The NHL training camps are in full swing and the puck will drop on the 2010/2011 season in just a few short weeks. Hopefully you have been reading how the Devils matchup against teams they will face this season but now its time to focus our attention on what exactly the 2010/2011 Devils look like. First up we will look at the offense.
Before I get too far into this piece, I do have to mention that the Devils are over the cap because of the Ilya Kovlachuk signing and pretty much any player I review here, with the exception of Kovalchuk, could end up leaving in the next week and a half.
So what did the Devils do offensively this summer? You may have heard about that whole Ilya Kovalchuk drama that captured hockey headlines all summer. If not, well the Devils inked him to a 17 year, $102 million 15 year $100 million contract. The Devils also brought back a former Devil via trade to hopefully reignite a former linemate and bought out a few players.
Ilya Kovalchuk – On the surface, Kovalchuk doesn’t fit the type of player that thrives in the Devils system but 2010/2011 comes with yet another new coach so it will be interesting to see how MacLean, a former goal scorer himself, utilizes the talents of Ilya Kovalchuk. We have to remember that Kovalchuk didn’t exactly light up the score sheet once he was traded to NJ but rarely, in my opinion do trades work out like that. This year, and for many to come, he’s part of this team from the start. I’d expect Kovalchuk to deliver what exactly is expected from him.
Zach Parise – No one works harder on the ice than Zach Parise. He’s an amazing player and so important to this team. Yes his numbers were down a little bit last year from the previous year but I blame some of that on trying to figure out a spot where Kovalchuk could fit in. So far in training camp/preseason, Parise has been paired with Kovalchuk and Zajac and if that line can find a way to work, watch out. Parise should certainly lead or threaten to lead this team in goals and points this season.
Travis Zajac - Tracvis has shown to be a consistant 20+ goal scorer and 40+ (42 to be exact) assist man and if this Kovalchuk and Parise pairing works out, his assist numbers could go through the roof this season. Most players in the NHL would give anything to be able to feed Kovalchuk and Parise pucks night in and night out. There have been many articles written that the Devils need a true #1 center but I firmly believe that Travis Zajac can fulfill that role.
Patrik Elias – Elias is coming off a season that saw him fail to score 20 goals for only the 4th time in his career, the last being the 2005/2006 season which he sat out a majority of games due to Hepatitis A that he contracted while playing in Russia during the lockout. Last season wasn’t without injury though as Elias was limited to just 58 games due to a groin injury and a concussion. This season it looks as if he will be reunited with Jason Arnott, who was acquired via trade in June. Hopefully the reunited duo will find the same chemistry they had in 2000 and 2001 that brought the Devils a Stanley Cup and a trip back to the Finals to try and defend.
Jason Arnott – Welcome back Jason Arnott. I have A LOT of fond memories of your time here but the truth is that time was 10 years ago. Injuries were an issue last season and in only 63 games, you found the net 19 times but the previous year, you found it 33 times while only playing 2 more games. You were brought here to score goals yes, but more importantly, you’re needed for Patrik Elias. The chemisty that was the “A-Line” was fantastic and yes, I am going to crap on Petr Sykora because he wasn’t the reason. If you can help Elias find his game, then 4.5 million per is certainly worth it. I’m hoping the Jason Arnott that has come back to NJ is a 30 goal and 40+ assist kind of guy.
Brian Rolston – If you ask most Devils fans which player should be the one shipped out of town in order to get under the cap, Brian Rolston will probably be the name you hear the most. 20 goals and 17 assists last season just doesn’t seem like a bargain at $5 million per year, and that was a year in which he was supposed to be a monster on the ice because he was being reunited with a coach he loved. In my head, should Rolston stay, I welcome it. Few have a slap shot as hard as Brian Rolston and if you put him and Kovalchuk on the points during the powerplay, that combination could be lethal. In the end though, I don’t expect much from Rolston so if he does go, I won’t complain and if he stays, I’d imagine his numbers don’t improve much.
Jamie Langenbrunner – Our Captain!! He had a rough go of it at the end of last season. There were rumors that he and Lemaire didn’t get along and truthfully, I just thought he looked tired once he returned from the Olympics. He’s promised the fans a better year. In my mind a better year is a minimum of 25 goals and as Captain, leading this team past Round 1 in the playoffs.
David Clarkson – Last season he was my pick to be the unsung hero of the 2009/2010 Devils. I had projected him to be a 30/30 man because of his ability to set up in front of the goal and get those tip in goals. It didn’t happen but he only played in just over half of the games because of a ankle injury suffered off blocking a Zdeno Chara shot. I don’t know many that would want to get in the way of a Chara shot. This year, he stays healthy and has that break out year. He’s signed a decent contract and knows the Devils value his services. Set up in front and put those rebounds home Clarky!!
Danius Zubrus – He’s got size and occasionally he will use it. In the loss last season to the Flyers, I thought Zubrus was one of the few that showed up each night. The problem is that even with his injury last season, his numbers were on par with the year before and at almost $4 million per, 15 goals just doesn’t thrill me. He has to break that 20 goal mark but I certainly think he’ll be doing that in Albany this season.
I have skipped a few names on the Devils roster holding down offensive roles but I am only doing that because I want to see where they fit in with this team before I write about the,. For instance, PLx3 and Rod Pelley don’t contribute much offensively and I don’t expect them to.