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2011-12 NHL Season Preview: New Jersey Devils
- Updated: September 1, 2011
Key Offseason Additions: None
Key Offseason Losses: Brian Rolston
Last Season Ranking: 11th in the East
Offense: With recent headlines of, “Devils Sign 12 Players, Mostly Minor Leaguers”, you begin to wonder what the organization is thinking to turn this sinking ship around. Oh, that’s right, the team will heavily rely on Ilya Kovalchuk and his 15 year, $100 million dollar deal.
Kovaluchuk is coming off of a down year with only 60 points in all. The plus side, a 60 point season for many players is a good
season. His point production will likely get back up in the 90 point range this season, especially if teammate Zach Parise can stay healthy from a knee injury. Parise currently is in his last year before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Many predict after an off-season with tough contract negotiations, the talented young player will test the free agency market for not only more money that the Devils cannot offer, but a better chance at winning the Stanley cup.
If that is not enough drama to make General Hospital look sane, the Devil’s organization are now faced with who to give the Captaincy to. Many believe Kovalchuk is the only option, with the length of his contract with the Devils until bites the dust, but because Parise won’t be a Devil after this year. Is Kovalchuk the right player for the job? It is still not known, but I would not put my money on it.
Supporting cast will be made up of Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus and Patrik Elias. Zajac and Zubrus are both coming off of down years and need to step it up for the team to succeed. Elias, on the other hand, put together a 21 goals and 41 assists for a 62 point season. Elias is still capable of meeting and possibly exceeding those numbers this year, but at age 35, how much endurance does he really have? Side note, Zajac will miss a month and a half of the season to heal from a left Achilles tendon surgery.
Defense: The Devils, despite not having any really big named defensive players, were 9th overall in goals against average with 2.52. This is in part due to the strong effort of Andy Greene, Henrik Tallinder and Andy Volchenkov. But with a combined plus/minus rating of -26, to say they need to do better is an understatement.
A big blow to the defense happens to not be a player, but the news that Jacques Lemaire will not return as Head Coach. Lemaire was previously retired, but after the Devils sunk last season under John McLean, the soon to be 66-year-old Lemaire came back to help out. In the 48 games he coached last year, he led the team to a 28-17-3 record.
Perhaps new Head Coach Peter DeBoer can mimic some of Lemaire’s winning ways, but coming off of two losing seasons as Head Coach of the Florida Panthers and eventually being fired with one year left on his contract, it looks like he might have his work cut out with this Bad News Bears bunch.
Goaltending: Need I really say anything on goaltending? Martin Brodeur is still the number one goalie and will be backed up by Johan Hedberg. If the Devil’s are smart, and want to make the playoffs, they need to give Hedberg 20 games. Brodeur is no longer a spring chicken and is 39 years old. Factor in that he missed games last season to knee problems, elbow problems the year before that, the Devils need to start looking at reserving his energy as well as possibly replacing him in one of the upcoming seasons.
Hedberg is only a year behind Brodeur at 38 years of age but will be the deciding factor for the Devils if they make the post-season or not. Never really having a bad nor good season, mainly staying at .500 each year, Hedberg needs to find the Tim Thomas fountain of save-my-career-and-make-me-the-king-of-the-world.
HWB Playoff Prediction: Playoff bound.