New Jersey Devils 2005-2006
TEAM PAYROLL: Currently over the cap.
GENERAL MANAGER: Lou Lamoriello, President since 1987.
HEAD COACH: Larry Robinson, Head Coach 2000-02, 2005-current. Stanley Cup win in 2000 and Finals appearance in 2001.
FORGOTTEN MOVES: Devils signed LW Darren Langdon, D Richard Matvichuk, LW Krysztof Oliwa, and C Pascal Rheaume. They also signed LW Dean McAmmond to an AHL contract. All four players are on the Devils training-camp roster. Langdon and Oliwa add size the Devils desperately lacked against Philadelphia in the ’04 playoffs. Rheaume played extremely well his last time around with the team, especially in G7 of the ’03 ECF v Ottawa. The Richard Matvichuk signing is forgotten due to the signings of McGillis and Malakhov, but he is solid and will not be a liability on the blue line. Dean McAmmond led Albany in scoring this past season, followed by Zach Parise and the aforementioned Rheaume.
TEAM MODE: They are not rebuilding, although they might be looking for a new identity. Even though they lost Scott Neidermeyer and Scott Stevens, they are still contenders. The Devils have been about TEAM for years and despite the huge loss, they will recover and make the playoffs.
TO TAKE CHARGE!: With Patrik Elias sidelined for the beginning of the season and the fact Martin Brodeur cannot wear the “C,” expect JOHN MADDEN to step up and take charge. Even without the “A” or “C” he has always been one to open his mouth. Watch G7 of the 2003 ECF and you’ll see Madden tell Zdeno Chara “Scoreboard” as his eyes look at it. Even if Madden starts with the “C” and loses it to Elias upon his return, that won’t turn Madden into any less of a leader.
ON THE RUSH (OFFENSE):
The Devils have invited 36 forwards to camp. 36! Come opening day, the usual suspects will all be there, Gomez, Gionta, Madden, etc., with Elias returning after 10 games, but most likely in November. Returnees Rheaume and Mogilny will be there as well. The Devils were right in the middle of the pack (14th) in scoring in 03-04 and their PP was 16.3% (15th). At even strength, the Devils forwards will compete with every team in terms of speed and scoring. According to the Devils website, only 7 of 22 (5F 2D) players are under 200 lbs. It also helps that Larry Robinson will give more freedom to his forwards. He did that in 2000-01 where the Devils led the league in both PP% and GF (295). The Devils signed bruisers in 2004 to add size. Their 4th line will be large, with Oliwa(6’5” 245), Langdon(6’1” 205), and Erik Rasmussen(6’3” 210) rotating in and out of the lineup. The Devils 2 PP units (forwards) will be comprised of Elias Gomez Mogilny and Gionta at the least. Expect Zach Parise to be the 2nd center. The PK threat consists of Madden (1-SHG) and Jay Pandolfo (2) (partners). Elias spent some time on the PK, actually led the team in SHG with 3 and Langenbrunner (2) will likely be their as well.
COVERING THE D-ZONE: Neidermeyer gone. Stevens gone. What do the Devils do? Replace them and add 1. The Devils signed Matvichuk in 2004 and signed Brian Rafalski, Malakhov, and McGillis in August. They invited 20 d-men to camp. The defensive corps will be extremely mature, NO rookies. They have 4 puck-moving defensemen, Rafalski, Malakhov, McGillis and Paul Martin to be partnered with the stay-at-homes Matvichuk, David Hale, Colin White, and Sean Brown. In 03-04, the Devils were 6th in PK with 85.3% and were the least penalized team with only 894 PIMs. Despite being 6th in PK%, they gave up the least amount of PP goals (39). White led the team with only 96 PIMs. The Devils will be just as disciplined under Larry Robinson as they were under Pat Burns. However, the penalty parade will exist in early Devils games this year. The Devils have 8 NHL caliber defensemen. The odd-men out are likely Brown and Hale. However, Robinson works very well with the younger players (Hale and Martin) and his guidance could be greatly beneficial to their development. The Devils are never one to rush their younger players and put them in situations they shouldn’t be in.
GUARDING THE NET:
Martin Brodeur. He may not like the new puck-handling rule, but he can get it behind the net and that will stop plenty of dump-ins. The pad sizes changed, so what, he never wore outrageously large pads. Scott Clemmensen and Ari Ahonen are his likely backups. Larry Robinson has said this will “be his last decision” at training camp.
TALKING ABOUT MY GENERATION!:
The Devils trade up to draft him in 2003. He leads the USA to the 2004 WJC taking the MVP award as well. He also scored the GWG at the AHL All-Star Game. Zach Parise is a Devils-Devil. He is a tenacious forward who hustles all over the ice. Despite his small frame, he isn’t afraid to charge the net or go into the corners. Larry Robinson, in fact, WANTS TO SLOW HIM DOWN. Well, not really. He just wants Zach to preserve his energy. At the “Red and White Scrimmage,” Parise got the loudest reception behind only Brodeur.
Aleksander Suglobov was born in a Elektrostal, Russia. At 6’0” 200lb, he flies up and down the ice. He played one game for the Big Club in 2003-04, he kept up with the speedy Oilers during his few shifts and also registered 2 SOG. However, with the River Rats, he was 4th in scoring 25G 21A 46P -15. I’ve said it before: Larry Robinson is great with the younger players. He will likely start the year down in Albany, but should he be called up, expect Robinson to give him the confidence that perhaps Pat Burns didn’t do.
In the system:
Petr Vrana: one of the first European captains of a Jr. team. Captained the Czech Republic WJC team to the Bronze medal.
Travis Zajac: 39pts in 45g as a freshman at UND.
Niklas Bergfors: another great Devils draft pick. Will be playing for St. Johns Fog Devils in the QMJHL.
Line 1: Elias-Gomez-Mogilny
Brian Gionta is a likely replacement for Elias in the beginning. However, since Russian’s typically work well together, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sergei Brylin there.
Line 2: Gionta-Parise-Friesen
This line isn’t exceptionally big, but they are fast.
Line 3: Pandolfo-Madden-Langenbrunner
I don’t think Devils fans could ask for a better checking line.
Leftovers for 4th line: Kozlov, Rheaume, Oliwa, Langdon, Rasmussen, et. al.
D pair 1: Rafalski-Malakhov
D pair 2: Martin-McGillis
D pair 3: Matvichuk-White
David Hale and Sean Brown are the only ones left out.
EXPECTATIONS: The expectations for the Devils have changed only if you’re not a fan or member of the organization. Regardless of off-season moves, Lou Lamoriello creates a team to COMPETE with every other team in the NHL. The Atlantic Division is going to be tough, which means no one is going to run away with it. The Devils will finish 2nd in the division which puts them 4-6 in the Easter Conference.
PROJECTED: I don’t care WHAT the Flyers, Penguins, Islanders, and Rangers have done. The Devils made trades for Grant Marshall and Pascal Rheaume in 2003 and won the Stanley Cup 3 months later. Were they the best players traded that year? No. Lou Lamoriello doesn’t go for the “best player” but the “best fit.” The Devils have plenty of depth at EVERY position to withstand an injury or two. The Devils will be fighting for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
Note: The Devils are expected to make a trade before the season starts. The projected lines and D-pairs are just that: “projected.” According to a recent NY Post article, likely candidates include Friesen, Kozlov, Brylin, and Langenbrunner. About a week ago, Eklund was reporting that San Jose wanted Friesen back. Personally, as much as I’d like none of them to leave, I’d rather keep Brylin and Langenbrunner.