2013-14 NHL Season Preview: New Jersey Devils

NewJerseyDevils_logo“We have to take a step back to go forward,” GM Lou Lamoriello said the day Ilya Kovalchuk suddenly announced his retirement from the NHL to return to his native Russia and play in the KHL.

And this season could be that for the Devils, one where many steps backward could be taken if this team struggles out of the gate. The Devils missed the playoffs last season after reaching the Stanley Cup Final the year before. And by the way this roster looks, they could be spending  time away from the rink come mid-April.

Everything wasn’t gloom for New Jersey during the off season, they did manage to make many small, quality moves at the forward position to supplement the losses of Kovalchuk and David Clarkson. The news of Kovalchuk’s departure took the luster off the biggest move the Devils made, when they acquired goalie Cory Schneider from Vancouver during the NHL Draft. The road is nearing the end for Martin Brodeur, and the addition of Schneider means they could potentially have a veteran goalie of the future most teams covet.


The area where the Devils needed the most rebuilding, things aren’t as bad as people initially think. The Devils were the most active team in the East when it came to adding talent at the forward position. Even though they lost two of their top three scorers (Kovalchuk and Clarkson), they did manage to replace them with Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe, and Michael Ryder. It should also be noted Jagr is here on a one-year contract so he has to make best of the situation he came into.

As for the returning players, more has to come from Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac. The two centers combined for 18 goals and 18 assists. The scoring will be more balanced in the past, meaning there is opportunity for any of the above mentioned to step up and contribute alongside last seasons leading scorer Patrik Elias.

On special teams, the Devils have to improve on the power play. They ranked 21st on the power play and allowed the second-most shorthanded goals with six.


In comparison to the rest of the team, the defense was the most stable area. They returned most of their players as well as re-signing Marek Zidlicky. Their only loss of note was Henrik Tallinder, who left for Buffalo. This is an area where Lamoriello will get to address next summer as only Anton Volchenkov is signed past 2014-15.

It’s essential the defense stays healthy due to the uncertainty of the forwards. The top-four appears to be Zidlicky, Volchenkov, Bryce Salvador and Andy Greene with Adam Larsson playing into the fold as well. Outside those five, the depth is pretty thin with inexperienced players hoping to work into the lineup like Mark Frayne and Peter Harrold.

On special teams, they saw a big drop in penalty kill as they fell from first in 2011-12 to 16th last season. However they did manage to score the most shorthanded goals in the league with 11.


One of the closest-monitored goalie duo’s this season will be Brodeur and Schneider. Schneider is in New Jersey on a two-year deal, in which the team has to get as much as a sample size as they can before deciding in 2015 whether to keep him or find another long-term solution at goalie. Obviously Brodeur won’t see as many games as he has in the past due to his age and wear on his body, but there’s no reason to doubt he’s the No. 1 goalie heading into the regular season.

This was a much better opportunity for Schneider, realizing he’s going to split time as an understudy this season before taking over the reins next season should Brodeur retire. Both goalies will have to work to keep the scoring down due to the uncertainty on offense.


If there’s any positives with the Devils, it’s that Peter DeBoer returns to the bench. Also the team was playing relative good hockey before Kovalchuk was out of the lineup. With the new playoff format, it’s going to be difficult to call them a playoff team without seeing them play a few games. Are they among the top three teams in the division? I can’t quite say do yet. Look for them to miss the playoffs, and the real rebuilding job to start next summer.

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