Will We Ever See a “Golden Years” Core In New Jersey Again?

With retirement all but inevitable for Patrik Elias, it brings an end to a wonderful ERA. -Getty Images

 

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Fellow New Jersey Devils fans, it looks as if our beloved Patrik Elias, most likely will not see the ice again in his playing career. Have a look at his stats. While some would love to see him never stop playing (myself included) it is time to face the fact that his retirement is everything but official. The saddest part about number 26 calling it a career is that this officially ends the ERA of “Devils Domination”. Elias, 40, is the last of the Devils from their triumphant times between 1994 up until the last cup run in 2012.

For those that are old enough to remember all of these years, we were good. I mean seriously good. Teams were afraid to play us, afraid to come into the Continental Airlines Arena, get run over by Scott Stevens or Ken Daneyko, or have their offensive skills embarrassed by the brick wall we know as Martin Brodeur. The Devils could go into any opponent’s building with the confidence that they can and will come out with a win. I was lucky enough to be born in 1995, right at the beginning of all the excellence, and was blessed with three Stanley Cups, five appearances, nine division titles and countless memories.

It is certainly going to be difficult to look away from guys like Elias, Stevens, Daneyko, Brodeur, Scott NiedermayerSergei Brylin, Brian Rafalski, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Petr Sykora, Jamie Langenbrunner and many more. These guys just came off the top of my head that I loved to death in a Devils uniform and were here for large portions of their careers.

And before you ask, yes, (because of the state that they left us in) I did purposely leave those two off (9 and 17).

Since 2013, however, there has really been nothing for us to brag about. The real questions to answer are: what do we need in order to develop another “golden years” core? Better yet, will we ever get back to that state of dominance at all? Potentially, the answer is yes but that’s not guaranteed. Looking at the team’s present roster, this assessment can be broken down into three categories: homegrown players, trade acquisitions, and potential offseason targets.

Patrik Elias has won two Stanley Cups in his 19 years as a New Jersey Devil. This was Brodeur’s and Daneyko’s third.-AP

 

Homegrown Players

Adam Henrique

The 27-year-old forward has been one of the leading scorers on the team since his second year in the league. He has also been one of the better players on the team as well. Let’s not forget the 2012 NHL Playoffs. Without him, the Devils might not beat the Florida Panthers in double overtime or the New York Rangers in the same situation. Once he is able to get a more structured offense with him other than Palmieri and Hall, the Devils could be dangerous. He has been very consistent if you just look at his stats, this guy is true promise for the immediate future.

Pavel Zacha

Granted Zacha is only 19, I am well aware it may be too soon to tell if he should actually be a part of this rebuild. He does have 23 points in the 64 games he has played this season. For a rookie on a team like the one he is with and the minutes he is given, these are actually pretty decent numbers. Give him some time to mature and I can promise we will be happy with the results. There is not much talent in this year’s draft. So if the Devils don’t win the lottery, or the Devils wind up getting knocked out of the top five, then we “tanked” for nothing and are forced to invest our faith int he organization’s current crop of prospects. At this point, I’m just saying give Zacha a chance now.

 

Acquired Players

Cory Schneider

There are haters that do not like this man, and Devils fans are included in that bunch. I honestly do not understand their reasoning. The amount of one goal and overtime losses this team has suffered the past two or three seasons, who knows how many total points they lost as a result. Without Schneider, this team would be getting blown on a nightly basis, and would be at the same level of the Colorado Avalanche this year. I will let you think about that for a second… not pretty, is it? Other than his win-loss record in the past three seasons, Cory Schneider has statistically been one of the best in the league. The Devils should keep and build around him.

Look at the goaltender leader stats here. I filtered it all for you, numbers from 2014-15 to now.

Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall

Do I really need to give an explanation here? Well I will explain that I paired these two at once to save some space. Nonetheless, this should be extremely obvious. These are New Jersey’s two best players and this catastrophic season does not change that. They are a major part of this team’s future. Their numbers speak for themselves. There is absolutely no reason to think that they won’t be even better next year. I am happy with how they both performed this year. You need to look past the overall performance of this team and really look at the individual performances. It is unfair that such good players have to deal with teams like this, but they are just a couple of moves away from returning to the playoffs. Keep your heads up, guys!

 

Potential Acquisitions

Kevin Shattenkirk

This is a very tough buy. Despite the Devils being tied to his name in the rumor mill, all signs point to Shattenkirk wanting to be in a Rangers sweater next year. The Devils do have the money for the Capitals defenseman, so they should do whatever it takes to pick him up. Let’s be honest for a second, our defense is just awful. They are what makes Schneider look bad on a gamely basis. Rumors say that Andy Greene, Damon Severson and John Moore will be the three protected defensemen at the expansion draft. Ben Lovejoy has also been the name being thrown around to be taken by the Vegas Golden Knights, so, Shattenkirk would be a savior to this defense. He is a not the greatest scorer but his defensive skill is more than enough to ask for.

