Losing a 31-goal scorer is tough on any team, not to mention a franchise that has built its reputation on the defensive side of the ice.
So, for the New Jersey Devils, who lost former captain Zach Parise to free agency in the offseason, this season’s team will display more dispersed goal-scoring from all four lines.
After the Devils 2-1 opening night victory over the New York Islanders that featured goals from Travis Zajac and David Clarkson, head coach Pete DeBoer said the Devils would be scoring by committee this year, compared to a year ago when Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk carried the majority of the load, offensively.
Naturally, Kovalchuk will be expected to lead the Devils in goals this season, but he’ll need much more help from around the team. Zajac, who missed a good chunk of last season with an Achilles injury will probably be expected to add 20 goals while building his chemistry with Kovalchuk on the top line.
Dainus Zubrus, who played with Kovalchuk and Zajac on the first line for the Devils on Saturday night, will be asked to play a more offensive role than he has in years’ past.
New Jersey will also be getting offensive production from all over the second line. Adam Henrique, the playoff hero from last spring, is expected to return in two weeks from a broken wrist, and he should be primed for a big year after being named as a Calder Finalist last season.
Patrik Elias, arguably the most productive player on the Devils roster over the last decade, will continue to hold that role as he likely will play with a collection of different players throughout the season. Clarkson, who is coming off a 30-goal season, will be needed to have another big year this time around, although the chances of him having another 30-goal season are slim.
Regardless of how it’s sliced, this is a different Devils team from last season. Perhaps, though, New Jersey is better off with a solid assortment of scoring and less reliant on big name players.