by David Pavlak on 10/03/11 at 06:45 PM ET
Since the New Jersey Devils have just wrapped up their final preseason game, it is time to take a look into the regular season crystal ball. With the outlook of the team, I don’t see how the Devils could miss the playoffs, and further more not be contenders for the Atlantic Division. I will provide a team breakdown, and offer my opinion on how the Devils could possibly walk away with the victories.
The Offense: The problem with the offense last season can be divided into two parts. The first being a slow start. After signing Ilya Kovalchuk to his multi-million dollar deal, the results on the ice were slow to show up. The Devils had a hard time making their shots find the net, and overall, it was just bad. There is no other way to explain the Devils offense last season in the early part of the year. The second reason for the Devils troubles were injuries, most notably to their star winger Zach Parise. An injury to his knee kept Parise out for practically the whole year. Without the heart and soul of the team on the ice, the Devils offensive production dropped. Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias were able to turn on the engines in the middle of the season, but it was not enough to catapult them into the playoffs. To overcome the adversity for this coming season, the Devils will need to come out with fire in their eyes and in their skates. The health of Parise will also be vital. During the offseason, the Devils offered a tryout contract to Petr Sykora, who is also showing the ability to find the back of the net, similar to Jaromir Jagr who is playing with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Devils offense shouldn’t be an issue, and I doubt a slow start will be in the Devils near future.
The Defense: Easily the weakest point of the New Jersey Devils, the defense has been lacking in every aspect of what it used to look like back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. No longer are the days of Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer. However, the Devils have young Adam Larsson stepping into the lime light to try to become the number one defenseman that they hoped for. Larsson has drawn comparison to Niedermayer, and the Devils organization can only hope that all the connections are true. Anton Stralman, who was brought to the team on a tryout contract, looks as if he is going to make the team, and will be a valuable member to the defensive unit. Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov will also need to be at their best to help the Devils return back to original defensive form. Head Coach Peter DeBoer has previously stated that he wants to return to the defensive stratedgy that the Devils used to use during the times of Stevens and Niedermayer, and time will tell if he is able to return to that system, and if he does is successfully.
The Goaltending: How can you argue against Martin Brodeur? After his first losing season in many years, Brodeur looks to have returned to top form for this coming season. I wouldn’t be suprised to see the Brodeur of old back in the net, with a renewed passion and dedication to victory. During the preseason games against the Flyers, Brodeur had everything going in his favor, including his glove, which made a few point-blank saves. Although Brodeur’s age is getting up there, he still looks to have the goods to compete and win in the NHL. This season is the final on Brodeur’s contract, and there has been no decision yet whether he will retire or try to sign an extension. Time, health, and his ability in net will be the deciding factors in that decision.
Last season, the Flyers finished on top of the Atlantic Division with 106 points. The Penguins, who also had 106 points finished in second. The Rangers finished with 93 points, while the Devils and Islanders rounded out the bottom two teams with 81 and 73 points.
The Flyers in the offseason traded away a lot of scoring power from the team, and in return received promising young players that may not translate to immediate goal scoring. The Flyers should make the playoffs, but it won’t be as the Atlantic Division champs. I think the Flyers ultimately finish second in the division, and receive the fourth or fifth seed in the east.
The Penguins star center Sidney Crosby has also just been put on the injury reserve list. With Crosby’s absence, the team looks completely different. If he is still experiencing any form of post concussion syndrome, the Penguins will shut him down. With his name recently being added to the IR list, I see this being as a huge scare to Crosby and the Pens. Ultimately, I see Crosby missing a large portion of the season, and the Pens missing the playoffs.
The Rangers reeled in the biggest player in free agency, Brad Richards. Along with Richards and Marion Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist between the posts, the Rangers have the possibility to win the Atlantic. Richards, Gaborik and Ryan Callahan should be able to stay consistent, and be able to win many many games. I think the Rangers break 100 points this season and win the Atlantic.
The Devils, I believe, will ultimately finish third in the Atlantic. Three teams should be able to make the playoffs from the Atlantic. Even though the Atlantic race will be close between the Flyers and Rangers, the Devils will still be a little bit away. The Devils will finish with the eighth seed in the east.
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I am an all around NHL fan. I love to watch Atlantic Division, and root for the Philadelphia Flyers. Just because I cheer for the Flyers, doesn’t mean I don’t keep up with the other teams in the division, specifically the New Jersey Devils. Devils Advocate will provide you with the most important Devils news, filled with my opinion about the selected topic.
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