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August 17th, 2015

New Jersey Devils Need To Get A Lot Younger

CJ Paige @CJSportsrambler

Trading future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr at the trade deadline last season may have signaled the shift from old to young has started for the Devils (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

The New Jersey Devils have had it a little rough over the past couple of seasons. Ever Since making the Stanley Cup Final in 2012 the franchise has yet to return to the postseason. Looking at future rosters it doesn’t seem likely that will change anytime soon meaning the New Jersey Devils could replicate the last decade of the Edmonton Oilers, making the finals in 2006 and have yet to reach the playoff themselves.

You don’t have to search very long to figure out what happened since that 2012 season, Captain Zach Parise choosing to leave that off-season to go to his hometown team the Minnesota Wild signing a huge thirteen year $98 million dollar contract. Then the lockout year you had Ilya Kovalchuk threaten to not return to the NHL after playing half of that season in the KHL in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Kovalchuk did return for that shortened season but “retired” after that season and went back to SKA Saint Petersburg in the KHL where he remains today.

That 2011-12 season Kovalchuk led the Devils with eighty-three points and Parise finished with sixty-nine. The only person to come close to those numbers was Jaromir Jagr in 2013-14 when he finished with sixty-seven. For a team in transition it probably isn’t the best sign when an at the time forty-one or forty-two year old is leading your team in scoring.

For the 2014-15 season I doubt many people had the New Jersey Devils doing much good. The team was still relying on a player over forty, to his credit Jagr is still a great player somehow. Other than Jagr it was still an old team on the decline with a couple of younger guys sprinkled in like Henrique, Larsson and maybe others like Gelinas and short spans from Steffan Matteau.

After a somewhat good start to the season where in October the Devils went 5-3-2 people could have thought, maybe this team isn’t as bad as we thought, Maybe this team can hang around for a while. Then the team when 4-8-2 in November and 4-8-3 in December putting a couple of five game losing streaks together during that span. That prompted the firing of head coach Peter DeBoer the day after Christmas (Merry Christmas). The team improved a little going 6-3-2 in January and 7-5-1 in February but the ground they lost earlier in the season was to much to make up for an average team at best.

The Devils only got seventy-eight points missing the playoffs by twenty points. The team was way to old with not nearly enough offense to compete. Ranking twenty-eighth in the entire NHL in goals for per game at a rather pathetic 2.15, the only teams worse than that were Arizona and Buffalo, teams who were most were claiming “trying to lose”. Defensively the team wasn’t that bad, middle of the pack in terms of goals against average, 2.55 good for fourteenth. Obviously not done building for the future, but with a good goalie in Cory Schneider and good young pieces in Larrson and Gelinas and even Severson defense isn’t the thing the Devils have to worry about.

If you want some proof to how bad the Devils offense was last season take a look at some of these numbers. Adam Henrique led the team in scoring with forty-three points. They had only one twenty goal scorer, Mike Cammalleri had twenty-seven the next closest was sixteen Henrique and Steve Bernier sharing that total.

You think the Devils team can’t be that old? Eight of their top ten scorers were over thirty, Jaromir Jagr is included in that list and he didn’t even finish the season with the team. The Detroit Red Wings get a lot of heat for being “old” but if you look at the comparison six of the top ten scores for Detroit were under thirty. Players like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Danny DeKeyser have this team looking good for the future and they have players I didn’t even mention who do or could play big roles in the future.

The Devils started their off-season hiring a new GM in Ray Shero who helped build the Stanley Cup winning team in Pittsburgh in 2009 and a new head coach in John Hynes who will be the youngest head coach in the NHL, if your going to get younger as a team why not start with the coach I guess. As for the roster, there hasn’t been to many changes. Trading for a pretty good young player Kyle Palmieri from Anaheim. A signing I thought was pretty good was John Moore, who finished his season in Arizona after a couple of season on the New York Rangers. Both of those guys are twenty-four years old and can help this team now and in the future. Are they key pieces, probably not but good players nonetheless.

For prospects, there isn’t much to be excited about, Hockey’sFuture has the Devils ranked dead last in prospect rankings. Steffan Matteau is only twenty-one and could still turn into a good player and the prospect pool did gain a pretty good player in the 2015 draft with the sixth overall pick the Devils picked young Czech Pavel Zacha.

A fairly good defense that is young and getting better, good goaltending should keep this team in some games but the offense has to get a ton better. The Devils could and most likely will be one of the teams at the bottom of the league and looking to get high draft picks to get players to lead this team into the phase of their rebuild. They do have some nice young pieces, but to compete soon they are going to have to hope one of their prospects turns into a great player fast. Other than that, they will have to rebuild through high draft picks and draft offensively gifted players.

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