Ken Daneyko, former New Jersey Devil and now an analyst with the MSG Network joined The Jeff Blair Show Tuesday on Sportsnet 590 The Fan to discuss the visiting New Jersey Devils as they prepare to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Devils (14-10-3) have gotten off to a much better start than many would have expected, and if the season ended today, the team would be in the Eastern Conference’s second wild card spot.
Daneyko gives much of the credit to rookie head coach John Hynes, who is currently the youngest head coach in the NHL.
“It starts right there. He’s one of those young coaches that’s as prepared as anybody,” said Daneyko. “He communicates very well, makes the players understand exactly what he wants.
“They looked like the Keystone Cops to start the season but you saw the progression, the improvement and them responding to their coach. He’s got that ‘It’ factor and that’s probably the most impressive part of it all for me is how he’s gotten the most out of every guy.”
Several players are quietly putting together excellent seasons for the Devils.
Lee Stempniak has 21 points after making the team on a professional tryout, and who according to Daneyko “looks like an all-star”.
Kyle Palmieri has 20 points after being acquired at the draft.
Adam Larsson and Adam Greene have formed a pair that’s “as good a shutdown pair as anybody in the National Hockey League that nobody’s heard about,” according to Daneyko.
Goaltender Cory Schneider has a .925 save percentage and a 2.11 goals against average.
And then there’s Mike Cammalleri, currently on pace for his first 30-goal season in seven years. He currently sits in sixth place atop the NHL leaderboard with 30 points.
“I just think he’s refreshed,” said Daneyko. “I think Travis Zajac who’s obviously not in tonight because of injury … but these guys seem like they’ve been traded almost, they’re revitalized, and maybe it’s the new style, maybe they just took on the challenge of everybody telling them they’re not gonna be very good, and some of the guys have mentioned that along the way, but he has been not only a real good two way hockey player, better than I think a lot of us anticipated, he’s just a guy that’s a leader, he’s having fun coming to the rink. He enjoys the game.”
The Devils play in Toronto Tuesday, the first meeting between the two teams since Lou Lamoriello left New Jersey to join Toronto’s front office.
Daneyko spent many years playing for Lamoriello and has fond memories of his old boss.
“I wish him success in everything he does, except tonight.”