New Jersey Devils 2007-08

New Jersey Devils 2007-2008
by NjDEVSFN


General Manager

The Devils GM is Lou Lamoriello. He has been the Devils GM since 1987 and ever since the Devils slowly rose, and have remained, in the elite of the NHL. He has over seen 3 Stanley Cup winners and 6 Conference Finalists, 4 of them winners. He stepped behind the bench replacing Claude Julien with 3 games remaining in the 2006-07 season. He coached the Devils to another 5-game exit in the 2nd round.

Head Coach

Former Red Deer Rebel every-man Brent Sutter is the Devils 3rd Head Coach in as many seasons. Without a doubt, the man brings a winning history to an organization with its own winning tradition. While he has not coached at the NHL level before, he already has the respect of the Devils players because his was a very successful player. Respect, it is rumored, was one of Julien’s downfalls last season.

From the moment he was hired, Sutter has said the sort of things that make fans very pleased about his hiring. He came right out of the gate and said he is going to do what he is going to do…and he has done just that. In the first days of training camp, he removed the “C” from Patrik Elias’ jersey. Recent quotes from training camp (which he arrived to late after coaching the Canadian Juniors to a 7-0-1 victory in the Jr. Super Series) show just how demanding a coach he is.

While that is all well and good, the players are responding with nothing but praise for Sutter…when they can catch their breath! I do not foresee a late-season firing this year. A rumor amongst Devils fans, at least early on, is that Sutter, if he has any interest in later years, may eventually succeed Lamoriello as GM.

Team Mode

Just like last season, it is nearly impossible to get anything out of the Devils and give you an accurate Team Mode. However, this is going to be one radically different Devils team. For the first time in 8 years, there is no Brian Rafalski or Scott Gomez.

The losses of both of them allowed us to sign a number of players, Dianius Zubrus, Vitaly Vishnevski, Arron Asham to name a few. The Devils also have plenty of room under the Salary Cap to operate this season, which should make for a much more intriguing Trade deadline.

The Devils were the lowest scoring team to make the playoffs last season…and that was with the likes of Brian Rafalski and Scott Gomez on the team. The players they have signed know their roles for this team and every returning player knows they have to be just that extra bit better this year for a successful season.

To Take Charge

Well, it would be natural to assume that Patrik Elias will be named Captain by Coach Sutter in the coming week. However, we all know what happens when we assume! Luckily, even though the Devils are stocked with young talent throughout the organization, they are experienced.

If Elias is not “C” then the Devils could easily look to John Madden or perhaps even Colin White. I would say Jamie Langenbrunner, but his 8-10week absence hurts his chance of getting the job, but he will be an “A” when he returns.

It is the year for the young guns to step up and make a name for themselves. Zach Parise has done it and many fans feel he is a natural choice for the captaincy in the future. Paul Martin and Andy Greene, either individually or as a tandem, must replace Rafalski’s points. Travis Zajac will have another successful season because if he’s not playing with Parise on his wing, then he may have either Brian Gionta, Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner, and possibly even another rookie, David Clarkson on his right or left. Clarkson played 7 games for the Devils last year and was just excellent. A “Randy McKay Clone” to many who remember and he most certainly can make a name for himself not only on the team, but to the opponent!

On the Rush

The Devils had a whopping 206 goals last season, good for 27th in the NHL. Their PP was ranked 15th in the NHL, but as many fans will remember, they gave up too many SHG last season and it did cost them points. The losses of both Rafalski and Gomez do not figure to help the Devils on offense but what everyone should realize by now is that the Devils have never been a 1-man team on offense.

Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta both had sub-par seasons. Gionta could easily top the 30 goal plateau and possibly even 40 if he can stay healthy. Elias on the other hand was snake bitten all last season and still got 69 points. The man has skill and Devils fans hope he will raise his stick in the air more than head.

The Devils most productive line all last season was definitely the ZZ-Pops line with Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Jamie Langenbrunner. They were clutch, they never gave up on the puck, and they had great chemistry the moment they were put together. Unfortunately it seems as if Langenbrunner may be out for a significant period of time. While I do not expect Parise and Zajac to miss a beat, their production may suffer if a suitable replacement cannot be found.

The one line I never have to worry about is the checking line of Jay Pandolfo, John Madden, and “Insert Player Here.” Normally it is Sergei Brylin, but it could be David Clarkson, or perhaps Mike Rupp or Arron Asham. Phenomenally disciplined, Madden and Pandolfo COMBINED for 22 PIMs all last season. Over the past two seasons, MadDog and “The Shadow” have shown they can be just as good defensively without the clutching and grabbing. The Devils were 4th on the PK last season and I expect another Top 5 this season. Currently, Sutter is experimenting with breaking up the Madden-Pandolfo combination at least at even strength.

