With September only a few days away, it is finally time to start thinking about the New Jersey Devils training camp and 2013-14 regular season.
After a tumultuous summer, there are a multitude of questions surrounding this team.
The 2014 New Jersey Devils are going to look completely different than the 2013 version. Pivotal players are no longer with the team, and new players will now have to play vital roles.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the new talent meshes with the old as this upcoming season rolls along.
In this article, we will break it down—line by line—and examine the biggest questions facing the New Jersey Devils.
Will this line be able to put up the points that it needs?
The top line for the Devils will likely be centered by Adam Henrique with Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr on the wings. This line is going to be responsible for putting up goals in 2014, and history suggests that might not be a problem.
Jaromir Jagr is one of the most prolific goal scorers of all time, Patrik Elias is the all-time offensive leader for New Jersey and Adam Henrique is the Devils' best, young offensive talent.
The issue, however, is that there is going to be a lot of pressure on these three players to perform.
In 2013, the three players score 41 goals in a season shortened by a lockout. Expanded to a full 82 game season, that number would be around 68 goals.
If you compare that with the 84 goals scored by Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Henrique in 2013, you can see that there may be some trouble looming.
The fact of the matter is that in 2014, the Devils will be offensively challenged. If they are to have any success, each player on the top line is going to have to play significantly better than they did last year.
It is for that reason that it is important this line be constructed the way that it is. Henrique and Elias are comfortable playing with anybody.
Elias admitted to NHL.com that some of the younger players, may find it intimidating to play with Jagr:
It still is [a thrill], but for me it's probably not as much as it might be for some younger guys... I think position-wise and what I've accomplished with the team, it's a matter of being good within the system of the team... It's to try and make the most out of it and make sure it works individually and for the team.
If this line does not make the most of their play time, 2014 has the potential to get really ugly, really fast.
Can Travis Zajac get back on track?
New Jersey's second line will probably be made up of Travis Zajac and newcomers Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder.
Between 2006 and 2011, Travis Zajac was one of New Jersey's most consistent players, averaging 50 points a season.
He missed most of 2012 with an injury, however, and had a very unproductive 2013.
Last year, Travis only scored seven goals in 48 games. Although he didn't look particularly bad, he was just never able to put his chances home.
After signing a huge deal before the season started, Zajac spent most of the year "trying to find" his game.
2014 must be different.
Zajac will center a line with New Jersey's two newest players, and the onus will be on him to make sure they all perform to their full potential.
Clowe is a big body and Ryder is a scoring threat. They should be able to mesh well with Zajac's skill set on the second line.
Zajac has some experience playing with new players. Last year, in the midst of his slump, he was demoted to the third line.
Rather than feel sorry for himself, he made the most of his predicament.
"I think I'm a smart enough player to adapt and learn and read off guys with whoever I'm out there with," he told Tom Gulitti of NorthJersey.com last year.
Last year, Zajac had to deal with playing without Zach Parise. This year, he's lost Ilya Kovalchuk as well.
It looks like 2014 will be another year of adapting for Travis Zajac.
Who will be on this line? Can Andrei Loktionov replicate last year's success?
There will be an opening on the Devils third line heading into training camp. So the first question regarding this line is: Who will be on it?
There are a few options here.
First, Steve Bernier could be in line for a promotion. He spent some time away from the fourth line last year and was pretty productive. For the purposes of this article, however, I've kept him with his old line.
That means that a young player will have the chance to win this spot in training camp. The front runners right now are Jacob Josefson and Stefan Matteau—they both spent time with New Jersey last year.
Right now I'm giving the edge to Josefson, but I'm also looking at Rostislav Olesz as a serious darkhorse.
The other question with this line deals with Andrei Loktionov.
When the Devils acquired Loktionov from the Los Angeles Kings last year, they made off like bandits.
Andrei, who was buried beneath Los Angeles' deep pool of forwards, immediately showed promise when he scored eight goals along with four assists in 28 games for New Jersey.
2014 will test whether Loktionov can help the Devils score goals over the course of an entire season.
Head coach Pete DeBoer does not seem too worried about the prospect.
"You wonder if it's real," DeBoer told Sean Hartnett of CBS New York back in March, "but he's been consistent every night for us. That's a good sign."
Can the Devils fourth line do it again?
The line of Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter was instrumental in New Jersey's deep playoff run in 2012.
The three put up solid numbers again last year, combining for 44 points.
These three players are everything you want out of a fourth line: They are tough, relentless and can score goalsoftentimes in the clutch.
In fact, their high-energy play can light a spark under the rest of the team.
Travis Zajac, referring to this line, told Dave Lozo of NHL.com, "They work well together. They play a lot of time in the offensive zone, which is great. They're a momentum-changing line. Sometimes you need that throughout the game."
The question emerges, though, when players outperform their expectations: Can continue to play at that level?
This question may be the easiest to answer. If they continue to buy into Peter DeBoer's physical defense and high-octane forecheck system, there's no reason to think 2014 will be any different than years past.