For some hockey fans, a season didn't seem doable this year. With Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year all passing us by without any pucks being dropped, it seemed doubtful that a season would start up again.
However, with the New Year, came new meetings between the NHL and NHLPA, and ultimately, a deal. Now that we know there will be a hockey season, a question on many New Jersey Devils fans minds is, "how will the Jersey team do?"
Last season, the New Jersey Devils made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, but lost to the Los Angeles Kings in six games. This season will be different in many ways because the season has been cut short. Therefore, every game is that much more important towards the end result of the season. New Jersey has also lost their all-star forward Zach Parise, and those are big skates to fill.
Here are five bold predictions for the New Jersey Devils.
With Zach Parise gone, all eyes will be on left-winger Ilya Kovalchuk. In 2010, Kovalchuk signed a deal with the Devils for $100 million over 15 years. This year, he will want to prove that he's still worth that large sum of money. Last year, Kovalchuk finished with 37 goals, 46 assists, and a total of 83 points.
The Russian-born star will have to act as a leader for the Devils, and with Parise gone, he will see much more time with the puck.
Despite the break from the NHL, Kovalchuk has been using his time wisely and has been playing for the KHL in Russia. During today's game against Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Kovalchuk captained his team SKA St. Petersburg to a 4-2 win on the road.
The NHL and players have agreed to end the lockout, but Kovalchuk has still expressed interest in playing in Sunday's KHL All-Star game. One thing that's obvious with Kovalchuk is that he has a sincere love for the game, and him staying active during the lockout is a positive for the New Jersey Devils. He will finish the 2012-2013 season with at least 40 points and will prove that he's still one of the best players in the NHL.
Martin Brodeur is 40 years old, but after last season, there's no way you could have known. Last season, Brodeur finished the regular season with 31 wins, 21 losses and 2.41 GAA. He then continued to lead his team all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. Despite losing to the Los Angeles Kings in six games, Brodeur still managed to finish the playoffs with a 14-9 record and 2.12 GAA.
After this lockout, we should expect Brodeur to be on his A-game. Let's remember, this is a man that has been on the New Jersey Devils roster since the 1991-92 season and has seen two lockouts since then. One was during the 1994-95 season and lasted half of a season and the other was when the entire season was cancelled for 2004-05.
"I kind of got to benefit by the business," Brodeur said. "I have to accept it, but it’s something nobody should ever have to go through, especially because a career is so short. I’m lucky. I guess if you go through three (lockouts) it means you’ve played a long time.Not many guys will have to go through that. Hopefully it’s a lesson learned for a lot of people."
There was speculation that if the lockout continued, Brodeur was going to bring his talent over to Europe.
"I got a little worried about losing the whole year the way things were going. I’m definitely really excited now," Brodeur said.
Devils fans should also be excited that they'll be able to see their favorite #30 in net for at least the next two seasons. After that, the Devils will have to fill the void that All-Star Brodeur leaves behind.
Now I know this is a bold prediction, but that is in fact the title of this slideshow. Why do I think fans will be selling out arenas nationwide? Because this season has so much more on the line than last season. With a full season, it's understandable to not watch the first few games because they don't have much significance. However, with a 48-game schedule, every game counts.
With every person that has cancelled their season tickets, there will be two more people that have the desire to attend a game.
I could be wrong, but I think that fans are going to be packing into arenas nationwide to watch hockey games since they were deprived of it for the first half of the season. The love of hockey will withstand the stress of the lockout. Don't be surprised if the Prudential Center is sold out for a majority of their games for the shortened season.
If you didn't know who Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter or Stephen Gionta were before last season, then you definitely know who they are now. They are better known as the New Jersey Devils fourth line, and they had a fantastic playoff season last year.
This past postseason, they contributed ten goals and 11 assists. They also had a combined 95 hits and 15 takeaways. This shows that all three players are aggressive and use their time wisely.
Some teams are lucky enough to get these numbers from starters, but from a fourth line? It never really happens. You should be sure that Devils coach Peter DeBoer will use Bernier, Carter and Gionta as much as possible.
They have a rhythm as a fourth line that is rare in the league. If they can produce the way that they did in the 2011-2012 playoffs, they will undoubtedly be helping the New Jersey Devils skate their way to another Stanley Cup Finals.
Once again, another bold prediction. However, do you know which NHL team won the Stanley Cup after the last lockout that didn't end in a season cancellation? The New Jersey Devils in 1995. With Martin Brodeur. Now, do I think that a Stanley Cup championship is a definite promise? No. But do I think it's possible? Absolutely.
With the combination of Kovalchuk, center Patrik Elias, a powerful defense, Brodeur's skills and a phenomenal fourth line, I think that anything is possible. The Los Angeles Kings outplayed the New Jersey Devils during the last playoff season, but that was after the Devils outplayed the Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, and significant rival in the New York Rangers.
The lockout was terrible for players and fans, but it might be a blessing in disguise. The lockout gave players more time to work out, stay in shape, and get prepared for a season.
Players are ready to get out on the ice and work hard for the 48 games that they have to play. If the Devils play the way they played last season and can find a way to fill the void that Parise left behind, they might just find themselves holding the Stanley Cup above their heads at the end of the 2012-2013 season.