Only three games remain. Three games with very little meaning to the New Jersey Devils. It was a season that saw them continue to ride the wave and momentum of a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. As it turned out, the only solace with this season was that there any semblance of a 2013 season at all. New Jersey will be sitting on the outside looking in for the second time in three years.
There will be much time for analyzing what went right, what went wrong and what happens from here. What I’m most interested to see is how the Devils make use of these three remaining contests against the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. I don’t believe the Devils will make like the postmaster general and mail it in but there are some players I’d like to see them give a shot with some increased playing time.
On the present roster, players I’d like to see more minutes from include, Jacob Josefson, Adam Larsson and Alexander Urbom. Move Josefson up and see what he can do as a top line center. Josefson had 15 helpers at AHL Albany and was really in a groove early in the season. As for Larsson, like Josefson, he too had 15 assists at Albany and there’s no excuse for the Devils not to play him. The Devils need a rushing defenceman and they need it to be Larsson. It didn’t show up on the stat sheet but one could also see a vast improvement to Urbom’s game at Albany. Urbom was much more assertive and displayed a lot of toughness and consistency this year and he needs to get some serious minutes too.
Concerning guys at Albany, now that their AHL campaign is officially in the books, there are a decent amount of guys who played hard and deserve a look, if not a cup of coffee. Just in case you’re wondering, New Jersey can’t call up Jon Merrill or Reid Boucher, because their NHL entry level deals don’t begin until next season but Devils fans are going to love Merrill, real tough, solid kid.
Simply viewing the stat sheet, numbers wise, the most obvious name that stands out is Joe Whitney. Whitney potted 26 markers and chipped in 25 assists. When you’re in dire need of scoring, why not give a glance at a guy who almost netted 30?
Then there are your prospect types like Harri Pesonen and Mattias Tedenby, who the Devils could showcase. Although Tedenby didn’t dress for Albany’s final two contests. Even a guy like Mike Sislo had a strong finish.
From a grinder standpoint, you’ve got guys like Steve Zalewski, Tim Sestito and Matt Anderson (who also didn’t play this weekend), who skated hard all year for the A-Devils. Call me a biased Upstate New Yorker but those guys, especially Sestito, always stood up for their teammates and gave it their all, even when the AHL club went through the motions. Additionally, who would love to see Cam Janssen get in that last game against the Rangers?
On defence, I’d love to see a guy like Dan Kelly get a shot but he’s been a little dinged up this past week. Maybe they make a nice gesture and give a vet like Albany Captain Jay Leach a game. Otherwise, it’s already quite a crowded lot on the blue line.
In net, I don’t know that you’d throw him to the wolves, like the Habs and Pens but maybe the Devils take a look behind door number three and give Scotty Wedgewood a look.
Yes there is a lot to dissect moving forward. Such decisions will come in the off-season, be it through trades, free agency or the draft. Whatever course the Devils take, they would be wise to use these final few games as a jump start into next season.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.