Friday, September 1, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: New Jersey Devils

GM: Ray Shero (since 2015). 7.5/10
Coach: John Hynes (since 2015). 5/10

2016-17 record: 28-40-14, 94 points, 28th overall, out of playoff picture.

Departures: Michael Cammalleri (LW), Jon Merrill (D), Jacob Josefson (C), Beau Bennett (RW), Devante Smith-Pelly (RW), Karl Stollery (D), Luke Gazdic (LW), Yohann Auvitu (D), Seth Helgeson (D), P.-A. Parenteau (RW).

Arrivals: Marcus Johansson (LW), Brian Boyle (C), Brian Strait (D), Mirco Mueller (D).

Top forwards: Taylor Hall (50-75 points), Adam Henrique (60-85 points), Travis Zajac (usually good for 45 points, but starts the year on the injured list), first-overall pick Nico Hischier (40 points), Pavel Zacha (35-40 points), Johansson (40-60 points, it's unsure how he can produce away from the Washington Capitals' big guns, but I have faith).

Must-improve forwards: John Quenneville (21 years old, C). The rookie suited up for 12 games last season and put 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) on the board; he needs to collect at least 25 points this year to show some decent progression or he might get bumped down the depth chart by the likes of Blake Speers or Michael McLeod.

Top defensemen: Damon Severson (25-30 points), John Moore (20 points), Strait (15-20 points), Mueller (10-20 points). Will Butcher figures to have an impact right away as a rookie (20-25 points).

Goalies: Corey Schneider (85/100), Keith Kincaid (81/100).

Top rookies: Hischier (18 years old, C), Speers (20, C), McLeod (19, C, 12th overall pick in 2016), Butcher (22, D), Nathan Bastian (19, RW).

Rejoice, Devils fans! Your team will not finish last in the NHL!

The offense is much improved, but it was 28th to begin with, so maybe it climbs three positions to 25th overall...

The defense - long a Jersey staple - is among the weakest corps in the league, however. Some teams (Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild) even have a better roster on D in their AHL affiliates...

Last season showed Kincaid could do better than the over-rated Schneider; if he falters again this year, we can start viewing Schneider as a "never-was" and compare him to the likes of other failed goaltending prospects like Rick DiPietro and Les Kuntar...

Oh, and the Devils do not have good enough coaching either. There's worse - Philly comes to mind - but Hynes is clearly a temporary stop-gap figurehead taking up time until the team is good enough to contend for a playoff spot, at which point a Lindy Ruff, Ken Hitchcock, Michel Therrien or Alain Vigneault might be available to take over.

Prediction: 8th in the Metropolitan Division

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