With five games remaining the New Jersey Devils will wrap up the last games of the 2010-11 season with nothing to show for the incredible second half they put together. Not making the playoffs for the first time since 1996 will be hard for the fans and organization that have thrived on being a consistent contender over the last decade and a half.
After an impressive 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers last night, the Devils will look to play well and finish the season on a positive note as they face the Montreal Canadiens tonight. Former Devils Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez are looking to sharpen their game and solidify their spot in the Eastern Conference standings as they will be making the playoffs for the second straight season as Canadiens.
The Devils made it interesting and got themselves in the playoff race before running out of steam in mid March. Two loses to the lowly Ottawa Senators put any thoughts of the miracle playoff birth to a sudden halt. With Zach Parise returning to the lineup, the only thing the Devils can look forward to is a summer of uncertainty on whether or not Parise will resign with them. Will these last few games be the last time we see Parise in a Devils sweater?
The Devils will go into the off season with a lot of questions that need to be answered. As stated above the biggest uncertainty will be the future of Zach Parise. With the contracts of Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott already off the books and the rumored salary cap increase the Devils should be able to lock up Parise long term. Especially with the contracts of Brian Rolston, Colin White and Bryce Salvador coming off the books after the 2011-12 season, the Devils will have the cap space to resign Parise, the question is… will they?
The next big question that may have a serious impact on Parise’s decision will be the next head coach for New Jersey. The smart thing would be for Lou Lamoriello to sign a coach quicker rather than later and then turn his sights to Parise. That’s easier said than done and as many of Devil fans know, nothing is easy when it comes to Lou, head coaches and free agency. Will Jacque Lemaire return? Will Lou bring in a veteran coach with a similar system to Lemaire’s?
Another concern for New Jersey is trying to acquire a much needed puck moving defenseman that they have lacked since Brian Rafalski departed in the summer of 2007. Do the Devils look within or do they go out and make another splash in the Free Agent Market much like last summer?
Lastly, a big cloud hanging over the organization will be the pending free agency of Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur. He will be entering his last year of his contract and the questions about his future will loom over the team throughout the upcoming season. Does Lou try and put the pieces together to entice Brodeur to sign an extension? Does Brodeur want to play behind next season? Will next year be the end of an remarkable career?
All of these issues will be discussed over the summer months, unfortunately for Devil fans these discussions are happening in the spring not the summer. Pucks and Pitchforks will cover all of your Devils off season news as these topics plus many more will be posted throughout the summer.
On a personal note, I had a great time blogging about the team this season. It was a great experience and a lot tougher than I thought, especially since it was down year. I look forward to covering the offseason topics and discussing the future of the team.