Welcome back to Puck Drop: NHL Preview 2013-14, where our hockey department gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of his hockey season. Check back often as new teams are added to our Puck Drop page. Today we take a look at the 2013-14 New Jersey Devils:
For the New Jersey Devils, last season was full of injuries and disappointments. The following list of players missed significant time due to injuries: Ilya Kovalchuk, Martin Brodeur, Adam Henrique, Dainius Zubrus, and Bryce Salvador. Players such as Adam Henrique and Ilya Kovalchuk saw a decline in production as the Devils missed the playoffs for the second time in three years. Even though it was a shortened season, this Devils team made it feel like a long nightmare. Night in and night out it felt like the Devils out shot every team they played and lost 1 – 0. Scoring was the obvious issue, which led to the Devils finishing 19 – 19 – 10. At the end of the season, Kovalchuk was the face of the franchise, David Clarkson was going to re-sign and Martin Brodeur was the starting goaltender. Oh boy, did things change.
The 2013 NHL Entry Draft was hosted in the Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils. The Devils made a huge splash trading the 9th pick overall to the Vancouver Canucks for Goaltender Cory Schneider. Cory instantly became the successor to Martin Brodeur. Schneider has been solid all his career, and is the goalie of the future. The Devils free agency period started with the Maple Leafs signing away winger David Clarkson with a seven year, $5.25 million per year contract. An absolute asinine contract so I’m happy the Devils weren’t dumb enough to offer him that. I thank you Toronto. New Jersey went on and signed former Sharks and Rangers big forward Ryane Clowe to a four year, $4.85 million per year contract. The cap hit is unfriendly, but he can help down the stretch of a long season. New Jersey then went on and signed forwards Micheal Ryder (two years/$7 million) and future Hall-of-Famer Jaromir Jagr to a one year deal up to $4 million. Those two signings were made to help the Devils their power play woes. During the free agency period, star winger Ilya Kovalchuk decided to retire, void his contract completely and go home to Russia and continue his hockey career there. Although Ilya was the best player on the team and the face of the franchise, he had an absolutely ridiculous 12 year, $77 million left on his deal which cost New Jersey a first round pick which will be forfeited this upcoming draft. This saved the Devils serious money which they can invest in other younger players such as giving Adam Henrique a six year,$24 million contract that he signed last week.
Story lines to watch
Some major story lines to watch include: Will Travis Zajac have a bounce back season after signing an eight year extension? I feel that Zajac can definitely have a bounce back season, and look to take more of a leadership role with the team. Look for him to get around 60 points this season. Can the Devils power play survive with the additions of Jagr and Ryder, but the subtractions of Clarkson and Kovalchuk? The Devils power play with Kovalchuk and Clarkson wasn’t strong, so mixing it up sounds good. Ryder and Jagr are proven scorers and have the ability to help on the power play. Will they? It remains to be seen. How many games will Goalies Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider split throughout the regular season? If it was up to me, I would start Brodeur about 30 – 35 games, and play Schneider 47 – 52 games. The main problem with that is that Brodeur is slated to start the season as the number one goalie. This may be the biggest story line for the season.
Players to watch
A player to watch on the New Jersey Devils this season is Center Andrei Loktionov. Midway through last season, the Devils shipped a late round draft pick to the Kings for Lokti. The Kings had too many centers at the time and Andrei was displeased when coach Darryl Sutter played him on the wing. The trade worked out very well for New Jersey. He tallied 12 points in 28 games, eight of those points being goals. If he can be the third line center throughout the season, he can help the Devils balance out the scoring on the third line. Some of his wingers may include Dainius Zubrus, Stefan Matteau and Jaromir Jagr.
Another player to watch on the Devils this upcoming season is defensemen Anton Volchenkov. Volchenkov is coming off of a terrible 2012 season. He had five points in 37 games last season and is poor on the offensive side of the ice. Although Volchenkov isn’t afraid to throw a big hit when it’s needed, he often misses his assignments and is late back to the blueline. Last year was especially bad and will have to really come through this season in order to live up to his $4.25 million cap hit or else he will be a casualty of the compliance buyout, as the Devils have a plethora of young defensemen ready to take his spot.
Overall, I believe the Devils can compete for a spot in the playoffs, but many things will have to go right. Check out my Metropolitan division preview later in the week, for where i have them ranked this season.
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