A long month of training camp has come to an end and the New Jersey Devils now prepare for the 201-15 season which gets underway against Philadelphia on Thursday night. There have been a few expected moves throughout training camp and a few surprises as well. Here are all my thoughts on the past month and what this team looks like going forward.
Can’t start an article about the Devils and ignore the obvious. For the first time in 20 years, the Devils will be starting the season without Marty Brodeur in the net or on their roster. It was the right move by the Devils to move on and give this franchise to Cory Schneider but at the same time it does feel weird. Lots has been said about Schneider and facing his first year of being the #1 full time goalie. I believe he will be fine and barring any injury, I believe he plays no less than 65 games this season. Clemmenson should be fine as the backup but I still do worry over the stories you hear about his time with DeBoer in Florida in 2011. If that relationship goes south or Clemmenso’s play goes south, the Devils can always turn to Kinky Kinkaid and let’s be honest, those headlines write themselves.
The Devils waived Peter Harrold yesterday in what many thought was a surprise move. Should Harrold clear waivers, he can then be sent to Albany. Should another team claim Harrold, that would leave NJ with 7 defenseman, Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky, Jon Merrill, Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas and Dom Severson. Tomas Kaberle had attended camp but was let go a week ago which didn’t sit well for many. I agree, I thought Kaberle was a better option than Salvador but how easily can the Devils move Salvador. I do like the youth on defense though. Get them the experience now.
Big news yesterday was that Ryan Carter signed a one-year deal in Minnesota and the Devils put both Cam Jannsen and Steve Bernier on waivers. With Carter leaving the team, many are expecting the Devils to sign Jordin TooToo. It’s also possible that team will keep Scott Gomez, who also attended training camp as a tryout but that will require another roster spot being opened up. No matter how you look at it, the Devils look good when it comes to their forwards. I was impressed with what I saw in preseason and thought the top line played well. On my chart, I have Zubrus up on the 2nd line which seems kind of high for him. Clowe had a decent camp but you constantly worry about his health. I look at Brunner the same way I used to look at Clarkson. Here is a guy that you hope can find his way this year but can’t go in expecting much but you hope that Brunner ends up with a breakout year like Clarkson had in 2011-12. It’s possible the line combinations could look something like this: Cammalleri-Zajac-Jagr Havlat-Elias-Zubrus Clowe-Henrique-Ryder Ruutu-Gionta/Gomez-Brunner Of course I expect TooToo to fit in there somehow but don’t expect him to play every game, maybe the ones that call for more grit. +
Thoughts on the upcoming season
I’ll be honest here, when it comes to the NHL, the Eastern Conference is only trying to keep up with the West. For me, the playoff picture in the West won’t look much different than it did last season while the East is a conference where many things can change. The Devils didn’t miss by much last season and a few adjustments and a few shootout wins will put this team into the postseason. The Metropolitan Division will come down to either Pittsburgh or New York winning it. Pittsburgh has a new coach which may take a while to get used to and the Rangers are heading into this season without some of the guys that helped them get to the Cup Finals. The Hurricanes are in the race for Connor McDavid while the rest of the teams in the Division are somewhere in the middle. My Prediction:
- Pittsburgh – The won’t run away with it and New York will challenge them but ultimately they will end up here.
- New York Rangers – Missing some key guys but like some of the pieces they added and always hard to be against Lundqvist.
- Columbus Blue Jackets – Love what they are building in Columbus after all those years of just sucking.
- New York Islanders – Garth Snow finally did his homework and added some key guys over the summer and just over the weekend. Tavres is healthy and the Islanders are ready to make their last season on the Island a good one.
- New Jersey Devils – Added some scoring, still have Jagr and the Devils will return to the playoffs.
- Washington Capitals – The have potential and they have a great head coach but it will take time and I just haven’t bought into Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen saving their defense. Plus Holtby and Peters don’t thrill me.
- Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers don’t have a lot of money to address the issues that they have. Mason can be a great goalie but without the support in front of him, I expect it to be a long season for Flyers fans.
- Carolina Hurricanes – Connor McDavid, I hope you are watching this team because it’s very possible you may end up here.