So the Kovalchuk scandal is over, and the Devils paid a fairly high price to secure the superstar. Obviously it would be easy to assume that there is a little bitterness in Los Angeles over losing the gamebreaker to what was clearly (and still is, though to a slightly lesser extent) a circumvention of the cap. Regardless, there are some questions remaining on the Devils roster, not the least of which is what they will need to do to get under the salary cap. Even with the games they play with the cap rules, they’re currently about $3 million over the cap and they’ll need to make some moves to get to where the need to be.
This is a very different Devils squad. The team isn’t overly defensive, like they have been, and has more elite-level offensive players than anything else. The addition of Kovalchuk gives them a handful of premiere talents, but the question will be if the defense can maintain with the loss of Paul Martin. Signings of Volchenkov and Tallinder make it appear likely, but the roster will need some time to gel if it wants to avoid struggles similar to the Flyers approach from last season.
Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Patrick Elias, Anton Volchenkov
There is some real significant offensive firepower in New Jersey this season, the question for now is where will they all fit? Perhaps their most talented players (Parise, Kovalchuk, Elias) are all wingers, so probably won’t be playing on the same line. Arnott and Zajac are the centers that will likely feature one or two of those star wingers on their flanks, making the Devils capable of putting out two solid scoring lines. The question will be if the Devils can shed their uber-defensive identity and let their horses out of the barn. With a new approach to scoring, and the talent to make it happen, I think the Devils will be a potent squad and will net some serious goals.
Losing Paul Martin isn’t helpful. That said, any team with the best keeper in NHL history (Martin Brodeur) is going to be in pretty good shape. They also did as well as can be expected in replacing Martin, by signing both Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov. Behind those two, they’ve got a few talented players in Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador and Colin White and perhaps more importantly they’ll get some help defensively from the ever responsible Jason Arnott. Adding Volchenkov and his shot blocking prowess can only help Brodeur, and they’ll likely be in the chase to win their division, but if they can’t lock down the elite players in the Conference, they’ll struggle when the playoffs come around.
The Devils are in a pretty rough division, but they should easily handle the Rangers and Islanders, a relief for any Jersey fans. I see them struggling to keep pace with the Penguins, and the battle will come down to Philly/Jersey for the second spot in the division. Regardless of that outcome, they should make the playoffs, where the question will be – can they take it to the next level. The past few seasons they seem to lack the passion and enthusiasm necessary to make a run. Brodeur will need to be lights out, and the offense will need to turn it up. Because of their division, and the struggles they’ve had in the playoffs, I don’t think they’ll get much further than the 2nd round this season… if that.
Tags: Andy Greene Anton Volchenkov Bryce Salvador Colin White Henrik Tallinder Ilya Kovalchuk Jason Arnott Los Angeles Kings Martin Brodeur New Jersey Devils New York Islanders New York Rangers Patrick Elias Paul Martin Philadelphia Flyers Pittsburgh Penguins Zach Parise