Devils

 

Last year the New Jersey Devils went from being one of the more consistent upper echelon teams to absolutely plummeting.  Many have debated what the cause was – anything from Ilya Kovalchuk being a cancer in the dressing room to Martin Brodeur getting old to Zach Parise missing almost all year and just about everything in between. The fact of the matter is that something went wrong early and the team was forced to react.

 

After dropping a second straight game to the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 8th, the Devils were hiding from an atrocious 10-29-2 record. The very next day, they were looking at a home-and-home series with the red hot Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa took an early lead, but New Jersey came back to win thanks to a five-goal third period. They’d win the next game too, and the momentum carried into a 23-3-2 tear that almost gave the team a playoff berth.

 

Now we’re halfway through the preseason and a look at the Devils is likely in order. The team is only 1-2 thus far, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t positives to look at. I think this team will be a lot better than they were last year and should challenge for a playoff spot. Let’s take a quick look at some of the noteworthy players on the roster, including potential players who could make the team.

 

Patrik Elias – If you are in a league that counts faceoff wins, you should know that Elias will be one of the top two centers for New Jersey, at least until Zajac returns.  Despite Yahoo’s generous multi-position eligibility additions, Elias is still a LW only, making him a very solid addition for leagues counting faceoff wins. Patrik scored a team-leading 62 points last season and was most recently centering a line between Parise and Sykora.

 

Petr Sykora – It’s been quite a while since Sykora did anything fantasy relevant, but New Jersey was the place he had the most success, including a Stanley Cup victory in 2000 while playing on Elias’ line. Sykora has been impressive in camp thus far including a hat trick in the first scrimmage of camp, but that doesn’t mean much just yet. Sykora could potentially inject some extra goal scoring in the Devils lineup and really spark Patrik Elias if they can re-ignite the chemistry from 2000.

 

Ilya Kovalchuk – Last year’s output of 60 points was Kovalchuk’s lowest total since his rookie season. I’m still not a fan of owning Kovalchuk, but I don’t doubt at all that he’ll have a stronger year. If the team can play 82 games at about a happy medium between last year’s two extremes, Kovalchuk shouldn’t have trouble reaching 70 points and could even top 80 again (he’s averaged 78 points per season so far).

 

Jacob Josefson – Josefson is the early favorite to line up as theother top-six center behind Elias. Last year was Josefson’s first in North America, but he scored a respectable 10 points in 28 NHL games and showed some very high end skill along the way. Now is a perfect time for Josefson to show what he’s got and he’s being tested on a line with Kovalchuk. He has been singled out as one of the stronger players in camp by Peter DeBoer as well.

 

Adam Larsson – The #4 pick from this past draft is doing just what we all expected – impressing. In this interview, coach DeBoer says just how impressed he is. Here are a couple excerpts: “His ability to hold on to the puck under pressure is pretty special for a player of any age, let alone 18.”  “Adam gets to work with Larry Robinson every day. A young defenseman couldn’t possibly ask for a better mentor.” In his first two games, Larsson has three assists. It sounds very likely that he will at least get a nine-game tryout, but I’m one of the ones expecting Larsson to play in New Jersey all season long. There’s not much competition.

 

Zach Parise – Parise appears to still be shaking off the rust, but that’s what the preseason is for. He might be a little slow out of the gate, but he’s still one of the most talented left wings in the league. If you own him, don’t be discouraged if you see a slump to start. If you don’t own him and you do see a slump, do everything you can to acquire him. In reference to the recovery from his knee injury, Zach says “It’s like it never happened. When I skate now, I don’t even feel it.”

 

Mattias Tedenby – It’s looking as though the person who will benefit most from Zajac’s injury is Josefson, not Tedenby. Still, Tedenby did manage to score one goal in his two preseason games and showed a lot of promise last season. He should see ice time in the top nine in New Jersey and has the talent to skate in the top six, but there’s not a whole lot of chatter about his performance in camp just yet. We’re only halfway through camp though so anything could happen.

 

Martin Brodeur – I hear people doubting whether or not Brodeur can ever play 70 games again, and while I think he can do it, I don’t think he will. I think Brodeur will instead play in the 60-65 game range and he’ll have spectacular numbers in the process. It’s likely his last season in the league, but if you’re in a one-year league, don’t forget about the Devils unbelievable stretch last season. Even with a fairly poor defense, this team can still win hockey games. Despite being 39 years old, Brodeur is still one of the more talented goalies in the league.

 

Adam Henrique – Henrique is another guy who coach DeBoer has singled out as having a strong camp (in addition to Josefson, Larsson, and Sykora). Henrique has a ton of talent but will have a tough time finding a spot on the roster. Expect him to get a few more cups of coffee this year in his second season of professional hockey, but likely use more seasoning in Albany.

 

Travis Zajac – Zajac had the unfortunate luck of tearing his Achilles tendon in August. He had surgery Aug. 18th and was given a quote of about a three month recovery period. That schedule would put him in the Devils lineup around November 19th, missing 17 games. There are also those speculating a 4-6 month recovery is more realistic though which could have Zajac not returning until 2012. Zajac says he will not rush back until he’s fully healed so whenever he does return, expect a strong, inspired Zajac ready to perform right away.

