2007-2008 NJ Devils: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Ben HornerCorrespondent IJune 16, 2008

It is nearly draft day in the NHL, and that leads everyone to start thinking about what their team needs to get better.  I am no different, as I get to play GM for a day, taking Lou Lamoriello's place in the front office.

The New Jersey Devils had a few big problems this year, but their glaring weakness was without a doubt their inability to put the puck in the net.  The Devils only scored 206 goals this season. 

That's the least amount of goals of any Eastern Conference playoff team, the second-lowest total in their conference, and that total is better than only four teams in the entire league. 

The problem they had was almost undoubtedly due to the absence of Scott Gomez.  One of the most-underrated things Gomez gives an offense is his ability to go coast-to-coast untouched. 

Frequently this season, there were long spells where the Devils simply could not get the puck into the offensive zone because they had nobody to carry the puck in deep.  Opposing teams would use this to their advantage, often playing a trap or left-wing lock. 

The defense is not the problem, as they allowed only 197 goals, best in their conference, and fourth best in the league.  One of the biggest reasons Martin Brodeur faltered in the playoffs was because he was just tired. 

There is only so long that a goalie can carry an entire team, and the lack of goal-scoring, combined with the stress of nearly collapsing down the stretch, left the Devils' defense and goalie dog-tired.

So what does all this mean?

The Devils need to draft offense first.  They already have Brian Gionta's younger brother, Stephen, who is currently one of the Devils' top offensive prospects.  But they need a play-making center who can move the puck through the neutral zone. 

You can be sure Steven Stamkos will be gone by the time the Devils pick at No. 21, but if they have the opportunity, there is a strong chance they will take Josh Bailey, who scored 29 goals and averaged an assist per game for the Windsor Spitfires. 

Bailey's speed and on-ice vision makes him an asset to whatever team he is on, and look for him to play a big role in New Jersey if he lands there.

The draft is always full of surprises, but there should be no surprises out of New Jersey when they draft offense first.  Of course, all of this is moot if Lou and Brent Sutter decide to be stupid and draft defense.