The Best Attributes of the New Jersey Devils' Top Stars
A tumultuous summer for the New Jersey Devils is finally nearing its end. Over the past few months, they saw a few of their top stars leave only to be replaced by new ones. That's not to undervalue, however, the stars that were already here.
For a player to be considered a star in the NHL, he has to excel in at least one aspect of his position.
Most stars excel in multiple regards, but there is typically one aspect of their game that makes them stand a cut above the rest.
In this article, we'll take a look at the New Jersey Devils' top stars and the best attribute of each one's game.
Best Attribute: Faceoffs
When president and GM Lou Lamoriello announced Travis Zajac's new eight-year contract before the start of last season, he referred to the center as "one of the core leaders" of the Devils.
While that may be so, Zajac has not had much success offensively over the last few years.
Zajac was hurt for much of 2012 and, last year, the first year of his new contract, he did not produce nearly as many points as was expected.
While Zajac may not have been able to score the goals that Devils needed last year, he was very impressive in the faceoff circle.
His 506 faceoff wins were good for seventh in the league. More impressively, however, Zajac finished tied for fourth in the league with a faceoff win percentage of 57.4 percent (minimum 500 attempts).
The names ahead of him on that list are impressive—Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews and Joe Thornton.
Last year was not a fluke. Travis has not been outside the top-20 in faceoffs won since 2008 (excluding his injury shortened 2011-12), and his percentage has never been lower than 50 percent.
Zajac is one of the stars of the Devils, but if he wants to get up to superstar status with Toews and Bergeron, he'll have to not only win faceoffs, but score goals.
Best Attribute: Physical Toughness
Ryane Clowe was brought to New Jersey to replace David Clarkson's physical toughness. Like Zajac, Clowe is player coming off a down year and looking to bounce back.
A star's best attribute, however, always seems to be prevalent, even in down years.
Last year, Clowe was credited with 93 PIM, 10th in the NHL in terms of forwards.
He is not afraid to stick up for himself or his teammates either. He was in five fights last year.
Clowe is looking forward to bringing his tough style of play to New Jersey.
"Forechecking is a strong part of my game. The Devils like to play aggressive defensive hockey," he told Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger, "I think that will fit my style."
Don't expect Ryane Clowe to score goals like David Clarkson. He is not that kind of player. He will, however, play the role of enforcer when he has to and crush a few bodies anyway when he doesn't.
Best Attribute: Scoring
This one may seem a little straight forward, but Jaromir Jagr is excellent at scoring.
That's going to be very important this year because, with the departure of Ilya Kovalchuk, if Jagr cannot consistently produce points, it can be a long season for New Jersey.
In 2013, Jagr actually put up more points than Kovalchuk, with five more goals but one less assist than the Russian defector.
35 points in a lockout shortened season, however, do not paint a true enough picture of Jaromir Jagr's career.
He ranks eighth all-time in points, 10th in goals and 12th in assists. He should move higher up those lists this year.
The higher he moves up those lists, in fact, the higher the Devils will be in the standings.
Best Attribute: Leadership
Patrik Elias, New Jersey's longest tenured skater, is the franchise leader in nearly all offensive categories. His best attribute, however, is not quantifiable.
Elias is the motivational leader of the Devils. He may not be the most outspoken player on the team, but he leads by example.
After he signed a three-year deal this offseason, Lou Lamoriello said of him, "His contribution speaks for itself both on and off the ice as far as the way he plays. He... plays in all situations and does anything you ask."
Patrik Elias should not just be a role model to every young Devil on the roster, but every player in the league should follow his lead.
He is one of those rare players who will always leave it all on the ice and never lose his cool.
On top of all of that, he is a point scoring machine. He is a virtual lock for 50 points a season, but its not crazy to expect more.
Last year, he played in all but one game of the lockout shortened season and finished with 36 points.
That is production that anyone can look up to.
Best Attribute: Unbeatable When Healthy
Martin Brodeur, the biggest star in the history of the New Jersey Devils, has battled injuries of the past few years.
From 1998 to 2008, Brodeur did not play in less than 70 games in a season. Since 2010-11, however, he has not been able to reach 60 per year.
It should not surprise anyone that Brodeur has slowed down with age. He is human, after all.
What Martin Brodeur does stay healthy enough to reach 70 GP in a season, however, he finishes either first or second in the league in wins every time.
Most recently, in 2009-10, Brodeur played in 77 games and the Devils clinched the second seed in the East.
There is a clear correlation, in fact, between Brodeur's health and the Devils final place in the standings.
Many assumed in 2010-11, when the Devils missed the playoffs, that Zach Parise's injury had a lot to do with it. More damaging to the team's record, however, is the fact that Brodeur only played in 56 games.
While that may make life without Brodeur seem very scary, the Devils think they have found an adequate replacement in Cory Schneider.
Cory Schneider, they believe, is a bonafide NHL starting goalie, which may yield double rewards for New Jersey.
In the long term, they have Marty's heir. In the short term, they have a player who can give Brodeur nights off in an effort to keep him healthy.
In 2012, Brodeur played in only 59 games, but he had a suitable backup in Johan Hedberg. With Brodeur able to take games off, he was able to stay fresh and earn 31 wins for the Devils.
With Schneider performing that same role in 2014, there's no reason to think that that same level of success cannot be replicated.