Don’t Count Out the 2012-2013 New Jersey Devils.
As a fan, I want articles about the Devils to have enthusiasm and passion. Lately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’ve read many “preview” articles about this season that have already written the Devils off. They read something like this…”I wouldn’t be surprised if the Devils didn’t make the playoffs.” This pessimism, as well as excuses for the disaster they predict is shameful. Perhaps it’s a case of setting the bar low so no one will be disappointed, but I believe that we should be expecting more from this Devils team. With good reason.
This is a franchise that has made the playoffs 14 out of the last 15 seasons. (Often, with same predictions of failure before the first skate hit the ice). With this track record, why should we expect so little from the New Jersey Devils?
Remember when everyone counted us out last year? They said we were done against Florida, we wouldn’t beat the Flyers, and that we couldn’t possibly defeat the Rangers. That team was resilient and majority of them are back, with the added benefit of a deep playoff run.
With this in mind, I would not be surprised if the Devils make it to the Eastern Conference Finals again, and would consider it a disappointment if we didn’t get past the first round. Nowhere in my mind do I believe we won’t make the playoffs.
Consider the shortened season. It was speculated that Marty would have trouble starting 65 – 70 games. However, with much fewer on the schedule, we should see a well rested Martin Brodeur who can still steal games for us, as he did last year in the playoffs. But that, to my knowledge, hasn’t even entered the naysayers conversation. It should have.
“How do you replace Zach Parise?” they ask. You can’t. Perhaps the Devils don’t have to. Two years ago New Jersey came back from a terrible start before going on a 23-3-2 run. Although they missed the playoffs, they managed to win those games without number 9.
Also, why do these people just assume that Henrique can’t have the same type of season he had last year? He got better with every shift and turned into one of the go-to guys in big game situations. Once he’s healthy, why can’t he pick up where he left off?
What about Travis Zajac? He was out for most of last season. Now that he is healthy, why can’t he have a solid year a fill some void left by Parise?
We have really good players who have produced together as a team. The keyword being team. With all the movement of all the free agents, teams have picked up big name players, who’s to say they haven’t also picked up chemistry issues? Teams take time to gel and with a week long training camp, there could still be problems come game time. We’ve seen many teams look like an all-star roster before a season starts only to see them falter.
Let’s talk about the blue line. I believe our defense is stronger now with Salvador, Tallinder, Zidlicky, Greene, and Larsson who’s now got a year under his belt. The Devils franchise was built on a solid D that frustrates other teams’ star players. Rarely have the Devils been loaded with league-leading scorers. So this is familiar territory.
The media, including from New Jersey, always under cuts the potential and the depth of this organization. That’s not to say I believe the Penguins, Flyers and Rangers won’t be difficult. They’re tough, but we have depth. There is a very strong 4th line returning, that can relieve some pressure from the top two lines. That will come in handy with a slew of back-to-back games this season. We have two top rookies who were only getting better, and of course a hall of fame goalie.
The truth is every team is in the same position with only one week to prepare. It is tough to have any team figured out at this point with such little preparation. Maybe every team should be met with some doubt until we play a few games. With that in mind, I’d say that we are in decent shape considering many of the Devils were playing in other leagues during the lockout, with Kovalchuk logging 30 games in the KHL.
All I know is that no one really knows. But I can say this for sure… I am glad hockey is back. Let’s stop speculating and drop the puck!