Sometimes the devil you do know can be better than the devil you don’t. We do know the track record of the New Jersey Devils under General Manager Lou Lamoriello. What we don’t know about yet are these Devils.
Since 1987 the franchise has made the playoffs in all but four seasons. Over the last three seasons though the Devils have been a tough read. The 2010-11 squad was plagued by injuries and stumbled with rookie head coach John MacLean but finished strong under Jacques Lemaire. In 2011-12 the Devils blazed back with 48 wins and 102 points, plus a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Last season though was a mixed bag for New Jersey, getting off to a hot start but hit with injuries and the departure of Zach Parise.
Fast forward to the present and you’ll see a team with far more depth and and balance than last season. The burning question though is which players will step up for a team that is just two years removed from boasting four 30-goal scorers.
Although the Devils definition of filling the back of the net may have more to do with their steal of an acquisition in netminder Cory Schneider and of course they still have a driven Martin Brodeur. After all goaltending and defence have been a hallmark of New Jersey’s success for the better part of two decades. One has to believe that with a fierce competition for three U.S. Olympic goaltending spots up for grabs between Schneider, Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard, Craig Anderson and Ryan Miller, that Schneider will pull out all the stops to make an indelible impression.
On their 23-player roster, the Devils have 13 forwards, eight defencemen and two goalies. Patrik Elias is currently listed on the injured reserve and Mattias Tedenby has been designated as an injured non-roster player.
That group will be expected to chip away and tighten up for those extra points that could be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. Even little things like an improvement on shootouts, which is hoped to be helped by the additions of players like Damien Brunner, Rostislav Olesz and Michael Ryder.
Players the Devils are also counting on stepping up include Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson, Andrei Loktionov and Adam Larsson. They’ll also need their veterans to stay healthy, especially Elias, Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe and Dainius Zubrus.
When it comes to figuring out if the Devils will get back to the playoffs, it will be a tough sled but one would be hard pressed to count the Devils out. Those details on the Devils are something we will know in the months ahead.
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.