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From the Branches: The Devils Lou knew

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In Lou they trusted. Now they're back.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Devils Lou knew are in town tonight, and in anticipation of the event, the media is churning out the reunion storylines. Are the Devils a shockingly good team this season because they can finally grow some whiskers and use twitter?

Maybe.

I thought I'd ask my good friend Melissa Geschwind, a long-time Devils blogger, about whether or not how much the Devils miss Lou.

Sympathy for the Devils

The Devils only just barely existed pre-Lou - it was the perfect situation for someone with an emperor mindset to come in and establish an empire. - Melissa

Acha: The Devils are looking remarkably sound this season. Do you think the change in GM is part of that, or no?

Melissa: I'm not sure how much you can attribute to the GM change since the top performers - Cory Schneider, Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique - were Lou acquisitions. My guess is that it's more about coaching. But again, I don't know enough about the young guys to say with confidence. That said, it's possible that the loosening of some of the more draconian rules is having a positive effect on player morale. Henrique in particular seems to be loving social media.

Acha: Are there any moves Ray Shero has made that you've paused over and thought, "Lou would not have done that"?

Melissa: Heh - the lifting of the draconian rules is the biggest of those. Honestly, for Devils fans I think that might be the most dramatic change. Mustaches, Twitter accounts for players, execs and equipment guys, the dads trip, exotic uni numbers - all those appeared as soon as Lou left.

Acha: Do you think the discipline was good for the Devils while they had it? Asking for a ... friend.

Melissa: For many years we all thought Lou's rules were very good for the Devils - we referred to players "drinking Lou's Kool-Aid" in the best possible way. It really did feel productive, like he was creating an environment in which players focused on winning and, for the most part, staying out of trouble (not that that was necessarily reality, but it's how it looked from the outside). But with the rise of social media I'm not sure it's helpful anymore. It feels more restrictive now than it did when it was mostly just about facial hair.

(Not just facial hair, of course, but nothing that seemed too harsh. The clampdown on communication is what strikes me as most restrictive, and impractical, now.)

Acha: That's an interesting insight. I wonder at what point Leafs feel restrained vs. productive.

So, how do you think the game will go tonight?

Melissa: Cliche as it sounds, I hope John Hynes can keep the team in the 'just another game' mindset. Since there are a lot of relatively new faces, I think that's entirely possible. The Lou connection is going to be a big deal to fans, reporters, DEFINITELY the Devils' TV broadcast team (color man Ken Daneyko and ice-level guy John MacLean both have long histories as Lou employees), but only a few of the players are real long-timers (Patrik Elias and Andy Greene, mostly. Travis Zajac is out with an injury.)

As for the actual on-ice product, I'm the wrong gal to ask. Our goaltending has been really good, so that always gives you a great chance, and we seem to have found some offense. No idea how we match up specifically with TOR, though.

A last thought about Lou - when he first came to NJ in the late 80s the Devils were a franchise that had never made the playoffs. He built a team identity from nothing, which is to say both that it was a huge job and that it was uniquely possible. The Leafs have been bad for long enough that they're probably in need of the culture change but he's not in on the ground floor of this franchise. I don't know if it's possible to create essentially a new team where there's already an existing one. The Devils only just barely existed pre-Lou - it was the perfect situation for someone with an emperor mindset to come in and establish an empire.

Acha: Very interesting. Thank you for answering!

On to today's links.

Leafs News

Kasperi Kapanen named to Team Finland's WJCs roster | PPP

Dmytro Timashov and William Nylander named to Team Sweden's WJC camp roster | PPP

An NHL Draft proposal so crazy it might work | PPP

WATCH: Mike Myers crashes Saturday Night Live in Toronto Maple Leafs jersey | PPP

Fixing the NHL Standings | Fanpost by Zer07478

Maple Leafs prospect update: Marner scores 7 | PPP
El Seldo once again completely ignored the Swedish AHL.

Maple Leafs' Lamoriello made lasting impact on Devils | NHL
The Devils missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs their first five seasons in New Jersey prior to Lamoriello becoming GM. He built a perennial contender that won the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003 and made it to the Cup Final five times from 1995-2012.

Maple Leafs prospect posts unbelievable numbers in last 15 games | Fox Sports

Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf has found his comfort zone | The Star

Jeffler wants the Leafs to claim Semin, I assume because of all the puns we could make | TLN

USA! USA!

Matthews tops U.S. World Junior camp invite list | NHL

WJC Shocker: Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic Omitted from U.S. Preliminary Roster | AIH
So PPP is not the only deeply concerned SBN blog.

2016 U.S. National Junior Team Preliminary Roster Set | WJ USA

U.S. Announces World Junior Selection Camp Roster | THW

U.S. World Junior roster: Four confusing snubs for USA Hockey | Puck Daddy
Jeremy Bracco, Jack Roslovic, Kyle Connor, and Alex Tuch.

FOUR St. Louisans Make USA World Junior Preliminary Roster | SLGT

Colin White on Preliminary List for Team USA World Junior Team | SSS

Mandatory sparkly jingoistic eagle:

Other Hockey News

Nashville GM calls John Scott All-Star Game voting situation 'unfortunate' | Puck Daddy

Two U's Two K's Two Falcons! A first look at The Animated Bear and the Gang! | SCOC
I think I'm too old to understand what the hell is going on here.

Six Red Wings Prospects To Attend World Junior Camps | WIIM

NWHL lands Dunkin’ Donuts as first major sponsor | PD

Prospective Las Vegas team owner staying busy despite no NHL expansion vote yet | Toronto Sun

NHL salary cap could reach $74.5 million for 2016-17 | Sportsnet

Last Night's Games by Species

There were only three games last night, but still some fun highlights came out.

Radim Vrbata picked up a hat trick, leading the Canucks in a 5-2 rout of the Sabres.

One of the Sabres goals came from never-will-be-a-Leaf Brian Gionta on this as high as legally possible high stick.

The Avalanche beat the OT on a goal by ex-Leaf Johnny Mitchell.

They have some weird goal cellys in Colorado.

The game wouldn't have gone to overtime were this puck to randomly bounce in a slightly different way.

The Avalanche kicked off their 20th anniversary celebration with a tribute to the team's legends.... and Semyon Varlamov.

The Predators defeated the Bruins in both the game, and in acting.