweden to play in the SHL for the year?

What we would love to have is anyone who is reading to leave some of their thoughts in the comments below. How do you think the fanbase feels about the offseason overall? Do you have any concerns for the team going into 2019-20? Do you have any line combinations you would like to see? How would you construct the defensive pairings if you were John Hynes?

Again, we’d love to hear from the fans about the upcoming season, good or bad. Just leave a comment below.