I was going to write something up to preview the Devils upcoming season, but it seemed sort of bland. (Or, if you’ve read me before, blander.)
Here’s the Cliff’s Notes. I have low expectations of a team that missed the playoffs last season, but I’m very optimistic that the Devils will exceed those modest goals, maybe even sneak into the playoffs this season.
My optimism is mostly due to the pieces the Devils were able to add (and a little bit of addition by subtraction for the players who’ve left).
Of the departures, Kovalchuk’s hurts the most. His sudden decision to retire (to the KHL) robbed the Devils of their most dangerous offensive player, a solid penalty killer, and an ice time hog (Kovy was the only forward in the top 50 TOI leaders last season). His departure was a selfish, but not indefensible act. He missed Russia and will make (and keep) more money playing in the KHL than staying a Devil. It’s tough to blame him for it. It is easy to hate him for it, though. (And even easier after his comments supporting the anti-gay legislation in his home country.)
On the other hand, I’m happy to see David Clarkson go.
Clarkie was great for the Devils, but the 7 year $36.75 million dollar contract with the Maple Leafs is way too rich for the Devils (and probably too much for what Clarkson is going to bring). While Corsi will tell you that Clarkson is a fantastic possession player, the eyeball test speaks differently. Clarkson scored lots of important goals for the Devils, but often drove fans crazy with his play. The 10 game suspension he earned before playing a single regular season game is the sort of thing the Leafs fans can look forward to… for seven years.
As for the arrivals, my hope is that Jaromir Jagr, Ryan Clowe, Michael Ryder and the recently signed Damien Brunner can score 85 goals between them. And it’s fun to finally be able to root for Jagr, who still reps one of the greatest hairdos in all of sport.
No arrival will have a greater impact on the Devils this season (and hopefully for many seasons to come) than the draft day trade that brought Cory Schneider to the Devils.
Schneider gives the Devils a legitimate number one netminder to replace legend Martin Brodeur when his contract expires after this season (and Brodeur presumably retires). Schneider might be the only goalie in the game for whom replacing surefire Hall of Famer Brodeur will be an easier experience than dealing with the Luongo situation and the media in Vancouver. Cory’s looked great in the preseason – one can only hope that he keeps this form through the regular season… and then signs a long term extension in the offseason.
Welcome to New Jersey, Cory! Take us back to the playoffs!