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Whatup Devils fans,

I guess I shouldn't start w/o a quick intro. I live in North Jersey and have been a loyal Devs fan for I would say about 7-8 years now. I attend as many games as I can (I'm in my senior year of HS) and watch almost all of the rest on TV. I would call myself a true crazed fan who knows almost anything about the Devils.

Onto the article...enjoy!

April 19, 2008:

Welcome to the New NHL.

Marty Brodeur, still the best goaltender in hockey today and possibly of all-time, welcomes the new NHL lovingly.

Yes, it's clear that while some vets are just that good, as to keep up with rule/style changes, some are just useless these days. 30+ year-old superstars like Daniel Alfredson, Jaromir Jagr, Nick Lidstrom, Sergei Gonchar, and our own Patrik Elias are a few examples of the vets still at the top.

Newcomers Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Johnny Oduya, and David Clarkson fit in on that list of talent, ignoring age.

But Devils Sergei Brylin, Colin White, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Aaron Asham, all at or above the age of 30, struggled greatly this year, many of them for the second or third or even fourth time in a row. Are these players more than just past their prime? Are they worth hanging onto?

Right now, it's looking like a no.

Let's look at some of the hottest teams in the NHL right now:

Pittsburgh Penguins: Average age-27.52
Ottawa Senators: Averrage age-27.96
Washington Capitals: Average age-28.12

New Jersey Devils: Average age-30.04

Are those 2-3 years a big difference? Yes. Huge.

The Devils are under the salary cap. Yes, Lou is a genious, but all geniouses make mistakes. Not signing young talent or a superstar at the deadline was a mistake.

The Devils are paying Dainus Zubrus 3m. Can they let him along with an un-needed defenseman go and afford Czech speedster Martin Havlat? Sure, right?

The Devils are paying Brian Gionta, average goal-scorer, 3.5m. Can they afford to let him go at this point and look for a strong point on the ever-so-bad power-play? Absolutely...nothing to lose, right?

Why don't they?

That is what we will find out next season. Martin Brodeur was at his best this season, producing an incredible highlight reel to go along with his top 10 numbers in all major categories. Some of the other Devils were on top of their game too, like John Madden, lately Patrik Elias, and even the usually shaky Paul Martin.

The Devils have a bright future with Parise, Zajac, and Oduya on their roster. But some guys just don't belong in the new NHL, dominated by guys named Crosby, Ovechkin, Kane, and Kovalchuck.

Welcome to the new NHL New Jersey. It's time to start making moves.
 

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The Devils need to get younger, faster, and more skilled in the offseason. One thing that I noticed against the Rangers was that the Devils were often getting outskated to loose pucks and off turnovers. Part of that deals with the veterans, who may have lost a step or two in recent years.

As for skill, it's apparent that the Devils aren't an overly talented team offensively. But they do have some guys who are quite capable of scoring goals (Elias, Parise, Gionta). The problem is they don't have anybody to set them up. Elias has become more of a playmaker the last couple seasons than a scorer, but if they add a real #1 playmaking center to the lineup, I think you'd see his and Gionta's goal numbers in particular go up. Parise has hit 30 goals the last two years playing on various lines, so I don't think he needs a playmaker quite as much as the other two do, but it would still help him out.

Beyond that trio the Devils really don't have much in terms of secondary offense. Zubrus, Zajac, and Langenbrunner are all somewhat out of the same mold. They're solid two-way players who create chances down low in the offensive zone. None of them are natural scorers, but are all capable of 20-25 goals. Madden is similar in terms of offensive production, but plays a greater role because of his two-way ability. But none of the 4 I mentioned above should be counted on for anything more than about 20 goals and 40-50 points.

Dropping below those 7 forwards it gets real thin with talent. Pandolfo, Brylin, Clarkson, Asham, and Rupp are all grinder types who occasionally chip in offensively. Clarkson is probably the msot offensively talented of the bunch and has some good potential. But he'll still never be anything more than a third liner. Asham and Rupp are expendable, as they bring physical play and the occasional fight, but not a lot more. Although Rupp did play pretty well with Zubrus and Clarkson down the stretch and into the playoffs. The real issue with this group to me is Brylin and Pandolfo. They're fan favorites and have given the organization years of solid play without complaint, so it's easy to say that they should be Devils for life. But the bottom line is that neither is getting any younger and it's a young man's game these days. So the question is, do you play sentimental favorites and bring them both back, or do you cut ties with them and move forward with younger players? I'd hate to see either one go because they're prototypical Devils, but the time is going to come eventually when they need to move on.

Getting to the real issue that I think this team faces, even more than the offense, is the defense. This last year it was basically a revolving door for the bottom four defensemen, and that can't happen next year. Martin really came on strong in the playoffs, but like Rafalski in previous years, he needs some help. He's really the only top pairing defenseman the Devils have since White had the eye injury (and even before it was questionable). Oduya had his moments, as any Devils fan would tell you, but his puck moving abilities and offensive upside earn him a spot next year. White will be back as well. I'd like to see Brookbank come back, because I think with some work with Larry Robinson and the Devils coaching staff he could turn into a diamond in the rough find for the Devils. Vishnevski, Mottau, Salvador, Greene, and Rachunek are all expendable. Greene has excellent upside but for whatever reason regressed badly this season. With some work he might turn into a serviceable second pairing defenseman, but I won't shed any tears if he's moved. I like Vishnevski's physical game, but he often gets well out of position going for the big hit. Rachunek was under utilized this year, but also had injury issues. Salvador didn't really play enough to prove what he can do. And Mottau, well I think he should be a Devil next...in Lowell.

What this team needs in the offseason is a #1 center and atop pairing defenseman (preferably a real #1 or a true PP QB). I think if they get those a lot of other things will fall into place.

I got kind of long winded there, but what the hell...
 
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