Right now, the Devils need all the offense they can get from this assembly of de motivated and discouraged athletes they’re calling a hockey team. It’s gotten to the point where John MacLean has resorted to line shuffling and deployed some strange combos such as putting superstar Ilya Kovalchuk with third line checker Rod Pelley. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but a little bit of patience can go a long way. At the dawn of the regular season, there was a lot of hype surrounding the line of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Ilya Kovalchuk. They were producing, chemically compatible, and projected to become one of the top lines in the league. Twelve games later, that line’s history, its dismemberment resulting from MacLean’s attempts to accumulate newfound production amongst his offense, as only twenty goals have been scored between eleven players.
While I may sound overly optimistic, I’m basing my opinions off realism. There’s seventy games left in the season, more than enough time for the Devils to get their act together and ascend from the depths of the standings. I think if John MacLean reunites the entitled ZIP Line, it’ll be a step in the right direction. Yes, you can say they only had one or two good games together, whose factoring didn’t convert into any real success. Since then, the team’s layout has changed due to injury and the arrival of new faces with the outcome remaining indifferent. It’s possible the time that line’s spent apart could be what they needed. Since then, Parise and Kovalchuk broke their respective seals of netting their first regular season goals but haven’t built much off the milestone with different line mates. One of the concerns about putting Kovalchuk and Parise together was a drop-off in offense, but I believe Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias shot that down. Metaphorically speaking, think of the Devils as a non-functioning computer and reuniting Parise, Zajac, and Kovalchuk as restarting it.
Also, what more does MacLean have to lose with line retreads at this point?
Parise and Kovalchuk can be two of the game’s top ten players. They possess that sniper profile, while their individualistic traits such as Kovalchuk’s tendency to start plays and rushes and Parise’s finishing abilities are complimentary. Travis Zajac stabilizes the trio as a well-rounded, natural center. For the majority of these twelve games, Kovalchuk’s rogue role, playing on different lines more so justified Parise and Zajac are the only two players capable of keeping up with him. Elias and Arnott have their own thing that more so needs a complimentary player of their own. Langenbrunner and Clarkson don’t possess the skill set to read or keep up with Kovalchuk. Same goes for Zubrus and Rolston. What distinguishes Parise and Zajac from a rookie like Jacob Josefson are the years they have under their belt and numbers they’ve put up as proven producers, not to mention are close to Kovalchuk in age (which I think has a lot to do in terms of pep and stamina).
While the experimental period that was the pre-season appeared to show promising results for the dynamic trio, there’s always the possibility Parise and Zajac were going through an adjustment period in getting used to playing with Kovalchuk when things really counted. This is their first time playing with another star-type player and sometimes pre-season success makes things easier than they seem. If it was a known fact two superstars on the same line would instantly click, then those Ranger teams of the late pre-lockout years may as well have waged a Stanley Cup dynasty(not bashing the Rangers, just trying to make a point).
I’ve also learned to discount claims that Kovalchuk wasn’t happy at right wing or when the Devils signed Kovalchuk, it created a conflict of sharing the spotlight between him and Parise. Kovalchuk and Parise are similar in that they want to be somewhere they can win and be as big a part of it as possible. Them being on the same line also gives them an equal share in notoriety, not that it seems to matter to either of them. Most of these allegations about locker room dramas are merely speculation and fabricated rumors generated by what people want to believe is happening. Would the reunion of Parise, Zajac, and Kovalchuk instantly fix the Devil’s problems? No. Could it help get the Devils on track? Absolutely. Obviously, if the ZIP Line were to click upon reunion, it’ll improve the team’s state by getting offense from a reliable source. It could help, but won’t resolve the team’s issues on defense, goaltending, or special teams, which are on entirely different plateaus and need to be addressed as so.
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Written by Mike Luciano