As stated, this should be a transition season for the Devils, mainly in net. Martin Brodeur has been the go-to goalie in New Jersey for nearly 20 years, but the addition of Cory Schneider is definitely a changing of the guard for the Devils. A major question surrounding the Devils over the past several seasons is what the organization would do once Brodeur’s career ended, and it was answered in a major way with the Schneider acquisition. The two should split the duties next season.
While Brodeur is up in age, he and Johan Hedberg — along with the entire defensive group — were still formidable last season, and that could improve — or remain constant — with the acquisition of Cory Schneider. The Devils ranked thirteenth in the NHL in goals against last season with 122 allowed, which should continue next season as the team should return most, if not all of their blueline. Andy Greene was arguably the team’s best defenseman, posting 16 points and finishing with a plus-12, which was double the second-best rating held by fellow defenseman Mark Fayne. Captain Bryce Salvador had a disappointing season, posting just two assists and was a minus-12 in 39 games. It was the second straight season Salvador did not find his name in the goal column all year.
The big question for the Devils will be on offense. A season ago New Jersey scored just 110 goals, just one goal ahead of both Nashville and Florida for last in the NHL. Of those 110 goals, about a quarter — 26 to be exact — came off the sticks of either Kovalchuk or Clarkson, whose 15 goals led the team. New Jersey had just four players score more than 10 goals, and just eight score more than five. Patrick Elias led the team with 36 points, while just three other players finished with more than 20 points. New Jersey had just nine goals from its blueline.
While the additions of Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder — and potentially Ryane Clowe if he can return to form — certainly will help the offense, it is still a lot to ask of those three players to step into the roles both Kovalchuk and Clarkson held over the past few seasons.
The departure of Kovalchuk will hurt New Jersey’s special teams as well. While Kovalchuk is known for his effectiveness on the power play, he recorded just two goals with the man advantage last season. He was more dangerous on the penalty kill, where he scored four of New Jersey’s league leading 11 short-handed goals.