The Devils have spent this off-season by bringing in talent to help the team, but with training camp only a few weeks away, its time to address some internal issues.
Eric Gelinas is at the top priority, along with finalizing how to deal with their surplus of forwards, but once all is settled the last order of business should be naming a new team Captain. Bryce Salvador has dawned the C on his jersey for the last two years, but it is time that the patch be moved to another member of the roster.
After such a dynamic playoff performance during the Devils Stanley Cup run in 2012, coach Pete DeBoer rewarded him with the Captaincy in the following training camp. While many speculated that then Devil Ilya Kovalchuk would get the title after previous Captian Zack Parise left for Minnesota, it was Salvador who DeBoer picked to lead the team.
Unfourtunately in his two of service as Captain, New Jersey has not have the best track record. Finishing with a record of 54-48-28, the Devils have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons. This is worth noting since before last season, the last time New Jersey failed to make the playoffs in consecutive years was the 1985-86 & 1986-87 seasons.
As unsuccessful as the past two years have been for New Jersey under Bryce Salvador’s lead, he has suffered as well. Playing in a total of 79 games out of a possible 130 in the last two season, Salvador has managed to post 6 points. In the lock-out season alone, his +/- differential was an atrocious -12, after coming off a season at he registered an 18. Last season was better, but not much as his number was still below 0 coming in at -2. Maybe the position was too much for him, and for someone who is past prime cannot handle all of the responsibilities while managing to still be effective on the ice.
For the Devils’ best chance to right the ship, new leadership must take the reigns. Salvador tried to lead New Jersey back to the Cup Finals, but now its time to choose a player not so past his prime.
So who would be the best man to take the Captaincy?
Their is plenty of talent on the Devils’ roster, leaving many possibilities, but only a few serious options. Some players are too new to the organization, like Schneider, or too young like Adam Henrique, leaving the list of potential successors even smaller.
Three players who should be considered for the promotion are Patrik Elias, Andy Greene, and Travis Zajac.
All three have spent their entire careers with New Jersey and have been extremely successful on the ice. Patrik Elias has given the Devils a top class player for the last two decades and has no signs of slowing down. Andy Greene was just locked up to a major extension and will be the corner-stone to the Devils’ defense for years to come. Lastly, Travis Zajac mans New Jersey’s top line and has been a potent offensive since he was called up after the lockout season.
With three great options, how do we know which one is best?
Elias was drafted by New Jersey in 1994, and has spent his entire 18 year career with the Devils. During that time, both he and the organization has celebrated much success. Patrik holds the record for practically every offensive category in team history, and is on pace to pass the 1000 point plateau this season. During that time he has lead the Devils to 2 Stanley Cup Championships and to the playoffs 14 times.
These numbers give Elias quite a case for the title of Captain, but there are also a few factors holding him back. Patrik has already dawned the captaincy once, after the lockout in the 2006-07 season, and has only two years remaining on his current deal. It would be hard to see him anywhere else but at his age, the question is not if he will test the market, but will be want to keep playing?
Andy Greene made his big league debut with the Devils after the lock-out season in 2006-07. Playing stellar defense over his career, Greene quickly turned heads as he reached the Devils’ top pairing. It was not until this year where Greene displayed his skills on both sides of the ice, posting 8 goals and 24 assists.
Coming off his biggest season since his career year in the 2009-10 season, Greene looks to improve in the coming seasons. Thankfully Lou Lamoriello was able to sign Andy Greene to a major extension, promising to have him lock up for what they hope is the prime of his career.
Travis Zajac also came up to the NHL after the lock with Andy Greene, and took no time to make an impression. Scoring 42 points his rookie year, he finished tenth in voting for Rookie of the Year. following that season, he took a small step back, only registering 34, but then posted 2 seasons of 65+ points.
Injury crippled him to 15 games the season before the lockout, but did not stop him from making quite an impression that postseason with 7 goals and 14 total points. In the lock-out season, Zajac’s signed a massive extension with New Jersey, but his numbers that year failed to live up to it. He posted a points per game average of 0.42, which is 0.17 below his current career average of 0.59, but made up for it last season. Zajac centered the Devils top line and established an amazingly productive relationship with linemate Jaromir Jagr. Zajac posted 48 points in 80 games and was his most productive season in the last 4 years. After resigning Jagr in the off-season and adding scorer Mike Cammalleri, look for Zajac’s numbers to improve exponentially.
Unfortunately, this is not a move that New Jersey will be exploring this season. It will be hard to imagine them taking the C off Salvador, but it could be the change that the Devils need. New leadership can ignite success if the right man is given the job, and New Jersey has 3 great candidates. Due to Patrik’s age, and already serving as captain, it would be hard to imagine him being next in line, so it should be ether Zajac or Greene.
Comment Below! Who do you think should be the Devils next Captain?