Hockey World Blog

Hockey World Blog Season Previews 2010: New Jersey Devils

Key Offseason Losses: Ilya Kovalchuk (?), Jacque Lemaire, Rob Niedermayer, First round draft pick 2010

Key Offseason Additions: Jason Arnott, Johan Hedberg, Ilya Kovalchuk (?), Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov

Last Season Ranking: 2nd in the East

Offense: The New Jersey Devils have always been a defensive minded team but with the retirement of head coach Jacque Lemaire, the team is trying to spark some play in the opponents zone. With forwards such as Zach Parise and Travis Zajac it should be relatively easy to do. Include the possibility of a free agent signing of superstar Ilya Kovalchuk and  gritty forward Jason Arnott and the team has two solid lines of offensive threat.

The problem though lies in the third and fourth lines. With the new NHL being as fast paced as it is, all four lines need to produce. With the loss of gritty forward Rob Niedermayer, unfortunately veteran Brian Rolston is really incapable of carrying the load. Expect a top heavy team of only two NHL lines.

Goaltender Martin Brodeur is still the face of the franchise, yet with the lack of depth this season, don't expect the team to go far in the playoffs.

Goaltender Martin Brodeur is still the face of the franchise, yet with the lack of depth this season, don't expect the team to go far in the playoffs.

Defense: head coach Jacque Lemaire has retired and the defense that the Devils have been known for will go out the window. Well, perhaps not, as the team has picked up some quality defenders in Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder.

Much like the woes of the offense being only two lines, New Jersey will only have 1 defensive pairing worth while. Sure Andy Greene had a breakout year last season with 31 assists and 37 total points, but don’t expect that to happen again this year.

Goaltending: Is there really much to say besides the fact that goaltender Martin Brodeur is still unbelievably good at his age of 38? No, that just about sums it up really. The man is a beast, starting 76 games last season. Yet as some critics may say, all those games played during the regular season uses up just about everything come playoff time.

The Devils though may have come to their senses with the signing of Johan Hedberg. Hedberg comes in with a 2.93 goals against average and a .900 save percentage from a much lesser defensive minded team the Atlanta Thrashers.

Season Outlook: The New Jersey Devils are always a good team, as they need to be in one of the closest and toughest divisions within the East. The team though lacks the depth needed to really have a Stanley Cup run, especially if superstar Ilya Kovalchuk does not sign with the team. This late towards the start of the season, the Devils have put all their eggs in one basket and that is never a good thing. The major off season acquisitions are completed leaving a diluted free agency pool to fill the shoes of Kovalchuk, as if that is even possible.

6 Comments

  1. MoonDragn

    September 1, 2010 at 9:17 am

    I disagree with your accessment. I think the Devils are really deep this year.

    Whether we sign Kovalchuk will determine the rest of the roster. If we do sign Kovy, the most obvious option is moving Zubrus and Salvadore. The top two lines will be all set with Parise, Zajac, langenbrunner on one line and Kovy, Arnott and Elias on another. The 3rd line will probably be centered by either Henrique or Josefson, but there is nothing that says Lou won’t go out and sign another center at the league minimum if neither of those two make it out of training camp.

    The wingers on the third line will probably be one of Clarkson, Rolston or Zharkov.

    Whether or not the 3rd line center gets filled by a rookie, you can be sure the 4th will be. Keep in mind that we also have other centers already in the system that may fight for a spot as well, Sestito and Mcintyre.

    Either way, a lot of these kids have been called up before and can certainly play a part on the 4th line and won’t look out of place.

    As for defense, sure, Greene may regress slightly, but this year there is no pressure for him to be a #1 d-man that plays 22 mins a night. With a little less workload, there is no doubt he can continue what he started last year. If they trade away Salvador, there is a possibility they may bring back Mottau, or just go with one of the new kids like Urbom, Corrente or Eckford.

    Things look even better if they don’t sign Kovy. Zubrus can very well center the 3rd line between clarkson and Zharkov, with Rolston taking Kovy’s spot, Without trading away Salvador, you have a solid top 4 that is supplemented by the rookies fighting for a spot.

    Either way, things aren’t as bleak as you make them out to be. I am looking forward to this season as it is a season that is going to surprise a lot of people.

  2. EB

    September 1, 2010 at 10:16 am

    MoonDragn, thank you for your response and we hope you continue to read and respond.

    New Jersey is always a great team, and will be this year.

    I personally do not believe the Kovi deal will be approved, leaving him and his agent to stay true to their word and go to the KHL. That being said, NJD was 19 out of 30 with goals for. To their credit, they did have the best goals against average, but with Brodeur aging, and the defense being rather weak in my opinion, the days of 1 goal win differential are over. Especially with a new coaching play style that is not focused on defense as much as the past.

    It will be interesting to see how they do. I believe they will make playoffs with ease, but I would not expect them to go pass the first round unless they make some trades mid season, but there again their cap space is in question if Kovi is approved.

  3. MoonDragn

    September 1, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Well I believe the scoring problems had more to do with the coach than the players. I got the feeling that they were not on the same page after the x-mas break last season. I believe that our team is built more for puck possession and if we play that type of style, we will score much more than we did last season.

    If we focus on puck possession, then the emphasis for the d-men will be to avoid turnovers and hold on to the puck as long as we can. I believe with the d-men we have that is not too much to ask of them.

    I do agree our problems with the playoffs are not over yet. I believe it will largely depend on chemistry. I think we need to stick with the same team all throughout the season and not make any trades that can disrupt that chemistry. That has been what largely killed this team the last few years.

  4. Steve

    September 1, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I can’t a preview seriously when they get Brian Rolston’s name wrong.

  5. EB

    September 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks for the correction heads up. My mind was thinking of writing something to reference Scott Stevens, but I ended up not doing so, but my fingers still persisted.

    I suppose I can’t “take” a response seriously when the person is unable to write a proper sentence… but then again that would just be petty wouldn’t it?

  6. EB

    September 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I will agree MoonDragn that the Devils are a puck control team, which has led to the success defensively. With the new coach hopefully they are able to continue that control, but use it in the offensive zone as well.

    I also will agree completely with trades mid season being a chemistry killer. It is hard to build chemistry, and throwing someone into the mix resulting in others being mixed up can be hard to do. Throw in the fact that there is of course a mental part to the game, a new place, someone new, your buddy is now gone to a different trade, etc… it can be tougher than simply go out and put the puck in the net.

    I put the Devils to finish 5th in the East, but if they want to go deep in the playoffs, they need to use Hedberg for at least 25 games to give Brodeur some time off. The problem though is not the coach making that call, but Brodeur going with the call as he has been the tough one to work with.

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