Kukla's Korner Hockey
by David Pavlak on 08/24/11 at 08:30 PM ET
When the New Jersey Devils selected Patrik Elias with the 51st pick in the 1994 NHL entry draft, I don’t think they knew the type of player he would blossom into. Coming from HC Kladno, Elias wasn’t exactly putting up points that would make your head spin. However, the Devils saw something in the Czech winger and decided to role the dice. Many successful seasons later, Elias is one of the best Devils to ever put on the sweater.
Elias’ numbers are a complete transformation of the player he once had been. Playing in the farm system in the 1995 season, he recorded 63 points in 74 games. That is more then he has ever recorded in his pre-AHL days ever. The Devils would give him a shot in the majors next season, and in the short amount of time he played there, he did show glimpses of what he could be in the future. For now though, he would need more seasoning in the minors.
The 1997 season would be the breakout year for Elias. Playing in 74 games, he recorded 37 points. More important then his numbers that year was the knowledge that he now knew he belonged in the system.
Up until this past season, Elias has recorded 712 points for the New Jersey Devils. His best season came in 2000, where he finished with 96 points. He has been a leader on the ice for the Devils for many years and is also a natural playmaker. He played an important role in the Devils Stanley Cup victory in the 1999-00 season.His pass made it to the stick of Jason Arnott, which sealed the deal for the Devils. Again in 2003, Elias helped the Devils bring another Cup back to the Garden State after defeating the Mighty Ducks (it was a crime to get rid of the “Mighty” from the Ducks).
This past season though was unlike any Devils season before hand. They were not able to win. The goaltending was not as stellar as it once had been, the offensive was not clicking together, and the defense was porous. With the team struggling through a Kovalchuk contract controversy, a coaching change, an aging goaltenders injuries, and one of their star forwards missing basically the entire year, the Devils could not seem to put anything together on the ice.
Elias finished the year with 21 goals and 41 assists. The second half of the season worked more in the Devils favor, but it was not enough to help them climb out of the whole that was already dug for them.
Elias also holds many New Jersey Devils records pertaining to goals and assist amounts.
There will need to be a few things that happen in Jersey before the Devils will be able to push aside last seasons woes. New head coach Peter DeBoer will need to be able to mesh well with this team, and find the strengths and weaknesses in order to help them to win. He has already stated that he is going back to the classic Devils style of hockey, which relies on a lock-down defensive system and smart, calculated scoring opportunities.
Second, DeBoer will have to learn how to control Kovalchuk. It is impossible to deny that he has the ability to score on the ice. If DeBoer is focusing on a defensive system though, then it can not, and will not be all about Kovy. This may cause a bit of bitterness between the two, unless they are on the same page with one another. If the lines of communication are clear, then there should be no problems on or off the ice.
Third, and most importantly, the Devils need to stay healthy. Already down top-line center Travis Zajac for the first couple months of the season, the Devils will need to be able to keep their health to move forward in the Eastern Conference. Parise’s knee will be of concern this season, as one bad hit or knee jerk could land him back on the sideline if hes not careful. Martin Brodeur, who is seemingly going to retire at the end of the year, will also need to stay healthy in order to play hockey to the best of his ability. We have all seen Brodeur at his best on the ice, to reach the upper depths of the Eastern Conference and make a deep playoff run, Brodeur will need to be simply stellar.
Finally, the Devils will have to utilize their talented players in the minors to make a complete unit on the ice. Injuries in hockey are impossible to avoid, and we all know that. The Devils have some promising young players waiting for their chance to move up the ladder. In addition the the younger player, the Devils have the highly regarded Adam Larsson in their back pocket. According to other sources, Larsson looks to be NHL ready, and could be a powerful defensive player come this season. With a little adjustment period for Larsson to acclimate himself to the NHL style game, and some time for maturity, Larsson has the ability to have very successful years in the NHL.
With all this in play, and the strong play of Elias like in the previous years, the Devils could have a very good season coming their way, as long as they are able to come out of the gate flying.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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