Season Preview 18: New Jersey Devils
The Devils took a page from the Avalanche's playbook and went back to the future this off-season by bringing back two stars of Stanley Cup yesteryear, Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik. I half expected Randy McKay and Scott Stevens to show up. The veteran presence of these two players will hopefully ease some of the pressure felt by the younger players such as Travis Zajac and Zac Parise. It also allows Patrick Elias to move from center back to his natural left wing position where he hopes to recapture the scoring touch of previous seasons. GM Lou Lameriello hopes that it pays off in the end with another trip back in time to the days when the Devils were annual contenders for Lord Stanley.
Honestly, any real discussion of the Devils has to begin and end with the man between the pipes-Martin Brodeur. Brodeur is putting together a great argument for him to be considered the greatest goalie of all time and as long as he is in net, the Devils are a threat. Brodeur had another fantastic season last year (44-27-6, 4 SO, 2.17 GAA, .920 SP) and this season will be probably be just as good, if not better. Brodeur is looking to hit a series of career milestones and NHL records this season. He needs 14 wins to break Patrick Roy's career record of 551. He needs 8 shutouts to surpass Terry Sawchuck's record of 103 career shutouts. He has a shot to win his 5th Vezina trophy, which would tie him with Dominik Hasek's five in the 1990's. He will play in his 1,000th game. Finally, if the Devils can get past the first round of the playoffs, Brodeur could reach 100 playoff victories. Oh, speaking of the playoffs, he needs a single shutout to tie Roy's record of 23 playoff shutouts. However, there is a little concern in the Garden State. Brodeur looked fatigued in last season's first round playoff loss to the Rangers. So - say it with me - Management will look to limit the number of games that Brodeur plays in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs. They say it every year, but then Brodeur plays 70-72 games. Simply put, if the Devils want a shot at another Cup, they must rethink Brodeur's workload and stick to the plan of resting him, especially towards the end of the season.
Who will rest Brodeur. Well, Kevin Weekes was brought in before last season specifically for that purpose. He played in 9 games. Weekes put together pretty average numbers (2-2-1, 0 SO, 2.97 GAA, .894 SP), but I think that Weekes is a much better goalie than the numbers show and if he is given a chance to play more, I expect his numbers will improve. Its hard for any goalie to get into a comfortable groove when they only play a handful of games.
The Atlantic Division is probably the best division in the Eastern Conference. The Devils will be hard pressed to win the division, but they should be able to lockup a playoff spot. They have the talent to make a strong run-if everything falls into place, Brodeur could have another Cup title to go with his records.* Read the remainder of this Article in the Premium Content