NEW JERSEY DEVILS - With Zach Parise Gone To Be Wild, Who Will Fan The Fires Of Newark Now?
Patrick Elias' Swan Song?
How is New Jersey going to get back to the finals? That's a devil of a question. I've been forecasting the Devils' demise for a couple of years now. Yet they earned 102 points last season, defeated the Eastern Conference regular season champs, and competed for a Stanley Cup. But was Adam Henrique's goal in Game 6 of last season's Eastern Conference final the Devils last hurrah? Because after celebrating that goal, they had nothing left.
Martin Brodeur, the NHL's soon to be forty-one year old, all-time, multi category leader for goalies, is, well..., forty-years old. Was last season his final hurrah? In fifty nine starts, Brodeur was 31-21 last season. His .908 Save% ranked below his career average. His 2.41 GAA was certainly not his highest. Brodeur's work load is clearly on the way down. But in a compressed forty eight game schedule, how many games should he start? Marty's history says he will have another solid season. Even though Johan Hedberg is ancient in his own right at thirty nine years old, he proved he is no slouch between the pipes. Between these two geezers, the Devils should have flexibility in net and enough potassium and zinc to get through a season. They will both benefit from having a good defense in front of them.
What of the Devils other Renaissance Man? Last year Patrick Elias matched his highest point total (78) since he tallied 81 points during the 2003-2004 season. His twenty six goals were his second most over the last seven years. Patrick Elias will now turn thirty seven years old in April. He will also be a free agent after the season. Will the 2013 season be his swan song? The answer should be yes. But then, look at Marty.
Patrick Elias rewrote the Devils offensive records:
* Holds record for most points in a single season - 96
* Devils all-time playoffs leader in goals, assists, points; 45-80-125
* Devils all-time regular season leader in goals - 361
* Devils all-time regular season leader in assists - 440
* Devils all-time regular season leader in points - 894
He and Martin Brodeur will surely be the next Devils greats to have their numbers retired, and their jerseys lifted to the rafters........ if they ever retire! But if last season was the hypothetical question, then the answer should surely be - Why should they? Unfortunately for Devils fans, Patrick Elias' goal count will not change the new condition of the Devils.
Without Zack Parise, the Devils scoring ability has been severely depleted. All sticks quite literally now point to their ridiculo-million dollar forward, Ilya Kovalchuk, who, through his own devise, recently made fans question his commitment to the New Jersey Devils. He is here now. But will he score goals....lots of them? Last season his total finally started creeping back near his earlier career numbers. For seven seasons between 2002-2003 and 2009-1010, Ilya Kovalchuk averaged forty four goals a year. Over that span, he eclipsed forty goals a season six times, and fifty goals twice. Last year's thirty seven goals was a step in the right direction. But the Devils need the Kovalchuk of just three years ago to partly compensate for the departure of Zach Parise and Petr Sykora. Kovalchuk is still only twenty-nine years of age. That is a good thing. But they need the former younger Atlanta sniper of old.
I think Adam Henrique is a marvelous player. But the Devils must first wait till he fully recovers from off-season thumb surgery. Then maybe the Devils can hope to get more than sixteen goals from him. Travis Zajac, recently signed to a big money deal, missed most of last season. The Devils need for him to contribute a respectable number of goals. If he can get back to his twenty to twenty five goal form, that would sure go a long way towards getting his team from Point-A to the playoffs.
I hold a small notion that as David Clarkson goes, so go the Devils. Last season was a career year for him, as he scored thirty goals, which was thirteen more than his previous regular season high of seventeen. Somewhere between ten and thirty goals, lies Clarkson's upcoming season assuming he stays healthy. Can he duplicate a thirty goal season? I think the Devils will be happy with twenty, and ecstatic with twenty five. But they need at least fifteen goals from their twenty eight year old center. They can not afford to have Clarkson disappear the way he did at times throughout the playoffs. He needs to be a nightly force.., when he is not in the box, that is.
After that, the Devils utilize the neutral zone like a nursery for potential goals. Once again, they will rely more on a system than they will on one individual not named Kovalchuk. Thing is, the Devils, Lou Lamoriello, and Coach DeBoer all know how to make it work.
Congratulations to Bryce Salvador for being named new Captain of the Devils.
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