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Martin Brodeur knows he has to be superb or the playoffs will be nothing but a pipe dream for the Devils.
Prediction: Fifth in Atlantic Division, 13th in Eastern Conference
Three Reasons Why They Can Make the Playoffs:
1. Martin Brodeur
He may be aging, but that hasn't seemed to slow down guys like Tim Thomas or Dwayne Roloson. Thomas just won a Stanley Cup, while Roloson came within one game of the Finals last season. If Brodeur can stand on his head, this team will be competitive and will be in the playoff race all year long.
2. Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk
The Devils might not have a ton of depth on offense, but they do have two of the best wingers in hockey. If Kovalchuk and Parise can both break 90 points, they'll take some pressure off the rest of the forwards. The more they score, the less everyone else has to. Scoring by committee does work, and if you don't believe me, just look at what's happened in Nashville and Phoenix. It can work in New Jersey, too.
3. Adam Larsson
If Larsson can turn in an exceptional rookie campaign, he'll have done the Devils a tremendous service. New Jersey can use all the help they can get on defense, so if he can step up from the outset, that will be a tremendous boost that could give the team a chance to compete for a playoff spot.
Three Reasons Why They Can Miss the Playoffs
1. Lack of Depth
There's simply not enough depth on this team. Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Patrik Elias (who's not getting any younger) and Travis Zajac will need to shoulder the load on offense, and aside from those forwards, the cupboard is relatively bare. Andy Greene, Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov and newcomer Adam Larsson headline a solid defensive corps, but one that did not play well as a unit last year.
2. Martin Brodeur
Martin Brodeur is still a good goaltender, and as I mentioned before, age doesn't necessarily have to prevent him from playing well. That being said, it's certainly possible that age plays a role here.
He has not shown the same flair in recent years that he used to flaunt on a regular basis, nor does he have the defensive help he once had. Johan Hedberg provides stability in net; he's one of the most reliable backup netminders in all of hockey.
3. Lack of Experienced, Fully-Developed Skaters
It's clear to me that the Devils, whether they wish to admit it or not, are in the midst of a rebuild, and the hiring of Peter DeBoer made that all the more obvious.
DeBoer's strongest asset is his ability to work with young talent, and when you consider some of the new faces in Larsson, Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefsen and Nick Palmieri, it's crystal clear that New Jersey is committed to a youth movement. Devils fans need to be patient; the playoffs will come, but this team just isn't there yet.