We’re going to take a look at each NHL team, breaking down every new addition and subtraction, as well as promising prospects.
Today, we take a look at the New Jersey Devils.
By Casey Johnston (@CaseyR82)
2013 Season: 19-19-10 (5th Atlantic Division, 11th Eastern Conference)
RW Michael Ryder
LW Ryan Clowe
RW Jaromir Jagr
RW Rostislav Olesz
G Cory Schneider
LW Ilya Kovalchuk
RW David Clarkson
G Johan Hedberg
D Henrik Tallinder
C Matt D’Agostini
LW Stefan Matteau
D Steven Santini
LW Reid Boucher
D Jon Merrill
D Alexander Urbom
If the NHL had an award for the craziest offseason, it would certainly go to the New Jersey Devils. After missing the playoffs for the second time in three years, the Devils saw their 2013 summer be defined by an ownership change, a draft-day trade that netted them a new franchise goalie, and an early retirement/contract abandonment. While missing last season’s playoffs will put a bad taste in any team’s mouth, it’s probably the summer that the Devils will most want to put behind them.
Michael Ryder will be looking to regain the form that saw him score 35 goals just two years ago. (Photo by: Damian Strohmeyer/SI)
The Devils go into the 2013-14 season without the services of two of their three leading scorers from 2012-13: Ilya Kovalchuck (79 goals in the last three years) and David Clarkson (57 goals in the last three years). The team will be looking to Travis Zajac to prove that he deserves every year and penny of the 8-year $46 million deal he earned during the offseason, while Patrik Elias will have to maintain the form that has made him a 20-goal threat well into his 30s. New acquisitions Michael Ryder and Jaromir Jagr are both coming off of 16-goal seasons, but they both have question marks surrounding them. Ryder had a slow start in 2012-13, scoring just 6 goals in 19 games for the Dallas Stars. He managed to find his stride after being traded to Montreal where he netted 10 goals and 21 points in 27 games. Jagr’s 2012-13 season started strong with 14 goals and 26 points in 34 games for Dallas. However, he hit a wall after being traded to Boston where he would score just 2 goals the rest of the regular season and none in 22 playoff games.
If the Devils have any hope of competing in the new Metropolitan Division this year, then their defense will have to turn in a knock-out performance nightly to make up for the expected lack of goal scoring. The top-four defensive corps consisting of Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky and Anton Volchenkov will have to eat up big minutes while the third-pairing of young defensemen Adam Larsson and Jon Merrill find their chemistry. Last season, this group ranked a respectable 13th in goals-against, but would like to break into the top-10 where they have been for most of the last decade. Penalty-killing was also a problem last season as the Devils ranked 16th in the league. However, they were the top unit two years ago, so there is promise there.
Photo by: Andrew Mills/The Star
Finally, the Devils last line of defense will be the goaltending tandem of Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider. Brodeur is 41 and could very well be entering the final season of his storied career. In 29 games last year, Brodeur went 13-9, with 7 of those losses coming in overtime. He posted 2 shutouts and had a GAA of 2.22 and save % of .901. While those are pretty pedestrian numbers by Brodeur’s standards, they were more of an indication of the team’s defensive struggles than his own. He will be backed up by Schneider, who was acquired in a draft-day trade that saw only a 1st round pick go to Vancouver. In 2012-13, Schneider went 17-9 with 5 shutouts, a 2.11 GAA, and a save % of .927. Now that he’s out of the comical circus that was Vancouver’s goaltending situation, Schneider should settle nicely in a backup position where he can expect to play 20-25 games.
Given the departures of Kovalchuk this summer and Zach Parise last summer, many people have written the Devils off for 2013-14. If they have any hope of competing for a playoff spot, the Devils have to get back to the defense-first style of play that, for the last decade, has forced teams to slow down their game (and has made fans struggle to stay awake during games). While new additions Jagr and Ryder may complement the scoring threats of Elias, Zajac and Adam Henrique, it’s more than likely going to be the performances of the blueline that make or break the New Jersey Devils in 2013-14.