NHL Preview: Devils
Just another quiet summer with the Devils, eh?
The notoriously financially fiscal organization made summer-long headlines for (A) re-signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a 17-year, $102 million contract, (B) the NHL’s reject the contract, (C) suffer the indignity of the NHL’s ruling being upheld by an arbiter, and (D) signing the left wing to a 15-year, $100 million contract for the left wing only to have the NHL and NHLPA use the deal as a bargaining point as both sides reworked the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
In the interim, GM Lou Lamoriello hired former star John MacLean as head coach and rebuilt the corps of defenseman in hopes of winning Jersey’s fourth Cup.
FORWARDS: MacLean did not wait long to put his stamp on the 2010-11 New Jersey Devils as he created a top line of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Kovalchuk. Arguably the league’s most potent line, having the Devils top three forwards on one line eliminates the issue of who Zajac centers, which was problematic following the February trade for Kovalchuk.
Perhaps the Devils best personnel acquisition of the off-season was trading for Jason Arnott. The Devils now have the No. 2 center they lacked last season. Arnott, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora carried much of the scoring load when the Devils won the Cup in 2000. Now that Arnott is back in the fold and with Elias a permanent fixture in Newark, MacLean re-united two-thirds of the A-Line.
Power forward-in-waiting David Clarkson may experience the breakout year that many believe he is capable of; Clarkson recorded 24 points and 85 penalty minutes despite being limited to 46 games due to a broken leg.
DEFENSE: One of the hallmarks of the dynasty Devils, the defense corps has been a revolving door in recent years. That hasn’t changed. Paul Martin (to Pittsburgh) and Mike Mottau (to Long Island) left Newark. In their stead entered Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov. Old reliables Colin White, Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador and Mark Fraser remain, but for how much longer? White and Salvador may have to be traded as Lamoriello sheds salary.
GOALTENDING: Martin Brodeur is no longer the measuring stick that all goaltenders are compared to Instead, he’s merely among the NHL’s elite in nets. The 38-year old had a typical Brodeur season in 2009-10: 45 wins, nine shutouts, a 2.44 goals against and a .916 save percentage. But he was, as he has been post-lockout, only ordinary in the playoffs.
Both the goaltender and the organization have been criticized for his workload. Entering his 18th NHL season, Brodeur averages 63 games played a season. In the last five years, he has played in 336 games—an average of 67.2 games per season. His workload should be significantly cut with the signing of veteran backup Johan Hedberg.
PREDICTION: There will be a lot of eyes fixated towards Newark in 2010-11. Are the Devils still among the NHL’s premier organizations? Can they win another Cup before Martin Brodeur retires? And what about Parise? Parise is a restricted free agent following the season and will undoubtedly want to be paid the going rate for top left wings. That’s what happens when you score 160 goals in five seasons and watch a linemate sign a 15-year, $100 million mega pact. Devils should finish fifth in the East.