We are less than two weeks away from the beginning of the NHL preseason and the opening of training camps. I think I can speak for everyone when I say it has been an especially long summer for us Devils fans. Ending what has been a relatively eventful and transformative offseason for New Jersey, DAB writers Brian Bobal, Alex Chauvancy, Brett Minieri, and Sam Britt kick off this edition of WRT by paying tribute to the recently retired Bryce Salvador, talk about the upcoming Prospects Challenge, and more.
Bryce Salvador…What are your final thoughts on him as a player and his time with the Devils?
BM…Bryce was a typical Devils D-man. Not flashy, didn’t stand out in the score sheet, but was responsible, gave 110%, a quiet leader respected in the clubhouse and as tough as they come. His efforts during the 2012 Stanley Cup run were immeasurable and punctuate his tenure as a solid NJ Devil. Reading his “Players Tribune” retirement article opened a lot of eyes—in a good way—for both fans and athletes alike.
BB… I thought Bryce Salvador was an under appreciated player on the Devils. Sure the way things transpired after he was given the ‘C’ is unfortunate, but that’s a part of the game. In fact, up until he became the captain, he was virtually in the lineup almost every single night. Hopefully, what Salvador is most remembered for is the 2011-2012 season. He played in all 82 games that regular year. Then, he was perhaps the most unsung hero in the Devils’ run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. The old fourth line of Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter get most of the love, but Salvador picked up 14 points, including a game-winning-goal in Game 5 of the Cup Final. He was also a +9 in 24 playoff games that spring.
AC…Salvador had an up and down career with the Devils. A couple significant injuries also kept him out of the lineup for extended periods of time. However, he was great in the playoffs in 2012, when the Devils made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. I think that’s what I’ll remember most about Salvador going forward. At least I hope that’s the case because since that 2-3 month period was his best stretch as a Devil and he’d played an instrumental part in the Devils’ success that postseason. It’s what he should be remembered for most.
As a sort of follow-up to the first question, who (if anyone) are some viable candidates to succeed Salvador as captain? How important is it to find a long-term captain for this rebuilding Devils team?
BM… I touched on this a few articles back, but I don’t think it’s necessary for the Devils to name a captain right away. Its’ more important that the players gel, adapt to their new roles and find a way to play cohesively within in this new system. From that, the right leadership will emerge. That said, there are a few players that stand out as viable candidates. While Andy Greene is a solid choice both for being a respected veteran and their defensive stalwart, he’s very much in the Bryce Salvador mold. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but with all the changes this team is experiencing, that may require a different direction as well. Henrique is an option but has yet to truly establish himself as a leader while Zajac is another in a similar mold. Personally, I like Mike Cammalleri to don the “C.” He’s gritty, respected and has the fire and tenacity to have a voice that the Devils have been missing.
BB… Now that Salvador’s gone, the next captain of the Devils should be Andy Greene. To me, Adam Henrique is too young to be captain and Travis Zajac has not performed well enough to get it. Also, Greene is the third-longest tenured Devil on the team behind Zajac (who only bests Greene by half a season) and Elias. He is a player that is counted on every shift and almost always rises to the occasion. As far as a long-term captain goes, Greene is under contract until the summer of 2020. Making him the captain would be safe considering he will be around for five more seasons. Having a captain long-term is crucial. Scott Stevens was a captain for a decade and look at the success the team had in that time.
AC…The Devils will have a lot of young players on their team this season, so it’ll be important for them to name a captain that has veteran leadership and a strong presence in the locker room. Andy Greene makes the most sense to me. He’s been on the team for almost a decade now and seems like someone a lot of the younger players would look up to and would command a strong voice with the rest of the team.
What would your starting lineup be for the Devil’s first game at the upcoming Prospect’s Challenge in Buffalo?
BM… This should be a great tournament and I’m pleased the Devils are taking part in it. I’m excited to see our newest “toy” Pavel Zacha alongside Reid Boucher and Joseph Blandisi. On the back end, It’d be nice to see a pairing of Reece Scarlett and Raman Hrabarenka start things off. Everyone’s interested to see what Mckenzie Blackwood can do between the pipes.
BB… For the rookie camp, my starting lineup would be Pavel Zacha, Reid Boucher and John Quenneville up front. On defense it’s a tough call, but I’d have Raman Hrabarenka and Vojtech Mozik anchor the blue line. In goal, I would like to see Ken Appleby get the nod considering he’s on a tryout basis. Mackenzie Blackwood is already Devils property.
AC…These are the lines I would roll out for game 1:
Reid Boucher–Pavel Zacha–Blake Pietila
Blake Coleman–Joseph Blandisi–Blake Speers
Ryan Kujawinski–Graham Black–Ben Thomson
Brandon Braddock–John Quenneville–Connor Chatham
Raman Hrabarenka–Reece Scarlett
Josh Jacobs–Vojtech Mozik
Colton White–Ryan Rehill