NHL Predictions: 5 Bold Statements for the New Jersey Devils
Disappointment. Despair. Desperate. What do these three "D" words have in common? Each one could accurately describe a feeling surrounding the New Jersey Devils following the 2010-2011 season. After having missed the playoff dance for the first time in 14 years, the Devils enter the 2011-2012 season on unknown terms of uncertainty. Yes, the squad looked spirited in a dramatic rise from the cellar of the Eastern Conference standings during the latter half of last season, but the fact remains that the team under-achieved and all but cleared house of veteran weight during the year in an attempt to get younger and hungrier. Entering the 2011-2012 season General Manager, Lou Lamoriello, hired relatively unproven coach, Peter Deboer to lead a squad that seemed lost in search of an identity for much of last year. The Devils will be looking to their big offensive weapons, promising young talent, and hall of fame net minder to write the script to a new, victorious, chapter in the illustrious history of Jersey's team.
Operating under the radar with a new coach, fresher legs, and a chip on on their shoulders, here is how the 2011-2012 New Jersey Devils will Devour. Destroy. Dominate.
Martin Brodeur Will Win 33 Games
The greatest goaltender of all time is entering the final year of his contract with the New Jersey Devils after a long 20 year tenure with the organization. Brodeur's elevated level of play during the second half of last season was a spark plug for the Devils' resurgence, leading the team to a 22-3-2 record over a 27 game period at the end of the season.
The Devils will need Brodeur to perform like the Vezina trophy candidate that he has been for the last two decades if they are to succeed. Brodeur will hit the ground running for the swan song of his storied career, looking like the impenetrable wall and three time Stanley Cup champion of old.
Adam Larsson Will Win the Calder Trophy
The Devils recently announced that fourth overall pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft, Adam Larsson will start the season in the show rather then develop in the farm system. Touted as the most NHL-ready prospect, Larsson has shown the Devils' brass the he is indeed ready to play with and against the greatest players in the world.
Larsson will help to bolster a New Jersey blue line that was absolutely porous during the 2010-2011 season, while also adding a puck-moving, offensive dimension to a team bereft of offense from the blue line. Expect Larsson to see considerable power play time quarterbacking the in-zone scheme and setting up sniper, Ilya Kovalchuk, for one-timers.
Larsson's sheer size and defensive soundness, compounded with his ability to distribute the puck, will prove to the league that the New Jersey Devils are once again lethal from the back end.
Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby Will Combine for 85 Points
The young Swedish tandem of Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby got its first taste of NHL action during the 2010-2011 season. Tedenby asserted himself as a proverbial jitterbug, providing energy for a depressed team at the bottom of the standings. Josefson, upon making his return from a wrist injury, showed flashes of truly natural play-making ability racking up 10 points in his final 18 games.
Tedenby possesses the talent to score with whomever he is on the ice with, while Josefson will get a shot to center and dish the puck to prestigious goal scorer, Ilya Kovalchuk.
Both Tedenby and Josefson enter the 2011-2012 season with necessary NHL experience and are poised to take their games to the next level as budding stars in their sophomore season.
Ilya Kovalchuk Will Score 50 Goals
Last year was nothing short of a nightmare for Kovalchuk as he posted career lows (aside from his shortened rookie season) in goals with 31 and points with 60, in addition to an atrocious rating of minus-26. As a player who scored 40 or more goals in his previous six seasons, including two 52 goal campaigns, Kovalchuk will be looking to rebound from his disappointing first full season with the Devils in a big way.
As a young team that will most likely deal with a significant learning curve, the Devils will look to Kovalchuk to lead the offensive charge and score goals in big moments. It would not be outrageous to suggest that Kovalchuk may see around 22 minutes of ice time per night in addition to every Devils power play, giving him ample opportunity to put up the numbers he has been used to scoring for the majority of his career.
Bank on Kovalchuk having a big year, looking to become the first 50 goal scorer in Devils history.
Zach Parise Will Score 90 Points
Parise missed most of the 2010-2011 season to a knee injury and it was clear the the Devils felt the full effects of his absence. After an offseason spent trying to hammer out a long term contract extension, Parise went to arbitration, granting him a one year, six million dollar contract for the upcoming season as well as declaring him an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, 2012. To cap off Parise's wild 2011, the Devils hierarchy honored him with the captaincy less than one week prior to the season opener.
For the aforementioned reasons, all eyes will be on Parise to stay healthy, sign a long term deal, and thrive in a leadership role. Parise will not only be expected to lead in the locker room, but on the score sheet as well. He will be under a lot of pressure to perform and prove to all of his potential suitors, including the Devils, that he is healthy and can return to elite status. The captain will answer the bell.