The preseason is over and the New Jersey Devils are ready to start the 2013-14 season. It was a tumultuous offseason to say the least, but as the puck is set to drop this week, the Devils are primed to make another run at the Stanley Cup.
The New Jersey team that will take the ice on Thursday is going to look completely different from the one that left it last spring.
The roster has been reloaded, and the Devils believe that they have the pieces to succeed in what is sure to be a highly competitive season.
Now that the dust of training camp has settled and a final 23-man roster has (pretty much) emerged, we will take one last comprehensive look at the 2013-14 New Jersey Devils and their upcoming season.
Today was the deadline for NHL clubs to cut their rosters down to 23, but GM and president Lou Lamoriello found a way to temporarily circumvent that rule.
By designating Mattias Tedenby as and injured nonroster player and placing Patrik Elias on IR back dated to last week, The Devils still technically have 25 players with the team.
Even so, a final roster is much clearer than it was a week ago.
The New Jersey Devils will begin the 2013-14 season with the best goaltending duo in the NHL. Although it remains unclear exactly how head coach Pete DeBoer will split starts between Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider, either player will give New Jersey plenty of security between the pipes.
Conventional knowledge would suggest that, for the first portion of the season at least, Martin Brodeur will get a majority of the starts, however small that majority may be. New Jersey knows, however, that Schneider is the future of this franchise. Do not be surprised if his playing time increases as the season moves along.
Although Lamoriello was hoping to see a young defenseman crack the lineup out of training camp, it now looks like that may not happen. Alexander Urbom is still with the team, but when Elias and Tedenby return, Urbom would be a likely candidate for demotion.
If Urbom does go down, the Devils will play the same defensemen as last year, but that is not a bad thing by any means. Last season, New Jersey allowed a league-low 23 shots per game. If they can replicate that kind of play in 2013-14, the Devils should be in every game they play.
When David Clarkson signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ilya Kovalchuk shocked the team by announcing his retirement from the NHL, Devils fans were justifiably pessimistic about the team's offense. With the signings of Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr and Damien Brunner, the departed players should have been adequately replaced.
The Devils have a very nice complement of both young talent (Adam Henrique, Andrei Loktionov, Brunner) and veteran leadership (Patrik Elias, Jagr, Travis Zajac).
Although it may be impossible replace Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils should be more comfortable rolling all four lines in 2013-14. They may have lost Kovalchuk, but he has been replaced by a deep pool of forwards.
Last season, when Kovalchuk missed a handful of games late in the season, the team collapsed in on itself. Over the course of a long season, New Jersey will look to prove that depth is more valuable than one star.
Players on the Cusp
Defenseman Adam Larsson and forward Damien Brunner will be looking to break out at the NHL level this year.
Larsson has been with the Devils for a few years now, but he has yet to establish a foothold at the highest level. This year, he should be ready to take his defensive game to the next level and contribute more on offense.
Damien Brunner, meanwhile, played in his first full season, albeit lockout-shortened, with the Detroit Red Wings last year. He was very impressive with 12 goals and 14 assists, adding another nine points in the playoffs.
This year, he will try to prove that those numbers are not a fluke.
There's not getting around it, the Devils have a very difficult schedule in 2013-14. Their 22 back-to-back game sets are the most in the NHL. The fact that New Jersey has Brodeur and Schneider should make those games a little easier, though they are still undoubtedly a disadvantage.
Back-to-Back Game Sets
- October 3, @ Pittsburgh; October 4, vs New York Islanders
- October 7, @ Edmonton; October 8 @ Vancouver
- November 2, vs. Philadelphia; November 3, @ Minnesota
- November 7, @ Philadelphia; November 8, @ Toronto
- November 15, vs. Los Angeles; November 16, vs. Pittsburgh
- November 20, @ Anaheim; November 21, @ Los Angeles
- November 29, @ Carolina; November 30, vs. Buffalo
- December 6, vs. Detroit; December 7, @ New York Rangers
- December 13, @ Pittsburgh; December 14, vs. Tampa Bay
- December 20, vs. Anaheim; December 21, @ Washington
- December 27, vs. Columbus; December 28, @ New York Islanders
- January 3, vs. Chicago; January 4, @ Buffalo
- January 11, vs. Florida; January 12, @ Toronto
- January 30, @ Dallas; January 31, @ Nashville
- February 7, vs. Edmonton; February 8, @ Washington
- March 1, @ New York Islanders; March 2 vs. San Jose
- March 7, @ Detroit; March 8, vs. Carolina
- March 14, @ Florida; March 15, @ Tampa Bay
- March 22, vs. New York Rangers; March 23, vs. Toronto
- March 31, vs. Florida; April 1, @ Buffalo
- April 4, vs. Washington; April 5, @ Carolina
- April 10, @ Ottawa; April 11, vs. New York Islanders
These 22 back-to-back game sets are very important because they make up more than half of New Jersey's upcoming season.
Incredibly, out of the entire set, only twice will the Devils play both games of the back-to-back set at home. Of course, the distances between Prudential Center and Madison Square Garden or Nassau Coliseum are not very daunting. The team will probably stay in the same hotel for the Anaheim/Los Angeles set.
Overall, however, the Devils will be taking a lot of late-night bus trips and red-eye flights.
The back-to-back sets will also affect the Devils in their division. Out of the 30 games within the Metropolitan Division that New Jersey will play in, 18 will be a part of a back-to-back set. Out of those 18 games, nine will be the dreaded second game of the set.
The Devils will not use their schedule as an excuse this year, but their success this year will hinge on their ability to win those games.
There's no doubt that the Devils have one of the toughest schedules in the NHL this year. However, they have the necessary components to overcome it.
Their stingy defense and deep pool of forwards will definitely help the cause, but the difference this year will be Cory Schneider. Without him, New Jersey's schedule would have been an early death knell.
The fact that New Jersey has two two top-notch goalies that it can play in back-to-back game sets is an advantage that cannot be overstated.
The Devils have the pieces necessary to make some noise in 2013-14.
The large roster turnover may result in a slow start for New Jersey, but as the new players become more familiar with their roles on the team, the team should start winning.
By the Olympic break, the Devils should be firmly in the playoff hunt. After the break, they will finish the season on a high note on a final push.
They will not receive one of the automatic divisional playoff bids, but they should be good enough to grab a wild-card spot.
97-103 points, fourth in the Metropolitan Division