DI Writers’ 2013 Season Predictions

Finally, we have some hockey. After a spirited playoff run, the Devils are looking to start strong and make the playoffs in this abbreviated season.

Where will they finish? Our writers weigh in:

Brian – 4th in Atlantic Division, 7th in Eastern Conference
Several months after watching the Los Angeles Kings celebrate a Stanley Cup title at their expense, the New Jersey Devils open the new shortened season staring at a plethora of sobering questions.
For starters, they will have to find a way to make up for the loss of Zach Parise, one of the team’s most consistent leaders who signed a lucrative free-agent deal with the Minnesota Wild.
Parise and Petr Sykora, a reliable veteran free agent who reportedly is not in the Devils’ future plans, combined to register 52 goals and 113 points in 2011-12, so their absence certainly gives New Jersey a potential problem of the offensive end.
Perhaps that’s why this could be the most important season of Ilya Kovalchuk’s career. After spending the lockout period in the KHL, the 29-year-old three-time all-star will be forced to carry the load coming off a campaign in which he posted 37 goals and 83 points in 77 games.
On the defensive end, it’s worth wondering if Martin Brodeur can work his magic for one more year. The future first ballot Hall of Famer went 31-21-4 with a 2.41 GAA in 59 games, but can he duplicate such success at age 40?
Yes, the Devils have some obstacles to overcome. But in the crowded Eastern Conference, where not many teams drastically improved over the summer, they still have enough juice to make some noise.
Look for New Jersey to start slow in the wake of Adam Henrique’s recovery from an injured hand, but pick up enough steam in the end to make the playoffs. Even though Kovalchuk, a rejuvenated Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias make Devils fans eventually forget Parise, the strength of the Rangers, Bruins, Flyers, Penguins or Capitals will spell the end to a repeat run in the East.

Dave – 4th in Atlantic Division , 9th in Eastern Conference (no playoffs)

The loss of Zach Parise is tough and without any solid additions in the offseason, there is a big gap in scoring to fill.  To me, the biggest issue is the lack of secondary scoring outside of Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias. Even Elias is a question mark at the age of 36.

I do think that the layoff will help Martin Brodeur.  If the season had started on time, the quick turnaround from playing into June would have been tough. With the time off and a shorter season, it should mean Brodeur is fresh late in the year.

This team will be solid in their own end, with a more mature Adam Larsson ready to take steps towards being a big time contributor. With the likes of Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder and Andy Greene all back, the Devils have a strong, but not overwhelming D-corps.

I really believe that the Devils will struggle to score goals this season, as teams will key on Kovalchuk and take their chances with the other lines.

If the boys from Brick City are to find the back of the net consistently, they’ll need production from young guns such as last year’s playoff hero Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson and even Bobby Butler who was signed in the offseason.

In the end, I just think that the Devils will struggle to score enough to win games. Expect a lot of close 3-2 and 2-1 losses that will leave the team just outside the playoffs when all is said and done.

Jeff- 4th in Atlantic Division, 7th in Eastern Conference

It will be extremely difficult for the New Jersey Devils to repeat last year’s journey to the Stanley Cup Finals due to the loss of free agent Zach Parise.  However, I highly expect them to be right in the playoff mix.

The Devils have been replacing their own high profile free agents for over a decade now and have missed the playoffs just once since 1996.  I expect them to end up in just around the same spot as last year.

The Rangers have not skipped a beat in terms of player personnel and added prize player Rick Nash to the mix.  The Penguins appear to be the odds on favorite to make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals and the Philadelphia Flyers have consistently put up strong seasons over the last several years.

That said; expect the Devils to once again finish fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh overall in the Eastern Conference.  I see them springing an upset on someone in the first round but then losing in the second round.

In just one shortened season, it will be tough for New Jersey to replace Parise and Alexei Ponikarovsky.  They will, however, get a full season of Travis Zajac and Stephen Gionta, who was quite a postseason star last spring.

The Devils should have some expectations this year, but asking them to make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals may be a bit much for 2013.

Trevor-  2nd in Atlantic Division, 4th in Eastern Conference

The Devils have lost their captain and arguably their best player, Zach Parise, to free agency during the offseason along with Alexei Ponikarovsky.  Besides those two, the Devils have retained most of their Stanley Cup roster as they enter the shortened 2013 season.

During the lockout, while some players sat, others like Ilya Kovalchuk have been at the top of his game while playing overseas.

In the 36 games that he’s played for SKA St. Petersburg, Kovalchuk has scored 18 goals along with 24 assists, which comes to a grand total of 42  points in 36 games; not too shabby.

In fact, he’s done so well in the KHL that he was voted captain in the KHL All Star game.

If the Calder Trophy Nominee Adam Henrique avoids a sophomore slump, he is going to make it very easy to make Devils fans forget about the loss of Parise. The Devils also have a lot young talent to go along with their veteran presence.

The young trio of Adam Larrson, Jacob Josefson, and Bobby Butler are going to make a big impact along with consistent play from veterans Patrik Elias, Bryce Salvador, and Travis Zajac.

This situation isn’t that different from the second half of the 2010-2011 season where the Devils made that late playoff push. The Devils had one of the best records in the 2nd half of that season and they did all of that without Parise.  I can’t see why they wouldn’t be able duplicate that success.

Ryan- 3rd in Atlantic Division, 5th in Eastern Conference

It’s not easy to say, but the Devils’ production will take an inevitable step backwards this year without top-scorer Zach Parise.  Ok, take a deep breath.  All good?  Let’s move on.

The good news is that this step back won’t hurt their playoff chances.

While they will have to soldier through the big loss of Parise and the minor, but still impactful, loss of Alexei Ponikarovsky, this is still the same team that registered 102 points last year.  That point total was fourth in the conference despite being in the East’s toughest division.  In the second year under Coach Pete DeBoer’s system, which asks for accountability across the board, the Devils will need to remain consistent at both ends of the ice.  With established superstars like Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias anchoring the offense along with David Clarkson and Travis Zajac, it’s not unreasonable to think that the stars will continue to grow into their roles.

The biggest question marks hang over the heads of their youngest starters.  Will Adam Henrique have a sophomore slump?  Can Jacob Josefson stay healthy throughout an entire season, shortened or not?  Is Adam Larsson the strong skater that showed up in the playoffs or the timid defenseman that was so badly shaken up by the hit from P.K. Subban?

I believe that all these players, along with Bobby Butler and Mattias Tedenby, can and will make an impact in the NHL this year, and the Devils will remain a playoff team this season.