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New Jersey Devils year in review


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PRESEASON OUTLOOK: Bleak. The Devils since their unexpected finals run five years previous had slipped badly, losing an important cog nearly every year with the two biggest being Parise and Wallpaper hockey, ice, Ilya Kovalchuk Kovalchuk. Poor drafting left the team looking like the best they could hope for was the first pick in the draft. They added Stempniak, Tlusty and Palmieri to their forwards and hoped that the retreads would get them through a year, and returned hot stud Pavel Zacha rather than rush him. They wrote the year off before it began.


FINAL RECORD: 38-34-8 84 points 12th in the East


STRANGE STAT OF THE YEAR: Defenseman Dave Schlemko scored 3 goals all year on the road, all were game winners. Schlemko also had 57 hits on the road and only 31 at home.


HIGH POINT OF THE YEAR: They won three in a row culminating with a 1-0 shutout of the Kings on Valentines day ... this photo cory schneider cory schneider 35 of the new jersey devils to run their record to 29-21-7. At that point with six weeks to go they were safely in a playoff positions.


LOW POINT OF THE YEAR: From then on they started losing a little more than they won, they only won 2 in a row once more all year and while they never hit that dreaded five game losing streak that eliminates a team, they limped to the finish line from then on going 9-13-1.


WHAT WENT RIGHT: It begins with Cory Schneider who many could argue deserves the Vezina over Holtby. He was a stud in net and is one of the games best. Palmieri and Adam Adam_Henrique_Mulholland.jpg Henrique both scored 30 goals to lead the offense. Stempniak was solid and netted a draft pick at the deadline. Devante Smith-Pelly came over and found a home. Adam Larsson was one of the leagues best hitters and shot blockers and a very nice plus 15. Travis Zajac netted 42 points. Joseph Blandisi showed flashes. The team was a very good even strength club. Camelleri had 38 points in 42 games. Schlemko had a very underrated season.


WHAT WENT WRONG: They were last in the league in scoring by a fair margin, essentially they were and are a one line team. The power play was dreadful. The so called young turks on defense, Severson and Merrill did nothing to prove their worth. Elias seems to have finally hit the wall. He is done. Tlusty bombed. Andy Greene slipped a bit. For awhile the power play was so bad that Jordin Freaking Tootoo was on it. Really. So was Tyler Kennedy. So was Jacob Josefson who had 11 of his measly 14 points on the power play. There is a rumor that Tuomo Ruutu played for the Devils last year but it is uncomfirmed.\


MVP: Schneider hands down although both Henrique and Palmieri were very good.


FREE AGENTS: lots and lots, mostly deadwood.

David Schlemko. Very underrated player, the number one guy to resign, IMHO.


Elias. Tootoo. Ruutu. Stephen Gionta. Tlusty. Tyler Kennedy. Brian O'Neill. Deadwood all. Buh bye, dont let the door hit ya on the way out.


TOP PROSECTS: Pavel Zacha will certainly be a mainstay in the top six next year and has to be among the favorites for the Calder Trophy. A crazy talented kid. Blandisi can score a bit and will be with the big boys all year. Steven Santini is thought to be a good solid puck moving guy for the back end and will be around, probably first call up in case of injury all year. There are those who still think that Reese Scarlett and Reid Boucher are prospects but then again, there are those who believe in bigfoot. They have a flat out stud in Zacha and a few moving parts but poor drafting for over a decade has left the system bare of ready now guys.


OFFSEASON QUESTION MARKS: Do you keep any of the free agent forwards? If not, how big do you go in on the free agents that are available? Do you still believe that Merrill, Larsson, Severson or one of the other young blueliners will step up offensively or do you try to add a puck mover for the back end? The season was a moderate success, how much was real and how much was illusion created by the best goalie in the world bailing them out?

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Cory and the special teams did their jobs (9th on the PP, 8th on the PK) and were a huge reason why they were in it as long as they were. 5-on-5 though the Devils were terrible offensively. If it wasn't for the seasons Palmieri, Henrique, Cammalleri, and Stempniak had, I shudder to think what those numbers would have looked like. It's no surprise things started to go south when Cammalleri got injured, and then got even worse after they traded Stempniak.


On the bright side, Larsson continues to be a beast defensively. I would like to see more offense from him, but he and Greene are far and away the best defenders on the team and get the tough assignments. Palmieri was just fantastic. Boucher finally looks like he could be an NHL player. Blandisi showed some nice creativity (which they sorely lack), but the rest of his game still needs work. Zacha looked really good in the one game he played, but obviously that's an incredibly small sample. And Cory is Cory. He's just insanely consistent.


On the negative, the bottom six was a complete blackhole. Josefson looks like a decent player on special teams and in the shootout, but at even strength he's completely worthless. The rest weren't any better. Tootoo is done, Gionta probably belongs in the AHL, Farnham definitely belongs in the AHL, Ruutu looks like a 45 year old out there, Kennedy is what he is, etc.


Also, I was rather disappointed in Merrill. Severson I kind of expected to have a sophomore slump, so I'm not worried about him. But Merrill seemed to regress this season instead of taking a step. He's starting to approach the 200 GP mark now, so next year is probably a make it or break it seaaon for him. Also, Gelinas is still as dumb as a box of rocks. I can't believe Colorado gave up a 3rd rounder for him.


As for what they do this summer, Shero has pretty much said he's not signing anybody over 28. There was a recent article where he basically said he knows it's still a process and that nothing is guaranteed next season. Which I think is the right approach. While they were surprisingly better than expected, I don't think it should deter them from building the team for long term success rather than sneaking into the playoffs. Quite honestly, I think it's something that should have probably been done years ago.

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