The New Jersey Devils might have made it to the final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs this past season, but for the 2012-13 season they'll have to do more in order to compete with up-and-coming and improving NHL teams.
There are a number of reasons why the Devils might need to worry about next season, and here are a few.
The Minnesota Wild's signing of Zach Parise was by far the biggest one during the 2012 NHL offseason. Not only was Parise a great scorer and playmaker for the Devils, he was a team leader that knew what had to be done in order to help his teammates.
Last season, Parise scored 31 goals and had 38 assists. Those are big shoes to fill. The Devils will have to use Adam Henrique more next season and must use him as the go-to guy for big plays. Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias also must continue to use their leadership roles in order to make sure their teammates know that Parise is not essential to a winning franchise. Parise may be gone, but the Devils' spirit is not. If they can get over losing No. 9 the Devils will have no problem making the postseason next season.
Age is nothing but a number for the most part, but not when it comes to the NHL. Martin Brodeur is 40 and backup goaltender Johan Hedberg is 39. Both goalies were able to produce in net last season, but there is no telling what this season can bring.
With age comes players becoming more prone to injury. If something was to happen to Brodeur, Hedberg isn't a young guy anymore, and he might not be able to fill the void. The Devils must recruit another goalie that they can see taking over the franchise within the next couple of years.
Brodeur is by far one of the best goaltenders that has even played the game, but the time might come soon for Brodeur to hang up his skates. Last season, Brodeur finished with a 31-21 record and a 2.41 GAA. For a near middle-aged man, the numbers aren't bad. However, when his contract is up in two years, it will be up to the Devils to make their next move.
Good goaltending with be essential next season. If they're not up to par, they may have a problem making the postseason.
There's one thing that most people wouldn't normally know about Petr Sykora: he has been to six Stanley Cup finals, and he was a Stanley Cup champion in 2000 with the New Jersey Devils and with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.
Sykora is essential to any lineup. He's quick, agile, aggressive and is a team leader. Last year, Sykora signed a one-year contract with the Devils worth $650,000. After this year of production, he's worth a lot more than that. During the 2011-12 season, Sykora scored 21 goals and had 23 assists. This is a guy who has 323 goals in his career and is still a playmaker.
If the Devils want to make a good move, they will re-sign Sykora for at least another year. He's an asset to the franchise and if he's re-signed, the Devils will have something less to worry about as they enter another NHL season.