NHL Predictions: Why the New Jersey Devils Will Be Just Fine Going Forward
The Devils have already faced some big decisions this offseason.
They lost their captain, Zach Parise, to the Minnesota Wild for a 13-year, $98 million deal, brought back 40-year-old goaltender Martin Brodeur for another two years and $9 million and a have made sure to re-sign the players who will continue to be a positive impact moving forward such as defenseman Bryce Salvador and backup goalie Johan Hedberg.
Some Devils fans might be worried Parise's exit is the worst-possible scenario for the Devils. However, the Devils have won three Stanley Cups since they settled in New Jersey in 1982, and Parise wasn't there for any of them. So as much as Parise contributed to his team, there's also more work that needs to be done.
New Jersey may have lost one of the best left wingers in the league, but they will be totally fine going forward.
Here are a few reasons why.
Brodeur Is Still in Jersey
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It goes without saying that Martin Brodeur is getting old, but it also is obvious that he's not done playing in the NHL. Brodeur may be 40 years old, but he made it to the Stanley Cup Finals this year, just in case anyone doubted the talents.
Signing Brodeur to a two-year, $9 million deal was a good decision. It's not a long-term commitment, and the Devils might just be able to sign a younger goaltender that Brodeur can mentor until his time in the NHL runs out.
With Brodeur still on the squad, the Devils still remain contenders, and they shouldn't let losing Parise interfere with what New Jersey already has, a killer squad.
Brodeur holds some of the best hockey records of all time, and he added to the list against the Florida Panthers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs this season. Brodeur shut out Florida in Game 4, giving him the most playoff shutouts of any goalie and surpassing goalie great Patrick Roy who had 23 in his career.
In some cases, the goaltender is the backbone of a hockey squad. In the New Jersey Devils case, Martin Brodeur represents the Devils possibly more than any player they have ever acquired.
Brodeur was drafted in 1990 by the Devils and hasn't looked back since. New Jersey is the team that he will retire with, and next year, he will hope to forget about the loss to the Kings in the final and focus on winning his fourth Stanley Cup championship since 1995.
Their 4th Line Is Incredible
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Stephen Gionta. Ryan Carter. Steven Bernier. You may not have known these players at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season, but if you were watching even a little bit of the Devils in the playoffs, you couldn't miss them.
Gionta, Carter and Bernier represent the fourth line that dominated for Jersey during the playoffs. Despite not winning the Stanley Cup, this trio gave the Devils organization a quick glance into the future, and during this offseason, all three were re-signed.
All three players combined for six goals and nine assists during the regular season, but in the playoffs, they looked like a different group of players. During the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Devils fourth line managed to come up with 10 goals and 11 assists.
While Coach Peter DeBoer changed around the first three lines sporadically, the fourth line continued to remain intact.
If these three players get more time on the ice next season, NHL fans can once again look to the Devils to have one of the hottest fourth lines in the league.
Travis Zajac Is Back
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Travis Zajac only played in 15 games last season after coming off an Achilles tendon injury. In those 15 games, Zajac finished with two goals and four assists.
When it came down to competing in the playoffs, Zajac scored seven goals and had seven assists in only 24 games. That's about a goal every three games, proving that Zajac is back with the efficiency and speed that was missed by the Devils earlier in the season.
Zajac also scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Panthers in Game 6 of Round 1, which tremendously helped the Devils stay alive during their playoff run.
He's a clutch player, he's fast, and if he remains healthy, he will be a huge part of the Devils' success come next season.
Success Is in the Air
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Most teams are used to winning, but few teams are used to winning as much and as often as the New Jersey Devils are.
Let's look at the facts.
The Devils, who last season failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, managed to come back as if a fire was lit underneath them and made it all the way to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.
On the way to the top, they defeated their rivaled New York Rangers, who were seeded No. 1 in the East. For a team that didn't make the playoffs a year prior, making the Stanley Cup finals is a huge accomplishment just a year later.
The New Jersey Devils won three Stanley Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003. The New York Rangers have won four Stanley Cups in 1928, 1933, 1940 and 1994. The Rangers have been a franchise since 1926, while the Devils joined in 1982.
The Devils have been 54 years less than the Rangers, but are only one cup shy. Now you realize why they have one of the biggest rivalries in hockey?
The Devils know what it means to win, and they like doing so. Just because they lost Zach Parise, doesn't mean that the franchise should give up all hope for next season. The Devils will come back with a vengeance and will remain successful despite changes on their roster.
Kovalchuk Is Still Around
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With all of the hype surrounding Zach Parise this season and offseason, many seem to have forgotten about Ilya Kovalchuk. Shortly after he became a free agent on July 1, 2010, Kovalchuk signed a 15-year, $100 million contract with the New Jersey Devils.
At the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, Kovalchuk struggled. During the first 23 games, he only scored five goals, and many were beginning to wonder whether or not this huge contract was for nothing.
However, Kovalchuk picked up his game and finished the 2011 season with 31 goals and 29 assists. Unfortunately for him, his season couldn't win enough games, and they didn't make the playoffs.
This past season, the star from Russia decided he had more to accomplish. He finished the regular season with 37 goals and 46 assists. He started contributing more as a team player and found himself open for more shots.
Kovalchuk finished the regular season fifth for points in the league. In the 2011-2012 playoffs, Kovalchuk finished with 19 points, more than anyone else on the squad.
So yes, the Devils have some work to do in order to make sure Parise's absence isn't noticed too much, but they are undeniably one of the best teams in the league and will have no problem proving themselves next season.