It is easy to put an asterisk on a lockout-shortened season. Without a full training camp and an entire 82-game slate, human nature has us washing 2013 shortcomings under the rug. Whether this is an easy way to make excuses or a good source of optimism is tough to tell.
As a team, the New Jersey Devils failed to reach their goal of making the playoffs for another shot at the Stanley Cup. Individually, several players fell short. Ilya Kovalchuk suffered an injury at the worst possible time. In his sophomore season Adam Henrique failed to meet expectations that followed after an impressive rookie campaign. After a max-contract extension prior to the season, Travis Zajac didn't provide max-contract production.
These players need to return to their peak performance next season if the Devils are to return to playoff form.
New Jersey has several core members entering free agency. Some names include Marek Zidlicky, David Clarkson and franchise icon Patrik Elias. It is tough to tell who will be back.
But of the top players under contract for next season, here is what the team needs from them in order to prove 2013 was an aberration.