 

Hopefully you enjoyed the read. Feel free to post your feedback below and let me know what you guys think of the Devils this coming season.


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Comments (10)add comment

Éric Bélanger said:

eribelan
Couturier Just a little reminder about your reply on my comments about Couturier at the beginning of the camp. I've said that he would push Schenn out of the 3rd center position ... Angus have just twitted “@angus_j: Has Sean Couturier pushed Brayden Schenn to the AHL to start the season? Sounds like it.” ... For someone who followed Couturier there's no big surprise. This role fit well and better for him than for Schenn.

smilies/wink.gif
October 02, 2011
Votes: +0

lcbtd said:

germant
Taormina Thanks for the Taormina update Tim! smilies/cheesy.gif
September 30, 2011
Votes: +0

Tim Lucarelli said:

duballstar014
2nd line RW @Tim Johnston, Personally, I think Sykora makes this team and we see a Parise-Elias-Sykora line, whether you want to call that line 1 or 2 doesn't really matter to me.

The other line will almost certainly be Kovalchuk and Josefson, and I think you're wondering which RW makes that line. Most likely it'll be Palmieri, who saw 77% of his shifts with Kovalchuk last season and has been used as Kovalchuk's RW for most of the preseason as well.
September 30, 2011
Votes: +0

Tim Lucarelli said:

duballstar014
Defensemen Larsson and Kovalchuk have been the PP1 pairing, followed by Fayne, Stralman, Taormina, and Greene, being tested in that order. Last year, the top PP defensemen for NJ were Greene, Taormina, and Fayne in that order, so I'd expect Greene, Larsson, Taormina, and Fayne to get looks with the man advantage, with Fayne getting bumped to make room for Kovalchuk on PP1.

So far, the most consistent pairings have been:
Greene-Larsson
Fayne-Tallinder
Fraser-Stralman
Fayne-Taormina

But, Urbomb hasn't played a preseason game yet, though he's scheduled to play in the next game. Salvador, Volchenkov, and Taormina are also still in the mix and it sounds like the team is still trying to determine who will make the squad. Greene and Larsson seem to be locks for the top pairing though. Somewhat interesting - through 2 games Taormina has 1 assist, 2 shots on goal, and is a -2. Stralman has no points through 3 games, but has 5 shots and an even rating.

If I were making these cuts, my D would be:
Greene - Larsson
Taormina - Tallinder
Volchenkov - Stralman
Fayne/Salvador

Cuts: Salvador, Urbomb, Corrente, Fraser. I don't think NJ cuts Salvador though. Fayne and Corrente are on two-way deals so they could start the year in Albany if they want Stralman in the show.
September 30, 2011
Votes: +0

Tim Johnston said:

holdUP
2nd line RW? Hey Tim,

Just wondering who you saw spending time on the right side of Kovalchuk-Josefson, or who you would expect to see there the majority of the year?

Thanks.
September 30, 2011
Votes: +0

lcbtd said:

germant
Taormina Hey Tim!

Perfect timing for this article as I've been searching for info on Taormina. Has he impressed?

Thanks!
September 29, 2011
Votes: +0

Isle B. said:

Isle B.
... Since Adam Larsson is not coming from a North American junior league, he does not have any kind of 9 NHL game limit. If he somehow doesn't make the Devils, he would most likely play in the AHL. However, judging from how impressed everyone seems to be with his play, it seems highly unlikely that he doesn't make the team right out of camp and then stick. When you consider that the complete lack of poised puck-moving defensemen is exactly what dug the hole that sunk the Devils' 2010-11 season, it seems even more improbable that Larsson wouldn't be on this team and playing significant minutes.
September 29, 2011
Votes: +0

All-in said:

All-in
D Anything on Stralman and the D corps? Who's going to play on defense, who will play on the powerplay?
September 29, 2011
Votes: +4

Tim Lucarelli said:

duballstar014
... Thanks for the feedback Paul. I think the early positioning missteps will prove to be just rust, but we shall see.

I do know from the interview I quoted that one of those goals deflected in off Larsson's skate and two things happened. (1) Brodeur immediately went over to Larsson and told him it wasn't his fault and that these things happen. (2) Larsson shrugged it off too, saying **** happens. Most guys at 18 years old in an NHL preseason game would be a little bit more rattled than that, which is a great sign for Larsson. The fact that Brodeur acted the way he did (calm, not overreacting) is a great sign too.

As a Flyers fan, I did enjoy seeing the Devils in the basement for a long time last year. But I do know they're going to be a heck of a lot better this year. I'm not saying they're going to be 1st place in the NHL, but they're going to be better.
September 29, 2011
Votes: +0

paul said:

donpaulo
... Thanks for the story Tim. I have watched a couple devil pre-season games and was mostly impressed with the overall defensive coverage. Larsson is clearly ready to play NHL hockey, at least that is how I saw things.
Marty on the other hand somehow doesn't seem to be making those outstanding saves anymore, maybe its that extra twitch he had before I can't say. His positioning is as sound as ever on the first shot, but on the rebounds he looks vulnerable. Then again during the ranger game his defensemen deflected two pucks into the twine...
This ranger fan will be keenly watching how the devils come out of the gate to start the season.
September 29, 2011
Votes: +0
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