As the 2012-2013 NHL season approaches, many people seem to be scratching their heads as to what to expect from the New Jersey Devils. Despite being Stanley Cup finalists of the 2011-2012 season, the expectation of the Devils seems to be one of little hope; why shouldn’t it be? The Devils have a goaltending tandem with an average age of 39.5, they just lost their captain and fore-checking extraordinaire, Zach Parise, and they currently have no captain or scorers to replace him. While Lou Lamoriello is known to be one of the most successful GM’s in the game, he could not keep his captain and he has not added any additional members to replace the scoring void in an already offensively challenged team. Not to mention they play in a division with two favorites, according to Las Vegas odds, to win the Stanley Cup this coming season in the Rangers and Penguins. So, I ask again, why would anyone think much of the New Jersey Devils?
As a Devils fan, I have to place my faith in a core group of players to get it done this year and bring the team back to the playoffs.
We all know that Ilya Kovalchuk is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league, but with Zach Parise gone, some one has to step up and help him out. That’s why Adam Henrique is one of the main three I’m counting on this season. The sophomore slump is a popular bug to catch in any sport, but the Devils can’t afford it this year in their rookie star. Henrique came on strong last season once given a shot at the big leagues, finishing the season with 51 points (16G-35A-51pts) in 74 games. The Devils desperately need Henrique to put together a solid 20-goal season in order to make it back to the playoffs.
The second player I’m counting on to step up this season is another high profile sophomore, Adam Larsson. Having been without a hard hitting difference maker on the blue-line for many years now, the Devils may have found some of their past in the number four overall pick. With Adam Oates having recently left to take over behind the Washington Capitals bench, who better than the legendary Scott Stevens to take his place and add some of his force to the Devils defense. With the mentoring of Stevens, the Devils will need the 6’3”, 200lb defenseman to not only make his size and strength felt but also display some of the passing skills he was drafted so highly for.
Lastly, I’m putting my faith in one of the most frustrating Devils, Jacob Josefson. For two years now, I’ve watched the small-framed center get pushed around and injured so I’m hoping this year he bulks up a bit during the off season and turns that trend around. Through two NHL seasons, Josefson has only managed to play in 69 games. His offensive numbers aren’t the most impressive but hopefully a healthy season will help him develop some good chemistry for a team that is in desperate need of a playmaker. Drafted 20th overall in 2009, Josefson has had a rough first two years but there’s no doubt he possesses incredible skill. Here’s to hoping he can last long enough to prove it in 2012-2013.
There are definitely other players that will have to step up this season but the supporting cast is equally as important. David Clarkson will have to duplicate the magic he found last year, while younger players like Mattias Tedenby will have to prove their worth at both ends of the ice. Between two players drafted in the first round and a rookie that was nominated for the Calder Trophy this past season, there’s no doubt the talent is there. With the aforementioned departure of Zach Parise and no major additions to make up for it, the talent will have to be put to good use this year if the Devils can hope to claim a playoff spot while playing in arguably the toughest division in the league.