Ahh, the Fourth Line, or in New Jersey known as the “Blue Meanies” for the blue colored practice jersey’s they wear. Cam Janssen, the most notorious 4th liner on the Devils will likely miss time after hurting his shoulder in the pre-season. Lamoriello and Co. thought the Devils got pushed around too much last season, especially by the Ottawa Senators and the role of protecting the team falls to this line. The addition of Asham is no pun-intended huge. He can score, he can hit, he can fight. Pair him with David Clarkson and Mike Rupp and the Devils have a legitimate 4th line that could play more than 3 minutes a game. It remains to be seen what Sutter will do in terms of ice time, but those three work exceptionally hard and could force Sutter into giving time on the ice. If the coach does separate Madden and Pandolfo, the Devils will have the ability to rotate 4 lines, which is something they really haven’t done the past two seasons.

Covering the D-Zone

Well, this IS the Devils and many of you are just waiting for the day where the Devils sign no replacements during Free Agency, draft no defenseman, or realize that the farm system is dry. Today is not that day.

Yes, Brian Rafalski is gone, but in are Vitaly Vishnevski and Karel Rachunek and they take up a lot of room. Add their height and weight to Richard Matvichuk and Colin White and going into the corners is no walk in the park for the opponent. Three of those 4 are defensive minded. Andy Greene, Johnny Oduya, Paul Martin, and Rachunek are responsible for replacing the majority of Rafalski’s lost points. In the Devils most successful seasons, they had paired a defensive defenseman with a more offensive minded one. Over the past few seasons, they have had pairings that don’t follow the pattern of success. Greene and Rachunek have had a successful preseason leading the D in points. If the Devils can rotate Greene, Martin, and Rachunek on the PP blue line, perhaps the Devils will be less prone to giving up SHG this season.

The Devils gave up 193 goals last season, tied for 3rd best in the NHL.
With Martin Brodeur returning healthy off of a 48 win campaign, there is no reason for the Devils not to do it again. The addition of back-up goalie Kevin Weeks, who may or may not start the season due to a concussion, can only mean more rest for Martin Brodeur. While he has denied it, it is certainly possible that over-playing could have caused his back-to-back-less-than-stellar 2nd round playoff performances. If this is true, then if he gets more rest, the NHL better watch out!

MILESTONE NOTE: Brodeur is only 6 wins away from win #500.

Talk about My Generation

The Devils draft well and it is just a fact. The Devils just recently sent players to the Lowell Devils. Among those who have not been sent down just yet are Niklas Bergfors, Rod Pelley, and Matthew Corrente. The first two are forwards, Bergfors being the more offensive minded. Will he earn the spot on the 2nd line to start the season? Without a doubt the Devils could use two strong offensive lines and Bergfors has the talent to bring it. Devils fans have been waiting to see the 20yr old Swede in the NHL and this could be the year.

On the other hand, Pelley would be a great fit on the 3rd line with Madden. He is a natural center and he was featured in primarily a checking role during his games with the Devils last season. While he did nothing extraordinary, his role was to play his position well. Madden and Pandolfo are not getting any younger and grooming a replacement is never a bad idea. He appears ready to start the season with the big club.

Matthew Corrente is probably better known for his run in with the law last season. Lamoriello is not known for being tp keen about certain off-ice behavior. Whatever Corrente did is in the past and the Devils are happy to have him. Colin White took a puck to the face during practice and his status for early in the season is unknown. The Devils may decide to give him an early taste of the NHL before returning him to his Junior team (if possible) or Lowell.

Expected and Projected

Unlike the previous seasons, the Devils are not in one ounce of salary cap trouble. In fact, early on they can put Langenbrunner on LTIR and have just that much more room. The Atlantic Division may be the toughest in the NHL, but that won’t stop the Devils. They may not be division champions again, but they will make the playoffs. Brodeur will keep racking up the wins and have another 30+ win season to keep that incredible streak alive. Last season the offense was nothing to write home about and the Devils should easily have 3 30-goal scorers in Parise, Elias, and Gionta this year. The Devils PK will finish in the Top 5 with the PP in the Top 10, surprising many people.

As usual, the Devils are a team that just doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. They weren’t supposed to be successful in this new era, and they have two division championships. They are supposed to be a bottom feeder in the Atlantic Division, but all 5 teams are going to take points off of each other. The time will come when the Devils miss the playoffs, this year just won’t be it.

PS: The Devils open the Prudential Center this October and they will have plenty of sellouts. Finally the attendance issue can go away!