New Jersey Devils Season Preview
It almost seems like yesterday that the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New York Rangers to win the 2014 Stanley Cup. However, it’s been more than four months since Jonathan Quick and company hoisted the Cup, and a new season is upon us. Some teams began their 2014-2015 campaigns last night, but the New Jersey Devils are set to begin their season tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. Here’s what you need to know about Jersey’s team heading into the season.
The biggest change for the team is between the pipes. Devils and hockey legend Martin Brodeur is currently a free agent at the age of 42 after playing all of his 21 NHL seasons with New Jersey. It’s a shame that he hasn’t retired officially, but he’ll always be a Devil for life, having posted 688 wins with the franchise.
But Brodeur’s departure means promise for this team. Cory Schneider will be the clear number one in net as he should be. Schneider, acquired from the Vancouver Canucks via a 2013 trade, played in 45 games last year for the Devils and posted an astounding 1.97 goals against average. If Schneider can perform at this level, expect him to start over 70 regular season games. Veteran Scott Clemmensen will serve as the team’s backup after beating out Keith Kinkaid in the preseason.
Regardless of the Devils goaltending this season, the team is going to need to find a way to consistently score goals. I hate to say it, but I don’t know if they’re going to be able to. Their leading scorer (67 Pts: 24G, 43Ast) a year ago, Jaromir Jagr, will be turning 43 midseason. That is not a typo. You can see why I don’t think the Czech player will put up such numbers for a second consecutive year in a Devils uniform.
Dropping down 18 years and 13 years respectively, Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac are going to have to be the guys that have big seasons if the Devils are going to be successful. Henrique, entering his fourth full NHL season, will need to build on his career best 25 goals from last season, while Zajac will need to rediscover his scoring touch. The Winnipeg native netted 18 goals in 80 games last season, but has reached the 20 goal mark twice in his career before. Truth be told, he may need to score 30 if this team is going to make a playoff run.
Outside of these three players offensively, you have to look to the biggest forward addition: Mike Cammalleri. Cammalleri, who was signed as a free agent over the summer, netted 26 goals and collected 19 assists in only 63 games with the Flames last season. If he can bring those numbers to his new team, Devils fans will surely have something to cheer about. However, one can make the argument that since he played in Calgary, a severely struggling team, he was the only offensive option and therefore his numbers are inflated. Regardless of that argument, I think this move will pay off big time for Jersey’s team.
Other forwards who will have to play a large role for the team include Michael Ryder and Patrik Elias, who is now 38. Players such as Damien Brunner and Dainius Zubrus are big question marks in my mind.
Moving from finding the back of the net to defending it, the Devils find themselves in an interesting situation. Typically, the Devils have a squad full of veteran defensemen that have been around the block once or twice, but this year that is not the case. Four of the seven defensemen on the opening day roster are 23 or younger. Those players are Damon Severson (20), Adam Larsson (21), Jon Merrill (22), and Eric Gelinas (23).
The player of those four that can make the biggest impact on this team, believe it or not, is the youngest one. Severson has unbelievable potential to be a top defenseman in the NHL. Last year in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets, the Canadian scored 19 goals and registered 60 assists in 78 games. The 60th overall draft pick in 2012 collected 79 points in 78 games as a defenseman! Those numbers are astounding, and one can only hope that he can bring them or even a part of them to the Devils this season.
Andy Greene, who is by far the top defenseman for the squad, has a tough job in helping to mold this young defensive unit, but he has shown in the past that he can get the job done. Aging captain Bryce Salvador also has a large leadership role to play, especially if he is unable to play top defensive minutes.
It’s definitely going to be an interesting season for the New Jersey Devils, but I’m sure they’ll make it exciting. I don’t really know how to predict the 2014-2015 campaign, but I’ll say they register 92 points in the regular season, grab the seven spot in the playoffs, and upset a top team in the first round before falling in six games in the conference semifinals.
And here’s one last thing that everyone should remember. If the Devils are struggling at any point in the season in any aspect of the game that we call hockey, trust in Lou Lamoriello. He always has the right move in place to help his team. There’s no telling what he’ll draw up, but his moves always seem to work out. Enjoy the season Devils fans!
Following tonight’s 7:00 game in Philadelphia, the Devils will travel to play Florida, Tampa Bay, and Washington before opening up the Rock in Newark against San Jose on Saturday, October 18.
In Text Photos Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: Sportskido8 and JHMM13 (Brodeur); Lisa Gansky (Severson)