Reaching the Stanley Cup finals hasn't made the New Jersey Devils one of the favorites to win the NHL title in this lockout-shortened season.
Far from it.
Despite returning Ilya Kovalchuk, Martin Brodeur and much of the club that came within two games of winning its fourth Cup, the Devils have a lot of doubters heading into the 48-game regular season, which begins Saturday night against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
A big part of the concern is the loss of former captain Zach Parise. A 31-goal scorer last year, he returned home by signing with Minnesota as a free agent.
Not only did general manager Lou Lamoriello lose a face of the franchise, he also decided not to re-sign veteran Petr Sykora, a 21-goal scorer, and faces the prospect of starting without second-year center Adam Henrique (16 goals), who is sidelined with a thumb injury.
Indeed, the Devils have a mountain to climb in the tough Eastern Conference if they are to repeat last season's success.