New Jersey Devils: 10 Things the Devils Need to Do to Return to a Cup Final
The New Jersey Devils fell two wins short of winning their fourth Stanley Cup in team history last June. They hope that the next time they hit the ice, whenever that may be, they can have the same success as last season.
The Devils played the most games of any team in the league last year with 106, so if more games are canceled, they will get some much-needed rest.
Every year experts pick the Devils to finish towards the bottom of the standings, and every year, the team exceeds expectations.
This season will be no different, the Devils once again don’t have high expectations, but if a few certain things go their way, they will return to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Acquire One More Natural Goal Scorer
The biggest news for the Devils this offseason was that Zach Parise left.
It’s about time that the Devils stop feeling sorry for themselves and go out and get one more goal scorer.
This player doesn’t have to be a No. 1 scorer, Ilya Kovalchuk can fill that role, but the Devils need another forward that can fill a spot on the second or third line.
Parise wasn’t the only player on the team, and if it were just him that the Devils lost, then the Devils would be fine in the upcoming season. But, the Devils also have yet to re-sign Petr Sykora, and also lost Alexei Ponikarovsky to free agency, which leaves a gap in the top nine forwards.
Martin Brodeur Needs to Be Vintage
If Martin Brodeur plays half as well as he did during last years playoffs this season, then the Devils will be dominant.
It’s no secret that Brodeur is getting older, but he still has some gas left in his tank. The Devils need him for about another two years before a prospect will be ready for the big leagues.
Adam Larsson Needs to Fully Adjust to the NHL
Adam Larsson had his ups and downs last year, but next season will be a big test.
His expectations were really high, but don’t forget the kid was only 19 years old last season, and he was out of his element playing in America.
Throughout the history of the franchise, the Devils have always expected big things from all their defensemen; Larsson was cut a little slack because he was still developing last year. But, once games start up this season, he needs to be fully adjusted.
Defensive Point Production
An overlooked part of the Devils' success in the 2012 playoffs was the offensive production by their defense.
Over 20 percent of the teams points came from the defense last postseason, compared to the about 18 percent during the regular season.
Especially Bryce Salvador, he exploded for 14 points in the playoffs, compared to the nine he had in a full 82-game season.
If players like Salvador, Marek Zidlicky, Andy Greene and Larsson can produce some offense, expect the Devils to make it deep in the playoffs.
Find New Leadership
With Parise’s departure, the Devils currently have no named captain.
Last season's assistant captains were Patrik Elias and Kovalchuk, both of whom would be likely candidates to wear the C for the Devils this upcoming season.
Elias already had his shot at captaincy in 2006 and 2007, but during his captaincy, his individual stats decreased. He’s an important part of this team, and regardless if he has a C on his sweater, Elias will be a leader.
That leaves Kovalchuk as the top candidate; he already has had experience as a captain with the Atlanta Thrashers, and is currently the captain of his KHL team, SKA St. Petersburg.
Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador, Travis Zajac and David Clarkson will also serve as leaders on the team too, regardless if they have a C or A on their jersey.
Improve on the Powerplay
Although last year was an improvement for the Devils power play, it must continue to improve.
Assistant Coach Adam Oates did some great work with both the No. 1 and No. 2 units last season. This goal especially shows his work. Kovalchuk's goal was one of the best tic-tac plays the Devils power play has had in a while, which came in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Shaw did some great work with the San Jose Shark’s power play over the past three years; there’s no doubt he can do the same with the Devils.
Ilya Kovalchuk Must Dominate
With Parise gone, Kovalchuk is now undoubtedly the No. 1 forward on the Devils.
If the Devils want to continue the same success, then he needs to score at least 85 points this season.
The Devils have never in the history of their franchise relied on one player, and although this year will be no different, Kovalchuk must step up.
He has the tools he needs to have an amazing season, he’ll either play with Zajac or Adam Henrique. Both of whom are more than capable of setting Kovalchuk up for many goals.
Keep the Same Dominant Penalty Kill
Last season, the Devils played amazing while shorthanded.
The record-breaking penalty kill percentage was a huge reason why the Devils finished high in the standings last season.
They don’t need to break their own record from last year, but a top-five finish is expected.
The Devils also led the league in shorthanded goals for with 15, if they can even net 10 next year, then they will be in great shape.
It goes without saying that a team needs to remain healthy if it wants to make the Stanley Cup.
Last year, the Devils got healthy at the perfect time, they got Zajac, their No. 1 center, back in time for the playoffs, and Henrik Tallinder made it back in time for the Stanley Cup too.
Anton Volchenkov is currently injured, but he should be ready by time the season starts.
Brodeur also just recently broke his finger. Nothing too serious though, it will keep him from playing in Europe, but he shouldn’t miss any NHL games whenever the lockout ends.
If the Devils keep a healthy roster, then they will have a deep enough team to compete with the best in the NHL.
The Lockout Must End
The Devils can’t make the Stanley Cup if there is no season.
A shortened season is better for the Devils to give them rest from a Stanley Cup run last June, but no season would be detrimental to them and the NHL.
Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr need to come to terms on a new CBA for any team, let alone the Devils, to play for the Stanley Cup.
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