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 Niedermayer, Sergei 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.