Last Updated: 2017-10-03
The New Jersey Devils have come full circle and now instead of being a defensive-minded team, it’s the defense that’s the biggest question mark entering the season. The Devils have done a decent job bringing in some offensive talent, such as Taylor Hall, Marcus Johansson, Nick Palmieri, along with youngsters Nico Hischier and Pavel Zacha, who I expect to have a much better season.
But the blueline is a different story, where an aging Andy Green and Damon Severson will be asked to play the top pairing and Nico Mueller and Steve Santini will likely get second pair time. John Moore should receive third pairing minutes, with Ben Lovejoy most likely to slot in as his partner, while Will Butcher and Dalton Prout, both of whom have looked better than Lovejoy, will probably fight for the No. 7 and No. 8 spots.
The defense was one of the biggest reasons Cory Schneider had a down year, but he has to share in the blame a little bit. He allowed too many bad goals and didn’t make the big saves as he had done throughout his career. Keith Kinkaid is an average back-up.
The season point total for the Devils is 75.5, which is 5.5 more points than they scored last year, when they were in semi-tank mode down the stretch. Unfortuntely for the Devils, several other teams were in full tank mode, but it worked out in the end, as they were able to draft Hischier No. 1 overall.
The Devils should be better offensively than they were last year with the additions of Johansson and Hischier, but Zacha is going to be key, as he’ll have to play a bigger role with Travis Zajac out for an extended period of time. Adam Henrique is a better winger than center but may have to slot in down the middle, at least to start the season. Brian Boyle looks like he’ll be ready to start the season and will help solidify a fourth line that has been attrocious the past couple of seasons.
If the Devils get adequate play from their top four on defense, they should be able to notch a few more wins than last year. Mueller is a bit of a risk, but looked decent in preseason and may be one of those players who simply needed a change of scenery.
The Devils have the misfortune of playing in the Metro Division, along with Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus and the two New York teams. They could very well finish in the basement once again, but believe they’ll sneak over the 75.5 points and will take the Devils over.
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