The New Jersey Devils enter the 2011 season with nowhere to go but up. After a terrible start to last season only winning 9 of their first 34 games and, with a mid-season coaching change, making an impressive run winning 23 of 28 games only to miss the playoffs in the end, New Jersey can only build on where they left off.
For starters, signing Zach Parise is a huge piece of the puzzle since he spent most of last season watching his team fall short. Marty Brodeur, even at 39 years old, will no doubt remain a top goaltender with hopes that his offense provides him slightly more support than last season.
With no big name additions in the off-season the Devils will be relying on the usual group of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk to produce offensively with Johan Hedburg staying loose in case Brodeur needs a break.
Even though we mostly talk about scoring ability when assessing a team in the NHL, defense is a huge factor and has always been the strength of this Devils team. Their style of play has always been defense first with an offense that has the ability to strike when the time is right. Anchored by Andy Greene and Henrik Tallinder, I fully expect a solid core again this season to add support to the aging goaltender.
Of the young prospects, Adam Larsson, the Devils top pick has the best chance to see quality ice time this coming season. The 6’3”, 220 pound defenseman models his game after Nicklas Lidstrom and reminds scouts of just that type of player. The analysis of Larsson’s talent couldn’t be better and could mean great things for the Devils in the future. Hopefully his calm demeanor and ability to play both sides of the ice will translate into the NHL sooner rather than later giving the Devils another weapon on the blue-line.
Recently, Adam Larsson represented Sweden in the 2011 Under-20 World Junior Championship, where he posted a goal and three assists in the six-game tournament. Larsson was nominated for but did not win the 2011 Elitserien Rookie of the Year, an award won by Mattias Ekholm.
The Devils will be back this season and right in the same ballpark as the New York Rangers chasing the Penguins for the Atlantic title. Overall in the Eastern Conference, New Jersey has a great chance to return to the playoffs after a troublesome and disappointing season last year.