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Part 6 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #25: New Jersey Devils Top Fws: Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique Top Ds: Marek Zidlicky, Anton Volchenkov Top G: Martin Brodeur Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Adam Henrique (22) 2. D Adam Larsson (19) 3. F Jacob Josefsson (21) Top 5 Prospects 1. D Jon Merrill (20) 2. D Alexander Urbom (21) 3. D Eric Gelinas (21) 4. G Scott Wedgewood (20) 5. D Reece Scarlett (19) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: D Bluechip Talent: D Diversity: D Overall: D Organizational Strengths: Ilya Kovalchuk remains one of the best players in the game, and he's joined on a forward corps that has Patrik Elias, who successfully converted to center, and rookie phenom Adam Henrique. The organization also has a solid group of young players both on the roster and in the system; names like Jacob Josefsson and Adam Larsson will likely be heard out of Newark for years to come. Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg make for a solid, if wizened, goaltending duo. Organizational Weaknesses: The Devils lack severely on the backend. Anton Volchenkov, Andy Greene and Marek Zidlicky are good players to be sure, but on any other squad they're number 3 or 4 guys at best. Mark Fayne and Adam Larsson are still young and prone to rookie slipups. There is no true scoring RW on the team, and even if David Clarkson is a good player he'll be hardpressed to match his career high 30 goals of this last season. Prospect Strengths: If there's one thing the Devils know, it's defense. And it's shown in their prospect pools; Jon Merrill, while controversial, is a potential top pairing defenseman, and he's joined by a cast of fellow prospects such as Urbom, Brandon Burlon, Damon Severson and Reece Scarlett that provide depth on the blueline. They've also built up their goalie pool and while none of the goalies look like franchise netminders, they have depth at the position. Prospect Weaknesses: Two words: scoring forwards. While the backend is solid, the forward prospect group is likely the worst in the NHL. Reid Boucher looks like the only potential top 6 forward, and he underwhelmed to begin his OHL career. Their latest first rounder, Stefan Matteau, projects as a very solid 3rd liner checker. Even grinding type 4th liners are few and far between. To compound that fact, there is no depth, especially on the right side. Outlook: New Jersey surprised most everyone when they elected to keep their first round pick in a year where they advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Lou Lamouriello has a penchant for pulling off risky moves that pan out and his team responded with a tremendous postseason after barely holding off the Florida Panthers, one that would have been labelled remarkable for a 6th seed had the LA Kings not overshadowed them with an even more unlikely romp through the playoffs as an 8th seed. Unfortunately, a largely successful campaign was overshadowed by the loss of their captain and face of the franchise in Zach Parise. However, the Devils have lost more than a few impact players over the years and have survived each time, and this time is no exception. They have a core of young talent to build around, led by 4th overall pick Adam Larsson and clutch rookie Adam Henrique, to go along with their savvy veterans on the roster. Depending on the development of players such as the aforementioned Larsson and Henrique, 2008 1st rounder Mattias Tedenby and 2009 1st rounder Jacob Josefsson, the team will remain among the teams fighting for the playoffs next season.
My mission is to see the Flames play in all 30 NHL arenas, a mission that began in October of 2005 while at a local pub watching the Flames take on the Oilers. With the previous season’s work stoppage, and the season before’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals, Flames tickets had become a very hard item to come by. I was then struck with the idea of combining two of my favourite activities; watching hockey and travelling. You can follow my quest to visit all 30 arenas right here… November 24, 2010 – Newark, NJ I'm now at the halfway point in my mission to see the Flames play at all 30 arenas, after seeing the Flames play the Devils at the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, New Jersey. Unfortunately, for Calgary, the game was yet another loss, although this time in a shootout. I guess I'll begin at the entrance to the arena, where fans are greeted by a large, four storey atrium that features the Devils logo on the floor and red lights. I suppose it's to simulate your descent into hell, because that's where devils live? Or maybe it just matches their jerseys. What's interesting about the atrium however, isn't the decor or the anything to do with the building, but rather the uniforms being worn by the door staff and ticket takers. Unlike, say, the Saddledome, whose staff wear ugly vomit-brown blazers, the staff at the Prudential Center wear suits you'd expect to find staffing the Waldorf Astoria or re-living the 1920's. They combine black tuxedos with long red overcoats, and it wouldn't seem odd if they were also wearing a top hat or monocle. Such a dramatic change from outside the arena, in one of the country's...um....less nice cities. The inside of the arena is not unlike any other newer arena, with wide concourses, a steep seating bowl and a variety of concession offerings. As with many new facilities, I fear the day the Saddledome is replaced, as the new building wouldn't have nearly as much character. The seating bowl here is very similar to those in Anaheim and Phoenix's arenas. One unique feature in the concourse was the pee wee jerseys they had on display throughout much of the arena. Featuring teams from around Northern New Jersey, most of them tended to be similar to some NHL jersey, including a few different Flames copies. When it comes to concessions, there isn't anything too unique in the food department. We did have an order of 'Zeppoles,' which from the best I could tell were balls of deep-fried dough, covered in powdered sugar. It seemed like something that would be at home on the midway, but wasn't anything to write home about in this case. (yet ironically, I am) The beverage options were very unique however, as each vendor offered a large variety of beers, opposed to most arenas that offer the usual, one regular beer and one light beer. Or, in other arenas, each vendor might sell two or three different beers. In the Prudential Center, every vendor offered a wide variety, usually over 10 different types, meaning they had something for everybody. One odd thing however, was that most of the beers come in plastic bottles (why don't we have these in Canada?), but the cup holders on each seat are too large for the bottles, causing the bottle to fall through the bottom. Living up to their stereotype as rough-around-the-edges, foul-mouthed people, New Jersey fans seems to use the word 'suck' a lot. At the start of the game, when the PA announcer is calling the Flames' starting lineup, they would follow each name with 'SUCKS!' Then, after the Devils' goal, the arena would play 'Rock and Roll Part II' and fans would first yell 'HEY' with the song, then follow that with 'YOU SUCK!' It's odd to see seven year olds yelling 'you suck,' but then it's odd seeing seven year olds at a hockey game period. The arena was only about half full, which from talking to some Devils fans, tends to be the case most games. I was told the only time the arena fills up is when the Habs or Leafs are in town; making it much like watching a Flames game in Phoenix or Anaheim I suppose. As with most arenas in the States, there seemed to be a lot more children at the game as well, which I attribute to the cheap tickets. I guess people don't want to spend $150 on a ticket for their son who's going to spend most of the game playing with his armrest. The fans did seem quite knowledgeable however, and the arena didn't need to have Peter Puck explaining the rules of hockey on the jumbotron, as I've seen at so many other arenas. The one benefit of having so few people at the game is the amount of time available at intermission. Unlike the Dome, where you often must decide whether to get a beer, something to eat, or go to the bathroom, at the Prudential Center there's more than enough time to do everything. In fact, in the first intermission, I went to the bathroom twice, and visited the concessions twice, and didn't miss a second of game time. After the game, we ended up going to a bar across the street with other Flames fans, as well as some Devils fans who were spending Thanksgiving with their in-laws and looking to avoid going home. Nice arena, bad game for the Flames. Prudential Center Fast Facts Seats: Section 16; $45 (face value $98), Stubhub Score: Flames 1, Devils 2 Arena Rating: 7.0 Unique Concession: Cigar Stand Souvenir Stick: Martin Brodeur, goalie stick, white, plastic Public Transit: Various options from New York and Northern New JerseyUnique Arena Trait: Only 12km from a different NHL arena. Swag: none -TheRev You can read about my previous Flames road trips at www.thesportsroundup.com