It was another season of pundits precdicting a big slide for the Devils, and another year of proving them wrong. Sure, their style can be a little boring (though not as much as it once was) and they haven’t met the expectations created by their success since the mid-90s, but there are other organizations that would love to have an early playoff exit be a letdown.
2007-08: 46-29-7, 99 points (second in Northeast)
PLAYOFFS: Lost to N.Y. Rangers in first round
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Zach Parise had another 30-goal season, and looks to be the heir apparent to the face of the franchise title when Martin Brodeur is ready to start his countdown to Hall of Fame enshrinement. Speaking of Brodeur, he played in 77 games and won 44 of them, which puts him 14 victories from breaking the all-time record. BTW, if the Devils get off to a decent start, their 24th game is Dec. 6 in Montreal – think that might be a nice place to tie/break it? To help out with the loss of Scott Gomez, John Madden and Jay Pandolfo didn’t just prevent goals – they potted a combined 32 of them.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Well, the Devils moved into a new arena in Newark, and reviews were mixed. The arena is nice but not overwhelming, and it didn’t exactly give the franchise a huge attendance boost. Patrick Elias and Brian Gionta had OK seasons, but neither was able to return to previous form to help after Gomez moved to Manhattan. The Devils were probably looking for more than 13 goals and 38 points from free agent pickup Dainius Zubrus.
ARRIVALS: RW Brian Rolston, C Bobby Holik, C Fedor Fedorov
DEPARTURES: C Sergei Brylin, D Vitaly Vishnevski, D Karel Rachunek, RW Aaron Asham
Who fills in on defense this year?
It seems like every year the Devils lose a defenseman, and this year it was two – Rachunek bolted for Russia and Vishnevski joined him after being waived. There are six or serviceable guys on the roster, but offensive upside is pretty sparse beyond Paul Martin, which is why Corrente, a first-rounder in 2007, would be interesting if he can have a good camp.
So coach, about those breaks you promised me …
Brodeur played in 78 games two years ago, so Kevin Weekes was brought it to give him more frequent rest. Yeah, 61 less minutes last season probably wasn’t what they were striving for. Brodeur’s regular season numbers were great again, but another early exit in the playoffs raised the same questions about why the Devils don’t find more off days for him to stay fresh for the postseason.
PROGNOSIS: New Jersey has won two playoff series in four years – that’s not good enough for a franchise that won the Cup three times in the previous nine seasons. Sure, the Hall of Fame defensemen are gone, but there is talent here and adding Rolston, especially on the power play, could be a nice boost. This team is probably a No. 2 center and a No. 2/3 defenseman from being a strong contender in the East. Maybe Zubrus is better in Year 2 or Bergfors has a Parise/Zajac-type rookie year and pushes Elias into the middle. Regardless, as long as GM Lou Lamoriello and Brodeur are employees, this organization can be counted on to be in the playoff hunt.
|Zach Parise||Travis Zajac||Brian Rolston|
|Patrick Elias||Dainius Zubrus||Brian Gionta|
|Jay Pandolfo||John Madden||Jamie Langenbrunner|
|Michael Rupp/Nicklas Bergfors||Bobby Holik||David Clarkson|
|Paul Martin||Colin White|
|Johnny Oduya||Andy Greene|
|Bryce Salvador||Mike Mottau|
|Matt Corrente||Sheldon Brookbank|
*NOTE: This is not necessarily an attempt to guess line combinations