Kukla's Korner

Devil's Advocate

The Devils Case To Be A Contender In The Atlantic

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.

Filed in: New Jersey Devils, | Devils Advocate | Permalink
  Tags: anton+stralman, ilya+kovalchuk, martin+brodeur, patrik+elias, petr+sykora, zach+parise

Comments

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How do you argue against Brodeur?  Oh, I don’t know, by saying he’s looked like shit for a couple years?
Larson = Niedermeyer?  In his first year?  No need to wait for the jury on this one.
One of the weakest D-cores in the league.
Is the coach an important factor?  This year or last?
This is the most rose-coloured article i have EVER read.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt on 10/03/11 at 08:58 PM ET

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I don’t even know where to begin with this.

Most of what’s in this article is irrelevant to the Devils’ major issues going into the season which are, in order

1. How will Pete DeBoer do now that he has more horses in a lineup that’s still, nonetheless, full of holes

2. How will the Devils do with no proven, natural top 2 centers available to them for the next 4 to 6 months

3, How is Parise going to do coming off a missed year with his center not able to play until 2012

4. Marty looked bad last year. Is he too old, was it the system or was that just an off year?

You know, but they got the guy who Minnesota (which hasn’t exactly been drowning in quality scorers) cut for being too washed up last year, so why even talk about this stuff. Should have just devoted the article to Steve Gionta again.


The Atlantic division stuff is even worse.

Pittsburgh, who are 5 deep at centers who were on pace for 25 goals last year is going to sink without Crosby, but Jersey losing their only 25 goal capable center doesn’t even warrant a mention?

The Rangers, whose blueline anchor is in worse shape from the same injury, sustained at the same time as Crosby are immune to this disease of one important guy not being there that’s going to sink Pittsburgh?

The Islanders’ ever-improving youth movement (and stronger forward core than the Devils at every position, on every line, other than left wing) isn’t worth acknowledging at all?

Heck, even the Flyers preview doesn’t really address what’s going on with them.

Posted by steviesteve on 10/03/11 at 09:54 PM ET

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It is easy to not argue against Brodeur since last year was his first losing season in the league EVER. Last season he played in 77 games and went 45-25 with a 2.24 GAA. I don’t know how you can say he has looked bad the past couple of years when the proof is in the stats. Even a few years ago he only appeared in 31 games and still went 19-9. His ONE area that needs to be improved is his playoff goaltending. Other then that, his performance between the pipes on a nightly basis is nothing any Devils fan can complain about. Also, Larsson has received comparssions to Niedermayer. They play a similar two-way style and both will be long time New Jersey blueliners. The comparission to Niedermayer is pretty much common knowledge.

As for the opinion topics that Steviesteve presented; those topics would be no more speculative then this topic. This is a Devils blog, so if you come here, expect to read optimism. If that is not what you are looking for, then you can easily find your way off the page. I can’t tell you how Peter DeBoer will do now that he has more horses in the race, or how Brodeur will do. I can speculate, just like I did here with the Devils chances of performing in the Atlantic. We will just see how the season turns out, and if you are right, you have every right to call me out on the carpet. For now though, you are about as right as my prediction as I am.

Can’t wait to see how it turns out, and thanks for reading. wink

Posted by David Pavlak on 10/03/11 at 11:13 PM ET

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The issue isn’t speculation. The issue is that this article is full of uninformed speculation.


There is no other way to explain the Devils offense last season in the early part of the year.

Statements like these tell me your speculation is uninformed (the #1 issue was coaching, plain and simple). The lack of any sort of examination on Pete Deboer’s coaching philosophy, strategy and history (‘we’re going to go back to the way Scott Stevens played’ is NOT Deboer’s coaching philosophy) tell me your speculation is uninformed. The expectation that an 18 year old defenseman will be an impact player (that’s happened something like twice, ever) tells me your speculation is uninformed.

And the only explanation that I can come up with for how someone could leave Zajac’s injury out of a Devil’s preview (or the long-term injury of any 1st line center on any team in any preview) is that you either don’t know who he is or didn’t know he was hurt and forgot he was on the team.

Posted by steviesteve on 10/04/11 at 03:03 PM ET

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Don’t misconstrue my words. I said the Devils offense in the early part of the season was bad. The word “bad” was the way that i said there is no other way to explain how they were on the ice. It was simply that. Bad play. Obviously coaching was an issue, and when Lemaire returned the team seemed to be getting their bearings back. DeBoer has gone on record saying that he wants to return to a defense first style of hockey. The biggst example of the Devils defence based system was during the times of Stevens and Niedermayer. Larsson will be an impact player, and in five years or so I am willing to bet he wears the C on his jersey. Also, I have referenced Zajac in many other articles and the impact his injury will have. So to come on my post and accuse me of being uninformed is a bit of a double standard.

Posted by David Pavlak on 10/04/11 at 03:16 PM ET

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Deboer’s system, while defensive in nature (like that of all coaches) does not require all-star defensemen for a team to be competitive if the players buy in. The only way you could come to the conclusion that his system is a ‘return to Niedermayer and Stevens’ is if you don’t know anything about him or them. Deboer coaches pressure. Most of the Devils coaches from the late 90s early aughts did not.


“Also, I have referenced Zajac in many other articles and the impact his injury will have.”

Go ahead and link one. After a quick glance through your archives, I saw about six references to Jagr (which is inexplicable considering he’s not on the Devils and never has been) and zero to Zajac, though I suppose I might have missed a footnote or single sentence somewhere.

And no, expecting the Devil’s Insider to do his homework on the Devils is not a double standard. It’s a standard.

Posted by steviesteve on 10/04/11 at 03:47 PM ET

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Good that you knew about Zajac’s injury in August (I love that one of your references is an article where you suggest the Devils would benefit by signing an inactive guy who retired from a hopelessly shot knee).

Too bad you completely forgot about it in the season preview, where it would have been only slightly less important than a look a Pete Deboer, which would be the most important difference between this year and last, something that’s also absent in favor of more crap about Jagr, a player who is not on the team and never was.

Most of these articles, other than the first one, say nothing more in depth than Jacob Josefson will step into Zajac’s spot without considering the impact that switch will have.

See this
http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/psh/comments/atlantic_division_predictions/

This covers everything I would expect to see in a season preview for the devils and he didn’t even have to talk about Jagr to pull it off.

And you’re right. I shouldn’t read this blog. The last thing I remember from it was an article calling Steve Gionta, a career minor leaguer, one of the Devils top prospects.

Posted by steviesteve on 10/04/11 at 05:18 PM ET

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I read that article and it is a brief summary of the Devils and all the other teams in the Atlantic. This is a Devils blog, where I will look to go more in-depth.

“And you’re right. I shouldn’t read this blog.”

Best news I received all day! Take care! smile

Posted by David Pavlak on 10/04/11 at 05:23 PM ET

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About Devil's Advocate

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.

Like what you read? Hated it? Have something else you want to read about? Let me know, I always like to hear from my readers and what they want to see.

Email: pavlakd@rider.edu