Cam Fowler

The Devils need to look to fix their defense and if Shattenkirk does not pan out I would say Fowler is a great second option. We have more than enough capable goal scorers as long as they can get their act together, and I sincerely believe they will. Shero does seem to have a little soft spot for picking up former Anaheim Ducks (DSP, Noesen, Lovejoy, Palmieri). This trade is a long shot and I mean a serious long shot, but we have seen Shero pull off miracles before in terms of acquisitions (think Taylor Hall). Again this is just my opinion, but I love the way Fowler plays and at the young age of 25 he is perfect for the rebuild and future. It will probably cost a prospect or two AND one or two draft picks to acquire his services however. There is no doubt Fowler will be a hefty price, but it will be worth it in the long run.

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3 comments on “Will We Ever See a “Golden Years” Core In New Jersey Again?”

  1. Evan B Reply

    I think our next few “golden years” will be coming soon. I don’t think we’ll be nearly as good as we were back then, because lets be serious, that team in the late 90s early 2000s was ridiculous. Unfortunately I don’t think the major turnaround will be next season, I assume it will be the 19-20 season. With so much potential in the system right now with young guns I think it will take a few seasons to really get everyone to really meld and start performing on a higher level. But if Hynes/Shero and the players can really pull it together I think we can be a scary team, but if the management takes one misstep I think we could plunge deeper into the rebuild stage.

  2. Frank DiMaggio Reply

    I’m old enough to remember all the years before our cup runs so I’m not to worried about it we will get there again

  3. Tom P Reply

    After a 5th straight year of missing the playoffs, an inevitably worse finish to the season than last year, a year with not a single 30 goal scorer and a starting lineup half filled with guys on 2 way contacts I think its safe to say this season was utterly disappointing. So maybe this is one of these “step back to go forward” type of things but the more I think it seems like a “take 2 or 3 steps back to go forward” deals. I am well aware that you can’t stay on top or be a playoff team forever, as we just saw Detroit be eliminated for the first time in 20+ years but I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel for this organization’s rebuild. Do you really see the Devils in the playoffs next year? Or the year after? I don’t.

    In the personnel department here is my take on the future.

    Are Blandisi, Quenville and Zacha the next Miller, Kreider and Hayes of the Rangers? It’s hard to say at this point but that is what we need out of those guys and anything short probably will not be enough to round out a strong top 9.

    When the time comes, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac and Andy Greene thank you for your services. It is time to go.
    Henrique in my opinion has been disappointing or maybe just too much hype around him. Never has a terrible season but has only hit 30 goals once. Always grateful for his overtime playoff heroics in 2012 but I don’t see him settling for less than $4M a year and for a non-30 goal scorer that price is just to high.
    Zajac is overpaid and by then will be in his mid 30s. His contract was a mistake from the beginning for the production he has provided. Guys like Zajac (vets with playoff experience, leader, talented faceoff center, work horse) are sought after at the deadline. I doubt any GM was calling about him and I could think of 6 million reasons why.
    Greene is a tough one to see go. Solid defenseman and the captain but I write this with the long term in mind, hopefully by then .

    Thank you for nothing. Now get out.
    Jacob Joesefson the only place this guy should be next year is back in Sweden at the Swedish version of Best Buy selling TVs. 273 games played for the Devils 18G 40A 58P +/- -16. He was drafted 20th overall, call him a bust, a work in progress or whatever you want but he better not be on the Devils next year, which means he probably won’t be in the NHL.
    Mike Cammalleri had one okay season in 14-15, the last two have been poor. Cant stay healthy, goes on nasty goal droughts, and gets paid like a 30 goal scorer who has yet to net 30 in a Devils uniform. Bad luck on the Devils part and just another high profile signing that didn’t pan out. Only problem is we are stuck with him for 2 more seasons.

    Defensively there is hope, it takes more time to develop D men. Adam Larsson is a perfect example. Santini, Severson, Auvitu and Moore all seem to have potential. Not sure why John Merrill is preferred over Auvitu but I am not a coach. If Severson can figure out how to play a little more defense, (+/- -29 on the season is terrible) he could be the leader of a core of smooth skating defensemen.

    I think as fans we have no choice either bunker down and ride out this rebuild and come out on the other side like the Penguins or Hawks or…. hope for another blockbuster off season. Without big off season moves, 84+ points for 17-18 would be nice to see and a step in the right direction. I just hope next year we aren’t paying NHL ticket prices to watch half of the Albany Devils roster play.

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